Medical Student who was travelling back to school in Ukraine via Egypt
Air. He nearly died at the hands of
Egypt Air officials who wrongly routed him to Moldova, never gave him food for
days and called him bloody Nigerian before deporting him back to Lagos.
story as written by the student who is lucky to be alive and whose ordeal
should interest Nigerians. Story was published on Vanguard.
On Friday, August 15, 2014 my mother and I went to Egypt Air head office
at 22B Idowu Taylor Street, Victoria Island, Lagos to book a return
ticket for me to go back to school to continue my studies at
Dnepropetrovsk Medical Academy, Dnepropetrovsk Ukraine. This was about
On entering the Egypt air office we met Mr. Tony Nzan on
counter 1 to attend to us and we asked to book a ticket to Kiev,
Ukraine. Mr. Tony Nzan explained to us the itinerary for the flight
going to Ukraine after which we went to the bank
to withdraw money and returned to pay for the ticket and obtained two
printouts, so that my mother could have my return itinerary from Kiev next year.
attention who was seated at Counter 2, as we were informed that his
colleague, Mr. Nzan, had stepped out of the office. This ticketing
officer restated that the ticket was full economy and for Kiev, Ukraine
with all the segments confirmed. However, we remained unconvinced, given
that our prior experience indicated that the airport code for Kiev, Ukraine would usually read “KBP”.
arrived for check-in at 10.30am. Given our apprehension, we once again
mentioned our concern to the agent at the check-in counter and requested that she reconfirm the final travel destination indicated on my ticket. She confirmed that the ticket indicated
“KIV” and was bound for Kiev, Ukraine. My mother then told her it
should read Borispol International Airport KBP not KIV or Chisinahu as
was indicated on the ticket.
Given our insistence over this and the fact that there was now a queue
building up behind us she called her supervisor, one Mr Lucas to check
the ticket. He asked us what the matter was and we explained to him
that we believed the routing on my ticket was wrong. We also told him we
had complained about this, the day the ticket was purchased but that we
were repeatedly told that the routing was to Kiev.
We also mentioned
to him that we went back to Egypt Air’s Victoria Island office on
Saturday morning (16th August ) still very concerned about the ticket.
The place was closed for business. My mum then asked that I show Mr.
Lucas and his colleague my residence and study permits for Ukraine and
reaffirm my intended destination to be Kiev in Ukraine and not the place
indicated on the ticket, which appeared to be “Chisinahu.”
reconfirm routing but Mr. Tony insisted that the code (KIV) was Egypt
air’s code for Ukraine.
just being troublesome”. My mother then directed that I get the
boarding passes which had earlier been printed for me since they were
insisting it was Egypt Air’s code for Ukraine and that they were
representatives of the airline. She warned Mr. Lucas that for the airline’s
sake, she hoped that they were right and we were wrong. I checked in my
two suit cases with a total weight of 47.5kg and went to the departure
gate and boarded the flight.
I arrived Cairo shortly after 10pm same day and was compelled to remain
in the transit area for 14 hours, without feeding. No accommodation was
provided by the airline. I presented myself for boarding at the boarding
gate at 9am the following morning (August 19th) and was the third
passenger on queue for boarding to Istanbul. When it was my turn, the Egypt air
boarding staff insisted that I present my Ukrainian visa before
processing my boarding pass. She did not ask same of the passengers
ahead of me. I explained that I had a permit because I school there and
presented the permit stamp on my passport, whilst explaining that the
document was in my hand luggage. Still, she insisted that I moved
aside and present the original document. I then retrieved it from the luggage.
insisted I remain at the corner I was in. I complied and watched closely
to see if she would follow the same procedure for all other passengers
boarding, but to my surprise, not once did she do so. I remained there
until everyone else had boarded before she came round to scrutinise the
original permit and eventually allowed me to board the flight. We
departed Cairo for Istanbul at 10.50am.
to remain in transit for another 17 hours, without accommodation, food
or water. At 7am on 20th August, I boarded the flight in Istanbul,
expecting to arrive Ukraine at 6am local time. Once onboard the flight, I
slept off due to fatigue and hunger – having been deprived of good
sleep and food for 2 days at the time. When I woke up, the flight
hostesses had already served refreshment and passed me by. I then requested for my meal but was told it was too late to be served.
