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Evacuations: FG Commends Air Peace For Facilitating Use Of Foreign Carrier After UK’s Denial Of Landing

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The Federal government has commended Nigerian major carrier, Air Peace for facilitating the evacuation of 584 Nigerians by engaging another airline after the British government denied it landing right.

Air Peace had to defray the extra cost for engaging a foreign carrier to ensure that Nigerians were brought back to the country and for this the federal government commended the airline.

In a public announcement made by Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs with reference number No: MFA/PR/2020/16 and dated July 12, 2020 and titled, “Public Announcement to Change of Departure Date and Airport of Air Peace Evacuation Flights from the United Kingdom,” government commended the airline for the sacrifice it has made to ensure that Nigerians returned to their fatherland.

“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 13th July 2020 from London Heathrow but was later rescheduled to 14th July 2020 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.

Allen Onyema
Chairman, Air Peace

“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 said.

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, bur rather British government directed the airline to wet lease aircraft from 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.

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 and 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.”
(Travelport)

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National Carrier to be Launched Before Buhari’s Exit, says Aviation Minister

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By Elizabeth Okwe

The Federal Government has given the assurance that all impediments against the establishment of the National Carrier, Nigeria Air, will be removed to enable it take to the skies before May 29, 2023.

Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, who gave the assurance at the National Aviation Stakeholders Forum 2023, on Thursday in Abuja, said the Federal Government is taking necessary measures to overcome the hurdles introduced by the indigenous airlines that went to court to stop the process.

He described as unfair the action of the local airline operators, saying that the Buhari government had supported local airlines to stabilise and grow more than all previous governments.

Sirika described their action as constituting a stumbling block to the realisation of the national carrier project which will impact positively on job creation and better opportunities in the industry.

According to the Minister, the Nigerian Aviation industry is the only one in the world where qualified pilots are without jobs while in other climes there’s shortage of pilots.

“About 50 pilots had come to me at a time complaining about their unemployment status, and I believe that the national carrier should be able to employ more pilots and create other job opportunities” he said.

The reason for this, he said, was because of domestic airlines preference for foreign pilots and other operational staff and advised them to begin to put the nation first in their recruitments.

He described Ethiopian Airlines, the preferred bidder for the national carrier as amongst the very best that the industry has, with over 200 aircraft, highly profitability, one of the best training institutions and a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility.

The Minister further reiterated that with the population of Nigeria and Ethiopia, the two largest in Africa, and Nigeria’s location at the center of the continent, Nigeria Air will be able to play a major role in the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

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Aviation Minister to Host Stakeholders on Developments in the Sector

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(File photo)

In continuation of the established tradition of regular interactions with major players in the aviation industry in Nigeria since the inception of the Buhari administration, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika will host aviation stakeholders on Thursday 23rd March, 2023 in Abuja.

A statement by the Special Assistant to the Minister on Public Affairs, Dr James Odaudu said the idea of the regular meetings has been to ensure that all industry Stakeholders are carried along, and make inputs in the development and implementation of programmes and policies for the success of the industry.

The statement also explained that the Stakeholders’ Forum, the 10th of the kind, is to bring together all relevant Industry Players to brainstorm on the Policies and Programmes that have, and will continue to move the nation’s aviation industry forward and set it as one of the best in the global aviation community.

“The Forum will assist the Federal Ministry of Aviation and all its Agencies to have direct contact with the very important Stakeholders in and outside the industry, articulate ideas on the way forward and brainstorm on the developments within the sector as a whole.

“The Forum is also expected to afford the Stakeholders another opportunity to ventilate their opinions on the journey so far, and ensure that policies and programmes implemented in the aviation industry mirror the expectations of Nigerians, and truly lead to the socioeconomic and national development of the nation”.

It quotes the Minister as saying that the Forum will also seek to provide answers to pertinent questions, provide sensitisation and clarifications on policies and programmes, provide awareness on activities of government and non-governmental organisations in the industry.

The Forum which is expected to be declared open by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo will bring together all relevant industry players within and outside the industry namely; The Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Labour and Employment, Health, Agriculture, Transportation and Environment.

