Denied flight: We’ll review air agreement with UK, says FG


The Federal Government on Sunday says it will review all its existing bilateral air service agreements with other countries including its BASA with the United Kingdom.



Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, made this known in a statement shortly after the announcement that the British authorities refused a Nigerian airline, Air Peace, landing permit to operate a repatriation flight scheduled to depart London Heathrow airport on Monday.



The PUNCH had earlier reported that the planned evacuation of Nigerians stranded in UK amid the pandemic suffered a delay due to this factor as the flight is now billed for Gatwick airport on Tuesday.



The Spokesman, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ferdinand Nwonye, had disclosed in a statement that a UK airline, Air Partner, will now operate the flight.



Findings by our correspondent showed no fewer than 2,789 Britons have been repatriated home from Nigeria amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They were evacuated on 12 special flights most of which were operated by British airlines, according to information by the British High Commission in Nigeria.



Conversely, further checks showed that less than 600 Nigerians were evacuated from the UK between April and June 2020.



Reacting to the development, the minister said, “Having been allowed to carry out one very successful evacuation of Nigerians from London at very low fares, Air Peace in coordination with the Federal Government and full knowledge of the UK authorities scheduled two additional flights.



“All the arrangements were made including payments, only for the UK authorities to withdraw landing rights close to departure despite strong representations by the Nigerian Government including pointing out the hardship that would be caused to hundreds of Nigerian evacuees.



“Air Peace could have just refunded the passengers but exceptionally, patriotically and altruistically agreed to find an alternative carrier acceptable to the UK authorities to carry out the evacuation a day later than scheduled but for much higher fares.



“These higher fares could legitimately have been passed on to the evacuees but Air Peace bore this huge cost itself. This is to let the aggrieved evacuees know that the objects of their grievance should neither be Air Peace nor the Nigerian Government.



“They should rather be eternally grateful to Air Peace. The Nigerian Government will review its Air agreements with various countries as a result of the unacceptable treatment of Nigerian carriers during this pandemic.”

NEWS CREDIT: THE PUNCH
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