A Nigerian airline says it could pull its business out of the
United Kingdom after one of its pilots was arrested by immigration
officials on suspicion of being a stowaway and threatened with
Max Air, which is based in Nigeria, condemned the move by border
staff at Bournemouth International Airport, stating that it is an
example of the Home Office’s “hostile environment policy”.
The company says it is now losing £180,000 a day, because it
cannot find another pilot to fly the plane after Captain Adam Dilli
Ibrahim, aged 36, returned home voluntarily on another flight.
Captain Ibrahim was detained for questioning, fingerprinted and
photographed, before being told he would be forcibly removed — even
though pilots do not legally require visa to enter the UK for seven
days or less.
Frank Unokesan, whose company is responsible for maintaining Max
Air planes, said there had been a “long history” of problems with
“Whenever they see a green (Nigerian) passport, they doubt the
captain and believe he is a stowaway; that’s their mindset. The
captain has done nothing wrong. I feel terrible, I feel ashamed. It
is so much bureaucracy. That’s the way I see it. I would have
thought with Brexit the UK would try and make more friends, but now
they are kicking us in the teeth. I don’t know what kind of
government they are running,” he said.
Max Air may now avoids the UK in future and takes its business
to Germany, which has allowed pilots stay for up to three months
without any problems.
He continued: “Nigeria is a former colony of the UK and we are
trying to do business with Britain, but now they are turning back
our business and deporting the pilot.
“Max Air has 10 Boeing aircraft and five private jets, one of
the biggest in the market in Nigeria. The Managing Director is so
angry they are treating us like this. If you treat us like this,
what is the hope for the future in the UK?”
The dispute with the Home Office centres on the interpretation
of the Immigration Act 1971, which states that a pilot or crew
member does not require leave to enter the UK if they depart within
seven days. Captain Ibrahim, who has previously flown in and out of
the UK without issues, told immigration officials on arrival on
December 10 that the maintenance work on the aircraft was scheduled
to last between seven and 10 days.
“Instead of respecting the position of the captain, they took
his passport and they said after seven days we will talk about
that. They suspected the co-pilot is the real pilot because he has
a visa in his passport and the captain is a stowaway posing as a
captain. So they arrested him for entering into the UK without a
visa,” he stated.
After taking legal advice, the pilot voluntarily flew out of the
UK on December 16. The maintenance work finished on 20 December,
but Max Air is unable to find a replacement captain at short
notice. The aircraft remains in the UK and the co-pilot is still
staying at a local hotel.
Noting that the maintenance work alone was bringing in $100,000
(£80,000) of business to the UK, Unokesan stated that the company
is “losing $9,500 (£7,500) an hour”.
Max Air noted that on previous occasions it had either brought
in more engineers to finish the work in time or applied for an
extension of leave for the pilot.
Mandie Sewa, senior solicitor and Head of Immigration at Moore
Blatch Solicitors, which represents the airline, said: ”The
recently published government white paper assumes that the UK will
continue to be an attractive destination for non-EU migrants.
However, our client has suffered huge financial losses amounting to
approximately $9,500 per hour, because of the current
anti-immigration message received from the immigration officials at
the border due to hostile immigration policy.”
Immigration officials argue that a visa is mandatory for
nationals staying longer than seven days and that it is the
responsibility of air crew to ensure they have the correct
documentation on arrival.
When contacted on the incident, the Home Office said in a
statement: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”
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Boko Haram: Army Warns Perpetrators of Subversive
The Nigerian Army has noted with great concern the concerted
efforts by some unpatriotic elements to politicise and derail the
ongoing fight against terrorism and insurgency in the country.
This is manifested in the recent systematic releases and
recycling of old BHT propaganda video clips, old interviews of
disgruntled and cowardly soldiers, as well as false and inaccurate
news reports by some section of the media.
We regrettably further observed that the unscrupulous elements
are also perfecting strategy to rubbish the government’s efforts in
the provision of safety and security for her citizens. They are
determined to dampen troops’ morale especially in the North East,
so that the troops will become compromised against the war efforts
and complicate the security situation in the country for selfish
and cheap political gains and expediency.
We would like to reiterate that Nigeria is at war with Boko
Haram terrorists, in any form or guise that they may manifest and
strongly warn these subversive elements to desist from these
unwholesome efforts. We would like to warn that the Nigerian Army
will no longer tolerate these subversive acts and sabotage aimed at
dampening troops’ morale, affect their performance and to finally
abandon the war.
We will continue to monitor subversive propaganda and take
necessary action against perpetrators. The Nigerian Army will
remain undaunted in the successful prosecution of this war against
terrorism, insurgents, militants and bandits in the country.
In another development, the attention of the Nigerian Army has
been drawn to an old video clip circulating on the social media in
which a supposedly soldier clad with an AK-47 rifle alleging lack
of arms and ammunition, among other soldiers in a remote location
walking. This is not true, as the video was recorded in 2014 and
therefore cannot be a true reflection of the present reality. The
public are please requested to discontenance the video clip.
SANI KUKASHEKA USMAN
Director Army Public Relations
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