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Use of foreign airlines for evacuation of Nigerians

by Terrydicos

THE appetite of our government officials for all things foreign has continued even in the face of our gloomy economic prospects arising from the new coronavirus pandemic. We have repeatedly called on the authorities to seize this moment and start looking inwards for solutions to most of our problems, but apparently our calls have met deaf ears.

The announcement by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 led by Mr. Boss Mustapha that Nigerians would be evacuated from several countries in Europe, Asia and America was very gladdening. So also was the approval by President Muhammadu Buhari of the Madagascar remedy, Covid Organics, for clinical trial and possible deployment to the fight against COVID-19.

The Federal Government responded, albeit belatedly, to calls from well-meaning Nigerians for these to be done. What we find very worrisome about these otherwise laudable measures is the residual preference for foreign-made products and services. Nigerian scientists and alternative medical practitioners have been shouting at the rooftops that they have found “cures” for the virus.

What we expected was for the Task Force in their daily briefings to inform Nigerians how far they have gone in validating these claims. We don’t even know if anything is being done in this direction. Rather, we are embracing the Madagascar product.

The same problem bedevils the evacuation of Nigerians from foreign countries. As usual, the Federal Government took a long time to respond to pressures from the public  for stranded Nigerians to be brought home.

By contrast, foreign missions in Nigeria started moving their nationals out almost two months ago when there were only a few confirmed cases in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja. Israel, France, Germany and the United States started their evacuations from March 30, 2020. The UK followed suit on April 14, while China chose to send their medical experts to look after their nationals on April 8, 2020. Nigeria did not begin until May 6 when our facilities and frontline medical warriors were already near the breaking point.

Worst of all, Nigeria again, chose to deploy foreign airlines such as British Airways, Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines when we have our local airlines such as Air Peace (with its brand new planes and track record of free evacuation of Nigerians from xenophobic South Africa), Arik Air and others. Air Peace was only brought in when criticisms mounted.

What stopped us from sending our own planes to do this job? If the plan to float Nigeria Air had been successful would we ignore our own carrier and use the services of the airlines of other countries? We must patronise our own. That is the only way to diversify the economy and create jobs. This foreign dependency or preference syndrome is shameful and unacceptable.

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