Canada’s refusal for Air Peace to evacuate Nigerians generates outrage

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By Abdullateef Aliyu, Lagos


Following the refusal by the Canadian authorities to grant Air Peace landing right to evacuate Nigerians in Canada, the airline is expected to refund fare to 319 passengers who have already booked for the flight.

However, outrage has trailed the development with stakeholders, including the House of Representatives, condemning the decision to use Ethiopian Airlines to airlift Nigerians in Canada. Daily Trust reports that the federal government had, penultimate week, designated Air Peace, Nigeria’s biggest indigenous carrier, to evacuate stranded Nigerians in Canada, but the evacuation was stalled following the refusal of the Canadian authorities to grant the airline permit, citing safety concerns which sources and industry stakeholders say were “undefined and nebulous.”

No fewer than 319 passengers had paid the airline for the trip but it later emerged that the Canada High Commission in Nigeria made a separate arrangement with Ethiopian Airlines. But the federal government through the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Aviation, Geoffrey Onyeama and Senator Hadi Sirika, respectively insisted that the designated Nigerian carrier must evacuate Nigerians in the North American country.

However, last week, the Canadian government finally refused Air Peace the right to evacuate Nigerians from their country. The refusal was conveyed in a letter by the Nigerian High Commission in Canada dated May 20, 2020, with reference number NHS/OTT/ADM.56/1 titled: Update on the Flight postponement. The letter confirmed that Air Peace gave the best pricing which was not matched by any airline but regretted that “after protracted engagement, the Canadian government has unfortunately reverted with what appears to be a final refusal. As a result, the Air Peace arrangement is cancelled.” Air Peace is charging USD$1,134 per passenger as against the sum of USD$2,500 charged by the Ethiopian Airline. “During the negotiation with Air Peace, the issue of refunds was addressed in the event that the flight did not hold due to unforeseen circumstances and as such, everyone will get refunds for their tickets from Air peace as agreed.

“In the meantime, the Nigerian High Commission is working assiduously to secure an alternative arrangement to get you home as soon as possible, safely and at the least cost possible. Further updates will be communicated in due course,” the letter read. In lieu of Air Peace, it was learned that Ethiopian Airline had been contacted to conduct the evacuation flights while Air Peace would refund the passengers. Irked by this development, the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation has summoned the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Aviation and agencies directly or indirectly involved in the earlier evacuation flights handled by the British Airways, Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines from the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and America to appear before it on Thursday, May 28, 2020. The committee chairman, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji, queried the persistent refusal by the Canadian authorities to grant Air Peace the right to evacuate stranded Nigerians. Also, the Aviation Safety Roundtable Initiative (ART) expressed displeasure at the botched Air Peace Airline evacuation flight for stranded Nigerians in Canada.

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