Chinelo Obogo, Lagos
Stakeholders in the Nigerian aviation industry have kicked against the continuous use of foreign airlines by the Federal Government for the evacuation of the country’s citizens despite local capacity.
This is coming as the Consulate of Nigeria in New York revealed that a second evacuation flight for Nigerians will be carried out by Ethiopian Airline on Friday, July 3. The airline, flight number ET509, will depart Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey by 21:15 hrs and arrive Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on Saturday, July 4.
The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), the umbrella body of domestic carriers in the country, said the continued use of foreign airlines to evacuate Nigerians by the government is contrary to its own directive that only indigenous carriers should be used to do so.
The Executive Chairman of AON, Captain Nogie Meggison, in an interview with aviation correspondents on Monday at the Lagos Airport, said that the onus still lies on the government to do the right thing by protecting its own carriers, as COVID-19 fears forced the government to bring back stranded Nigerians abroad.
The airline operators stated that almost on a daily basis, Emirates evacuates Nigerians from Dubai, revealing that the airlift is being negotiated and advertised by the Nigerian embassy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), thus defying government’s directive that only Nigerian carriers should evacuate Nigerians as many other countries are doing.
He insisted that Nigerian airlines have the capacity to successfully execute such an exercise.
‘I have worked in this industry for the past 35 years and we keep saying the same thing and that is why we are not moving forward. If the government did not give foreign carriers landing permits to evacuate Nigerians from other countries and land in Nigeria, they won’t do that. If you can’t put your house in order who else will do that for you? We just make laws and policies but we don’t have the political will to carry out what we have said.
‘We see these flights coming in every day and we ask ourselves why? Can you fly into Ghana or other countries if you don’t have landing permits? So we need to first put our house in order for things to work the way we want. I keep wondering why our airports are still not open for operations. Aviation is a major propeller of the economy. I keep wondering what is delaying the opening of our airspace,’ Meggison said.
Also speaking on the issue, a member of Aviation Round Table (ART), a think-tank group in the industry, Sheri Kyari said that the negation of government directive by a government agency shows lack of synergy in governance and also lack of respect for the central authority.
‘This is giving us a very bad image in the international community that our airlines are not safe, which is not true. This is a very wrong impression. Secondly, it’s like connivance against the country to make sure that economically, we are not standing; when what is supposed to be our own and people are ganging up to make sure that we don’t get it. It is a bad one.
‘The issue of “you do me I do you” has come out to play, but we are weak in one particular area, which is alliances. This is one of those things that the mega carriers are using against us by denying us the facilities. Having said that, the major area is for the federal government to step in and put their feet down. Ensure that our carriers are protected,’ Kyari said.
The Federal Government had made it as a rule before it renewed the evacuation of Nigerians that only indigenous airlines should airlift Nigerians abroad.