One of Nigeria’s domestic carriers, Air Peace, is expected to leave for China today to evacuate Nigerians willing to leave the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A source in the airline confirmed that the flight would take off today and may return early Tuesday morning, making it the first domestic carrier to be deployed in the evacuation of Nigerians since the pandemic started.
The Federal Government last week designated Air Peace to carry out evacuation flight on Thursday, May 14, to bring Nigerians who were stranded in Canada with the flight plan to airlift passengers from Toronto and Cagliari back to the country but the Canadian authorities refused to give it landing permit, causing the entire operation to be postponed.
But informed source from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs disclosed that the Canada High Commission had already opened talks with Ethiopia Airlines, which has been airlifting Canadian citizens from different parts of Africa to Canada to deny a Nigerian carrier the opportunity to airlift its own citizens.
But the Federal Government,through the Ministry of Aviation and Foreign Affairs, insisted that all evacuation flights should be conducted by Nigerian carriers. A document sourced from the Canada High Commission directed that passengers should pay $2, 500 to Ethiopian Airlines; while Air Peace charged $1, 134 and 319 passengers already made payment to it.
The directive from the Canada High Commission asked the would-be passengers to pay for Flight ET3900 from Lagos to Addis-Ababa that would depart from Lagos by 1:00 pm Nigerian time on May 18, 2020.
The directive asked the passengers to use the booking code: ”LOSYYZ”, valid only for May 15, 2020. Aviation experts like Dr. Gbenga Olowo, President of Aviation Round Table (ART), commended the Minister of Aviation, Captain Hadi Sirika, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Godfrey Onyeama, for insisting that a Nigerian carrier should be allowed to airlift the evacuees.
“The ART strongly supports the FG for maintaining its position that a Nigerian carrier should evacuate Nigerians from Canada and any other country. This is not a commercial flight; this is emergency flight operated under a force majure situation. This does not require commercial agreement or Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA). But what they want to do is to intimidate Air Peace and deny Nigeria the opportunity of its own airline to evacuate Nigerian citizens.
The Nigerian carrier is using a very good aircraft, a Boeing 777 ER (extended range), which is very good for the operation,” Olowo said.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has denied reports that it has abandoned the implementation of Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) automation and exposed its personnel to the COVID-19
Responding to a statement from the Aeronautical Information Management Association of Nigeria (AIMAN) alleging that NAMA management has neglected the implementation of the AIS automation, thereby exposing personnel to Covid-19 pandemic, the General Manager, Public Affairs, Khalid Emele, said the allegations are false.
He said the joint pilot briefing offices where the AIS automation will operate from are simultaneously being installed with eight offices fully completed as another batch of equipment for installation landed on the seaport and is being cleared in Lagos.