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ARIK AIR And FG Must Hear This! by Joe Igboke




A very important engagement took us to Nnewi in the South Eastern part of Nigeria on Saturday 28 th 2007. The meeting was scheduled to start by 4.00pm that day and adequate preparations were made by those of us involved in the meeting to get to Nnewi before 2.00pm and to get some two hours rest before the commencement of the meeting. One of us had to go to Arik Air Lagos local Airport office on Friday 27 th July 2007 to get tickets for us. I was told that the flight to Enugu will take off by 8.30am on Saturday July 28 2007. My friends got to the Airport before me and called me to hurry up. I told them not to worry since the flight is billed to take off by 8.30am. They waited for me. I arrived the local Airport at about 7.40am and after exchanging banters, I collected my ticket and we went straight to board the flight to Enugu. We were about to enter the bus that will take us to the Aircraft when somebody told us that Arik Air had left for Enugu. We could not believe our ears. “No, it cannot be true,” we said in unison. Panic gripped us. “Could it be true? What happened? Why did Arik Air leave before the stipulated time? Why did Arik Air do this to us?” We kept on asking ourselves. Instantly, our Nnewi meeting was put in danger. We rushed to the Arik Air counter only to discover that we were not alone. About 10 or 15 other passengers were affected. We demanded explanations but all to no avail. We screamed to draw their attention but the Arik workers had no better explanation to make. We demanded to see the Manager but he stayed away. Soon Mr Ike Oraekwuotu, former MD Assurance Bank joined the protest. He was also billed to travel to Enugu on the same flight. We all protested and protested and asked the Arik Management to organize another flight to Enugu for us.

One of us on the trip to Nnewi had asked his driver that morning to leave Oraifite to Enugu to wait for us. The driver called us to announce that he is now in Enugu Airport. Ike Oraekwuotu demanded for his money after he had struggled to secure Aero Contractor ticket to Enugu, and when they saw the anger in his eyes they decided to return his money. All the affected passengers followed suite and demanded for their money and we were all refunded.

And soon we were told that another Arik flight will be going to Benin by about 11 oclock. We ignored them. But after making frantic efforts to get another airline to Enugu failed we have to wait for the 11 o clock flight to Benin. We then asked our driver in Enugu to proceed to Benin Airport when we had the confirmation that the Benin trip will be a reality.

We arrived Benin by few minutes after 12 noon and in 15 minutes our man arrived from Enugu. We got to Nnewi at about 3.30 pm, and went straight to the meeting. The rest is now history, but Arik Air would have to explain to us why they punished us. The ticket I had read 8.30am but Arik Air left for Enugu by 7.30 am, thereby turning our plans upside down and subjected us to severe stress. What explanation is the Management going to offer this for breach of agreement and contract? A man who finally came down to introduce himself as the Manager of the company did not look like a Manager from head to toe and I did not believe his useless explanation. I expected better service, better organization, better understanding and better explanation on why they did what they did but none came. I am now talking to my lawyers, and soon Arik Air will hear from us.

Though I had a return ticket to Lagos, I forfeited it and consequently decided to travel by road to get a feel of the neglected Benin – Ore – Ijebu ode expressway. I left Nnewi at about 10 am in the morning to Onitsha to pick a vehicle to Lagos. At GOD IS GOOD Garage in Asaba, Delta State passengers were stranded as there were no vehicles to take us to Lagos. More than a hundred commuters waited for about two hours before we were able to get buses. We left Onitsha around two oclock. We got to Benin to hear that Benin to Okada part of the expressway was impossible. There was no road. The expressway had collapsed. We had to pass through Benin City and took a long distance on the entirely bad road to Okada. As the only route to take us to Okada, the tiny road was put under serious pressure. To get out of Benin City was something else as the roads were totally in a mess. Parents and children returning from the Sunday service were held up in the Benin traffic for several hours and I deeply sympathized with these innocent Nigerians.

We got to Okada and after about an hour we met another serious trouble. About 500 heavy duty vehicles from both sides of the Benin – Ore expressway could not go further. It was like a war situation and totally unbelievable. I saw man’s inhumanity to man live. They could not move. Only smaller vehicles like the one I was traveling with could use the bush path. The big buses and trailer drivers were totally helpless. They could not move forward and could not turn back. My heart felt for them as we managed the bush part after paying some youths who were managing the bush path. I looked at these youths and shook my head in utter disbelief. We got to Lagos at about 8.30 pm that Sunday but my heart refused to turn away from the avoidable tragedy I saw at the Benin – Ore expressway. It was an eye sore, a shame and an indictment on all of us especially our leaders.

Benin – Ore – Ijebu ode – Lagos expressway was built some 35 years ago even when Nigeria had no too much money. Now, how come we have not been able to build another road since then or even to maintain the existing one with 48 billion dollars in the reserve? As we waded through the forest I told myself there is no reason why God will not punish those who were responsible for this mess on Benin – Ore expressway. If we have 200 engineers in the Federal Ministry of Works they are supposed to be kicked in the buttocks and disgraced out of office for failing the Nation in the discharge of their responsibility. If we are serious about building a Nation we are supposed to have about three standard expressway from Lagos to South East and South South, and the same from Lagos to the North. If ours is not a Nation of wicked and corrupt leaders there is no reason why we have to inflict this kind of pains to our citizens. Thousands of commuters passing through that horrible road everyday are cursing those who stole their common patrimony and brought the Nation to this mess.

Lagos – Ibadan expressway and Lagos – Badagry expressway  and many Federal roads have remained the same for close to 40 years. The condition of these roads is a good advertisement of failure of leadership. This is what a Nation gets when criminals assume high position of authority. This is what a Nation gets when little – minded elements assume very important positions. The situation in Nigeria today is what our leaders have made it. I do not care whether they are military or civilians. They are all Nigerians.


Joe Igbokwe

Lagos AC

Publicity Secretary.


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