What looks like a legal tussle of the decade might be looming between industry giants in the aviation circle as a young man, Segun Oyebolu who runs a promising traveling agency, Distinct Travels & Tours has vowed to fight for his rights, by any means necessary.
The dynamic man who`s one of the stakeholders in the aviation industry has dragged the International Air Transport Association, IATA to court joining one of Nigeria`s topflight insurance companies, Leadway Assurance COMPANY Limited headed by a seasoned insurance guru, Oye Hassan Odukale in a civil suit with No.: FHC/IKJ/CS/196/2012 claiming a whopping N1 billion.
According to Oyebolu, the International Air Transport Association in conjunction with Odukale`s Leadway Assurance have been alleged to have connived to frustrate his company, Distinct Travels out of business through series of unfounded allegations capable of soiling his company`s image.
We gathered reliably that, for reasons best known to the duo of IATA and Leadway management, Distinct`s efforts to join the league of IATA agents and move to the next level have been severally hindered based on unproved allegation against the firm.
Oyebolu who knows his onions had in April this year, 2012 sought the intervention of an international arbitrator in Sweden in line with the rules guiding IATA operations worldwide but just as he thought the coast was getting clearer, IATA which already had a directive from the Sweden based arbitrator referred the matter to Leadway for reactivation of its (Distinct) default insurance policy which was not part of it at all.
In Oyebolu`s view, “the fight to kill the business model of his firm has been fierce because fundamentally, unlike other agencies, it is only Distinct Travels that has maintained a very close business relations with other Nigeria airlines that are non-IATA members. Without an open declaration, IATA is using its monopolistic power as the main platform for the travel industry to direct work against people and organizations whose activities can significantly help the local aviation industry. He said.
Quoting him further, Oyebolu said the killing of the local industry will sufficiently ensure that European airlines continue to dominate the sector. In recent history, there have been significant efforts by IATA to work with local unpatriotic elements to frustrate Nigerian-owned airlines and they are daily working to ground every Nigerian-owned airlines by indirectly frustrating their business model. Most African countries` local aviation is in disarray-no thanks to European controlled IATA whose chief mission is to entrench and expand the capture and domination of African Travel Market by the likes of BA, Virgin Atlantic, KLM, Air France, Lufthansa and others.
It is on this premise that, Distinct Travels has gone to court for a possible redress and some of its prayers are: an order declaring the suspension and or withdrawal of its rights and privileges as a Travel Agency with the ability to trade by IATA on 23rd, January, 2012 without prior notice as unlawful, unconstitutional, ultra vires, null and void ab initio for same not having been done in compliance with relevant laws guiding its operations and another order declaring Leadway Assurance` continued refusal to reactivate/revalidate its default insurance policy certificate without just cause as unlawful, unconstitutional, ultra vires, null and void ab initio and an abuse of power.
The plaintiffs, Segun Oyebolu and his firm Distinct Travels are claiming over a billion Naira in the law suit. Meanwhile in our facts finding mission, we tried to get in touch with Leadway Assurance management for their own side of the story, severally we were asked to hold-on for the woman in charge of IATA, Bunmi Fisher when we rang their switch board, 01-2700700, but after about 10 minutes of the transfer call, the phone cut. We however tried again but they kept burning our call credits without a meaningful response and no one calls back until we went to press last week.
We`re hoping to talk to Bunmi Fisher sometime this week.