NIGERIA’S federal government has said it will review its air agreements with various countries as a result of the unacceptable treatment of Nigerian carriers during the coronavirus crisis that resulted in many of them being denied landing rights.
During the recent pandemic, Nigerian carriers were repeatedly denied landing rights as they sought to evacuate the country’s citizens stranded abroad. Just this weekend, Air Peace was denied the right to land at London’s Heathrow Airport where it had come to evacuate Nigerians, with the move being postponed until tomorrow.
Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s foreign minister, however, urged aggrieved Nigerians not to protest but be grateful to Air Peace for providing alternative arrangements to ensure their successful evacuation in spite of the challenges. He added that Air Peace could have just refunded the passengers but exceptionally, patriotically and altruistically agreed to find an alternative carrier acceptable to the UK authorities.
Mr Onyeama said: “Having been allowed to carry out one very successful evacuation of Nigerians from London at very low fares, Air Peace, in coordination with the Nigerian government and full knowledge of the UK authorities, scheduled two additional flights. All the arrangements were made including payments, only for the UK authorities to withdraw landing rights close to departure despite strong representations by the Nigerian government, including pointing out the hardship that would be caused to hundreds of Nigerian evacuees.”
According to the minister Air Peace carried out one evacuation a day later than scheduled, but for much higher fares. He said these higher fares could legitimately have been passed on to the evacuees but Air Peace bore this huge cost itself.
“This is to let the aggrieved evacuees know that the objects of their grievance should neither be Air Peace nor the Nigerian government, as they should rather be eternally grateful to Air Peace. The Nigerian government will review its air agreements with various countries as a result of the unacceptable treatment of Nigerian carriers during this pandemic,” Mr Onyeama said.
The planned evacuation of stranded Nigerians was rescheduled from July 13 to July 14, with the departure airport changed from Heathrow to Gatwick Airport, London. This generated an outcry from some stranded Nigerians who blamed Air Peace and the Nigerian government for the inconvenience.