Reps warn foreign airlines on evacuation of Nigerians

Hadi Sirika: Aviation minister

The House of Representatives Committee on Aviation has warned that no UK based airline would be granted approval into the country for evacuation flight if a Nigerian carrier was refused landing rights for similar flight in UK.

The committee Chairman, Rep. Nnolim Nnaji, issued the warning in a statement issued on Saturday.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the House had on May 12, adopted a motion mandating the committee to investigate why the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 engaged foreign airlines for the evacuation flights at expense of indigenous airline operators.

Nnaji explained that the committee arrived at this decision at the end of the investigative hearing on Friday.

The lawmaker said the hearing was on the use of foreign airlines to evacuate stranded Nigerians out of the UAE, UK and USA by Emirates Airline, British Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, respectively.

He said that the engagement of foreign airlines in the earlier evacuations undermined the integrity of Nigeria as a leading economy in Africa.

Nnaji said that the House had equally on the account of the motion, urged President Muhamadu Buhari, to direct the Ministries of Aviation, Foreign Affairs and other relevant bodies not to patronise foreign airlines in the evacuation of stranded Nigerians.

The lawmaker said the motion was to ensure that Nigerian airlines enjoy the right of first refusal in any future evacuation flights.

“The committee also directed the Ministry of Aviation and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to deny approval to any airline from Canada.

“Unless Canadian Authority give a Nigerian operator approval for evacuation of stranded Nigerians in Canada.

“The Ministry of Aviation and its relevant agencies were also mandated to report Canada to the International Civil Aviation Organization, (ICAO).

“This is for denying a Nigerian Airline landing rights for the evacuation of stranded Nigerian citizens in that country,” he said.

Nnaji said the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika and his Foreign Affairs counterpart, Godfrey Onyeama, were in attendance at the investigative hearing.

The committee chairman said they blamed the frustrations the airlines were going through on what he described as, “international aero politics”.

He singled out Sirika for his unprecedented support for the indigenous airline operators since he assumed office as the minister of aviation.

Nnaji said with the assistance of Sirika, approval for importation of aircraft which used to take months before his tenure to obtain, now takes less than 48 hours to get approved.