Africa: Stakeholders Hail Airline for Evacuating Nigerians in South Africa

13 September 2019

Nigeria has received global accolade for being the first country to rescue its citizens from the hate-inspired killings by black indigenes of South Africa against foreigners.

This was made possible by Nigerian major carrier, Air Peace which offered to rescue Nigerians living in South Africa, to save them from killings.

Many industry stakeholders have commended Air Peace for offering to make sacrifice for the country and expressed happiness that Nigeria has an airline that has the capacity to deploy aircraft for that exercise.

The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Muhtar Usman, told THISDAY that it was a significant contribution from the aviation sector and commended Air Peace for taking up the challenge to rescue Nigerians from the killer South Africans.

"First, it is a very welcome development that a local operator has offered to do this for free. It is good that a Nigerian carrier has the capacity to do this and it is a very good corporate social responsibility (CRS) to assist Nigeria and Nigerians in need. It is a very big contribution by civil aviation in Nigeria," Usman said.

Speaking in the same vein, the Managing Director of Top Brass Airline, Captain Roland Iyayi commended Air Peace for rescuing Nigerians from South Africa and said that it was magnanimous of the Chairman of the airline, Allen Onyema.

"I was sitting next to the Air Peace Chairman, Onyema he made the offer to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. What he has done is worthy and I believe the industry has benefitted so much from him and we have not seen the best of him yet," Iyayi said.

Also, former Managing Director of Capital Airlines and industry consultant with Etimfri Group, Amos Akpan, told THISDAY that what Air Peace has done has underscored the need for a country to have strong airlines with capacity and also the need for government to always support its own.

"What Air Peace has done is commendable. It further shows Nigeria's gain for allowing private participation in aviation. Aviation is one sector that has been enjoying privatisation since the 80s with the entrance of Aero Contractors, Pan African, Okada, Kabo Air, Intercontinental, Das, ADC and others. A lot more joined in the 90s. Sometimes one wonders what would have happened to Nigerian air travellers if not for these private investors in aviation and allied businesses," he said.

"Today we are in a situation where a private airline has performed the role expected of Nigeria Airways. Air Peace stepped up in this crisis situation to evacuate Nigerians from South Africa. "No matter the political colouration critics will give this action, Nigeria needed to evacuate her nationals in this brewing diplomatic row.

"At most, the government would have spent from her leaned purse to hire Ethiopian Airlines because our Max Air is already involved in evacuating Nigerian pilgrims from Saudi Arabia.

"My advice to the regulators is that they should keep encouraging Nigerian airlines to understand and follow regulations so that they remain safe and continue flying.

"The government should make more efforts to understand how they can guarantee them access to funding because it is a very capital intensive business.

"Ensuring our airlines stay in business will only benefit our economy. Air Peace action is a classic performance of corporate social responsibility," Akpan said.

Nigerian Consul General to South Africa, Godwin Adama, described Air Peace offer to bring back Nigerians being attacked in South Africa as unprecedented gesture and expressed gratitude to the airline.

Onyema, while reacting to his offer to evacuate Nigerians from South Africa had said, "We want to send a signal to the world that Nigerians are their brother's keeper and I support the federal government and President Muhammadu Buhari who would have done the same as private citizen, knowing the role he played when Nigeria faced similar challenge as a military officer.

"We are offering free trip to Nigerians in South Africa to return home after going through the traumatic experience of the attacks. Air Peace has said this is free and we are doing it in solidarity with the federal government."

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