By IHEANACHO NWOSU and CHUKS AKUNNA, Abuja
Miffed by frequent cancellation and delays in flights, the House of Representatives yesterday agreed to put-up a legislation to provide stiffer sanctions against any erring airlines. A bill to this effect had already passed the second reading. The Bill is seeking to amend the Civil Aviation Act 2006, to prescribe penalties for delays and cancellation of flights by airlines, and for other related matters.
The sponsor of the bill, Femi Gbajabiamila, contended that the airlines usually impose penalties on the passengers for coming late, and other minor offences whereas they delay passengers and cancel flight schedules indiscriminately without facing sanctions. He pointed out that, amending the Civil Aviation Act to provide penalties for offending airlines would make them sit up and at the same time stop taking passengers for granted.
Lending his voice in support of the bill, the Chairman of the House Committee on Power, Patrick Ikhariale, accused the airlines of canceling flights without justification, appealing to his colleagues to pass the legislation in order to curb the alleged excesses of the operators. Adding his voice to the debate Isah Lawan, suggested that, rather than amend the bill and make new provisions for penalties, the airlines should just be directed to give 24-hour notice to passengers before canceling any flight schedule.
However, the bill received strong opposition from some members who felt that the provisions sought for in the amendment has been captured under the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Act 2006. Nnenna Ukeje argued that the legislation, if allowed to pass, would amount to duplication of efforts, blaming the Customer Protection Unit of the NCAA for not discharging its responsibilities in enforcing sanctions on erring airlines. Kingsley Chinda, in his own views, opined that the bill is not necessary, maintaining that there was no delay or cancellation of flight by the airlines without operational reasons.
He observed that the sanctions being proposed in the Bill were also provided for in the operational policies of the NCAA, stating that passengers are entitled to claim damages in case of infringement on their rights. Opposition to the bill notwithstanding, when the Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, put it to vote, those in support carried the day and it was read a second time and committed to the Committee on Aviation for further legislative input.