The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and the House Committee on Aviation have condemned the decision of the Federal Government to engage the services of foreign airlines for the evacuation of Nigerians abroad.
The two groups said that government’s action was disappointing despite earlier assurances that it would engage two domestic airlines for the evacuation.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, had said the first batch of 265 Nigerians to be evacuated from Dubai would arrive Nigeria on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, while another 300
persons are to arrive from London on Friday May 10 on British Airways and on Monday, May 11, Ethiopian Airline would airlift those coming from United States of America. Already, the body of domestic airlines said it is saddened by the development. A statement by its Chairman, Captain Nogie Meggison, the body said that Nigerian airlines have the capacity to carry out the evacuation but expressed shock that despite the fact that domestic airlines are struggling to keep their workforce due to huge revenue loss to the COVID-19 pandemic, a government agency would engage foreign airlines to evacuate Nigerians when the country has airlines capable of doing the job..
“AON is shocked and disappointed by the decision taken by the Federal Government to evacuate Nigerians back to our country with foreign airlines. So we are calling for government to identify those officials who took such a decision. At a time government is searching for ways to boost its revenue, some officials are giving away the country’s meager resources.
“These foreign airlines are not going to create jobs for our youths. The Federal Government has made a call to employers not to sack their staff in the face of the current economic crunch caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but how can the airlines cope when the opportunity for them to make money and pay their workers were taken away and given to foreign carriers.
“British Airways, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines cannot provide jobs for Nigerians; it is our airlines that can do that. But the support they need is being taken away by some government officials and given to foreign carriers from whom we don’t gain anything, except landing charges of about $2000,” he said.
The Chairman of AON described the action of the officials as economic sabotage.
He said that Nigeria does not have social security like countries where sacked workers receive certain amount of money for months to cushion the effect of the sack, adding that how to kick-start the airlines after COVID-19 should be in the mind of government.
“Government is putting many of us out. Government is putting money in the airlines to support their survival and somebody is giving Nigerian jobs to outsiders. How can our airlines rejuvenate their staff without money? So we are calling that government should probe those involved in this mischief because what they have done is counterproductive.
“Our rent is running, Internet is running. It is painful for government to bring out money to support aviation and some officials will be undermining government’s efforts. Azman has Airbus A340-600, which is a wide-body aircraft, Max Air has four Boeing B747 and Air Peace has three Boeing B777. So we have the capacity to airlift these Nigerians. Just imagine how the money earned will strengthen the operations of the airlines. Each aircraft has four sets of pilots. Their action does not add up,” Meggison said.