Ayodeji Omotade vs. British Airways

Ayodeji Omotade vs. British Airways
By Reuben Abati

On one or two internet sites, particularly Nigerian Village Square, , Nigerians are up in arms against the airline, British Airways over the maltreatment of 135 Nigerian passengers and one Ayodeji Omotade on a March 27, 2008, BA flight to Lagos from Heathrow, London. Readers of Omotade's story, which he tells with transparent pain and agony have been asked to send protest comments to the CEO of British Airways, amid nationalistic calls for the boycott of British Airways by Nigerian passengers. It is strange that more than a week later, there has been no response from British Airways to this public relations crisis on its Lagos route. It is either the public relations managers of British Airways are asleep, or they have chosen to treat this as a piece of irritation, or they are assured that since the protesters are angry internet commentators, their indignation would soon pass unnoticed.

If the latter reason explains the seeming arrogance of British Airways and its CEO, then it clearly underestimates the influence of internet journalism. With increasing ICT penetration and access to interconnectivity, more persons are spending more time daily on the world wide web, which they now rely on for a broad range of activities including conversation, romance, therapy and education. The number of Nigerians, especially in diaspora, who falls into this category continues to increase, the same with internet sites on Nigerian affairs, with the most active and the most interactive being in my estimation, the Nigeria Village Square.

No serious business should take any debate about its affairs on the internet lightly. Nor should it underestimate the increasing power and influence of citizen journalists, those ordinary men and women who practice journalism simply because they have a story to tell, and they are so moved by events they cannot afford to keep quiet. But the story of Omotade's agony is told not just in Nigeria Village Square, it was also reported in The Mirror of London as follows:

"A British Airways captain ordered 136 passengers off his plane in chaotic scenes after they all started complaining to cabin crew.

As the flight waited to take off at Heathrow the row was sparked by the restraint of a man being forcibly deported.

Many were distressed by his pitiful cries of "I go die" and one passenger, Ayodeji Omotade, 39, spoke up on his behalf.

The deportee was taken off the Lagos bound jet by immigration staff and police.

But five officers returned and arrested Mr Omotade. This outraged the other 135 passengers in the economy class section and they complained to cabin crew.

Amid riotous scenes in the aisles, 20 police officers boarded to calm everything down.

Then the BA pilot took the extraordinary decision to boot off everyone who had witnessed the arrest of Mr Omotade, an IT consultant from Chatham, Kent.

The captain took the view they were all guilty of disturbing the flight, although no more passengers were arrested.

After the economy class section was virtually cleared, the deportee, aged about 30, was brought back on and the flight left.

The passengers were booked on to later flights but Mr Omotade was told by BA staff he was banned by the airline for life.

English-born Mr Omotade, married with a daughter aged four, was handcuffed and kept in police custody for eight hours after his arrest. He has not been charged and is seeking an apology from BA.

He was travelling from Heathrow's Terminal 4 to Lagos for his brother's marriage and had in his luggage the groom's wedding ring, shirt and suit. He missed the ceremony.

He told the Mirror: "There were agonising noises from an individual being restrained. It went on for 20 minutes.

"I pleaded with the officers and my exact words were, 'Please don't kill him.'

"I was not swearing or threatening. BA staff said the officers were doing their jobs and nothing was going to happen. When he was removed we thought it was the end of the matter.

"But police officers came back and I was handcuffed and dragged off the plane."

He claims his luggage has been lost and �1,600 cash he had for relatives has been taken and not returned.

Scotland Yard confirmed: "A man was arrested for affray and causing a disturbance and was bailed."

Ba said: "Police were called to the BA75 service to Lagos on March 27 after a large number of passengers became disruptive.

Many were removed.

"We take any threats against our crew or passengers very seriously and this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated."

