Monday, April 28, 2008

BA boycott updates

Like we've said before, BA hopes this "fiasco" will die down and Nigerians will continue to "siddon n sharrap" as the elite continue to patronize BA (the airline just reported a 100% load factor on the Lagos-London route for March-April by the way) and business goes back to normal. Thanks to blogville (bloggers like NigerianCuriosity and Chxta), the Naija online network (fora like NVS and, the media, and Nigerians (shout out to those who haven't HAD to fly BA this month) for making sure this doesn't happen.

I somehow suspect that Wednesday (April 30th - deadline for BA to apologize or face the consequences) will come and go and our not-so-dear Willie Walsh will still have nothing to say to the Nigerian passengers kicked off BA075 on March 27th. In terms of a boycott against BA for life, i'm not convinced that we (nor BA) will see the impact required to wake the sleeping airline and prove us to be more than a mere irritation to be ignored.

Would a short, directed (ONE WEEK, ZERO BA) collective action be more measurable, get more media coverage and give people more time to re-organize their affairs to other airlines? Are Nigerians really capable of COLLECTIVELY swearing off BA for life while the Lagos-London route keeps being serviced by only 3/4 airlines? What would it take to get you to boycott BA for life? We'd like to know, so we can start COLLECTIVELY TRYING to get those factors in order...

Friday, April 18, 2008

British Airways: Apologize to Nigerians or Prepare For a Boycott!

Time and time again, Nigerians have been unfairly treated by various airlines during their travels. Recently, this kind of unfair treatment was meted out by British Airways to a Nigerian passenger, Mr. Ayodeji Omotade. Here is the story in his own words. Please read and sign the call for BA to apologize or face a boycott!

(From Nigerian Village Square)

Before you read Mr. Omotade's letter... Decide which course of action you are going to take. You can do one of the following:

1. Sign the online Nigerian Village Square petition compelling BA to apologize or face boycott
2. Send an e-mail to the CEO of British Airways, Willie Walsh, protesting over this mistreatment. (
3. Phone British Airways to register your protest by calling British Airways Customer Relations department on 0844 493 0 787 (from within the UK); +44 1293 666245 (from outside the UK).
4. Write in to: British Airways, Customer Relations (S506), PO Box 5619, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 2PG
5. Write about your own experience here.

On the 27th of March 2008 at about 12:30pm, I boarded the British Airways flight BA75 and I went straight to seat 53C. On getting to my seat, there were noises from an individual being forcibly restrained but who was not visible because some police officers and some plain clothes people held him down. The noise continued for more than 20 minutes and I was concerned because the individual was screaming in agony and shouting in pidgin English "I go die" meaning, I will die. I pleaded with the officers not to kill him and my exact words were "please don't kill him". The British Airways staff said that the officers were doing their jobs and that nothing was going to happen. The noise became louder and other passengers started getting concerned and were complaining especially about their safety. The situation continued for another 15 minutes after I got on.

Eventually, a member of the cabin crew announced that the passenger was going to be removed and the passenger was removed from the plane and we all thought that was the end of the situation. Five minutes later, two members of the cabin crew arrived with about 4 police officers and told me to get off the plane. I asked what the matter was and they said that I was not going to travel with the airline because the cabin crew thought I had been disruptive by questioning the noise being caused by the person that was removed. I pleaded with them that I was going for my brother's wedding and that I had all his stuff with me. I was dragged out of the plane as if I was resisting arrest. As we got to the corridor that linked the plane with the terminal building, I was slammed against the wall and made to sit on the floor. I was still pleading with them telling them that they had completely misunderstood me and that I was only complaining about the situation regarding the disturbances caused by the deportee they were trying to restrain and subdue. I was on the floor for about 20 to 25 minutes. Another passenger was brought to the corridor as well and he was also pleading with the officers.

I was later put in the back of the police van at about 1:50pm and I was locked up there for about an hour or more still handcuffed. I was formally arrested approximately 2:30pm and my rights were read to me. Before the arrest in the van, I managed to reach for my pocket and brought out my mobile phone. I made some phone calls to my wife, sister and a friend while the low battery sign was on because I was all alone and still handcuffed.

