Analysis of Consumer rights protection in the Nigerian Aviation Industry

Analysis of Consumer rights protection in the Nigerian Aviation Industry

Analysis of Consumer rights protection in the Nigerian Aviation Industry. By Olatunde Temidayo Olamide

ABSTRACT

One can easily assert that there has been commendable development evident to all and sundry overtime in the Civil Aviation Industry in Nigeria. Rights of transport users/consumers have been undermined and overlooked either intentionally or unintentionally without due regard to the amount of users that undertake this service on daily basis. These anomalies and the need to act fairly and justly amongst others is the genesis of this research to have in-depth study of the plethora of consumer rights protection laws, framework presently functioning enacted by the Nigerian Government towards the protection of rights of consumers of air transport services and ways by which these laws can be implemented and enforced by the aviation industry. There are numerous laws protecting the rights of consumers, but in this research due to the word limits, the basic ones will be reviewed and these include, Civil Aviation Act 2006,Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria Act 1996 (FAAN Act), Consumers Protection Council (CPC) Act 2004, Warsaw Convention of 1929 amongst others. Particular focus of the review will be how these laws can adequately impact the protection of consumers’ rights in the Aviation Industry in Nigeria.

INTRODUCTION

Most consumers of air services are unfortunately not aware of their rights as embedded in these laws and this is an impediment preventing them from claiming their right to proper services and due compensation from airlines. The Aviation Industry has contributed greatly to the development and growth of Nigerian economy through the creation of jobs and attraction of foreign investment. The aviation industry contributed 0.14% to the nations GDP in the year 2019. Transportation by air has been reported to be the most preferred method by people in Nigeria. Factors like insecurity, undue delay, time wastage, road accidents amongst others have contributed to the actualization of this feat. This development has been disrupted by the disadvantages that came with this new innovation. Some of which are, airplane crash, flight delays, cases of missing luggage,  amidst other challenges encountered by passengers. For nearly three decades in Nigeria, the rights of passengers have largely been ignored by airlines, a situation which has been exacerbated by the absence of relevant laws. Domestic airlines habitually delay, cancel flights without compensation, giving grounds such as bad weather or operational reasons.The research focuses mainly on the rights of passengers of air flight consumers under Nigerian Laws and ways by which these rights can be safeguarded.

Who Is a Consumer

A consumer is a person or a group who intends to order, orders, or uses purchased goods, products, or services primarily for personal, social, family, household and similar needs, not directly related to entrepreneurial or business activities. In this context, a consumer can be likened to a passenger, transporter, or any individual who has purchased flight ticket with the intention of moving from one place to another.  The following are the lists of airline customer segmentation:

Airline Customer Segmentation

Old Travelers – They are aged customers probably retired and go on holidays frequently.

Business Travelers – They are frequent flyers and form a large segment.

Budget Conscious Travelers – They look for the most inexpensive airline without knowing much about the different airline services.

Legal Framework of Consumers’ Rights Protection In Nigeria

Civil Aviation Act 2006

Civil Aviation Act of 2006 is the principal law that regulates aviation in Nigeria. Section 2 of the Act established the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as the principal regulator for technical and safety issues such as aircraft registration, air navigation services, aviation safety, and security, commercial air transport, personnel licensing, powers to investigate, aerodrome, and airspace standards in the aviation industry to conform with the standards and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).NCAA became autonomous with the passing into law of the Civil Aviation Act 2006 by the National Assembly and assent of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. NCAA has the power to make laws, perform oversight functions of Airports and Airspaces, provide economic regulations relevant to the proper functioning of the Industry. The Civil Aviation Act provides that ‘The carrier is liable for damage sustained In the case of death or bodily harm of a passenger upon conditions only that the accident that caused death or bodily injury took place on board the aircraft or in course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking’.

The powers of the NCAA as provided in Section 30 of the Civil Aviation Act includes but not limited to;

  • Registration and inspection of aircraft in Nigeria.
  • Issuance, validation, renewal, extension, variation of certificates and licenses.
  • Inspection and regulation of aerodromes and aircraft factories.
  • For securing the safety, efficiency, and regularity of air navigation and the safety of aircraft and of persons and property carried in aircraft and from preventing aircraft from endangering other persons and property.
  • For regulating and making signals and other communications by or to aircraft and persons carried in aircraft, etc.

The authority is empowered to regulate aviation in Nigeria without any political interference and perform other regulations in the aviation industry.