What is missing in The Mirror report, but which Omotade provides in his own account is the ordeal which he, Omotade, is now undergoing in the hands of the British authorities. He has been charged to a Magistrate court. Investigators are asking him to provide pay slips and bank statements to enable them establish the source of the money that was found in his possession. British Airways kept his luggage for more than a week; when it was returned, one of the bags was damaged. Omotade was not a Naomi Campbell, playing the prima donna and slapping policemen at the airport, his only offence was that he dared to speak up for a compatriot in distress who was being deported back to Nigeria and who was screaming: "I go die". He is being punished and victimized, he has now been banned from flying British Airways for life (!), for being outspoken. The other 135 passengers had also protested, but Omotade had to be singled out by British Airways as a scapegoat. Omotade may at the end of the day get the apology and the compensation that he seeks, but to get to that point, he should assert his rights beyond mere complaints on the internet, send a formal complaint to BA, go to court, but it is the mindset, the sociology of air travel, the politics, that has informed his maltreatment that should be addressed.

Since 1999, the Nigerian government has been making efforts to work on Nigeria's image abroad, to transform the country from being regarded as one of the last outposts of military dictatorship into an open, democratic society, but whatever has been done and gained in this regard has been hobbled by the grand failure of domestic policy, and the failure, also, of national character. Nigeria remains in the eyes of the world, a country that is badly run, badly led and whose citizens in desperation have taken to a life of constant emigration and crime. Every Nigerian that shows up in a foreign land, including African countries, is immediately regarded as a security risk. We have this strange image out there of a loud, ungovernable people, in whose inner recesses exists a craving for the short cut and disdain for rules and standards. It is the likes of that deportee on that British Airways flight who have brought this opprobrium on our heads, it is the likes of Obasanjo, godfathers like Adedibu and all the thieving Governors and Ministers, whose stories are well known in Europe and the United States who have brought us so much undeserved shame. The deportee kept shouting: "I go die"

Even in his distress, it was probably simulated, his compatriots felt for him and tried to defend his right to live. But the British flight crew must have stretched the situation into the hall of prejudices: the pilot had to evict the Nigerian passengers because he had imagined that their complaints could have ended up as "a hijack operation". "Can't put anything past these Nigerians", he must have concluded. We are the victims of some of the worst stereotypes, and profiling systems, in the world. A young lady travelled to Mauritius recently only to discover that every Nigerian is referred to suspiciously as "the Green Passport" by the people of Mauritius. We are not the only country in the world using a green passport, but ours is the only green passport that carries a stigma.

It is not only the British Airways that is guilty. Hotels, restaurants, super markets, foreign government authorities all treat Nigerians suspiciously. A credit card originating from Nigeria is subjected to more than ordinary scrutiny. Ayodeji Omotade is a British citizen but that did not stop the BA and the British police from treating him shabbily. If he is Nigerian, then there must be something about him. So, they refused to listen to his pleas that he had not committed any crime or disrupted the activities of the almighty British Airways. They had to investigate the source of the one thousand six hundred pounds (about $3, 200) that they found on him. They probably thought he could be a money laundering agent for one of those corrupt Nigerian public officials. They have seen so many in the recent past, they would rather not take any chances. But there was a curious class dimension to the politics of the British Airways flight. Only the passengers in the economy cabin were evicted. Now, economy passengers on Nigerian routes have quite a reputation with all airlines. They are loud, they carry excess luggage, and when you pry into that luggage, they are either transporting cray fish and snails into England or they are going back into their country with bagfuls of toothpaste, chocolate, toilet rolls, and so on. This kind of behaviour sends signals of poverty and underdevelopment, and so those funny hostesses treat economy passengers on Nigerian routes snobbishly, sometimes, they spray disinfectants straight into your face! Often times, I suspect they think we are bringing lice aboard the flight.

We must link all of this to the unusual vigilance that any flight to or from Nigeria generates at foreign airports. All the dogs are brought out, all the guns are cocked, all eyes are on us. We are treated like terrorists, but terrorists of a different kind. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Ojo Maduekwe has been talking about citizen diplomacy. This is a major area of assignment for Ojo and his team. The ordinary Nigerian citizen out there in the world, be he a crook or a gentleman is entitled to the protection of the Nigerian government, insisting on his right to human dignity. But the best way to earn the respect of the world, for the country and its citizens is to run a country where things work, a country that is truly deserving of respect. Much of what goes into human relations is visual. We have a continuing challenge to turn Nigeria into a visual delight not the eyesore that it is at the moment.