I was later driven to the police station where I was formally checked in. I was in police custody for almost 8 hours and later released on bail after the interview with the duty solicitor and the detectives. I had £473.00 on me which was seized as well as £90.00 sent to my mother in-law from my sister in-law and £1,050.00 given to me by my cousin who is a doctor for the upkeep of his parents in Nigeria. All the money together was £1,613.00. I was told that I would appear in a magistrate court to prove the money was not meant for crime or proceeds of crime. The officer told me that they will like to see traceability and that I needed my payslips and bank account detailing my payments and withdrawals as well as my cousin's payments and withdrawals.

I was released but without the money. I made my way to terminal 4 and arrived there at about 12:30am but the British Airways kiosks were closed. I was directed to the staff room and told them that I wanted to rebook my trip to Lagos. A lady told me to give her my ticket and she stated that British Airways has banned me from travelling with them indefinitely and that only the managers can use their discretions because I was a 'disruptive passenger'. I requested for my 2 piece luggage and she told me that the section will be opened later at about 5:30am and I will be escorted in to collect them. I slept on the chair and waited till about 5:30am and attempted to rebook my ticket but was told that British Airways refused to take me. I decided to go and pick up my stuff and I was told that my luggage were missing. I was handed a form with reference number LONBA90924. At this point, I became totally stranded because I could not leave without my luggage because it contained my brother's wedding suit, shirts and accessories.

I was on the phone with my wife and she wanted to book an alternative flight that departs at 10:15am so that I could make it for the wedding. This was not possible because British Airways refused to disclose where my luggages were and did not remove my luggage from the flight when they called the police to arrest me.

On Monday 31st of March, I appeared at the Magistrate court but was told that a decision was made about the £1,613.00 that was seized from me. The police had been granted a further 90 days to hold on to the money pending their investigation. I was given the officer's details . He requested 12 months bank statements and 6 months payslip to prove that the £473.00 that belongs to me was not proceeds of crime and also requested that the £1,050.00 that was given to me by my cousin for his parents should also be traced to my cousin's 12 months bank statement and 6 months payslip. DC Webster has promised to write me detailing these requests.

Still on Monday 31st of March 4 days after I was taken off the plane, I made extra efforts to find out the whereabouts of my 2 piece luggage (LONBA90924), because they have not been sent to my address as promised by calling the lost baggage section at 13:44hrs and spoke to a man called Neil who said that, it is difficult for them to trace my bags and that there is a strong possibility that they might be in Lagos. He suggested that I should call back in 24 hours.

Eventually, one week and one day later, my bags were brought to me at home. One was badly damaged and the other was intact. British Airways deliberately made sure I missed the wedding because if they were kicking me off their flight, they would have removed my bags from the flight. They were all there when the police officers made me to sit on the floor and heard me pleading to allow me fly for my brother's wedding. I could have made either KLM or Virgin Nigeria the following Friday morning.

I will not want to believe that the authorities involved in the situation deliberately or cleverly punished me unnecessarily out of frustration for not being able to restrain or subdue a deportee or that I as a fee paying passenger was accused of affray with violence when I was voicing my concerns about the disturbances caused by the deportees. I never mentioned any abusive or swear words neither was I physically threatening anyone. My luggage mysteriously was lost and I have been banned on all British Airways flights without a chance to say my part of the story to redeem myself. 135 passengers were asked to leave the flight because they expressed displeasure regarding the disturbances caused by the deportees and the officers trying to restrain him. My ticket was even refused to be endorsed by BA to enable me to fly with another airline. I need full compensation of my loss and also a letter of apology from British Airways.

Ayodeji Omotade

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Governor Fashola's Reading List - by Tolu Ogunlesi

Good to know our leaders are reading and getting smart about those issues that plague our country but are not unique to us. And that some of them are embracing untinted windows!


From The Guardian Newspaper

FEW Nigerian stereotypes are more deeply rooted than the "Nigerians don't read" one. Every so often some publisher or University don or educationist is to be found screaming this to the highest heavens. But this stereotype is patently one of the most erroneous labels anyone could ever stick on the Nigerian citizen. Never before this time has Nigeria witnessed such an explosion of newspapers, magazines and book publishing...

But when it comes to our "Big Men" (and I use this term to refer to both men and women) - politicians, high profile CEOs, business moguls, high-level Government functionaries, etc - the issue of reading gets a bit more interesting.

A past President of Nigeria was once quoted to have said he does not read newspapers. Interestingly, he it was who also embarked on the construction of the biggest and costliest library (a personal one at that) ever seen in this country, a project for which billions of naira have been raised (and hopefully, spent). In the light of this, perhaps he was misquoted on the newspaper matter. (It is very possible. Dictaphones and Voice Recorders have been known to occasionally embark on grand acts of journalistic mischief, taking laws - or better still, words - into their hands).

