Japheth Omojuwa, a social media activist with a huge online following, went aboard an Arik Air flight from Abuja to Lagos on Friday June 16. It was a connecting flight from Lagos to Dubai.
Still largely in grief following the tragic Dana Air crash, Mr. Omojuwa picked his iPad to write out a report for his blog. According to him, “I was writing a Dana story with my iPad, then the pilot said passengers should switch off all electronics.” Mr. Omojuwa said he kept his iPad in the pouch of the seat in front of him.
The blogger disembarked from the plane forgetting to pick his iPad. He said when he got to Ikeja, he realised he left his iPad in the plane. “I immediately took a bike within less than 90 minutes from landing. When I got back to the airport, I was told to ask for Lanre.”
According to Mr. Omojuwa, he found Lanre at a makeshift departure lounge. Lanre apparently, is the Arik person in charge of “lost and found” complaints.
Mr. Omojuwa said he got a shabby treatment from Lanre and his colleague, who finally told him that his iPad was found and then placed in his bag.
Mr. Omojuwa said he found the story fantastic. “Of course, that could not have happened,” he recalled telling Lanre. “How could you have put an iPad in my bag when the iPad was not tagged? How did you know which bag to put it in?”
But the Arik spokesperson, Ola Adebanji, denied that any Arik staff admitted to have found and placed the iPad in Mr. Omojuwa’s bag. “It is a lie, no one said they found the iPad and put it in his bag,” Mr Adebanji told PREMIUM TIMES.
Omojuwa’s fight for justice
Following his visit to Lanre, Mr. Omojuwa asked for his complaints to be documented, but according to him, the response he got from Lanre stunned him. “There was no form to fill, there was no superior to talk to, and Lanre said that just verbally telling him was enough,” he said.
Mr. Omojuwa then informed Lanre that he would give the airline seven days to find his iPad at the expiration of which he would start an online campaign against the airline.
Contrary to the social media activist’s claims, the Arik’s spokesperson, Mr. Adebanji, said Mr. Omojuwa attacked Arik on twitter less than 24 hours that he first made his complaint, leaving no time for the company to respond.
But Mr. Omjuwa disagrees and claims that it was exactly seven days after the incident that he stormed twitter with the hashtag #Arikaircriminals.
He said the campaign became expedient in the face of a non-existing protocols to report his greivance. “It was until I started the campaign on my Blackberry that a friend of mine who works with Arik, pleaded with me to stop and gave me a UK mailing address to report.”
Mr. Omojuwa said he put a stop to the online campaign, sent a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to which he got an automated response, thanking him for the mail and requesting for 21 working days to investigate and provide him a feedback.
Mr. Omojuwa also told PREMIUM TIMES he decided to visit Arik again, this time with his friend, Azeenah, and they met another staff in charge of “lost and found” (not Lanre), who threatened to have him arrested.
He was then asked to get a police report in order to facilitate a proper report of the case. On June 29, Mr. Omojuwa said he hit a police station, where officers on duty told him to return on Monday, July 2.
According to the social media activist, he became frustrated. Determined to find his iPad, what he holds as his “tool of productivity”, he sent another email to Arik Air.
“With the police requesting me to come over again on Monday 2nd July, what I expected to be a one-off attempt at getting a police report as you requested is obviously going the path of delayed justice as it is often the case here,” the mail read in part.
Mr. Omojuwa again gave Arik Air an ultimatum. “I expect my iPad on or before Monday 2nd July, 2012. By Tuesday 3rd July morning, if I do not have my iPad with me or an indication that it is available to be picked up, my hands would then have been forced to make demands of my iPad publicly.”
On Tuesday July 3, Mr. Omojuwa launched a fresh onslaught online, this time with the hashtag #Arikwhereismyipad. Again, twitter went agog with details of how clients had been mistreated.
As soon as Mr. Omojuwa took to twitter, it became bombarded with complaints of various missing items on the airline and shabby treatment from the staff.
A few tweets mocked Mr.Omojuwa. “#DumbQuestion #ArikWhereIsMyIpad we took it to India for kidney transplant,” one said.
But most of the anger was directed at Arik. “I think it is high time Nigerians taught useless & irresponsible corporate organizations a lesson,” another said.
A war of words
Mr. Omojuwa’s online campaign on his blog and twitter did not go unnoticed by the Airline. Days before it promised to get to Mr. Omojuwa , the airline sent him an email telling him that they had concluded a comprehensive investigation and did not find the iPad.
It noted that it had noticed Mr. Omojuwa’s campaign against the airline. “Your twitter posts have accused Arik Air staff of theft of the device,” The airline complained.
It held that none of its member of staff stole the iPad and sounded a subtle warning to Mr. Omojuwa. “Given the accusations and threats that you have been posting daily, we know that this outcome will not be to your liking and can only recommend that you keep all valuables on your person at all times as they are your responsibility,” the airline said.
“Should you wish to make a claim for the iPad from Arik Air then we would require a police report detailing the nature of the incident and the description of the lost property in order to further any claim.”
An angry Mr. Omojuwa replied Arik alluding that the company did a shoddy investigation. “You need a description of my ipad to return it to me? At no time did you invite me to be part of your kangaroo investigation,” he wrote in an email.
He also informed the airline he would go ahead with his online campaign. “#Arikwhereismyipad will make another bullish return to twitter tomorrow,” the activist said. “I am not stopping until justice is done.”
In addition, he reported the matter to the Nigeria’s Consumer Protection Council, the government body charged with the responsibility of attending to consumer complaints.
Arik rises in defence
Arik has refuted claims that its staff threatened Mr. Omojuwa. According to Mr. Adebanji, “I want to state from the onset that no one has ever threatened to arrest Mr. Omojuwa. He still remains our customer and for us at Arik Air, the customer is king.”
The airline also denied that it is in possession of Mr. Omojuwa’s iPad. “It’s simply a case of forgotten item on board aircraft and any other passenger could have picked this up, Mr. Adebanji said.
The airline’s spokesperson said that quite a number of times, there had been cases of passengers stealing fellow passengers’ items on its flight.