COVID-19: House committee opposes use of Ethiopian airline for Canada evacuation

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The Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, has warned that any attempt to use foreign airline to evacuate stranded Nigerians from Canada would not be condoned by the House. 

Reacting to the refusal of the Canadian government to grant Air Peace landing permit for the evacuation of Nigerians in Canada, Nnaji said the position of the House of Representatives is very clear on the issue of evacuation flights.

He explained that the House, in adopting the motion on the use of foreign airlines for evacuation of stranded Nigerians in other countries on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, had urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Aviation, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and the Presidential Task Force, (PTF) on COVID-19 as well as all relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to ensure that Nigerian airlines enjoy the right of first refusal in all circumstances where Nigerians need to be evacuated from other countries.

RELATED NEWS:FG bows to Canada, drops Air Peace from evacuation plan

Nnaji insisted that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Aviation and the COVID-19 Task Force should explore all available diplomatic channels to ensure that a Nigerian airline operates the evacuation flight out of Canada. The Aviation Committee chairman said that Canadian authorities have no reason to deny Air Peace landing rights since available records had shown that the airline has the requisite certification and approvals to operate internationally. He said the airline is International Air Transport Association’s Safety Oversight Audit (IOSA) certified, which is a major international parameter for measuring airlines’  safety standards.

The committee then summoned the COVID-19 TaskForce, the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Aviation and agencies directly or indirectly involved in the earlier evacuation flights handled by the British Airways, Emirates and Ethopian Airlines from the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and America to appear before it on Thursday, May 28, 2020.

Despite insisting that domestic airlines should carry out evacuation operations, Daily Sun reported that the Federal Government  bowed to pressure from the Canadian government to drop Air Peace from carrying out the evacuation of Nigerians in Canada who wish to return home over the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ ALSO:FG asks Nigerians in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Thailand to pay N297,000 each for evacuation

Th government also promised the stranded Nigerians that it would make necessary refunds to the affected Nigerians based on the agreement clause between the two parties as regards those who wished to return with Air Peace.

Last week, leakblast reported that the Canadian government refused to grant Air Peace landing permit and its High Commission in Nigeria caused the delay in evacuation of Nigerians which was supposed to have taken place last Thursday.

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Air Peace was to evacuate  Canadians who are stranded in Nigeria back to Canada and bring back Nigerian citizens from Canada on its return leg. This arrangement by the FG was refused by the Canadian commission which had already engaged Ethiopian Airlines to evacuate its citizens from Nigeria, while Nigerians in Canada would be brought back into the country on the return leg by the East African carrier.

A source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Canadian High Commission insisted that Ethiopian Airlines should do the evacuation because it was evacuating their citizens from other African countries despite the fact that Air Peace cost less.

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