***Update: 01/13/2021 @ 09:08 GMT – Added comment from Emirates***
A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered Emirates to pay a staggering $1.63 million to a single businessman for losing his luggage. The bag, which is reported to have contained the said sum of money in cash, was lost 12 years ago on a trip to China. On top of replacing the money, Emirates has been fined 50 million Nigerian Naira in damages, which equates to around $131,000.
A very valuable missing bag
A Nigerian businessman, Mr Orji Prince Ikem, was traveling with Emirates in 2007 from Lagos to China way back in 2007. The passenger had in his hand luggage the sum of $1.63 million, which he was taking in order to buy goods in China.
He was flying a multi-stop route from Lagos to Dubai, and then on to Hong Kong and finally Guangzhou in China. According to the passenger, Emirates staff had approached him in the departure lounge and insisted they take care of the luggage. They claimed that it would be safer in the airline’s care, given the amount of cash that Ikem was carrying with him.
Ikem told the court that he resisted handing over the bags, but became fearful of missing his flight. As such, he eventually relinquished his luggage, receiving tag numbers EK428682 and EK428683 for the bags. The airline said it would return the bags on arrival at the destination. Ikem never saw his bags again.
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A 12-year fight to recover his money
Since then, the passenger has faced a 12-year battle to try and get his money back. He says that, as well as personal effects, the bags contained $700,000 of his own money. In addition to this, a further $930,000 was in the bag in bundles of wraps. This sum belonged to another businessman, Olisaemeka Ugwunze, who had asked him to take the money to China to pay for products.
Vanguard Nigeria details the extensive measures that Ikem went through to reclaim his bags. This included multiple trips to the airport in Guangzhou, returning to Dubai, and making numerous trips to the airport there as well as the involvement of the police.
For two months, Ikem did everything in his power to locate the bags, but there was no record of them at any airport. The police investigation showed that his two carry on bags never left Lagos, not on his flight or any subsequent service.
Emirates argued that the baggage handling processes at Murtala Muhammad International Airport is the authority of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO). Nevertheless, at the High Court this week, the judge came down on the plaintiff’s side.
A positive outcome at long last
According to Nigerian media, the High Court ruled that the plaintiff was in the right. Judge Muslim Hassan noted that Emirates, through its legal counsel, had failed to refute Ikem’s claims. Judge Hassan is noted to have said,
“I have read all the processes filed by both parties as well as their agreements and resolved that the only issue for determination is whether the plaintiff is entitled to the reliefs sought before this court.
“A claim not controverted is deemed admitted, in this case the defendants did not call witness but rather rests it case on that of the plaintiff which mean that all what the plaintiff claimed and their pleadings are admitted.
“I hold that Emirate Airlines failed in his obligations to customer by not delivering the luggage containing the sum of $1.630million.
“On the whole I hereby make the following orders; An order that Emirates Airlines pay the plaintiff the sum of $1.630million; an order that the defendant pay the sum of N50million to the defendant as damages.
“Parties shall bear their own respective costs.”
The sum to be paid by Emirates will cover the cost of the missing money, as well as a fine of approximately $131,000 for the “untold hardship and loss of earnings” Ikem has suffered over the 12 years that he has been fighting his case.
Emirates has told Simple Flying that this is not a final verdict and that it will be contesting the ruling. A spokesperson told us,
“Emirates has already filed an appeal in this matter and we will be vigorously defending our position.”