FG bows to pressure, drops Air Peace from evacuating Nigerians from Canada
The Federal Government has bowed to pressure from the Canadian government to drop Air Peace from carrying out the evacuation of Nigerians in Canada who want to return as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This decision is coming after the federal government insisted that domestic airlines would carry out evacuation operations.
Th government also promised the stranded Nigerians that it would make necessary refunds to them based on the agreement clause between it and the Nigerians who had wanted to return to the country with Air Peace.
The federal government had designated the Nigerian airline to airlift the evacuees but the Canada High Commission preferred Ethiopian Airline to bring Nigerians back to the country at higher cost and spending longer time because it would first take the evacuees to Addis Ababa before bringing them to Nigeria.
According to the itinerary, Air Peace was scheduled to airlift Canadian citizens from Nigeria and take them to Canada and then evacuate Nigerians from that country from Toronto and another stop in Cagliari and bring them back to Nigeria.
Checks show that Ethiopian Airlines asked passengers to pay $2, 500, while Air Peace charged $1, 134 for the same flight.
Despite a statement from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, saying that only domestic airlines will evacuate Nigerians abroad, a letter from the Nigeria High Commission in Canada, dated May 20, 2020 with the reference number: NHC/OTT/ADM.56/I titled: Update on the Flight Postponement,’ indicates that the government has bowed to pressure from the Canadian government by opting out of the Air Peace arrangement due to ‘safety concerns’.
The government in the letter agreed that Air Peace airfare was the most convenient and cost effective of all the airlines contacted for the airlift of Nigerians back to the country, but the concern of Canadian Government compelled it to cancel the agreement with the airline.
The letter reads in part: “The mission therefore engaged a number of airlines and eventually came up with an arrangement and pricing structure with Air Peace, which no other airline was able to match. You will recall that in our Public Notice of 12th May, 2020, the High Commission announced that the Canadian government had expressed reservations concerning the granting of the necessary clearance/landing permit to Air Peace to fly into Canada, due to safety concerns.”
“Kindly be informed that after protracted engagement, the Canadian Government has unfortunately reverted with what appears to be a final refusal. As a result, the Air Peace Limited arrangement is hereby cancelled.
“During the negotiations with Air Peace Limited, 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 Limited as agreed.
“In the meantime, the Nigeria High Commission is working assiduously to secure an alternative arrangement to get you home as soon as possible, safely and at the least cost, further updates would be communicated in due course.”
In a notice to the evacuees, Air Peace admitted that there were arrangements to evacuate Nigerians but that the Canadian government refused to give it landing permit. The airline said it will refund money paid as fare and will also bear the cost of the bank charges.
It said: “We regretfully wish to inform you that we have not been given landing permit by Canada as at today. We are not unaware of the trauma the protracted delay has caused you.
We do not want to continue holding on to this for your sake. We truly care for our people hence the kind of fare we asked you to pay for your trip to which you did gladly pay.
“You have waited for this opportunity to fly, proudly, a Nigerian airline to this destination but it was not meant to be.
We are a nation that believe in God Almighty. In this and, for everything, may we gladly be thankful to God. Our trust is in Almighty God. He is our refuge.
To this end therefore, we humbly request that you apply for a refund of the money you paid for this trip. We are giving you everything you paid to us; we shall bear the cost of the bank charges ourselves. An African airline has been chosen. Please do kindly go over to them as soon as you can so you are not left behind.”