The management of Nigeria’s major carrier, Air Peace, has debunked the report that it had suspended the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa.
The Chairman and CEO of the airline, Allen Onyema, said that Air Peace had not suspended the evacuation exercise but it was waiting for the Nigerian High Commission to get ready the next batch of Nigerians that would be taken out of the country that had become hostile to Africans.
He said that the airline would continue to bring back Nigerians who were willing to return to their country until the last evacuee was taken out of that country. Following the stance and earlier evacuation of the first batch by the airline, the Anambra State Government has commended Onyema, for what it called his unprecedented patriotic gesture in bringing back free of charge in 187 Nigerians from South Africa threatened by the ongoing xenophobic attacks against African and Asian immigrants in the rainbow nation.
Onyema disclosed that indications from the Nigerian High Commison showed that about 1,000 Nigerians were still willing to return home but the airlift would start after the Commission had finished with paper work to prepare them for the flight home.
“I said it earlier that Air Peace will bring back to our country all those Nigerians who are willing to return and we will continue to bring them back until the last evacuee is taken out of South Africa. “I learnt from the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa that about 1,000 Nigerians are willing to return home. So what Air Peace has agreed with the Commission is that when it finishes with documentation, settled with Immigration then the High Commission will notify Air Peace which will deploy aircraft to bring them back.
“This is to avoid what happened last time when 320 passengers were expected to be airlifted but South Africa authorities allowed 187 to make the flight,” Onyema said.
The commendation from Anambra is contained in a statement in Awka, the Anambra State capital, by the state Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C. Don Dinuba, who explained that the government decided to commend Mr. Onyema after a meeting in the Governor’s Lodge in Awka, capital of the state.
Adinuba explained that Onyema’s “huge humanitarian gesture is the latest in a series of philanthropic activities by the Air Peace Chairman which Governor Obiano recognised in his public declaration last July 2, 2019 when he stated that Mr. Onyema was driven by sheer patriotism rather than profit by starting direct flights into Dubai via Sharja in the United Arab Emirates at less than 50 per cent of the tariffs charged by foreign carriers”.
The Anambra State government noted that “no persons, not even our suffering and frightened people in South Africa, sought free flights when Chief Onyema decided to offer one of his planes to the former apartheid country to bring our distressed people home at no charge to them.
“The flight must have cost him at least 280 million in view of the fact that the machine spent an additional two nights in at Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, causing the airline to pay more to the South African aviation authorities.
“We also note that Chief Onyema didn’t know any of the persons he lifted all the way from Johannesburg free. He was only moved by sheer patriotism and love of humanity, especially the downtrodden and the distressed.
“As is already well known, Chief Onyema went into airline business five years ago to create jobs for Nigerians, enhance business opportunities in the industry for our citizens and enhance Nigeria’s presence in global business. He exemplifies the principle of solidarity with the human family and commitment to the common good,” the statement said.
The Anambra State government, while encouraging the federal government to do everything within its power to bring back as soon as possible over 700 Nigerians who have signified interest in leaving South Africa immediately, thanked all Nigerians for supporting the federal government’s robust response to the latest wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
“The Nigerian people are far more united than most people seem to appreciate, It is only when we act as one, united family that we make progress and the world takes us more seriously”,” the statement also said.