The House of Representatives on Tuesday kicked against the Federal Government’s decision to engage foreign airlines in evacuating Nigerians stranded in abroad.
The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by Hon. Mohammed Shamsudeen Bello and eight others.
Worried by this development, the House urged President Muhammadu Buhari to forthwith direct the Federal Ministries of Foreign and Aviation, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Presidential Task Force on COVID–19 and all relevant Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to ensure that Nigerian airlines enjoy the right of first refusal in all circumstances where Nigerians need to be evacuated from other countries.
Akelicious reports that in his lead debate, Hon. Bello who expressed concern over the huge capital flight involved observed that Federal Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Aviation and the Presidential Task Force on COVID–19 have engaged foreign airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines, British Airways and Emirates to evacuate Nigerians stranded in Dubai, London and America, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world.
“The House notes that the economic objective of the Federal Republic of Nigerian under the Fundamental Objective and Directive Principles of State Policy in Section 16(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 provides that the state shall harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, a dynamic and self-reliant economy for every citizen of on the basis of social justice and equity of status and opportunity.
“The House is worried that the actions of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Federal Ministry of Aviation and the Presidential Task Force on COVID–19 negate the economic objective enshrined in Chapter II of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 when there are competent local airlines with experts to render the same services instead of Foreign Airlines, thereby short-changing economic well-being of the country.
“The House is aware that local airlines such as Air Peace, Max Air and Azman Air contribute immensely to national income and employment of Nigerians, thereby enhancing the welfare and national productivity.
“The House is informed that Air Peace and Max Air have three Boeing 777, and Azman Air recently acquired Airbus A340-600 series which can be deployed for such flight operations.
“The House is also aware that Air Peace handled the evacuation of Nigerians from South African during the xenophobic attacks in 2019 free of charge and Max Air has been participating in the uplifting of pilgrims during Hajji without hitches.
“The House regrets that the failure of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, the Federal Ministry of Aviation, and the Presidential Task Forces on COVID–19 to patronise Nigerian airlines has further put the country in economic disadvantage,” he said.
To this end, the House mandated the Committee on Aviation to investigate the reasons for patronising Foreign Airlines instead of competent local airlines to evacuate Nigerians stranded in foreign nations and also ensure that Nigerian Airlines have sufficient patronage from state and non-state actors in the sector.
The House further mandated the joint Committees on Aviation and Foreign Affairs to work with the Committee on Legislative Compliance to ensure implementation and report back within two weeks for further legislative action.