Having dealt with the internal dimension of the problem, let me now add that the arrogance of the British Airways authorities is insufferable. This arrogance derives in part from the unusual dominance that BA enjoys on the Lagos-London -Lagos route, making this route one of the most profitable worldwide for the airline. This has not translated into due courtesy to Nigerian travellers, rather it has encouraged contempt on the part of the airline. The Nigerian aviation authorities must take a second look at the London route, and open it up a bit more, make it more competitive and offer Nigerians a wider range of choices. Would BA ban anybody for life on its airline, just for expressing an opinion, if it did not think we are still in the era of British imperialism?

In specific terms, the Bilateral Aviation Services Agreement (BASA) between Nigeria and Britain allows 21 frequencies for British airlines and 21 frequencies for Nigerian airlines on the Lagos-London route. But at the moment, the British Airways enjoys more frequencies than other airlines, it flies into Lagos and into Abuja, and sometimes it does so more than seven times in a week. Why? The 21 frequencies for Nigerian airlines is shared by Bellview, Arik Nigeria and Bellview.

The 21 frequencies for British airlines is meant to be shared by Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, and British Midlands. But British Midlands is not on the route. British Airways currently uses its frequency, granting it an undue advantage and even when it exceeds its quota, Nigerian aviation authorities look the other way. The British Airways authorities need to be reminded that when General Sani Abacha banned the British Airways in the recent past, and BA had to relocate to Ghana, the airline almost bled to death. Also, in the post-9/11 season when BA scaled down n its trans-Atlantic operations, it was sustained largely by its Lagos-London route and the ever traveling crowd of Nigerians. All Nigerian customers of British Airways deserve more respect than they seem to be currently getting.



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Re: Ayodeji Omotade vs. British Airways
Aristarchy posted on 04-13-2008, 06:25:45 AM
Fine. Well said Reuben. What do we do now ?
We need to get thousands of petitions signed on this forum.
Once we are satisfied with the number of name/signatures, then we,ll proceed to those in the corridors of power and go on from their. We have a right to spend our money where we chose, this is a perfect opportunity to exercise that right.
We now have alternatives. No way, abosulutely NO WAY should this be allowed to die off.
Lets protest their offices in Nigeria, in London, everywhere we can.
Lets show them the power that we have.
THE BOYCOTT BEGINS !!

Lets get started

C Sogbesan
Re: Ayodeji Omotade vs. British Airways
Olamide posted on 04-13-2008, 06:39:50 AM
I already sent an e-mail to the Chief Executive of British Airways as my own contribution to the voices of all outraged decent Nigerians on the incident. I am sure the BA will not react to this because it will be reffered to as 'ranting of the natives' while they drink their whiskies and make fun of us as a 'nation of criminals' as if the prisons in Britain were built to serve as goat pens. We cannot blame them but our 'Dealers' parading around as 'leaders'. Emirates was registered in 1984 as a local airline when Nigeria Airways was already flying to Europe and all of North America. Emirates is among the 3 top airlines in the world today while Nigeria Airways has been consigned to the dustbin of history and sold for pennies by our former Emperor.

It will be very nice if we can continue to pile pressure on BA. I promised to tell at east five friends not to fly with BA and I have done that. I want everyone who read this to do the same. Inform at least five friends who are frequent flyers or may fly in the nearest future not to use the services of BA until they start showing respect to us. The Nigeria route is the goose that lays the golden eggs for them and we can take this goose from them with concerted action. It is not just about writng about it. let us flood the inbox of the Chief Executive of British Airways with millions of e-mails demanding for action and also pressure the government to take action against them. Meanwhile, all Nigerians should stick their tongues out at BA and find alternative means of travelling.
See my own e-mail below to assure you that I am not only making noise here but that I had taken action by writing their Chief Executive. Please add your voice to the campaign to redeem the image of Nigeria from the imperialists and racists. Write the Chief Executive of BA and tell him how upset you are!