Once we landed, believing I was in Ukraine, I proceeded to immigration
and presented my travel documents. The immigration officer asked that I
wait at his desk, left and then returned with a local police officer.
Both officers then explained to me in Russian language that I was not in Ukraine but in Moldova
(a distinct country) and that the best they could do was to send me
back to Istanbul, where I could then buy a new ticket to Kiev.
My passport was then handed over to the pilot of the next
flight to Istanbul and I was given my baggage tags for my two suit
cases that had by now been placed in the main cabin of the plane.
I boarded the plane and sat on seat (23E) assigned to me, a male member
of the cabin crew ordered me to stand up, sent me to the back of the
plane and told me not to move. Another member of the cabin crew sat with
me for the entire duration of the flight. I felt so degraded at being
treated like a criminal. I was given neither food nor drink throughout
the flight back to Istanbul. This was now my third day without food or
water. I had now developed a cough and my gums were all swollen.
We arrived at Istanbul and I was immediately taken to the deportation
office, where my passport was handed to the officer on duty. The officer
interrogated me on what happened and I explained to him how the airline had ticketed me to a wrong destination. I asked if I could be allowed to buy a ticket to Ukraine from there (with my school fees in my possession), which was my intended destination all along.
officer agreed to my purchasing a new ticket to Kiev and I was placed
in a room for over four hours. After two hours of not knowing what was
going on or what was being done with my documents, I requested to use the toilet, in the hope that I would find a cell
phone to borrow and call my family to inform them of what was
happening, but the officer posted outside the room refused and ordered
me to sit down.
I continued asking to use the toilet for over 10
minutes until she finally allowed me to go and answer the call of
nature. I eventually found a telephone and then called my elder sister
in Nigeria, explained the situation to her and asked her to inform my
mother. Once my mother was informed, she contacted my university and her
Ukrainian liaison agent in Kiev and requested that they assist by purchasing a ticket on my behalf for Kiev, which would enable me to leave for Ukraine from Istanbul.
The ticket was swiftly purchased and I was forwarded the “PNR number”
by phone. I then proceeded to Egypt air’s transit desk and explained
what had happened. I gave the lady on duty the PNR number for new ticket
and requested her to assist me
check-in for the flight to Ukraine. She refused to entertain my
explanation and told me they would send me back to Nigeria, no matter
what I did.
Another Egypt airline official joined us and to my utter shock and
dismay, picked up my passport and tore it, saying “these bloody
Nigerians”. I looked at the man expecting an apology, but got none. He
ordered me to stand up, saying that I was getting on a flight to Cairo.
about 6pm I was taken to the boarding gate for the flight to Cairo and
my documents were handed over to the cabin crew. I was once again
treated like a criminal and taken to the back of the plane. A cabin crew
member gave me some water and handed me only one baggage tag and
informed me that one had gotten missing.
I arrived Cairo at 8pm on
20thAugust 2014. My documents were again passed from the cabin crew of
the Egypt Air flight I arrived with to another Egypt air ground
official. Yet again, I tried to explain the situation and my grueling
ordeal over the past last three days to her.
I went as far as showing
her my school papers and residence permit for Ukraine expecting some
understanding and empathy, whilst hoping against hope that she may be
different from the others and finally listen and hopefully help me get
on a flight to school. Instead, she handed me over to Egyptian police
officers, who locked me up in a deportation cell without explanation. I
waited in there for about one hour and then knocked on the door to
inquire why I was locked-up in the cell like a common criminal.
However, I was kept there for over 12 hours, till the following morning
(21st August), degraded, dehumanised and with no food or water for three
full days. At this point I was very weak physically, developed sores
all over my mouth, my gum was painfully swollen all round, and I had
begun coughing terribly, with thick yellow discharges.
