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Leading aviation unions yesterday issued the Federal Government 21 days’ ultimatum to evacuate Air Force personnel from the Murtala Mohammed Airport, MMA, Lagos.

The ultimatum followed the assault on one of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN’s staff last week at the departure lounge of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, MMIA, Lagos, by some personnel of the Nigeria Air Force, NAF, attached to the terminal.

The assaulted FAAN staff, Mr. Mohammed Shuaibu, was beaten into coma by officials of NAF for allegedly obstructing free flow of traffic at the terminal.

The unions – Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN, and the National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE – staged a peaceful protest round the airport with several inscriptions on their placards.

The unions threatened to ground the industry if the NAF personnel are not removed from the airport, saying that rather than contribute to the safety and comfort of users of the airport, the personnel had constituted themselves into a nuisance in the environment.

Speaking at the protest ground, the Deputy General Secretary, NUATE, Comrade Olayinka Abioye, said it is wrong for the government to deploy NAF to all the airports across the country, arguing that in other climes, air force personnel are not seen within the airport environment.

He insisted that their posting to the airports contradicts the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, adding that Nigeria could not operate in isolation of other aviation environments around the world.

He explained that airport environments are supposed to be civil and not militarised as presently witnessed in the Nigerian aviation industry. He said: “In the first instance, Air Force personnel mounting road blocks at our airports are unknown to ICAO rules.

Annex 17 of the ICAO convention stipulates who should be in charge of aviation and it is the Aviation Security Personnel, AVSEC. They have a full fledged functional directorate in FAAN and they are supposed to be doing these things; they have the primary responsibility for the maintenance of security at the airports.

“The aviation unions and their entire membership decided to embark on a peaceful protest today (yesterday) to show solidarity to a staff of FAAN who was brutalised and beaten into a state of coma some few days ago by four personnel of NAF attached to the MMIA.”

He accused the Airport Commandant for the unscrupulous behaviour of his men, tasking him on why he approved their dastardly acts within the airport environment.

The union leaders, in conjunction with the workers had assembled at the Freedom Square within FAAN headquarters before matching to the MMIA.

Our correspondent who witnessed the protest observed that most of the union members were chanting solidarity songs in honour of the FAAN staff and carried several placards with various inscriptions such as “Federal Government, Save our souls from Air Force officers at the Airports” and “We want Aviation Security Personnel only to be in charge of security at our airports,” among others.

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