----- Original Message ----
From:
To: willie.walsh@ba.com
Sent: Friday, 11 April, 2008 8:59:59 AM
Subject: Re: British Airways removes 136 Nigerians from Flight


Dear Sir,
Compliments and I trust you are doing fine there. I write in respect of the above-mentioned issue to bring to your notice the unacceptable behaviour of British Airways staff on the London-Lagos route, most especially, their singling out of Nigerian nationals for humiliation during check-in and during the flights. The issue reffered to above was not the first and might not be the last if you do not take drastic action to stop it. I speak the minds of millions of decent Nigerians who feel affronted after reading the story and felt that concerted action needed to be taken against your airline to stop your organization from stereotyping Nigerians as criminals and untrustworthy people who does not have to be given any respect even when they have paid their own hard-earned money for services that you provide for other nationals and deny Nigerians because they are Nigerians.

Ordering 136 Nigerians off the flight was not only humiliating but an act of racial profiling by the Pilot of the plane. His action could be intepreted to mean that all the Nigerians on the flight are criminals or terrorists just because an individual requested that the British Police should not kill another Nigerian being deported. Being deported as you might be aware, does not remove the rights of the individual to be treated decently as a human being.

The unfavourable reports given to me and other Nigerians by those who travel on your airline was the cause of my never choosing British Airways to travel anywhere before and this particular incident has reinforced the same believe that British Airways does not have regard for Nigerians even though you make money from us. You might have learnt that concerted action is being planned to campaign against BA in Nigeria either to force you to change your behaviour or be forced off the route completely. I want to assure you that it is not an empty threat and that all decent Nigerians are in support of mass action to achieve this objective.

I am adding my voice to the other voices to request action to be taken to redress the issue. We want to see positive changes and demand that Nigerians be given respect due to them as paying customers just the way you respect the nationals of other countries where your airline is not making the type of profit you are making on the London-Lagos route.

Thanks and kind regards
Re: Ayodeji Omotade vs. British Airways
Employlawone posted on 04-13-2008, 06:57:53 AM
Dear Sir,

Thank you for your spot on analysis and highlighting this issue.

I had already sent an article via email which almost mirrors what you are saying in some respects, it was not published but I guess your article more than makes up for it.

Please keep on speaking,

Much Respect,

Olu Ojedokun, Ph.D.


QUOTE:
Ayodeji Omotade vs. British Airways
...[URL=http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8954/55]Read the full article.[/URL]
Re: Ayodeji Omotade vs. British Airways
AISAGBON OMOGIADE posted on 04-13-2008, 08:10:17 AM
Abati, I have note read your profile anywhere, but I have read some people address you with the appellation of a Dr.You are a beautiful writer.Your likes can only be found in one Nosa Osaigbovo of the Nigerian Tribune.Keep the flag flying and may your pen never go dry.
Re: Ayodeji Omotade vs. British Airways
Big-k posted on 04-13-2008, 08:31:57 AM
QUOTE:
Abati, I have note read your profile anywhere, but I have read some people address you with the appellation of a Dr.You are a beautiful writer.Your likes can only be found in one Nosa Osaigbovo of the Nigerian Tribune.Keep the flag flying and may your pen never go dry.


See Abati's profile, under authors

http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/articles/reuben-abati/index.php
Re: Ayodeji Omotade vs. British Airways
Toksyleigh posted on 04-13-2008, 08:33:09 AM
Dr. Abati,

Very well said, I could not agree with you more.

After we finish focusing our attention and getting this issue properly resolved with the BA authorities, charity should begin at home, I think our next focus should be those rouges that we call leaders throughout Nigeria starting from the President, to his Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Governors to ordinary and local thugs like Adedibu, Obasanjo, Andy Uba, IBB......... all of them past and present.

We should wrestle our dignity and self respect back from these rapists that keeps raping their own mother(land) because if we don't, this is just of the beginning of these types of treatment that Nigerians will continue to face even in African countries which Nigeria give financial aids to.

Umaru Yar' Adua and his team of rapist do not fly commercial so why would they care. Tell me how would you treat an outsider that you know for a fact and watched pillaged, desecrated, despoiled, looted and vandalized his "own" home and properties and then come to you for succor? Yep, you answer is as good as mine.

