The planned evacuation of Nigerians from Canada is generating more controversy after Canada denied Air Peace landing rights on grounds that the airline does not operate commercial flights to Canada.
Foreign affairs minister Geoffrey Onyeama has assured the matter is being handled.
But findings show the Canadian high commission is moving to position a foreign airline for the flight at a higher fare.
The Federal Government had last week designated Air Peace to evacuate Nigerians who are stranded in Canada, with flight plans spanning Toronto and Calgary.
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But sources disclosed that the Canada High Commission opened talks with another foreign airline in a bid to deny a Nigerian carrier the opportunity to airlift its own citizens.
But the Federal Government through the Ministry of Aviation and Foreign Affairs has waded into the matter, insisting that the Nigerian carrier must conduct the flight.
It was revealed that the Canada High Commission directed that passengers should pay $2, 500 to another airline; while Air Peace charged $1, 134 and 319 passengers have already paid to the indigenous airline, which has concluded plans to operate full flight to the North American country.
Sources said the would-be passengers were directed to pay for Flight ET3900 from Lagos to Addis-Ababa that would depart from Lagos by 1:00 pm Nigerian time on May 18.
The directive asked the passengers to use the booking code: ”LOSYYZ”, valid only for May 15.
But some officials of the Foreign Affairs Ministry are said to be infuriated by the delay in allowing Air Peace, an indigenous airline to conduct the evacuation flight.
Many Nigerians who have already booked with Air Peace have also expressed frustration over the turn of event.
To allay the fears of the Canada High Commission, an official Air Peace disclosed that the airline has successfully flown to 40 countries, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom.
The official who craved anonymity said: “We have done many international flights, including landing in Canada. We have made 19 flights to the United States of America since 2014. We have flown to Tel-Aviv several times and in March we evacuated over 200 Israelis from Nigeria back during this COVID-19 lockdown. We have scheduled flight operations to United Arab Emirates. We have also flown to UK, Ireland, China, Turkey, Germany, Iceland, Switzerland and other countries.
“We have IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification and we are member of IATA. We have also evacuated Nigerians from South Africa during the Xenophobia attack of Africans there. We are grateful to the Federal Government and the Ministry of Aviation for all the support it is giving Air Peace and other ingenious carriers,” the Air Peace official said.
Speaking on the seeming politics that has stalled the evacuation flight, former Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Engr. Benedict Adeyileka urged the Federal Government to stand firmly on its position that a Nigerian carrier must conduct the airlift.
“I don’t agree with what is happening. It is very political…I am a nationalist to the core. Anything Nigerian is good enough as long as it is qualified to carry out the operation and Air Peace has international operation experience. I insist that the Nigerian government should put its foot down on this. Nigerian carriers should not be stopped from conducting international operations,” he said.