Bizwoman Sues Air Peace, Others Over Terrorism Accusation •Demands N2.005bn As Damages
A Nigeria businesswoman, Mrs. Nneka Ogbonna, has dragged Air Peace Limited and four others before a Lagos Federal High Court, for calling her a terrorist, hijacker and breaching her fundamental Rights.
Others sued before the court in a fundamental Rights enforcement suit marked FHC/L/SC/1206/2020, alongside Air Peace Limited are: Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Captain Horace Millar-Jaja, a pilot with Air Peace.
The businesswoman, Nneka, in the suit is asking the court for the following reliefs against all the respondents; a declaration that Captain Millar-Jaja violated her right to Dignity of Human Person as guaranteed under Section 34(1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and her Right to Freedom of Movement as guaranteed under Section 41(1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 12(1)(2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights by initiating the process for her unlawful and forceful disembarkation from the Air Peace flight 7210 from Lagos to Warri on December 10, 2019, which she said is contrary to Regulations 17.40.3, 17.58.8 and 17.93.4 of Part 17 of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations, 2015.
A declaration that Captain Millar-Jaja violated her Right to Dignity of Human Person as guaranteed under Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, by falsely announcing to the hearing of everyone inside the Air Peace flight 7210 from Lagos to Warri on December 10, 2019, that she was a hijacker, who had hijacked that aircraft contrary to the definition of “hijacking” as contained in section 56(2) of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act, 2006.
A declaration that the NCAA and FAAN violated her Right to Dignity of Human Person as guaranteed under Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, when two of its male employees (Fatoyinbo with AVSEC.ID Card No. 25870 and Nze, Head of Crime and Investigation) attempted to forcefully and unlawfully remove her from her seat inside Air Peace flight 7210 from Lagos to Warri on December 10, 2019 in violation of the “same gender’ principle enshrined in Regulation 15.8.3(a)(iii) of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations, 2015.
A declaration that the NCAA and FAAN breached her Right to Dignity of Human Person as guaranteed under Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and her Right to Freedom of Movement as guaranteed under section 41 (1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 12(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights when its officers and employees physically restrained, molested, assaulted and battered the applicant in their attempt to unlawfully disembark her and in actually disembarking her from Air Peace flight 7210 from Lagos to Warri on 10th of December 2019 without lawful cause or justification.
A declaration that the NCAA and FAAN breached her Right to Dignity of Human Person as guaranteed under Section 34 (1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and her Right to Freedom of Movement as guaranteed under section 41 (1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 12(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights when its officers and employees lured her into their vehicle under the guise of helping her file a formal Complaint against the airline, whereas their intention was to unlawfully detain her at their office without disclosing her offence to her and subsequently hand her over to the Nigeria Police without lawful cause or justification.
A declaration that the threat made by FAAN at the meeting they had with her on August 11, 2020 to exercise their prosecutorial powers against her as a means of coercing her to refrain from seeking remedy for its actions against her, is a breach of the applicant’s Right to Dignity of Human Person as guaranteed under section 34 (1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and her a Right to Equality Before the Law and Equal Protection of the Law as guaranteed under Article 3(1) and (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights
A declaration that the directives/instructions issued by Air Peace Limited’s employees (Deborah Bazuaye and Adedoyin Adeniji) at the meeting they held with her at FAAN’s offices on August 11, 2020, that herself and her husband, Mr. Christopher Ogbonna, should desist from further expressing themselves on social media simply because it embarrassed Air Peace Limited, is a breach of her Fundamental Right to receive information, express herself and disseminate her opinions within the law, on social media (including Twitter and Instagram) or on any other platform of her choice as guaranteed by Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 91) and (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
A declaration that Air Peace Limited breached her Right to Dignity of Human Person as guaranteed under Section 34 (1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and her Right to Freedom of Movement as guaranteed under section 41 (1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 12(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, when it (through its officers and employees) facilitated, encouraged, and assisted officers and employees of NCAA and FAAN, to physically restrain, molest, assault and batter her, in their attempt to unlawfully disembark her and in actually disembarking her from Air Peace flight 7210 from Lagos to Warri on December 10, 2019, without lawful cause or justification. And a declaration that Air Peace Limited breached her Right to Freedom of Movement as guaranteed under Section 41(1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 12(1) of the African Charter on Humon and Peoples Rights, when its employees insisted on the seizure, possession and detention of two copies of her Nigerian international passports, by officers and men under the command and control of the IGP from December 10, 2019, until its eventual release on Bond on August 26, 2020.
