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Outrage as Green Africa Airways Denies Boarding to Osun Governor’s Special Assistant Over Wheelchair

Akure, Ondo State – In a distressing incident that has sparked widespread condemnation, Hon. Olarewaju Isaiah, the Special Assistant to Governor Ademola Adeleke of Osun State, was denied boarding by Green Africa Airways at the Akure Airport on Wednesday, June 26, 2024. The incident, which occurred around 10:30 am, unfolded as Olarewaju was preparing to board a flight to Abuja to attend a significant event.

The airline management informed Olarewaju that the aircraft scheduled for the trip could not accommodate a wheelchair, leading to their refusal to board him. Despite all efforts to persuade the airline to reconsider and allow him to board, all attempts proved abortive. The airline later refunded the ticket, but their actions have drawn sharp criticism for their apparent disregard for disability rights.

“I was devastated, traumatized, and dispersed about what Green Africa Airways did to me,” Olarewaju lamented. “They refused to carry my wheelchair, and I think the government should do something to address this.”

The denial of boarding stands in clear violation of Section 14 of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018. This legislation mandates non-discriminatory practices and equal access to services for persons with disabilities.

Hon. Olarewaju Isaiah, SA on Disability Matters To Gov. Adeleke

Furthermore, the actions of Green Africa Airline contravene the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Convention. According to the convention, every aircraft should have the capacity to carry a wheelchair passenger, and it is the responsibility of the airline to make provisions for the comfort and accessibility of Passengers with Reduced Mobility (PRM).

After being denied boarding, Olarewaju had to book another ticket with Overland Airline to meet up with his appointment in Abuja. This additional effort and expense highlight the undue burden placed on him due to the airline’s refusal.

The incident has ignited a broader conversation about the treatment of persons with disabilities in Nigeria and the enforcement of laws designed to protect their rights. Disability rights advocates have been vocal in their condemnation of the airline’s actions, calling for stricter adherence to existing laws and conventions.

Barrister Yusuf Iyodo, a prominent disability rights lawyer, emphasized the legal implications of the incident. “What happened to Hon. Olarewaju is a clear violation of his rights under Nigerian law and international conventions. It is unacceptable, and Green Africa Airways must be held accountable for their actions.”

The Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 was enacted to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal rights and opportunities. Section 14 of the Act specifically addresses the need for non-discriminatory practices in the provision of services, including air travel.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has long been a proponent of accessibility and inclusivity in air travel. Its regulations require airlines to make necessary accommodations for passengers with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs.

In light of the incident, calls for stricter enforcement of these regulations are growing louder. Disability rights organizations are urging the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to investigate the matter thoroughly and impose appropriate sanctions on Green Africa Airways.

“This is not just about Hon. Olarewaju; it is about the thousands of Nigerians with disabilities who face similar challenges every day,” said Dr. Chike, Chief Responsibility Officer, Centre For Ability, Rehabilitation And Empowerment (CARE). “We need to ensure that airlines and other service providers are held accountable for their actions and that the rights of persons with disabilities are protected.”

“I am also calling on the Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo to do something urgently to address these incessant discriminatory practices against Persons With Disabilities by Airlines.

The incident has also sparked a wave of support for Hon. Olarewaju from the public and social media users, with many expressing their solidarity and calling for justice. The hashtag #JusticeForOlarewaju has been trending on Twitter, with users sharing their own experiences and advocating for better treatment of persons with disabilities.

Green Africa Airways has yet to issue an official statement addressing the incident, but the backlash is likely to have significant repercussions for the company. As the story continues to unfold, it serves as a stark reminder of the need for continued advocacy and vigilance in the fight for disability rights.

The government, disability rights groups, and the public are now looking to Green Africa Airways to rectify the situation and ensure that such an incident does not occur again. Hon. Olarewaju Isaiah’s ordeal underscores the importance of accessibility and inclusivity in all aspects of society, particularly in essential services like air travel.

As the dust settles, one thing is clear: the fight for the rights of persons with disabilities is far from over, and incidents like this only strengthen the resolve of those who advocate for a more inclusive and equitable society. The incident at Akure Airport is a reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by persons with disabilities and the urgent need for systemic change to ensure their rights are respected and upheld.

Olarewaju’s air ticket issued by Green Africa Airways
The Booking Reference Issued to Olarewaju by Green Africa Airways
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