By Lawani Mikairu
The Federal Government, on Sunday, commended Air Peace for engaging another airline to evacuate 584 stranded Nigerians in the United Kingdom after the British government denied it landing right.
In a public announcement made by Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dated July 12, and entitled “Public Announcement to Change of Departure Date and Airport of Air Peace Evacuation Flights from the United Kingdom,” Air peace was commended for the sacrifice it made to “ensure that Nigerians returned to their fatherland”.
When the UK government denied Air Peace landing right, the airline defrayed the extra cost of engaging a foreign carrier to ensure that the Nigerians were brought back to the country.
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The statement from the Foreign Affairs Ministry read: “Further to the notification issued by our High Commission in London on the pending evacuation of stranded Nigerians in the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to make additional clarifications that led to the changes in the departure date and airport of the Air Peace evacuation flights.
“The flight was earlier scheduled to depart on July 13 from London Heathrow but was later rescheduled to July 14 from Gatwick Airport London.
“The changes became necessary, following the unexpected decline by the British Government to grant Diplomatic Landing Clearance to Air Peace airlines.
“Consequently, the Federal Government appealed to Air Peace to engage the services of an alternative airline to airlift our stranded citizens instead of refunding their payments, hence the use of Air Partner, one of the Global Air Charter companies advised by the British authorities.
“It is pertinent to note that Air Peace gracefully contracted Air Partner to operate these chartered flights on its behalf at a much higher cost than the tickets fares paid by the prospective evacuees.
“In the light of the foregoing, the Federal Government wishes to extend its appreciation to the Chairman and Management of Air Peace Limited for their commitments and patriotism in ensuring that our stranded nationals in the United Kingdom return home safely.
“The Federal Government, however, regrets any inconvenience these changes might have caused,” the letter was signed by the spokesman of the Ministry, Ferdinand Nwonye.
The evacuation, which was moved from July 13 to 14 July 2020 is expected to involve two flights; one flight will bring some of the evacuees to Lagos, while the other flight would take the rest to Abuja the same day.
Ironically it is the same Air Peace that evacuated over 300 Nigerians two weeks ago from the same United Kingdom, that has been refused further evacuation landing permit, but rather the British government directed the airline to wet-lease aircraft from the UK or Europe to airlift the Nigerians.
It could be recalled that during the lockdown, Air Peace paid for the quarantine of 268 Nigerians it brought from China, including hotel accommodation and three meals a day for four days in order for the flight to take off in time from China as many Nigerians who were stranded were suffering.
Commenting on the Air Peace gesture, a foreign affairs official said: “As a Nigerian carrier Air Peace has made concessions for the citizens, which no foreign carrier can do for Nigerians, including the free flights from South Africa, the evacuation of Nigerians from Uganda, Kenya, China, Turkey, Malaysia, India and other countries”.
“In every evacuation conducted by the airline, it airlifted some Nigerians that cannot afford the fare free of charge.
That was what prompted the Nigerian evacuees from India to write a letter to Air Peace, expressing their gratitude to the airline for bringing them back to Nigeria at very minimum cost and “with offer of free tickets to about 20 of the Nigerians who went for medical treatment but did not have money to pay their way back home after being stranded for weeks”, the official added.
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