The House of Representatives has opposed the planned use of Ethiopian Airlines, rather than Air Peace, for the evacuation of Nigerians stranded in Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nnolim Nnaji, the chairman, House Committee on Aviation, warned that any attempt to use a foreign airline to evacuate the stranded Nigerians from Canada would not be condoned by the House.
Nnaji, representing Nkanu East/West Federal Constituency of Enugu State, explained that the House on May 12, 2020 had taken a resolution that the country’s airlines should be given the right of first refusal in all circumstances where Nigerians were needed to be evacuated in the ongoing exercise.
He said the House had urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, 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 the implementation of this.
Nnaji insisted that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Aviation, and indeed the COVID-19 task force must explore all available diplomatic channels to ensure that a Nigerian airline operated the evacuation flight out of Canada.
The Canadian government, it was learnt, gave preference to Ethiopian Airlines for evacuation of stranded Nigerians desiring to come home as against Air Peace, which the taskforce had already engaged for the evacuation.
Air Peace is charging $1,134 per passenger as against the sum of USD$2,500 charged by the Ethiopian Airlines.
Nnaji insisted that the Canadian authorities had no reason to deny Air Peace landing right since available records showed that the airline had the requisite certification and approvals to operate internationally.
He further emphasised that findings had shown that Air Peace was International Air Transport Association’s Safety Oversight Audit (IOSA) certified, which is a major international parameter for measuring airlines’ safety standards.
Nnaji also noted that there was need for the Canadian government to treat the flight as a special emergency occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic and immediately grant the necessary approvals to Air Peace.
Meanwhile, the committee has summoned the COVID-19 task force and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Aviation, and agencies directly or indirectly involved in the earlier evacuation flights handled by the British Airways, Emirates, and Ethiopian Airlines from the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and America to appear before it on Thursday, May 28.
It would be recalled that the Canadian government denied Air Peace the landing rights, citing safety concerns for its action.