I bet you BA will never treat Ghanians, Somalians and even Ethiopians these way; you know why? Because those guys have a well functioning National air Carrier that is well managed and takes care of her citizens. The life of a Nigerian means nothing to the outside world and the worst part of it is that it means nothing to the so called Nigerian leaders too; what a shame!

The kind of treatment meted out to Nikolai Sassecu and his family in 1989 by the tired and weary Romanians come to mind.

My advice to Mr. Omotade who is a British born citizen, is to hire a good Lawyer in London and he should seek redress and compensation for his emotional trauma in the British court system (as long as he never threatened any one and has witnesses to back up his claim on the plane) I can bet my life that his chances of getting a fair redress is better than involving the Nigerian government to fight on his behalf, trust me, no country in the world respects the Nigerian government.

God help us all,

Goriola Abamieda Jr.
Re: Ayodeji Omotade vs. British Airways
Aiksmart posted on 04-13-2008, 09:29:56 AM
Thanks Dr. Abati for this piece, but this petition stuff as I see it is BS, why the heck do we need to run that route, what the heck is wrong with filing a class action suit against this elitist company British Airways? The good thing about a class action suit is that it can include everyone (both Nigerians, other Black African passengers that has the balls and hopefully arguable records) that BA has ever treated with contempt, within recent history. Another question that quickly comes to mind is, can we galvanize our home-base to picket EVERY prominent British firm in Nigeria, beginning with the British Embassy, British Council, severally. As I pen my response, I can hear my own "still small voice" questioning if the said BA pilot, and management would have dared to attempt the same action if the passengers were from a known fundamentalist Islamic nation? For the record, please don’t get me wrong guys, I am a Christian, and I do not support islamofascism.
Re: Ayodeji Omotade vs. British Airways
Adeola Aderounmu posted on 04-13-2008, 09:56:16 AM
There is a group now on FACEBOOK called: ALL NIGERIANS SHOULD BOYCOTT BRITISH AIRWAYS FOR LIFE
If BA can stop Omotade for life, why can't we all reciprocate the same gesture to BA?



QUOTE:
The British Airways authorities need to be reminded that when General Sani Abacha banned the British Airways in the recent past, and BA had to relocate to Ghana, the airline almost bled to death.


I really wish this could happen again and let's see how BA will survive without the exorbitant fees they charge Nigerians...


ALL NIGERIANS SHOULD BOYCOTT BRITISH AIRWAYS FOR LIFE
Re: Ayodeji Omotade vs. British Airways
Exxcuzme posted on 04-13-2008, 10:20:07 AM
QUOTE:
Ayodeji Omotade vs. British Airways
...[URL=http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8954/55]Read the full article.[/URL]


Mr Abati have you try to contact BA authority in Nigeria about this issue? Journalists do investigate se u no!
Re: Ayodeji Omotade vs. British Airways
Zanderlex posted on 04-13-2008, 11:14:36 AM
QUOTE:
Dr. Abati,

Very well said, I could not agree with you more.

After we finish focusing our attention and getting this issue properly resolved with the BA authorities, charity should begin at home, I think our next focus should be those rouges that we call leaders throughout Nigeria starting from the President, to his Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Governors to ordinary and local thugs like Adedibu, Obasanjo, Andy Uba, IBB......... all of them past and present.

We should wrestle our dignity and self respect back from these rapists that keeps raping their own mother(land) because if we don't, this is just of the beginning of these types of treatment that Nigerians will continue to face even in African countries which Nigeria give financial aids to.

Umaru Yar' Adua and his team of rapist do not fly commercial so why would they care.
God help us all,

Goriola Abamieda Jr.




No,no,no,no, we want to be targeted in our response and not putting many things together and achieving nothing. The project is "BRING DOWN BRITISH AIRWAYS AND CLIP THEIR WINGS FOR INHUMANITY TO MAN". We need even the criminal elements among us to help with this project. These bad eggs have a chance now to clean up their names. All they need to do is to publicly declare their solidarity for this project and quit flying BA..........I believe this will hurt the BA most because they depend on stolen loot to fly their 1st class coach.
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