Do our Big Men read? If yes, what? Newspapers? This would seem likely (of course there will be exceptions). With the sheer volume of shamelessly-biased opinion let loose on the pages of our newspapers, our Big Men need to know what truths and what lies are being peddled about them in the media. Let's move over to books. One is tempted to wonder what books our Big Men feed their eyes (and minds) on - apart from cheque-books? It is interesting to note that there is such a thing (albeit unofficial) as a "Presidential Reading List" in the United States. An article in The Guardian (UK) in August 2005 mentioned the three books that President George Bush was taking along on that year's summer vacation...Huge debates arose in the American media at that time because that revelation essentially demanded a recasting of Mr. Bush's "anti-intellectual" image.

The books a person reads say a great deal about the person - character, passions, personality, aspirations. Show me your books and I will tell you who you are. For example I'd give anything to know what books President Musa Yar'Adua has on his bedside reading table (next to that spiral-bound copy of the 2008 Budget), or in the glove-box of the Presidential Limo.

This morning I glimpsed something that seized my attention and gladdened my heart to no small end. "The Gubernatorial Reading List" of Lagos State. I found myself (and I can assure you this was no breach-of-security issue) a few feet from Governor Fashola's official SUV, where it was parked at the venue of an event on Victoria Island. Awed as I am by such trappings of power, I found myself gazing into the car. (And this is further confirmation in my opinion that Governor Fashola is of a different breed - his car windows are transparent; no malevolent-faced "tinted" windows on the vehicle, the way you'd see with many other Big Men. Perhaps this is a symbol of his style of governance).

I digress. Inside the official vehicle of the Executive Governor of Lagos State I glimpsed a substantial pile of books, stacked on the arm rest that divides the back seat into two. Also in the car were a stack of newspapers, but it was the books that I was interested in. I craned my neck to catch a glimpse of the titles. I managed to see three: Planet of Slums (by Mike Davis), Giving (by Bill Clinton) and Economics For Dummies (by Sean Masaki Flynns).

Do not be misled by the title of the last book, it certainly is not a book for "dummies" in the "dullard" sense of the word; the title bears that strange phrase because (1) It is a tongue-in-cheek way of letting on that the book, like every other book in the series to which it belongs (manuals and guidebooks covering topics ranging from computing to finances to sports and leisure) is aimed at tutoring "non-experts" (2) Tongue-in-cheek titles often sell books better than placid ones.

I quickly checked out the books on the internet (having read none of them), seeking more information. Bill Clinton's Giving is described on Oprah Winfrey's website as "an inspiring look at how individual endeavors can save lives and solve problems, and it offers compelling examples of both citizen and corporate activism at work in the world today."

Publishers Weekly tells us that in Planet of Slums, "Urban theorist Davis takes a global approach to documenting the astonishing depth of squalid poverty that dominates the lives of the planet's increasingly urban population, detailing poor urban communities from Cape Town and Caracas to Casablanca and Khartoum."

And from the Dummies.Com website, we learn that "Economics For Dummies helps you see how your personal financial picture is influenced by the larger economic picture... the next time you need to understand an economic theory or calculation, whether it's on the nightly news or on a spreadsheet at work, you'll no longer be in the dark. Economics For Dummies covers all the history, principles, major theories, and terminology..."

There were other books in the Governor's mobile library, only I couldn't see the titles from where I stood, half-expecting a (stray) bullet from the one of the armed guards who prowled the area. I immediately called the attention of a colleague to what my eyes had just seen. And I left the scene strangely excited, and brimming with ideas. Our leaders are reading! The English philosopher Francis Bacon was right on target when he declared that "reading maketh a full man." There is hope for Nigeria only when leadership is by "full men", and not empty barrels.

I have now begun looking forward to the day when one of our TV or radio-show hosts will start a book segment on their show, to which they will invite our "Big Men" to discuss "books". Books they have read, or are currently reading, books that have changed their lives and shaped their philosophies, books that influence their leadership styles. Purpose? To show the world that "BigManism" and "Bookishness" are not mutually exclusive; that "Big Men" can be "Book Men."

