Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and the House Committee on Aviation have condemned the decision of the federal government to engage the services of foreign airlines to evacuate Nigerians overseas.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji, condemned the decision to shun local carriers in the repatriation and called on the federal government to employ Nigerian operators for the evacuation.
Nnaji frowned on the engagement of foreign airlines like Ethiopian Airlines, British Airways and Emirates to airlift stranded Nigerians from Dubai, London, and the United States by the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
The lawmaker called for the immediate cancellation of the contracts and the employment of domestic operators, noting that America and Britain recently evacuated their citizens from Nigerian without the use of other countries’ carriers.
“The action of those responsible for this action 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,” Nnaji stated.
He urged the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, to revoke the landing rights already granted the three airlines.
AON also condemned the decision to patronise foreign airlines for the evacuation of Nigerians abroad.
It described the federal government’s action as disappointing after it had made an earlier statement that it would engage two domestic airlines for the evacuation.
In a statement by Meggison, the association said Nigerian airlines had the capacity to evacuate their compatriots.
He expressed shock that despite the fact that Nigeria does not have the resources now due to low oil price and despite the fact that airlines are struggling to keep their workforce due to huge loss in revenues, a government agency would engage foreign airlines to evacuate Nigerians when the country has airlines that could do that.
“AON is shocked and disappointed by the decision taken by the federal government to evacuate Nigerians back to our country with foreign airlines. So, we are calling for the government to identify those officials who took such a decision. At a time government is searching for ways to boost its revenue, some officials are giving away the country’s meager resources,” AON said.
CEO of Aero Contractors also condemned the decision, saying the government might do away with local airlines and invite Ethiopian Airlines to fly domestic routes.
The Managing Director of Overland Airways, Captain Edward Boyo, added that the federal government should have engaged Nigerian airlines for the evacuation.