The British Government has refused to grant Diplomatic Landing Clearance to Air Peace Limited for the purpose of evacuating Nigerians, who are stranded in the United Kingdom.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs disclosed this in a statement on Sunday by its spokesman, Ferdinand Nwonye.
The ministry regretted that as a result of the development, the airlifting of stranded Nigerians, which was earlier scheduled for today (Monday), had now been shifted to Tuesday.
It also noted that instead of the Heathrow Airport as earlier planned, the flight would be taking off from the Gatwick Airport, London.
The Federal Government, however, commended the Chairman, Air Peace Limited, Allen Onyema, and the airlines’ management “for their commitment and patriotism in ensuring that our stranded nationals in the United Kingdom return home safely.”
The government noted that to make the airlifting of the citizens possible, Air Peace had to, following an appeal by the government, engage the services of another airline, Global Air Charter, instead of refunding the fares made by the stranded Nigerians.
The Federal Government has also announced that it will review its air agreements with various countries as a result of the unacceptable treatment of Nigerian carriers.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, made this known via his verified twitter handle on Sunday following the denial of landing rights to Air Peace at London’s Heathrow Airport.
Onyeama, while telling passengers to be grateful to Air Peace for providing alternative arrangements to ensure their successful evacuation in spite of the challenges, urged aggrieved Nigerians not to protest over the development.
Onyeama 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 Nigerian 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.
Onyeama said Air Peace could have just refunded the passengers, but exceptionally, patriotically and altruistically agreed to find an alternative carrier acceptable to the UK authorities.
According to the minister, Air Peace did this to carry out the evacuation a day later than scheduled, but for much higher fares.
He said these higher fares could legitimately have been passed on to the evacuees, but Air Peace bore this huge cost itself.
Onyeama said ‘‘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.’’
The evacuation of stranded Nigerians was rescheduled from July 13 to July 14, with the departure airport changed from Heathrow to Gatwick Airport, London.
This, however, generated an outcry from some stranded Nigerians who blamed Air Peace Airline and the Federal Government for the inconveniences.