The Nigerian House of Representatives has mandated its committee on Aviation to urgently investigate why the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID 19, Ministry of Aviation and Ministry of Foreign Affairs engaged services of foreign airlines over and above indigenous carriers to evacuate stranded Nigerians abroad.
This is just as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama confirmed that the Canadian government had denied Air Peace landing rights but that the country was engaging with Canada to reverse that action and allow Air peace carry out the evacuation.
The directive by the House of representatives followed a motion sponsored by Honourable Mohammad Shamsudeen Bello representing Takai/Sumaila Federal Constituency of Kano State and eight other members of the House.
The PTF, Ministry of Aviation and Foreign Affairs Ministry had explained circumstances under which airlines like British Airways, Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines came in to airlift stranded Nigerians from the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United States of America (USA).
Honourable Shamsudeen Bello while presenting the motion on behalf of his cosponsors stressed that the action of the Ministry of Aviation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the PTF contravened chapter 11 of the 1999 constitution.
He said, “the economic objective of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the fundamental objective and principles of state policy in section 16(a) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 provides that the state shall harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, dynamic and self reliant economy for every citizen on the basis social justice and equity of status and opportunity.”
He further argued that there was no justification in engaging those foreign airlines when there are competent Nigerian Airlines that could effectively carry out evacuation adding that the action amounted to a shortchange of the economic well-,being of the country.
He noted that indigenous airlines like Air Peace, Max Air and Azman Air contribute immensely to the national income and employment of Nigerians, thereby enhancing the citizens’ welfare and national productivity.
“Air Peace, and Max Air have tree Boeing 777 each and Azman Air recently acquired Airbus A340-600 series all of which could be deployed for such operations,” he said stressing further that Air Peace handled the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa during xenophobic attacks in 2019 free of charge and Max Air has been participating in air lift of pilgrims during Hajj without hitches.
On the explanation by the Minister of Foreign Affairs on why Air Peace was denied and what was being done to reverse the trend, Onyeama said that the Nigerian High Commissioner was putting a strong argument forward on why the flight should be allowed.
He said, ”It is true that the Canadian government has denied landing rights to the Nigerian carrier that was supposed to undertake the evacuation. Now, this is the case indeed that the Canadian government denied landing rights on the ground that this particular Nigerian carrier did not have license to undertake commercial flights to that country and was not known to that country for commercial flights.
“Our High Commissioner in Canada is engaging with the Canadian government on this issue and we are hopeful that we can have the decision reversed. The argument he is putting forward, which is a strong argument is that this is not a regular commercial flight to Canada for airlifting passengers but this is an emergency flight and there is a difference between the two and so the negotiations are ongoing and we hope there would be a positive result.