Lagos – The serene atmosphere of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos on Tuesday became tense, following the clash between men of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) and aviation industry unions, following the picketing of Caverton Helicopters by the latter.
At least, 14 members of the protesting unions were whisked away by officials of RRS who insisted that their picketing was illegal, while no fewer than five of them were thereafter hospitalized as a result of the various injuries sustained from the brutality.
The RRS officials were allegedly invited to disrupt the peaceful protest of the unions by the management of Caverton Helicopters.
One of the union leaders who identified himself as Paul Igene purported that the union members were assaulted because Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was due to fly with one of the helicopters of the company on Tuesday.
He alleged that when its members queried the brutality meted out to its members from the RRS officials, they claimed that it was ordered from above.”
Igene explained that the three unions; Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) had been in discussion with the management of Caverton on terminal benefits, redundancy payment and other welfare issues in the past one year, but the management had been dilly-dallying on the issue.
He explained that after faltering for almost a year, the management of the helicopter company finally agreed to ensure rightful payment to the workers, which elapsed on March 31, 2019, but management again failed to fulfil its promise to the workers.
He alleged that during the crisis, the vehicles of the unions were towed away and damaged in the process, noting that the unions would kick against such attack on its members and leadership by the company.
He said: “The RRS officials told us point-blank that their action was ordered from Abuja after the Caverton management invited them to assault us. Our members were beaten assaulted by the RRS. They were actually whisked away to their office at Oshodi. But, when we got there, they were later released to us. However, some of them have been hospitalised at the moment.
“This matter has not ended and it won’t end like this. How can you attack harmless officials who are calling for what is due to them. They also mentioned the name of Yemi Osinbajo because they claimed he was to use one of the helicopters of the company today (yesterday).”
Also, Comrade Aba Ocheme, General Secretary of NUATE, told our correspondent that their members were arrested and put into detention.
Members of the unions blocked the airport road in protest, causing traffic gridlock around the MMIA toll gate for almost two hours.
“We are mobilizing heavily against Caverton and Nigeria Police”, the said NUATE scribe.
Spokesman of MMIA Police Command, DSP Joseph Alabi confirmed the blockade of airport road by the protesters.
He, however, said the team that arrested the union members were from Lagos Police Command, adding that policemen were on ground to provide security.