The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, has read a riot’s act to the Turkish Airlines to respond within 21 days to the request of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) for full situation report on its alleged shoddy treatment of passengers of flight TK 623 of Sunday December 20, 2015 and other subsequent flights during the yuletide or face prosecution.
The attorney general’s directive came on the heels of the CPC’s request to his office for the prosecution of the airline and its principal officers for its refusal to honour the order of the Council, which demanded for a full situation report on its alleged ill-treatment of passengers of the said flights that arrived Abuja from Istanbul without their baggage during the yuletide.
The Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation, Mohammed Saidu Diri, made this known in a letter signed on behalf of the attorney general as a response to the request of the Director General of CPC, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, to prosecute the international airline and its principal officers for the violation of the Council’s enabling Act.
The attorney general, who admitted that the demand of a full report on the alleged ill-treatment of the passengers of the said flights and the subsequent request for the airline’s prosecution for the violation of the Council’s Act were backed by law, disclosed that the Turkish Airlines has been appropriately communicated on the government’s position.
According to the letter to the director general, the Minister of Justice disclosed that his office “has written to Turkish Airlines instructing it to comply with your request within twenty-one (21) days or face prosecution, to serve as deterrence”.
Reacting, Mrs. Atoki described the development as a reflection of the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to ensuring that operators in all sectors play by the rules and respect the country’s laws and regulations.
She added that the attorney general’s stance was a re-awakening signal to the obligation of multinationals operating in the country to exhibit international best practices, noting that the development is a good omen for the promotion of a virile consumer protection regime in the country.
It could be recalled that the passengers of the said flights, some of whom were said to have travelled with minors, including those whose destinations were outside Abuja, were allegedly subjected to untold hardships, as they were forced to repeatedly check the Airport in Abuja on the fate of their baggage, thereby incurring extra and unbudgeted expenditure, including hotel accommodation without any form of support by the airline.
Following the report of the incident, CPC in a letter to the airline, dated December 29, 2015, signed by its director general, requested the airline to provide it with a full situation report of the said events, including Turkish Airline’s policy on delayed baggage, particularly as regards the compensation of affected passengers, the number of affected passengers, the number of those yet to receive their baggage and when same was expected to arrive, including steps, if any, that had been taken to provide appropriate redress to the affected passengers.
In concluding, the Council requested the airline to provide it with the full situation report of the said events on or before Friday 8th January 2015, noting that the airline allegedly “failed to provide passengers with prompt and proper information about their baggage which led to the confusion and disenchantment”
But the airline in a belated response to CPC failed to give any useful information on the issues raised by the Council, stating instead that it had attended several meetings with different agencies of government in connection with the matter.
The airline also claimed that it had resolved the situation completely, contrary to new complaints received by CPC indicating that another batch of baggage failed to arrive with the passengers on January 9. 2016, even as the Council then continued to receive complaints that affected passengers were not being compensated.
Disturbed by the seeming nonchalant approach of Turkish Airlines to the said complaints, the Council again in a letter dated 21 January, 2016, signed by its Director, Legal Services, Mr. Emmanuel Ataguba, gave Turkish Airlines seven days to comply with the Council’s directive or face the full wrath of the law.
CPC, in the January 21 letter, had drawn the attention of the airline to Section 18 of the CPC Act, which criminalises disobedience to summons, neglect or refusal to attend and testify before the Council or to answer any lawful enquiry or to produce any document as may be required.
It also informed the airline that “in the event that you continue to fail, neglect or refuse to comply with the Council’s requirements within seven days of the receipt of this letter, the Council will invoke its powers under the enabling Act”.
Consequent upon the consistent refusal of the airline to respond to its lawful requests, the Council thereafter approached the office of the attorney general of the federation for the prosecution of the airline and its principal officers in line with its enabling Act.