COVID-19 Evacuation: AON calls for cancellation of contract with foreign carriers


.…condemns action of government

The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has condemned the decision to patronize foreign airlines for the evacuation of Nigerians abroad.

AON chairman, capt. Nogie Meggison

The body said that government’s action is disappointing after it had made earlier statements that it would engage three domestic airlines that more than have capacity and airplanes to carry out these evacuation exercises.

A Schedule released by the Foreign Affairs Ministry said the first batch of evacuees of 265 from Dubai would arrive Nigeria Wednesday, May 6, 2020. Another 300 persons are to arrive from London on Friday May 10, 2020 on British Airways and on Monday, 11th May Ethiopian Airlines would airlift those coming from the United States of America.

In a statement signed by the Executive Chairman of AON, Captain Nogie Meggison, the body said that Nigerian airlines have the capacity to bring their countrymen and women back to their fatherland; like the norm worldwide, UK using British Airways; France using Air France, USA came with a Chartered B767 from America etc.

AON expressed shock that despite the above fact, someone finds it easy to contract foreign airlines to do these evacuations despite our country’s economic position and not having the spare resources for it as it is not captured in the budget and now also due to the low price of oil coupled with the fact that Nigerian airlines are currently struggling to keep their workforce due to huge loss in revenues occasioned by the COVID-19 lockdown.

It is a huge shock to us that an agency would engage foreign airlines to evacuate Nigerians from abroad when the country has airlines that are capable of doing so. It is also sad to note that with the millions of dollars that is going be spent on these flights, none of it will be put back into our Nigerian economy apart from the landing and navigational charges of approximately $20,000 as compared to the several millions of dollars that will end up in foreign countries, paying their foreign pilots, engineers etc., and also back their local GDP. Sadly, nothing is coming to the Nigerian economy.

“AON is shocked and disappointed by the decision taken to evacuate Nigerians back to our country with foreign airlines. So we are calling for government to identify those officials who took such unholy decision. At a time when government is searching for ways to boost its revenue, some officials are giving away the country’s meager resources to foreign countries.

“These foreign airlines are flying their local pilots and crew and are not going to create jobs for our teeming Nigerian 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 COVID19 pandemic. But how can the airlines cope when the opportunity for them to make money and pay their workers is taken away and given to foreign carriers?

“British Airways cannot, and will not, provide jobs for Nigerians; Emirates will not provide jobs for Nigerians; Ethiopian Airlines cannot provide jobs for Nigeria’s teeming youths or contribute to Nigeria’s GDP. It is our airlines that can do that and employ Nigerians and contribute to Nigeria’s GDP. But sadly the support AON needs is being taken away by some officials and given to foreign carriers from whom we don’t gain anything as a country, except landing charges of about $20,000 in total out of about $2 millions,” he said.

The Chairman of AON described the action of engaging foreign carriers to evacuate Nigerians as economic sabotage!

He said that Nigeria does not have social security like countries where sacked workers receive certain amount of money for several months to cushion the effect of the sack, adding that how to kick-start the airlines after COVID-19 should be in the mind of government.

“Our Government is putting money in the aviation sector to support their survival and somebody is giving Nigerian jobs to outsiders. How do we pay back the loans? How can our airlines rejuvenate their staff without money? How do we keep our airlines afloat? How do we contribute to Nigeria’s GDP? So we are calling on the government to probe those involved in this mischief because what they have done is counterproductive and they should cancel this foreign contract.

“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 2 Airbus A340-600 (with 340 seats and a range of 14hours) idle, which is a wide-body aircraft. Max Air has three (3) Boeing B747-400 (420 seater with 15 hours flight range) parked on ground. And Air Peace has three (3) Boeing B777-300 (370 passengers and 16 hours range) parked.

All these airplanes have 4 sets of Crew and engineers all seating at home in Nigeria. AON has the capacity to airlift these Nigerians. Just imagine how the money earned would have strengthened the operations of the airlines and the Nigerian GDP during this period. Each aircraft has four (4) sets of pilots. Their action does not add up,” Meggison said.

He noted that all countries WORLD WIDE are using their owner local airlines to do evacuation of their citizens, but it is ironic that despite the fact that Nigeria has the capacity, it decided to engage foreign airlines!


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