A declaration that the airline breached her Right to Freedom of Movement as guaranteed under Section 41 (1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 12(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights when at the settiement meeting of January 9, 2020, Deborah Bazuaye and Adedoyin Adeniji, insisting on the continued seizure, possession and detention of two copies of her Nigerian international passports by officers and men under the command and control of the IGP as leverage for them to extort the sum of N3, 070 million from her.
A declaration that the forceful collection, seizure and detention of the two copies of her Nigerian international passports by officers and men under the command and control of the IGP at the insistence of the employees of Air Peace Limited, from December 10, 2019 until its eventual release on bond on August 26, 2020 to her husband, was a breach of her Right to Protection of the Family and Discrimination against the applicant who is an expectant mother contrary to Article 18(1), (2) and (3) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights).
A declaration that the airline violated her Rights to Dignity of Human Persons as guaranteed under Section 34 (1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, when on July 26, 2020, and acting in bad faith and intent to demean her, published on its official Twitter handle, @flyairpeace, the document titled “Response to Christopher Ogbonna’s Post” knowing same to be false, unfair, malicious, dehumanising and injurious to the Applicant.
The businesswoman also asked the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining all the respondents from preventing her from exercising her Fundamental Right to receive information, express herself and disseminate her opinions within the Law, on social media (including Twitter and Instagram) or on any other platform of her choice as guaranteed by Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 9(1) and (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
She also asked for an order restraining all the respondents, either by themselves or through any of their employees, officers and/or men, from subsequently inviting, harassing or embarrassing and/or unlawfully engaging in any form of questioning, arrest, detention, torture or prosecuting her based on any of the events which transpired on December 10, 2019, or on the basis of any subsequent allegation/matter arising therefrom or connected thereto, without Lawful justification.
An order directing the unconditional release (as against the release on bond by IGP) of the Nigerian International Passports (Numbers AO7852542 – current and A03634036 – expired) belonging to her and seized from her by the IGP on the instigation and insistence of Air Peace Limited, on December 10, 2019, at the IGP’ Station at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja Lagos Nigeria. And an order restraining the respondents, either by themselves or through any of their employees, officers and/or men, from any form of seizure or, possession, retention and detention of her Nigerian international passports, premised on any of the events which transpired on December 10, 2019 or on the basis of any subsequent allegation/matter arising therefrom or connected thereto.
An order restraining the the respondents from taking any step or engaging in any act that will affect or infringe on her right to personal liberty and freedom of movement, or that may inflict degrading treatment or hardship on the Applicant on account of the events which transpired on December 10, 2019, or on the basis of any subsequent allegation/matter arising therefrom or connected thereto.
She also asked for an order directing Air Peace Limited, NCCA, FAAN and Captain Millar-Jaja, to pay the Applicant the sum of N500 million each, totaling N2 billion only, as damages for the multiple infringements, violations and/or breaches of her fundamental human rights including her right to dignity, freedom of movement and dignity of her human person, protection of the Family and Discrimination against her, who is an expectant mother. And order of the court directing Air Peace Limited, FAAN, NCCA and Captain Millar-Jaja, to jointly and severally pay to her the sum of N5.5 million, being the sum charged by the law firm of Akandu, Ezebube & Kalu Legal (AE&K Legals) as Legal Fees for the institution of the suit.
An order directing Air Peace Limited, NCCA, FAAN and Captain Millar-Jaja, to pay post-judgement compound interest on all sums awarded by this Honourable Court at the applicable Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Minimum Rediscount Rate (MRR) (or at such other commercial interest rate as the court may deem fit) to be applied from the day of the judgement of the court until full and final payment by the Respondents.
An order directing Air Peace Limited’s Chief Executive Officer or the Managing Director, NCAA’s Director-General, FAAN’s Managing Director and Captain Millar-Jaja, to personally write and sign a sincere and contrite letter of apology to her, through the office address of her lawyers on record, apologizing for the multiple breaches of her fundamental human rights. And that the letter be delivered to the office of her lawyers on record and published as, at least, a half page advert in two newspapers with national circulation.
However, all the respondents in their counter affidavit deposed to by one Judith Obi, an Air Hostess with Air Peace Limited, urged the court to refuse the reliefs sought by the applicant, for been malicious, frivolous, vexation and gold digging in desperate move to make fortune out from nothing.
