Indications have emerged on how the Canada High Commission in Nigeria is allegedly working against Nigeria’s Air Peace airline effort to evacuate 319 stranded Nigerians caught up in the North American country due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
The information has emerged that rather than clear Air Peace to evacuate the stranded Nigerians, the Canadian High Commission in Nigeria tried to sabotage the Nigerian carrier’s right by positioning Ethiopian airlines to conduct the evacuation of the Nigerians back home.
The development which has sparked controversy in the sector has been described as an affront on the part of Canada to Nigeria even when the fare offered by Air Peace was said to be cheaper than the Ethiopian Airlines fare for the exercise.
The Federal Government last week designated the Nigerian carrier, Air Peace to conduct evacuation flight to bring Nigerians who are stranded in Canada with the flight plan to airlift passengers from Toronto and Cagliari back to the country.
The delay in allowing Air Peace, an indigenous airline to conduct the evacuation flight has upset officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other Nigerians who have been monitoring the proceedings since last week.
Some of the Nigerians who have booked and paid Air Peace for the flight were already complaining about the insistence of the Canada High Commission to choose a foreign airline when a Nigerian carrier can carry out the evacuation exercise successfully, as it had done in the past.
The Federal Government through the Ministry of Aviation and Foreign Affairs has intervened in the matter, insisting that the Nigerian carrier has to operate the flight in tandem with its new position that all evacuation flights must be conducted by Nigerian carriers.
According to information gathered, while each of the 319 stranded passengers has been directed to pay $2,500 to Ethiopian Airlines, Air Peace airlines have charged $1,134.
The Ethiopian Airline flight ET3900 is expected to leave Lagos to Addis Ababa 1 pm Monday, May 18, 2020, and then to Canada.
Reacting to the sabotage, an official of the airline wondered why Air Peace that has successfully flown to 40 countries, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and evacuated Israeli citizens from Nigeria late March is been treated like this.
“We have done many international flights, including landing in Canada. We have made 19 flights to the United States of America since 2014. We have flown to Tel-Aviv several times and in March we evacuated over 200 Israelis from Nigeria back during this COVID-19 lockdown. We have scheduled flight operations to the United Arab Emirates. We have also flown to the UK, Ireland, China, Turkey, Germany, Iceland, Switzerland and other countries.
“We have IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification and we are a member of IATA. We have also evacuated Nigerians from South Africa during the Xenophobia attack of Africans there. We are grateful to the Federal Government and the Ministry of Aviation for all the support it is giving Air Peace and other ingenious carriers,” the Air Peace official said.
Commenting on the development, a former Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Benedict Adeyileka described the action of the Canada High Commission as political and urged the Federal Government to stand firmly on its position that a Nigerian carrier should conduct the airlift.
“I don’t agree with what is happening. It is very political and Ethiopian Airlines is playing a dangerous game. Ethiopian has new aircraft but it was Boeing 767 it deployed to airlift Nigerians from the US and some of the passengers complained, even as they paid higher fares to the airline. But Air Peace is deploying Boeing 777 for the evacuation.
“I am a nationalist to the core. Anything Nigerian is good enough as long as it is qualified to carry out the operation and Air Peace has international operation experience. I insist that the Nigerian government should put its foot down on this. Nigerian carriers should not be stopped from conducting international operations,” he said.