HOUSE Committee on Aviation have said that with the number of wide-bodied aircraft in Nigeria owned by carriers like Air Peace and Azman Air it is sad that the country engages the services of foreign airlines to evacuate Nigerians abroad when the aforementioned have the capacity to do so.
Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji frowned at the engagement of foreign airlines like Ethiopian Airlines, British Airways and Emirates to airlift stranded Nigerians from Dubai, London and America by the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Presidential Task Force, (PTF) on COVID19.
Nnaji who condemned the decision by the federal government asked for a reversal of this action to capable indigenous operators to carry out the evacuation exercise.
He called for the immediate cancellation of the contracts and the reversal to the capable domestic operators noting that America and Britain recently evacuated their citizens from Nigerian without the use of other countries’ carriers.
He said, “I am aware that Air Peace has three Boeing 777, Max Air has four Boeing 747 and Azman recently acquired Airbus A340-600 series which can be deployed for these charters. Air Peace apart from the operations it did to evacuate Nigerians from South Africa during the xenophobic attacks last year has handled two special charters this COVID 19 period to China for medical evacuation and to Israel to evacuate Israeli National out of Nigeria and Max Air has been operating in Hajj without hitches”.
“The action of those responsible for this action (ceding economic power to foreign airlines) is not only a disservice to the local airlines which have done their best to provide patriotic service to Nigerians but equally detrimental to our national pride and dignity,” Hon. Nnaji stressed, urging the Aviation Minister to revoke the landing rights already granted the three airlines.
According to a schedule released by the Foreign Affairs Ministry the first batch of evacuees of 265 from Dubai would arrive Nigeria Wednesday, May 6,2020, another 300 are to arrive from London on Friday May 10 on British Airways and on Monday, 11th May Ethiopian Airline will airlift those coming from United States of America.
The lawmaker who represents Nkanu East/West Federal Constituency in the Federal House of Representatives strongly believed that there are capable Nigerian operators with long haul aircraft that can handle the operations that should have been engaged by the Task Force.
“Why can’t we for once begin to believe in ourselves, why must we look outside for everything? I was thinking that the lessons of this prevailing pandemic would make us change our ways of doing things. Nigerians must demand explanations for this action of the PTF”, the House Committee Chairman on Aviation said.