Judith in her counter affidavit averred that she was the Air hostess to AirPeace Nigeria Limited, and more particularly flight 7210 from Lagos to Warri of December 10, 2019, while denying some of the applicant’s depositions adding that the deponent was not present when the matter started but had merely utilized the information given to him by his spouse (the applicant) which facts are heavily and deliberately skewed to achieve a desire result, to wit, deceive the court into making an order which ordinaniy the facts of this case would not allow or sustain.
Th deponent also stated that it was the applicant’s irate and unruly behaviour in flagrant refusal to obey the cabin crew’s instruction that culminated into the controversy and not that of Captain Millar-Jaja, as alleged and that no fundamental right of the applicant was ever violated as alleged. Adding that the entre brouhaha of the case was occasioned by the applicant’s blunt refusal to give her luggage to be retagged as cargo luggage as against her insistence that it should be a hand on luggage as previously tagged at the first gate. And that the applicant deliberately stood on the aircraft Stairs, arguing and impeding the boarding process or blocked other incoming passengers from boarding while arguing and insisting on not obeying the Cabin crew directive, as a result of this action, a long line or queue of boarding passengers built up behind the Applicant.
Th deponent also stated that applicant’s reactions was never done politely, civilly or calmly as claimed but in the most furious, uncivilized, irate and unruly manner capable of provoking the cabin crew into taking extreme measure against her.
Judith further states that it was not true that Captain Millar-Jaja at no time used any foul language or unpleasant name calling as alleged. That it was the long queue of boarding passengers who could not access the aircraft and were thus agitated, as a result of the applicant’s unruly behaviour that attracted the Pilot, who came out from the cockpit to know what the commotion was all about. And that the pilot told the applicant to listen and do as she had said but the applicant told off the pilot.
The deponent states; “that on the 10th day of December 2019, I was on duty as the Air Hostess to flight 7210 belonging to the first Respondent scheduled to fly from Lagos to Warri, that the said flight 7210 was an embraer jet (smaller jet). And that there are two gates of boarding pass where passengers and their fuggages are checked and tagged.
“That the applicant was issued a luggage tag at the first gate which designated her luggage as hand on luggage. And that the decision of the first gate in tagging luggage as hand-on luggage or otherwise is subject to confirmation by the boarding crew of the aircraft”.
She stated further that when the applicant brought her luggage tagged as ‘hand-on luggage’ at the first gate, the boarding crew appealed to the applicant that her luggage is too big and not suitable as a ‘hand-on luggage’ and advised her to submit it for it to be tagged as cargo luggage. Adding that the decision was taken because the smaller plane has a smail cabin luggage Carrying capacity.
She stated that the applicant bluntly refused and or neglected to submit the said large luggage to be tagged as cargo luggage according to the decision of the cabin crew, insisting that it has been tagged as hand carry luggage at first gate. And that she was the first to approach her and politely informed her that her hand on luggage will no longer be suitable for hand luggage as the cabin luggage of the plane is too small for her large luggage. That I passionately appealed to her to bear with us and give her luggage to be tagged as cargo luggage.
The deponent states that to her greatest surprise, the applicant refused, and or neglected to obey her harmless request. And that the applicant insisted that since her luggage was tagged as hand-on luggage and ticket issued to that effect, nobody can change it from being so, so long as she paid her flight ticket.
She further states that she explained to the applicant that tagging a luggage as hand carry luggage at the first gate is not final decision on the status of carriage of luggage, as same is subject to approval or otherwise by the cabin crew whose responsibility it is to board passengers on the plane. And also explained to her that it is for her own safety and the safety of other passengers that it is desired that the luggage be tagged as cargo luggage. But the applicant still rejected all entreaties to give her luggage as a cargo luggage and even made attempt to adopt selfhelp by forcefully putting the said luggage into the overhead locker which was a recipe for anarchy, which was refused by the crew members. Adding that the applicant positioned herself on the stairs so that no other passenger behind her would have access into the aircraft and stated clearly that no one will enter the plane except she is allowed to board with her Luggage.
She averred that there was stalemate as applicant refused to comply with the cabin crew staff directive and security who ail joined to appeai to her to surrender the luggage for safety purposes. And that the applicant’s rude manners and attitude towards the cabin crew and staff of Air Peace Limited, got some passengers infuriated and there were severe altercation between her and passengers who were previously blocked by her from boarding the plane and all the passengers demanded that she should obey cabin crew no matter her social status.
