Some young Nigerian scholars have taken Qatar Airways Nigeria
Limited before a Lagos State High Court in Ikeja claiming about N2.9bn in damages.
The students, 13 in number, are blaming their deportation from the Republic of the Philippines sometime in November last year on the airline.
But the airline has vehemently opposed their claims, insisting that it could not be held responsible for the alleged irregularities in their papers, which led to their summary detention and eventually deportation to Nigeria.
The deported students who sued are Opoola Kayode, Ogundana Joshua, Oyeniran Eniola, Ajayi Morenikeji, Falope Opeyemi, Ayanwoye Samuel and Agunbiade Oluwamayowa.
Others are Toki John, Obajide Joshua, Bude Adeitan, Adedoyin Damilola, Banjo Olufemi and Akinola Olamilekan.
In their statement of claim, the young scholars, who had just finished their secondary school education
in Nigeria, said they decided to seek admission in the Republic of the Philippines because of the problems associated with gaining admission into Nigerian universities.
They claimed that their quest to study abroad was tied to the sundry challenges, such as prevalent industrial actions and lack of educational facilities, bedeviling the Nigerian tertiary education system.
In order to activate their dream, they approached one education consulting firm, Achievers Global Consulting for Excellence Limited, to process their admission into foreign varsities.
The firm, which is the first claimant in the suit marked ID/ADR/229/2014, claimed that it successfully secured provisional admission for the students in two universities in the Republic of the Philippines, namely: University of Perpetual Help System Data and University of the Cordilleras.
The firm claimed that after obtaining letters of provisional admission from the schools, it applied for visa for the students at the Philippines High Commission in Nigeria and it was granted on merit.
It said that it then approached Qatar Airways Nigeria Limited for the contract of conveying the students from Nigeria to the Republic of the Philippines, adding that the students paid the prescribed fees of the airline and were issued with air tickets.
According to the firm, on November 3, 2014, the 13 students were presented with their documents for verification at the desk of Qatar Airways, at the Murtala International Airport.
The firm claimed that the airline did not only certify the students as eligible to travel abroad but also passed them as fit and proper to travel aboard its aircraft from Nigeria to the Republic of the Philippines.
However, on arrival at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the Republic of the Philippines on November 4, 2014, the students were apprehended as illegal immigrants.
According to the firm, the reason adduced for their arrest was that they did not have return tickets to Nigeria.
The students were subsequently detained by the Republic of the Philippines immigration authorities for eight days before their eventual deportation.
Qatar airline was also said to have been fined 50,000 Peso for wrongful boarding of the students.
Both the students and the education consulting firm are blaming their ordeal on the alleged negligence of Qatar Airways.
It is their claim that the airline had the responsibility to check and ensure that the students’ documentations were proper before putting them on board. They added that the defendant did not, at any time, directly or indirectly inform them of improper documentation, non-purchase of return ticket or violation of any other immigration rule.
The claimants also blamed their inhuman treatment on the alleged failure
of the airline to appropriately liaise with its desk at Ninoy Aquino International Airport as mandated by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority Rules.
They are therefore praying the court for an order directing the airline to pay them about N9m, being a refund of their air ticket fees; the sum they used in procuring visa, the cost of five return tickets purchased for five of the students before their eventual deportation and the cost of filing the suit.
Apart from this, the claimants are seeking cost of damages in the sum of N1.5bn to cover for their “economic misfortunes, destruction of educational pursuit, destruction of business reputation and illegal detention of the claimants occasioned by the negligent conduct of the defendant.”
They also want a separate N500m as damages for breach of contract.
But the airline, in its statement of defence, urged the court to not only discountenance and dismiss the claimants’ prayers for lacking in merit and substance but to also award a heavy cost against the claimants.
Qatar Airways, while denying having a direct dealing with the education consulting firm, explained that its air tickets were purchased on behalf of the firm for the students by two travel agents: Blue Diamond Travels Limited and Beloved Travels and Tours.
The airline maintained that its contract with the students was limited to airlifting them to their destination, which it accordingly did, as opposed to the claimants’ claim, that it was the duty of the airline to see to the claimants’ proper documentation.
“The defendant unequivocally states that it neither bears any immigration responsibility nor performs immigration functions of profiling passengers with a view to determining whether they are eligible to travel or not, as such are the exclusive duties of the immigration authorities of any sovereign state and other profiling companies within the airport,” it argued.
The defendant added that there was no evidence that the students had either fulfilled the conditions of the provisional admission granted them or paid the required tuition.
It added, “The defendant will contend that there was no correspondence whatsoever from the University of Cordilleras and the University of Perpetual Help System Data to the Philippines Immigration Authorities indicating an undertaking that the claimants were indeed students of the school and that the claimants will return to Nigeria after their studies in Philippines.”
Denouncing responsibility for the students ordeals, the airline pointed out to the court that all the other passengers who were onboard its flight with the students were allowed entrance into Philippines by the country’s immigration authorities, “upon proper verification or confirmation of their travel documentation, as well as the purpose of their visit to Philippines.”
The presiding judge, Justice Kudirat Jose, asked the parties to address her on whether or not she has jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the matter, while she subsequently adjourned till April 15, 2015 for further hearing.