 

Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria Act 1996 (FAAN Act)

The FAAN Act was enacted to establish the Federal Airport Authority (FAAN), as provided in Section 1 The Authority is empowered create conditions for the development in the most safe,  economic and efficient manner of air transport  and other related seamlessly. The functions are:

  • To ensure airport’s adequate services and facilities for the safe operation of flights and landing of passengers 
  • Provision of adequate conditions wherein passengers and goods may be carried by air and situation where aircraft may be used for other useful purposes
  • To prohibit the carriage of goods which have been declared prohibited.
  • To prohibit the launching of any structure which is considered dangerous to the safety navigation of air due to its high position.
  • Compulsory provision of accommodation and other facilities for the effective handling of consumers and baggage 
  • To ensure there are sufficient personnel for effective security at all airports

Provisions of extant laws on rights of consumers and liabilities of service providers

Liability for Damage Sustained in Case of Death or Bodily Harm

The Civil Aviation Act provides that  the carrier is liable for damage sustained in the case of death or bodily harm of a passenger where the accident that caused the death or bodily injury took place on board the aircraft or while embarking or disembarking. The supreme court in Baks v France defined accident to be an unexpected event that is external to the passenger. Section 48(3) of the Civil Aviation Act, 2006 provides that: (3) In any case of aircraft accident resulting in death or injury of passengers, the carrier shall make advance payments of at least US $30,000 (thirty thousand United States Dollars)within 30 (thirty) days from the date of such accident, to the natural person or such natural persons who are entitled to claim compensation in order to meet the immediate economic needs of such persons. Such advance payments shall not constitute recognition of liability and may be off set against any amounts subsequently paid as damages by the carrier.

Damage Sustained to baggage 

The Air carrier will be liable for any damage sustained in case of destruction or loss of luggage or damage to checked luggage where it took place on board the aircraft during which period was still in charge or the carrier. The Court of appeal in Emirates Airline v TochukwuAforka and anor emphasized that carriage by air consist of the period during which the cargo is in charge of the carrier whether it has lifted it not. By virtue of Article 18 under Schedule III, where a carrier is able to prove that the destruction, loss or damage to the cargo was due to its defect or weakness or the carelessness of the person packing the cargo other than the carrier or his agent. The passenger whose baggage was damaged, lost, is entitled to at least $20 per kilogram or $1000 subject the surrounding circumstances Baggage was defined by the Act to mean both checked and unchecked baggage of passengers.

What happens when flights or persons are delayed?

From a report published on July 8, 2021 by Nairametrics where the Minister of Aviation HadiSirika, at the weekly State House Briefing in Aso Villa, Abuja while expressing his displeasure about the delay caused to passengers said“Airlines, according to the law, are expected to compensate every passenger both local and international if their flights are either delayed or cancelled.On domestic flights, delay beyond one hour, the carrier should provide refreshments, and one telephone call, or one SMS, or one e-mail. They should send you an SMS or email or call you to say, ‘I am sorry, I am delaying for one hour.’Delay for two hours and beyond, the carrier shall reimburse passengers the full volume of their tickets.Delay between 10pm and 4am, the carrier shall provide hotel accommodation, refreshment, meal, two free calls, SMS, email and transport to-and-fro airport,” Sirika said, adding that the same rules apply for international flights. The concern of the Minister of Aviation is equally expressed in the Consumer Protection Regulations.(Part 19 of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations, 2015)There’s compensation for each passenger from the carrier due to damage resulting from delay is limited to US$4,150.

Jurisdiction 

Section 251 CFRN 1999 [as amended] vests in the Federal High Court an exclusive jurisdiction on any matter relating to or resulting from Aviation Industry.

Conclusion

While many passengers know their rights but shy away from demanding that they be respected, others are oblivious of what defaulting airlines owe them and thus, fail to demand restitution. In most of these (rights violation) cases, passengers neither demanded compensation nor were the defaulting airlines gracious enough to offer them. This article buttressed mainly on the available rights of consumers as protected under the relevant Nigerian Legislation.

Recommendation

The inconvenience, breach of rights done deliberately or otherwise by airline service providers are being repeated continuously because consumers do not have a grasp or understanding of their rights. The following are ways by which Passengers can be informed of their rights:

  1. An agency should be set up ready to receive complaints from passengers and their contact should be printed on the flight ticket where all passengers can easily access it.
  2. A disciplinary committee should be set up to ensure defaulters of the Civil Aviation Act on fair treatment of passengers are sanctioned
  3. A public Orientation or seminar on rights of consumers and ways these rights can be enforced amongst others. 

Olatunde Temidayo Olamideo Can be reached via olatundeolamide03@gmail.com

Feel free to reach the author, ask questions or make inquiries on this topic or any other legal issues via onyekachi.umah@gmail.com or +2348037665878.

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