She states that when the applicant eventually seated in the aircraft, in utter defiance to the hardship she had put airline, its staff and other fiying passengers through, brought out her phone and put a call across to her supposed husband despite instructions from the cabin crew that mobile phones and electronic gadgets are to be switched off or not allowed to be used on board the aircraft. And that after spending about 30 minutes with her supposed husband, Mr. Christopher Ogbonna, who actively encouraged her to disobey the cabin crew, and Captain Millar-Jaja, who is the commander of the Plane on phone against instructions, as her mobile phone was on speaker made so that everyone could hear her conversation with him, she became more unruly than ever and boasted openly that her husband instructed her not to obey the cabin crew instruction and she remained adamant and her attitude got every other passengers on board the plane talking.
The deponent further states that as a fact, Captain Millar-Jaja, warned her that her actions is criminal and tantamount to taking the plane hostage as the drama lasted for close to one hour and continued the waste of aviation fuel, as the Plane engine was running preparatory to take off. And that the applicant was never forcefully disembarked from the plane rather the AirPeace security reported the crime of holding the plane to ransom by her to the Airport Divisional Police, who in the exercise of their investigative powers invited her. And that the applicant clearly stated in her audio that “Honey Achorom Igbada: meaning in English “Honey I want to get down”.
Th deponent stated that she was infomed by J.K. Mbanefo Ikwegbue Esq., of counsel on October 5, 2020 in a meeting in their office at Plot 767 Idris Gidado Street, (Beside Roses Regency Hotel), Wuse District, Abuja by 12:00 noon and I verity believe him that the action of the applicant contravenes the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011, Section 240 (D) and this Section carries the punishment of life imprisonment.
She states that the applicant indeed deliberately flouted this criminal law and has ran to the court to seek protection from criminal prosecution. Adding that as a fact, Nigerian Police Force by virtue of Section 4 of Police Act is empowered to investigate crime and as such have done no more than invite the Applicant to explain her own side of the allegation complained against her.
She stated further that the whole aim of the applicant is to stop the law enforcement officers from carrying out their Constitutionally assigned duty which she believe the court will not accede to. And that after about one and half hour without progress, the noise continued unabated and passengers were worried at the applicant’s unruly behaviours and ili manners including but not limited to her previously blocking them from boarding the plane and her subsequent acts of insubordination.
She stated that when the applicant, after agreeing to check-in her luggage on entering the aircraft her boarding pass was requested for but she deliberately threw the boarding pass on the ground and went to sit down. When the cabin crew pointed out this to her she denied but other passengers in the plane confirmed It. As a result of the actions of the applicant, the flight suffered undue delay, which undue delay attracted the attention of the Pilot (the fifth Respondent) for the second time, who had been watching the developments from the cockpit window and that the pilot opened the cockpit door and demanded to know the reason for the unreasonable/undue delay from the cabin crew.
She stated that the pilot politely asked the applicant what the matter was, but she transferred her aggression on the pilot, asking him who made him a judge over the matter. Adding that the pilot instructed that the applicant must obey and abide by the cabin crew instructions and regulations.
She stated that the pilot’s instruction further infuriated the applicant and she started raining further tirades of abuses threatening that she will show all of them the stuff she is made off and that the plane will spend the whole day there. And that the applicant, after these unruly behaviours, stormed into the aircraft past the cabin crew who was responsible for checking of passenger boarding passes and refused and or neglected to present her boardiry pass as required by regulation.
She stated that Captain Millar-Jaja, not wanting to risk the lives of other passengers on the flight, due to the irate atutude of the applicant directed the cabin crew to call the airport security operatives to de-board the applicant who was still ranting that her husband is a lawyer and nothing will happen even if she delays the flight for two hours. And that the Cabin crew complained to the Police and airport security that the applicants unprovoked attacks on them, rude attitude and disobedience to cabin crew regulation has caused the pilot severe psychological trauma and that he is not in the right state of mind to fly with the applicant in order not to put the lives of other passengers in serious jeopardy.
She stated that on the arrival of the security operatives who attempted to reason with the applicant but, she remained adamant and ruder than ever and her refusal to go down further delayed the aircraft further. Adding that after the failure to sort out the imbroglio by the security operatives, the last resort was to invite the applicant to the Airport Divisional Police station.
She states that at the station, the DPO, FAAN officials, AVSEC officials, AirPeace Station Manager approached the applicant applicant to resolve the issues amicably, but she blatantly refused claiming that her husband who she said is a radical lawyer and radical change catalyst will make fortune from the litigation that will ensue. Added that the applicant’s stubborn position infuriated everybody at the station consequent upon which she was asked to make statement and after the statement she was asked by the Police to bring a reliable surety to take her on bail pending the outcome of investigation.
