UPDATE: Emirate flight returned to Dubai because passenger went into labour, says Onyeama
UK flight on Friday not certain, he adds
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyema, on Wednesday disclosed that the Emirate Airline flight expected to evacuate Nigerians from Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, was expected in the country tonight ( Wednesday).
Speaking at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 daily briefing, he said the flight which initially took off from Dubai returned to the city because a passenger on board went into labour.
He said: “The situation with evacuation of Nigerians. As you all know, a flight is expected to come in today from Dubai. Well, it is good news and maybe not so good in a way.
“One of the passengers, a lady had a baby on the flight, or went into labour on the flight. So, the plane had to turn back. But I am happy to say that mother and child are doing very well. They are in hospital and the arrival time has been rescheduled to 7.00 p.m.
“So the flight is still expected and arrangement has been made.
“One of the big challenges that we have is that the hotels want to be paid upfront and it isn’t always that easy to manage all that but we are pushing hard and again we can’t thank enough the governor of Lagos State for helping in the process and still willing to receive. So, I am hopeful we would get the money through to them by the time the passenger arrives.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister however expressed disappointment with the British Airways expected to pick Nigerians in London on Friday.
Onyeama said it has been difficult for Nigeria to fulfill certain terms of the agreement reached with the British Airways and the Friday flight might be aborted.
“Then there is another flight that we have arranged for Friday, a British Airways from the United Kingdom but there is one or two issues that we are having there.
“Again, it is a question of payment thing. They are speaking very strictly to a timeline that is very difficult for us to manage.
“What we have done is that we have quickly arranged for another airline on standby in case the British pulled the rug from under our feet and decide that they aren’t going to proceed with the Friday flight because of certain details in the agreement. So those Nigerians that have paid, whatever happens we have plans to still bring them.
There won’t be any great loss from that point of view.”
He however dismissed insinuation that the Federal Government haD not been patronising Nigerian airlines.
Onyeama said government settled for foreign airlines to save cost since some of them like the British Airways and Emirate have initial plans to evacuate passengers from Nigeria.
“Nothing could be further from the truth that we have refused to patronise our domestic airlines. We did a bidding process and when it was decided to go and collect our nationals and we restricted it to Nigerian airlines. Of course, there were some foreign airlines that also bid but we made sure that we selected Nigerian airlines.
“So that process is ongoing because one of the issues there was again the question of payment and what government could do to subsidise with these airlines. But it points to the fact that there was an Emirate flight that was coming and there was a British Airways flight that was coming.
“The Emirate flight that was coming had nothing to do with government as I pointed out in an earlier intervention. The government of the UAE on its own initiative decided to start evacuating foreigners that were in the UAE towards different countries, not just Nigeria and informed Nigerians there who were desperate to come home that there is this Emirate flight available and it will fly once they fill up the plane.”
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