Nigeria: Domestic flights disrupted by strike

Passengers at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos State.

A strike by air traffic controllers grounded all domestic flights in Nigeria on Thursday leaving passengers stranded at terminals across the country, an official said.

But around 1.30 pm today, flights which have queued up at the domestic wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja began to take off.

Yakubu Dati of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) said international travel had not been affected, with the major carriers that operate in Nigeria — including British Airways, Air France and KLM — continuing with regular services.

The air traffic controllers’ union has made a series of demands for better pay and improved working conditions but it was not immediately clear if they issued a warning about their planned work stoppage.

“The issue is being resolved and I can assure you that everything will soon be OK,” Dati said.

Domestic air travel is a crucial means of transport across Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, given the poor conditions of many roads and relatively limited train network.

Attacks by roadside bandits who target motorists have also led to an increase reliance on domestic flights.

Nigeria’s top domestic carrier, Arik Air, confirmed that it had been grounded.

“We are not flying now because of the industrial action,” a company spokesman said, adding that the airline would resume operations “as soon as the issue is resolved.”

Nigeria has relatively strong labour unions, including in the oil sector, where strikes and even the threat of strikes have caused major disruptions across the country.