When I felt like using the toilet I knocked on the cell door and an
Egyptian policeman came to open the cell from outside. I told the
Egyptian policeman that I needed to use the toilet but he declined and
forcefully shoved me back into the cell and locked the door again. After
few minutes, I, again, repeated the plea to be allowed to use the
toilet, and the same officer came to the door. I explained that I was
severely pressed and needed to use the toilet. Yet again, he pushed me
back into the cell before I could finish pleading and locked the door.
Here I was, 17 years of age, so far away from home with no family
communication, hungry, weak, very tired and being treated like a common
criminal without any human consideration whatsoever; I became
desperately terrified and wondered if I would live through this ordeal
or die hopelessly and forgotten in a strange land.
I was eventually
deported from Cairo and arrived back in Lagos, after four traumatic
days, on 21st August 2014. My luggage which contained all my books,
newly acquired clothes, birthday gifts (including a brand new PS4 game
console), money to last me through the new semester, and other
valuables, remains missing till date – with no explanation whatsoever
from the airline, regarding its whereabouts. The luggage that did arrive
with me was visibly damaged, and I later discovered when I checked
through, that it had been vandalized as several items packed into it
before I left home were discovered missing.
On arrival in Lagos, I was straightway rushed off to Rivet Specialist
Hospital at Ajao Estate, Lagos, for medical attention as my health had
visibly deteriorated substantially and, as the hospital would later
confirm my body had become critically emaciated. I was immediately
placed on critical watch, administered intravenous fluids, antibiotics
and other prescriptive drugs.
A man who was later identified as Khaled El Rafie (General Manager
Lagos, Egypt Air), came along with my mother to meet me at the airport
on arrival. He showed little sympathy for what his staff and
organization had put a 17-year old passenger through. He displayed
extreme arrogance and perfunctory remorse about my plight and, to my
total dismay, added more insult to injury by saying that his own boss in
Egypt commented that “I may have been locked up in a cell in Cairo
because of Ebola virus”. When my mum got very angry at his general
approach and utterances, he told her “why are you shouting…..?” He
wasn’t going to assist on the matter anymore, and then he walked away”.
This was all before I was taken to the hospital for medical attention.
Joshua has since returned to school in Ukraine. He flew on KLM
flight.The immigration helped in procuring him with another passport in
Egypt Air reacts
Vanguard investigations at Egypt Air Head office where Mr Kunle
AbdulAzeez purchased his ticket revealed that there has been palpable
fear about what Abdulazeez’s guardians would do next after the visit
of his uncle, Mr Toju Gbenebichie, to Egypt Air office.
sought to speak with Mr Khaled El Rafie, General Manager, Lagos, Egypt
Air, but was told that he traveled and will be back later in the day.
But members of staff of Egypt Air told Vanguard that the entire
organization was very remorseful about the incident especially as it
involved a 17 year old boy.
One of them who begged Vanguard for anonymity , as they have not been
mandated to speak on the issue, said it was actually “a mix up” on the
part of Egypt Air ticket officer, Mr Tony Nzan.
The officer also said Mr Nzan has been very sober after the incident and
he went the extra mile of trying to arrange an alternative ticket
through a friend in Turkish Airline to convey Mr Kunle AbdulAzeez to
The officer added that the arrangement to compensate AbdulAzeez with
alternative ticket was put on hold after the visit of his uncle to Egypt
Air office and after “ raising hell”, and threatened to take Egypt Air
to court. Efforts to speak with Mr Tony Nzan proved abortive as he
insisted that he has been made to write a report on what actually
happened and this has been submitted to the General Manager who now has
the authority to address the issue.
NCAA begins investigation
The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, has begun investigation into
the matter. The authority is already in receipt of the official
complaint lodged by Toju Gbenebichie, the uncle of Joshua. They have
asked for the copies of the ticket, the boarding pass and other relevant
documents that could help their case.
A letter signed by Abdulmalik
Ifueko for the AGM Flight Operations/Adjudication Unit in the Consumer
Protection Directorate yesterday confirmed this.
A source said that
among other things “tearing the Nigerian passport is a direct affront on
the government and people of Nigeria and will be taken seriously
depending on the outcome of the investigations.”