The House of Representatives Committee on Aviation has condemned the decision by the Federal Government to engage the services of foreign airlines to evacuate Nigerians abroad when there are capable indigenous operators to handle the operations.
Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji, called on the federal government to reverse the decision and revert to capable indigenous operators to carry out the evacuation exercise.
Daily Trust reports that the government would commence the evacuation of stranded Nigerians in London, United State and Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) from Wednesday, May 6, 2020.
The Reps committee, however, frowned at the engagement of foreign airlines like Ethiopian Airlines, British Airways and Emirates to airlift stranded Nigerians from Dubai, London and America respectively 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 reversal to the capable domestic operators, noting that America and Britain recently evacuated their citizens from Nigeria without the use of other countries’ carriers.
Nnaji urged the Aviation Minister to revoke the landing rights already granted the three airlines.
“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,” he said.
According to a schedule released by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the first batch of evacuees of 265 from Dubai would arrive Nigeria Wednesday, May 6,2020, another 300 are to arrive from London on Friday May 8 on British Airways.
On Monday, 11th May Ethiopian Airline will airlift those coming from United States of America.
The lawmaker insisted there are capable Nigerian operators with long haul aircraft that can handle the operations that should have been engaged by the Task Force.
He said: “I am aware that Air Peace has three Boeing 777s, Max Air has four Boeing 747s and Azman recently acquired Airbus A340-600 series which can be deployed for these charters.
“Air Peace, apart from the operations it did to evacuate Nigerians from South Africa during the xenophobic attacks last year, has handled two special charters this COVID-19 period to China for medical evacuation and to Israel to evacuate Israeli National out of Nigeria and Max Air has been operating in Hajj without hitches.
“Why can’t we for once begin to believe in ourselves? Why must we look outside for everything?
“I was thinking that the lessons of this prevailing pandemic would make us change our ways of doing things.
“Nigerians must demand explanations for this action of the PTF.”