She stated that the applicant claimed that she has nobody to take her on bail as surety but volunteered to deposit her International Passport in recognizance to appear pending investigation and that the iGP agents at the Police station granted her request and released her without detention. And that at no time material to the facts of this case was her International passport seized by the IGP or at the instance of the airline and Captain Millar-Jaja.
She also stated that the lawyer retained by the applicant (Partners Associates & Co.) wrote a letter of apology on her behalf to the airline and Captain Millar-Jaja, but she debriefed the said lawyer and hired Olumide Babalola LP who wrote to the Management of FAAN, a subsequent meeting was heid on August 11, 2020 at the behest of the applicant in the FAAN office where she was represented by her counsel Messrs. Olumide Babalola LP., that the outcome of the meeting and the resolution reached in the meeting tells a different story from what she is now putting before this Court.
She averred that the applicant was never sexually molested, de-humanized, manhandled or maltreated by any of the Respondents or their agents as alleged, rather the applicant was the one who provoked the Cabin crew, the FAAN officials, the Air Peace Security and other passengers boarding flight 7210 and prevented the aircraft from taking off for about one and half hour due to her unruly behaviour holding the aircraft to ransom or hostage which resulted in severe loss of aviation fuel and waste of air-conditioner within the time of the delay.
She further stated that sometimes in July 2020, the Applicant’s husband (Christopher Ogbonna) in a series of social media tirade, began attacks on the airline and Captain Millar-Jaja and airline’s chairman, Mr. Allen Onyema and their Legal Departmental staff who represented the airline at their ADR meeting to sort out the problem of December 10, 2019. Adding that the applicant’s husband opened a portal on social media soliciting for fund by deceiving unsuspecting public in the guise of “Peace for Nneka” castigating the airline and its Chief Executive Mr. Allen Onyema.
She stated further that the applicant’s husband who had earlier realized the consequences of the applicant’s unruly behaviour and holding flight 7210 hostage for over one and half hour instructed their counsel to write an apology letter on her behalf to the airline for the matter to be resolved amicably. And that the representatives of the airline at the ADR meeting held with the Applicant herself and her lawyer accepted to make peace and resotve with the Applicant upon the terms and condition that she pay the airline the sum of N3 million, being damages and compensation for delaying flight 7210 for more than one and half hour and for waste of aviation fuel due to her unruly conduct.
Th deponent stated that in fact a day after the said incident precisely on December 11, 2019, the applicant who was remorseful knelt down at the airline offices, admitting her wrong doing, unruly behaviours as stated hereof and pleaded for forgiveness with the airline’s representatives several times, this may be the reason she refused to depose to this Oath herself.
Judith stated that on hearing the terms of settlement set out by the airline’s representatives, the applicant’s husband threatened that the worst should come and took to social media and continued his tirades of abuses and cyber stalking against the airline as and her agents referring to them as extortionists. And that the police has concluded investigation on December 10, 2019 against the applicant and concluded arrangement to charge her to court, but instead of honouring Police invitation to come for the case to be charged to court, the applicant sought to enforce her fundamental right which was never violated.
She stated that the applicant wants to use this action as a shield against possible Prosecution for crimes committed against Air Peace Limited, on December 10, 2019. Adding that no cause of action accrued to the applicant for alleged violation of her fundamental rights as claimed and as a fact that the stories of travelling for medical attention abroad are all cooked up to hoodwink the court as it is general knowledge that from February till August, 2020 or thereabout, the whole world was on lock down due to the Corona Virus pandemic and the applicant could not have travelled within Nigeria during this period let alone travel abroad during this time.
She further stated that the applicant’s husband despite his unreserved apology, rejected the airline’s terms of settlement and took to his social media handle and called the airline and its representatives from legal Department extortionist and all sorts of unpleasant names. Adding that the airline and her agents have since petitioned the Inspector General of Police (I.G.P) against the husband of the applicant for cyber attacks, stalking as well as civil action for defamation of character.
She described the applicant’s suit as malicious, frivolous, vexatious and gold digging in desperate move to make fortune out from nothing and urged the court to refuse all the reliefs sought, in the interest of justice and for being unmeritorious.
Meanwhile, Justice (Prof) Austine Chuka Austine Obiozor, has fixed February 16, for hearing of the suit.