The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) on Wednesday faulted the decision by the Federal Government to engage foreign airlines for the evacuation of Nigerians abroad.
Capt. Nogie Meggison, Chairman of AON, made this known in a statement issued in Lagos.
Meggison said that government’s action was disappointing after it had earlier said it would engage two domestic airlines to carry out the evacuation exercise.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a schedule released by the Foreign Affairs Ministry said the first batch of evacuees of 265 from Dubai would arrive Nigeria on Wednesday.
The ministry explained that another 300 persons are to arrive from London on Friday by British Airways and on May 11, Ethiopian Airline would airlift those coming from United States of America.
Meggison said Nigerian airlines also had the capacity to bring their countrymen and women back to their fatherland.
The AON chairman wondered why a government agency would engage foreign airlines to evacuate Nigerians when the country had airlines that were capable of doing that.
He said: “AON is shocked and disappointed by the decision taken by the federal government to evacuate Nigerians back to our country with foreign airlines.
“So, we are calling for government to identify those officials who took such decision. At a time government is searching for ways to boost its revenue, some officials are giving away the country’s meager resources.
“These foreign airlines are not going to create jobs for our teeming youths. The federal government has made a call to employers not to sack their staff in the face of the current economic crunch caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
“However, how can the airlines cope when the opportunity for them to make money and pay their workers were taken away and given to foreign carriers?”
Meggison said that British Airways, Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines cannot provide jobs for Nigerians, adding that only domestic airlines could do that.
“However, the support they need has been taken away by some government officials and given to foreign carriers from whom they don’t gain anything, except landing charges of about $2000,” he said.
The AON chairman described the action of the officials who took the decision to engage foreign carriers to evacuate Nigerians as economic sabotage.
Meggison said that Nigeria did not have social security like countries where sacked workers received certain amount of money for months to cushion the effect of the sack.
“How to kick-start the airlines after COVID-19 should be in the mind of government.
“Government is putting many of us out. Government is putting money in the airlines to support their survival and somebody is giving Nigerian jobs to outsiders.
“How can our airlines rejuvenate their staff without money? So, we are calling that government should probe those involved in this mischief because what they have done is counter productive.
“Our rent is running, internet is running. It is painful for government to bring out money to support aviation and some officials will be undermining government’s efforts.
“Azman has Airbus A340-600, which is a wide-body aircraft, Max Air has four Boeing B747 and Air Peace has three Boeing B777. So, we have the capacity to airlift these Nigerians.
“Just imagine how the money earned will strengthen the operations of the airlines. Each aircraft has four sets of pilots. Their action does not add up.”
Meggison said all countries use their airlines to do evacuation, but it was ironic that despite the fact Nigeria had the capacity, it decided to engage foreign airlines.