Also expected at the Forum, aside the regular aviation sector players, are the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Accountant General of the Federation, Chairman, National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, Director-General, Budget Office, Presidential Committee on Salaries, and CEOs of Media establishments.

According to Odaudu, Senator Hadi Sirika, since assumption of office as Minister of Aviation, has made it a point of duty to hold regular consultations with Stakeholders in the industry including Airline Operators, Labour unions, service providers, regulators etc, especially on the implementation of the Aviation roadmap which was put in place by the Buhari administration.

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Foreign Airlines Trapped Funds Rise to $743m, as Aviation Minister Assures IATA of Intervention

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By Aduku Odaudu

Despite government’s past efforts to tackle the issue of blocked funds of foreign airlines, the amount has increased to $743,721,097 from $662m in January 2023, the the International Air Transport Association has reported.

In a letter presented to the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, signed by the Regional Manager West and Central Africa, Dr Samson Fatokun, IATA called on the minister to intervene so the foreign airlines can repatriate their funds.

“For over a year, Nigeria has been the country with the highest amount of airline-blocked funds in the world” the letter indicated.

IATA reckoned that the “trapped funds sends a strong message against FD! The increasing backiog of international airlines blocked funds in Nigeria sends a strong message against foreign direct investment (FD!) in Nigeria. Potential investors are reading from the plight of the airlines that they would not be able to expatriate their funds from Nigeria even al this moment when Nigeria is expecting investments in the concession of some of its prominent airports.”

Dr. Samson Fatokun said that it’s important Nigeria respect contractual obligations Foreign airlines fly into Nigeria within the legal framework of the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) signed between their countries and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The IATA/Foreign Airlines delegation with Senator Hadi Sirika and the Permanent Secretary, Dr Emmanuel Meribole

He noted that it is agreed in those BASAs that Nigeria will facilitate the repatriation of.the funds.

He said this has also led to high-ticket prices to mitigate the increasing backlog of these funds in Nigeria and its impact of their cash flow, some airlines have decided to reduce the number of their frequencies, or the number of seats made available for sale in the Nigerian market.

Commenting, the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika said the “government is concerned especially the ministry of aviation. I am sure you are all aware that this is not a problem that is currently within the leverage of the ministry of aviation if it were to be here it would be resolved today.”

“Unfortunately, it sits somewhere else more with the Central Bank of Nigeria who in turns keeps saying it is between them and the commercial banks” he further explained.

“We will do the very best we can to resolve this matter soon” he promised.

“We will begin from today, we have been doing the best we can because we understand the importance of the services being provided and also the legitimacy of the request because it is something that is backed by the Bilateral and multi-lateral Agreements and something that is the law itself so there is no reason why it should continue to remain” he assured.

Aviation Permanent Secretary, Dr Emmanuel Meribole, Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika and the IATA Regional Manager for West and Central Africa, Dr Samson Fatokun during the visit

He also urged the airlines to bear with certain situations, adding that the way they deal with the matter is not the best way to deal with issues of sovereign and in this case some of the airlines that decide not to come to Nigeria, it is a commercial decision you take which is fine but to do other things to show some resentment to the country is not acceptable.

“Some go to the extent of saying that they are not allowing Nigerians to go or no visa issuance which I think is anniversary and uncalled for; we do know that we need your services but we are very convinced that you need our market more that we need your services. I think Nigeria should be treated with some level of dignity and honour” he quarried.

“From your document here Qatar Airways has $208m blocked, Ethiopian Airline with $117m blocked. These are the major tickets and IATA $216m which is the highest while Emirates is $35m” he said.

“I know certain payments have been made. At some point when we decided to closed down Abuja airport for rehabilitation and to move to Kaduna. All of you foreign airlines refused to go to Kaduna which shows that you are only interested in what you can gain from a country which is the money but you are not willing to give anything.

“Some of you approached me and said you do not have were your crew will stay so you can fly to Kaduna. But we provided hostels that were better equipped than most hotels in town, good catering services, still you refused to identify with us”

He charged them to always adopt the give-and-take attitude in business relationships.

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