The Canadian government has denied Nigerian carrier, Air Peace, the right to evacuate Nigerian citizens stranded in the North American country.
This is coming weeks after the evacuation was stalled following the inability of Air Peace to secure landing rights from Canada.
The Federal Government had penultimate week designated Air Peace to conduct evacuation flight to bring Nigerians who are stranded in Canada with the flight plan to airlift passengers from Toronto and Cagliari back to the country.
But sources disclosed that the Canada High Commission opened talks with another foreign airline, in a bid to deny Air Peace the opportunity to carry out the evacuation flight.
Though, the Federal Government through the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, had assured that the issue was being resolved, findings revealed that the moves to position a foreign airline for the flight at a higher fare was responsible for the delay.
But despite the insistence of the Nigerian government that Air Peace must carry out the flight, the airline has finally been denied the rights in what analysts see as the outcome of high wire aero-politics.
The Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa has confirmed that the Canadian government has refused Air Peace Limited the right to evacuate Nigerian citizens in the country.
This is despite the fact that the over 300 affected passengers had already bought an Air Peace ticket.
The High Commission confirmed this in a letter dated May 20, 2020 with reference number NHS/OTT/ADM.56/I emanating from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs titled: “Update on the Flight postponement”.
The letter read: “The best and overall well-being of Nigerians stranded in Canada were the overriding considerations of the Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa seeking a solution to their predicament.
“The aim was to come up with the most convenient and cost-effective arrangement possible bearing in mind that the many were stranded here through no fault of their own and some had become cash strapped.
“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 necessary clearance/landing permit for Air Peace to fly into Canada, due to safety concerns.
“Kindly be informed that after the 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.
“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.”
It would be recalled that the Canada High Commission had 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.
In response to the safety concern raised by Air Peace, the airline had disclosed that it had successfully flown to 40 countries, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom.
An official who spoke in confidence 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 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,”
Speaking on the seeming aero politics that has stalled the evacuation flight, former Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Engr. Benedict Adeyileka, decried the move to deny Nigerian carriers the right of evacuation.
“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.