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Physically challenged pastor to sue airline, GCAA for disembarking him due to disability

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
Mr Clement Ofori narrating his ordeal
Mr Clement Ofori narrating his ordeal

A physically challenged pastor, Mr Clement Ofori, has threatened to drag Africa World Airline (AWA) and the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) to court for disembarking him from an aircraft because of his disability.

The 37-year-old clergyman, who is the General Overseer of the House of the Rock Ministry, was not allowed to embark on a journey to Nigeria via the airline even though he had paid for the ticket.

The authorities of the airline also declined to refund the $700 he had paid for the trip to Onitsha, Nigeria, in spite of his plea.

Explaining issues to the Daily Graphic last week, Pastor Ofori said the authorities of the airline gave the flimsy excuse that they could not guarantee his safety because they did not have facilities for disabled persons on the flight.

"I felt so disheartened as to how a human being could be subjected to such inhumane treatment, simply because someone thinks disabled persons are a nonentity because of their disability.”

"I will not leave this issue to die here in Ghana. I have contacted my lawyers in London. I will sue the GCAA and Africa World. I am ready to lay down my life to fight for the rights of disabled persons," he said.

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Narration

Narrating his story, Pastor Ofori said the incident happened on April 25 this year when he booked the AWA flight to attend a church programme at Onitsha, Nigeria.

"I had the shock of my life when I was marched off the plane when the authorities realised that I was physically challenged.”

"I was the first to get on board, but a few minutes later, one of the officials came and told me to get down because they were no longer flying.

"All attempts to seek clarification from them failed. When they escorted me to the departure hall, I heard an announcement that passengers should get on board the same plane for the journey.”

"I was later told that because I was disabled, they could not secure my safety. But they refused to refund the $700 I paid for the ticket, on the grounds that money paid was not refundable," he said.

In the light of the traumatic situation Pastor Ofori went through, some disability organisations have decided to support him to take legal action against the airline.

Response

When the Daily Graphic contacted AWA for its response to the issue, an official at the Operations Control Department (OCD) of the airline declined to give any official position on it.

The official, who later invited two other officers believed to be from the same department, maintained that "to the best of my knowledge, this issue has been addressed by our lawyer and Pastor Ofori's lawyer".

"They made some demands and our lawyer replied them. The two parties have met and ironed out things and our lawyer requested that the issue should not be put out in the media.”

"If they have decided to go to the media, we should be suing them as well," the unnamed official said.

Further checks

Meanwhile, further checks by the Daily Graphic showed that there had been no official agreement between the airline and Pastor Ofori.