Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim's airline, Air Nigeria, has allegedly abandoned many Nigerian passengers in the United Kingdom, those abandoned told P.M.NEWS Tuesday.
The abandoned passengers, now struggling to raise air fares in the UK to return home, had purchased return tickets beyond September 10, before Jimoh Ibrahim summarily sacked about 800 workers and grounded his airline Monday.
Mr. Funsho Arogundade, a correspondent with TheNews magazine and P.M.NEWS was among those abandoned. He travelled on August 25, and was booked to return to Nigeria on September 16, but the airline stopped operating flights six days prior.
Arogundade spent N165,000 for a round trip via Air Nigeria, but the airline officials have vanished from the airport and have also stopped taking calls.
He said close to a thousand people might be affected by the sudden decision of Air Nigeria to stop flying.
He also added that many passengers had booked return flight tickets directly from Air Nigeria, and were scheduled to return in weeks or months but had not heard from Air Nigeria since it announced that it would stop flying.
Arogundade said that many Nigerians who approached the Nigerian High Commission in London were told that there was no help for them there, as officials were not aware of the details.
"I was booked to return to Lagos on 16 September but when I heard that Air Nigeria will stop flying from 10 September, I rushed to Gatwick Airport which is far away from Essex where I am now stranded," Arogundade said.
I could not easily locate the Air Nigeria desk when I got to the airport, since they had no office there. When I and other passengers eventually located the Air Nigeria stand, the only person there said he had no information for us and gave us two numbers (02074404800 and 02076286578) to call.
We called the two numbers throughout that day, and it was busy. The following day, one of the numbers went through and it turned out to be one of Air Nigeria's agents in London.
After explaining my situation to the agent who had an Indian accent, he told me that the airline had gone bankrupt, and there was nothing they could do.
He gave me another number (02074488400). Ever since, I had been calling the number but there has been no response.
I did not return to Gatwick until September 7. While there, there was no Air Nigeria official around. While snooping around, I heard that another plane will be arriving the following day (Saturday). After seeing the huge crowd of other Air Nigeria passengers waiting to be airlifted with no concrete assurance that a plane will come, I opted to search for an alternative from my friends.
Already, the trip from the part of London where I stayed to Gatwick, through train and bus, cost me about £40 each for two different days that I went to the airport.
Thus, I have resigned to fate and looked for an alternative. Already, I had to buy another Arik Air one-way ticket to Lagos for £410. Arogundade said that those who have no money to buy tickets have been abandoned with no option to come back home and no information from Air Nigeria.