…It’s a global challenge, SAHCOL boss
By UCHE USIM
Passengers on international flights have frowned at the incessant pilfering of their luggage in various airports across the country, laying the blame on airline ground handlers. The travellers, who lamented that the development has been on the upward trend for months running, called on the government to look into the ugly situation.
The two prominent ground handling firms accused of the anomaly are Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL) and the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Aviance (nahcoaviance) as passengers believe they are the ones who handle checked-in bags and goods either on departure or arrival.
A passenger, Austin Jacobson, lamented that many passengers on a Tel Aviv-Lagos flight at the weekend lost lots of valuables as their bags were pilfered. Daily Sun also gathered that many of such complaints have been lodged at the Consumer Protection Unit (CPU) of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for necessary action. However, in a sharp reaction to the development, the management of SAHCOL has absolved its ramp personnel over the menace of pilfering of passengers’ luggage.
The Managing Director of the ground handling company, Mr. Oluropo Owolabi, while briefing journalists Wednesday said its airside personnel are regularly trained to dissuade them from engaging in such criminal acts. He described pilfering as a major challenge confronting the global aviation industry, stressing that unpalatable consequences await any staff found culpable as the company has zero tolerance for it. Owolabi, however, explained that it is usually impossible for a passenger to determine the particular airport where his or her luggage was tampered with, stressing that as a General Manager of the defunct Nigeria Airways Limited at the J. F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, in the United States of America (USA), there were incessant cases of pilfering until security surveillance cameras were installed to monitor activities at the airside.
“We all know that pilfering is a major challenge not just to the ground handlers, but also the airlines and other security agencies at the airports. It will be wrong for anybody to conclude that his luggage was tampered with in Nigeria. It might have happened from the originating country. “Our staff most importantly the new ones are given enough training to dissuade them from engaging in the act.
Apart from training, they are equally given enough monetary rewards to discourage them from taking part in the act and our clients have commended us for professional handling of their passengers’ luggage. I want to say it here that we will continue to do more,” he said As regards the multi-million naira warehouse of the company under construction, Owolabi said completion target of June 2013 would be met, adding that the project was 60 percent gone.
He noted that the warehouse, when operational, would be akin to what obtains in developed nations. On touting, the SAHCOL boss necessary measures have been put in place to eliminate touting within the warehouse when completed, stressing that the design of the project has insulated it from touting and other nefarious activities. Giving a recap of activities of the company in 2012, he said SAHCOL handled 14 airlines 90 percent of which were local carriers.
He identified the epileptic conveyor belts at the Murtala Mohammed International (MMIA), Lagos as one of the major challenges that confronted its operations in 2012, but commended the minister of aviation, Princess Stella Oduah for efforts put in place to address the situation.