I once listened to Mr. Reginald Ihejiani (CEO of Fidelity Bank) discuss his reading habits, and the books that had shaped him; at a literary workshop sponsored by his bank and facilitated by the award-winning writer Chimamanda Adichie. It was an inspiring session. Such discussions should be on TV, on radio. And should extend to the dizzying heights of our corridors of power.

I look forward to hearing Governor Fashola discuss those three books, live on television. I'm sure I'll phone-in to ask him a question or two...

Ogunlesi is a company executive in Lagos (and a good friend of tAB).

P.S. The Issues" discussion is still going on so please share your views and ideas.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


"Every well-meaning Nigerian must rise up and be vocal in denouncing any attempt to legalise abortion in Nigeria. Abortion is anti-God. It is against our culture. We should not kill a soul we cannot create. An unborn child has a right to live."
- Andrew Odigie, President, Catholic Knights of Ibadan Archdiocese

Any person who, with intent to procure miscarriage of a woman whether she is or is not with child, unlawfully administers to her or causes her to take any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.
- Nigeria's Criminal Code Act 228

The Nigeria Health Review 2006 says that about 10,000 Nigerian women die annually due to abortion-related complications. This is out of the more than 610,000 abortions carried out annually in the country. The report says that many more women, who survive the complications, suffer permanent disabilities.
- "Nigeria: Unsafe Abortion - Need to find a Lasting Solution (

"Women need to be educated about their rights over their body and given opportunities to plan their families, but it must be done in a way that protects public morality."
- Saving Nigerians from Risky Abortions, BBC Africa

We've all heard the "what would you do" scenarios...Wife/daughter/self gang-raped and becomes pregnant. Should abortion be an option? Or should she be forced to have the baby and perhaps, give it up for adoption?

With so many pressing issues in Nigeria, it's almost easy to see how abortion has sat on the back burner for so long. (Then again, our Ministhief ;) of Health has had some pressing issues of her own to deal with too). Being one of the people referred to in the article as the "middle liners" (basically, in search of some approach that allows women to responsibly opt for abortions on a need basis, which would need to be well thought out), i would like to see a lasting solution to this issue, seeing as so many women are having these abortions regardless.

Anti-abortionist groups call for a change in focus from trying to legalize abortion to working to improve the care and support that women receive during pregnancy. But does that address the fact that there are women out there who still feel that abortion is their only option? And what about those who decide that it IS their only option, only to realize (too late) that it wasn't? Would legalizing abortion really lead to rampant promiscuity in our society? Perhaps, but the current law isn't working as is. So what next?

I apologize if this issue has been discussed in the past on other blogs, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this sensitive issue, especially your reactions to this BBC article. Read excerpt below:

Abortion is a taboo subject in Nigeria. The BBC couldn't find any woman who had an abortion willing to speak about it openly.

But 12 women responded to questionnaires about their experiences. The women were contacted though a doctor who arranges abortions by trained doctors at a medical clinic in the capital Abuja.

"People know I am into women's issues," she says, "so when a woman comes to an organisation looking for help, they send them to me." The doctor did not want to be identified because she feared the authorities would prevent her from providing a service she says saves lives.

All but one of the 12 women are single, and all are below the age of 27. Two are still in secondary school. Two women said they had abortions before, and two other women said their boyfriends refused to let them use contraception. Two attempts to change the law were stopped by conservative women's groups.

They say a change in the law would promote promiscuity, and weaken the moral fibre of Nigeria. "Making more abortions available is not the answer," says Saudata Sani, a female member of the House of Representatives for Kaduna state, in northern Nigeria. "Women need to be educated about their rights over their body and given opportunities to plan their families, but it must be done in a way that protects public morality."

Other medical specialists say that the law is just a part of the picture.

"Even if it was possible to get a legal abortion, many women would not be able to get a safe one," said Dr Francis Ohanyido, the president of the International Public Health Forum.

"Medical facilities vary widely and it is almost impossible to guarantee quality."

Cultural taboos mean even if there was a clinic in their town, it would be impossible for most women to go there, he said.

Among the 12 women the BBC questioned, five said they believed it would be wrong to make abortion more easily available. Sharle, a 25-year-old university student, who had an abortion so she could continue her education, said she regretted what she did, saying it was against God's commandments.

Also check out pyoo wata's post on/endorsment of Dr. Ejike Oji, an advocate of women's reproductive rights.

Meanwhile, if you happen to be in the NYC area, be sure to check out the African Film Festival this week (April 9 to May 26th) as it showcases African cinema at its finest.