The House of Representatives has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Federal Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Aviation to ensure that local airlines enjoy the right of first refusal, where Nigerians need to be evacuated.
This was sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion by Rep. Mohammed Bello (APC-Kano) and eight other lawmakers, at the plenary on Tuesday. While moving the motion, Bello said that the two ministries and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID–19 had engaged foreign airlines to evacuate Nigerians stranded in Dubai, London and America, due to the COVID-19 currently ravaging the world.He listed the airlines to include Ethiopian Airlines, British Airways and Emirates.
According to the lawmaker, the economic objective of Nigeria, under the 1999 Constitution, provides that the state shall harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, dynamic and self-reliant economy, for every citizen.
All these, he said, must be on the basis of social justice and equity of status and opportunity.He noted that the actions of the two ministries, the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) and the PTF negated the economic objective enshrined in Chapter II of the constitution.
Bello said that there were competent local airlines, with experts to render the same services, instead of the foreign ones. He said that the local airlines, such as Air Peace, Max Air and Azman Air, among others, had contributed immensely to national income and employment of Nigerians, thereby enhancing welfare and productivity.
“I am informed that Air Peace and Max Air have three Boeing 777, while Azman Air recently acquired Airbus A340-600 series, which can be deployed for such flight operations.
” I am also aware that Air Peace handled the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa during the xenophobic attacks in 2019, free of charge, and that Max Air has been participating in airlifting pilgrims during hajji, without any hitch.
”The failure of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, Federal Ministry of Aviation, and the Presidential Task Forces on COVID–19 to patronise local airlines has further put the country in economic disadvantage,’’ the lawmaker stated.
In his ruling, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila mandated the House Committee on Aviation to investigate the development, with a view to ensuring that local airlines were given priority.