After insisting for weeks that domestic airlines would carry out evacuation operations, the Federal Government has bowed to pressure from the Canadian government to drop Air Peace from carrying out the evacuation of Nigerians in Canada over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government also promised to make necessary refunds to the affected Nigerians based on the agreement clause signed with those who had wanted to return to the country with Air Peace.
A source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Canadian High Commission insisted that Ethiopian Airlines should do the evacuation because it was evacuating their citizens from other African countries despite the fact that Air Peace cost less.
A document obtained from the Canada High Commission two weeks ago, directed that passengers should pay $2,500 to Ethiopian Airlines; while Air Peace charged $1,134 for the same flight.
But despite a statement from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, saying that only domestic airlines will evacuate Nigerians abroad, a letter from the Nigeria High Commission in Nigeria, dated May 20, 2020 with the reference number: NHC/OTT/ADM.56/I with the head: Update on the Flight Postponement,’ indicates that the government has bowed to pressure from the Canadian government by opting out of the Air Peace arrangement due to ‘safety concerns’.
The government in the letter agreed that Air Peace airfare was the most convenient and cost effective of all the airlines contacted for the airlift of Nigerians back to the country, but the concern of Canadian Government compelled it to cancel the agreement with the airline.
The letter read in part: “The mission therefore engaged a number of airlines and eventually came up with an arrangement and pricing structure with Air Peace, which no other airline was able to match. You will recall that in our Public Notice of 12th May, 2020, the High Commission announced that the Canadian government had expressed reservations concerning the granting of the necessary clearance/landing permit to Air Peace to fly into Canada, due to safety concerns.
“Kindly be informed that after protracted engagement, the Canadian Government has unfortunately reverted with what appears to be a final refusal. As a result, the Air Peace Limited arrangement is hereby cancelled.
“During the negotiations with Air Peace Limited, the issue of refunds was addressed in the event that the flight did not hold die to unforeseen circumstances and as such, everyone will get refunds for their tickets, from Air Peace Limited as agreed.
“In the meantime, the Nigeria High Commission is working assiduously to secure an alternative arrangement to get you home as soon as possible, safely and at the least cost, further updates would be communicated in due course.”
In a notice to the evacuees, Air Peace admitted that there were arrangements to evacuate Nigerians but that the Canadian government refused to give it landing permit.
The airline said it will refund money paid as fare and will also bear the cost of the bank charges.