The Chairman of Air Peace, Barrister Allen Onyema yesterday made good his promise by using airline to evacuate Nigerians in South Africa, who were eager to return to their fatherland, Nigeria following the incessant xenophobic attacks by their angry host; South Africans. In this interview on Wednesday, September 11, 2019, Onyema spoke on why he offered to evacuate Nigerians Free of Charge (FoC) from South Africa, shortly after the airline’s B777 aircraft arrived with the first batch of 187 Nigerians at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos. Abelnewsng.com was there. Excerpts.
Why did you decided to take this bold and exemplary step?
I believe l can go to my grave with my bank account and fat wallet but l know l can go to grave comfortably and peacefully with my legacies that l leave behind. I want to implore every Nigerians to be our brothers’ keepers. You could see the shout while some of them were singing the Nigeria anthem when l moved in, l shed tears too, tears of joy and l am just thankful to God for giving me the heart to be able to take that decision but it is something l did heartily and happily for my nation and in support of the government . l am happy also that the president is appreciative of what air peace has done and has asked every Nigerian who is willing to leave that enclave of south Africa to come back home. We did it in support of the Nigerian people, in support of our government and humanity.
Air Peace was billed to bring back 320 Nigerians as First batch from South Africa but the number has reduced. What happened sir?
We expected to pick about 320 passengers there but the reports reaching us from South Africa was that the South Africa government through their Immigration officials were frustrating us and the Nigerian High Commission informed us that they have over 700 registered Nigerians willing to come back home. So, we decided to do the first batch today with 320 but by the time they registered only 20, they told us that their system broke down. In fact the Air Peace aircraft arrived South Africa at about 4.am Wednesday and was supposed to depart by 8 am but the aircraft didn’t leave until about 4:30 pm. That is about 10 to 12 hour delays which is not the fault of Air Peace. They deliberately were frustrating us as the High Commission informed us and at the end of the day, we could only airlift 187 inclusive of about 87 children.
When is the next batch going to be?
We are ready tomorrow if the South African government agrees. l was told they picked up some people and want to ask them how they entered the country in the first place. I thought these people are now leaving your country and they should have been left to go home. However, we are waiting on the Nigerian High Commission to inform us when the next batch will be.
Do you have enough pilots to embark on this project?
I have enough pilots to get into this aircraft and go back to South Africa as I talk to you. We are ready to evacuate every Nigerian to the latter and free of charge, so that we can encourage other Nigerians to always look at ourselves as one nation telling others that irrespective of our differences, nobody can bend us, nobody from outside can to separate us.