Protest as foreign airline prepares to airlift stranded Nigerians in Canada
Over 300 Nigerians stranded in Canada may finally be evacuated later this week by a foreign airline. The designated carrier, most likely Ethiopian Airlines (ET) following the ouster of Air Peace from the exercise, is in the final phase of concluding the travel arrangements, The Guardian has learnt.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives and stakeholders have frowned on the ouster of the local carrier from the scheme following alleged safety concerns raised by the Canadian authorities.
There have been reported diplomatic intrigues and conflicts of interest over the choice of an operating flight which stalled the repatriation scheduled two weeks ago.
While the Federal Government designated Air Peace for the special operation, the Canadian government was believed to have preference for ET though at a higher cost for the affected evacuees.
It was learnt that the foreign flag charged $2,500 per voluntary returnee, while Air Peace demanded $1,134.
The Nigeria High Commission in Canada, in a memo at the weekend, stated that efforts were ongoing to get another carrier to do the evacuation, while the Nigerian carrier reportedly made a refund to 319 passengers that had paid.
Chairman of the lower legislative chamber’s Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, yesterday warned that any attempts to deploy a foreign airline for the exercise would not be resisted.
He was reacting to the ‘persistent refusal’ of the Canadian authorities to grant Air Peace landing rights. Nnaji explained that the House, in adopting the motion on the use of foreign airlines for evacuation of stranded Nigerians in other countries on May 12, 2020, had urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Aviation as well as the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to ensure that local airlines enjoy the rights of first refusal.
Besides, the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) registered its displeasure. The industry think-thank, in a statement by Olumide Ohunayo, said it rejected in totality “the nebulous safety concerns conveyed by the government of Canada.”
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