The national carriers of Rwanda, and South Africa, RwandAir and South Africa Airways (SAA), have both rejected Media reports published in the Guardian, one of Nigeria’s leading newspapers in the country and a popular online news medium, Sahara reporters.
Imagine addressing a Press conference to announce the introduction of Airbus A330 to Lagos as a show of confidence in the Nigerian economy and 10 journalists who were present at your event report positively on what you said but a medium Sahara Reporters that did not attend your event reports exactly the opposite of what you said and putting a Populist slant to your comments criticizing the Government and the Airport without even mentioning the A330 in its report.
That is the Nightmare two Airlines are experiencing in Nigeria today. The Nigerian Public are angry with the Government over the Aviation crisis bedeviling the country so the Nigerian media will hook on anything to emphasize the failures.
So any statement made towards this end is quickly promoted to draw attention to the failures of Government, this is the experience of SAA and Rwandair, Rwandair manager for Nigeria has come out to disclaim the earlier story published by the Guardian Newspapers while friends of SAA are pointing out the usual Rascality of Sahara Reporters as a reason not to take their story serious. But Sahara Reporters notorious in Nigeria for sensationalism has already done the story so any denial is not really helpful because people already are quoting it.
The Guardian had alleged in its report published on Thursday 8 December 2016 that RwandAir had been fined for carrying Nigerian passengers with fake Work permits. The report of the Guardian Newspaper published on its website before it was removed reads:
“Plans were in the offing to bring in the third aircraft this December for the passengers heading to China, India and other countries. A Sales Executive of RwandAir, Henry Aaron, said it was regrettable that the airline had paid $20 million from July till date for the mistakes the airline knows nothing about.
“Aaron said the penalty imposed on the airline was due to the “smart activities” of its passengers and their cohorts in Dubai, who are playing all gimmicks to outwit the airline’s clearance to board.
“Aaron explained that there are some “smart guys” in Dubai processing working visas for wiling Nigerians. At the point of booking, the visas are genuine, but would have been cancelled from the system and become fake before the passenger reached Dubai airport.
“It is a smart move. Once it is cancelled, the person has no way of entering. As an airline that has carried the passenger on a one-way ticket, for every case like that, we are charged $30,000 for each passenger. I also have to fly the person back to Nigeria for free. That is the problem,” he said.
“While the problem is not peculiar to RwandAir, the airline is having more of the effect as a foreign airline and co-competitor on the UAE market.Emirates and other UAE airlines also face similar problems, although at minimal rates, but as home grown airlines, they will always find their way around without paying penalties.
“Aaron added that the airline even introduced an Okay-To-Board clause to curb the challenge, but Nigerians still found their way around it. “Okay-To-Board issue simply means that we collect your visa and working permits 48 hours before you board and present them to your employer in Dubai to okay before we allow you board. It is working but our Nigerian guys are so good.
“What they do is that they would look for someone in the organisation, tip the person to issue and monitor the permit without the knowledge of the employer. Some hours before the plane is due to arrive; they would extract the permit and cancel the visa. It becomes a problem for us and we are paying heavily for it,” he said.
But in a swift reaction, RwandAir in a statement said it has no intention of withdrawing its operations from the country.
The statement reads: “RwandAir wishes to notify its esteemed audience that the entire article is erroneous, wrong, misinformed and invalid.
“There is no basis whatsoever for what the story tries to portray or to insinuate. RwandAir has no intention of withdrawing its operations to and from Nigeria rather it has all intentions of growing in frequency and capacity in this market that it has been serving for the past five years.
“Furthermore, the only authorized person to speak to the media on behalf of the airline in Nigeria is the Country Manager, Ms. Ibiyemi Odusi, and as such it is regrettable that the Guardian did not make any efforts to contact her to verify their article ahead of publication.”
It therefore called on the management of the Guardian to immediately retract the fictitious article. The article has since disappeared from the website.
For SAA the report published by Sahara Reporters on its website was on comments made on the state of Nigerian airports attributed to the airline’s regional manager for North, West and Central Africa, Mr. Ohis Ehimiaghe.
According to Sahara Reporters, Mr Ohis had decried the poor state of facilities at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, saying the facilities are a far cry from what is obtainable at Cotonou Airport, Benin Republic, a smaller country compared to Nigeria and the Airline had on 4 occasions fallen victim to the terrible Runway at Abuja Airport and that on one occassion the Aircraft was stranded in Abuja for 8 days.
While the report by Sahara reporters seems to be popular amongst Nigerians who are happy with that angle people close to the Airline are pained that no mention was made of the purpose of the Press conference which is to call attention to the Confidence the Airline has in Nigeria. SAA is bringing in a brand new Aircraft to Nigeria in the midst of the Recession and had wanted to tell Nigerians that they are going nowhere. They are here to stay which message got lost in the Sahara Reporters story.