Max Air on Tuesday confirmed that beginning from today (Wednesday), it would commence the evacuation of Nigerians who were left stranded by the Russia-Ukraine war.
But Air Peace, on the other hand, said it had not started the evacuation process, stressing that this would be made public soon.
The General Manager, Operations, Max Air, Raymond Omodiagbe, told news correspondent that the Federal Government had requested the airline to carry out the task and that the carrier was set to begin.
He said, “We have been assigned and we are on it. We’ve been airlifting pilgrims to Hajj and doing chartered operations for many years. So, we are not new to this.
“So, understand that we have been commissioned and we will depart tomorrow (Wednesday). We are operating tomorrow and it is to start bringing in the people.”
Asked to state the number of flights or airplanes that would be deployed for the operation, Omodiagbe replied, “We are doing it one at a time.”
When asked to state when Air Peace would start evacuating Nigerians as required by the Federal Government, a spokesperson of the airline, Stanley Olisa, said it would be communicated soon.
“We have not started but specifics will be disclosed soon,” he told our correspondent.
The Federal Government had on Monday said it would on Wednesday begin the evacuation of about 2,000 Nigerians who have fled the war in Ukraine to neighbouring countries.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who disclosed this in an interview on a Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme, revealed the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had approved funds for the airlines to evacuate Nigerians.
When asked if the number of evacuees was about 2,000, and when the evacuation would take place, he said, “Wednesday hopefully…Air Peace and Max Air.”
He said there were about 8,000 Nigerians in Ukraine, 5,000 of whom were students, adding that the Federal Government had tipped Air Peace and Air Max to airlift the Nigerians who wanted to be evacuated.
Earlier, Onyeama while briefing the House of Representatives on the evacuation efforts, he stated, “We made Romania the hub and over a thousand Nigerians have crossed there. Poland has about 250, Budapest in Hungary has a similar number, Slovakia is rising rapidly. It is also around 200. There are some Nigerians in a place called Sumy close to the Russian border.
“I have been in touch with the ambassador. There are about 150 of them who are looking to cross into Russia and we have asked the ambassador in Russia to try and get a permit for them to transit to Russia and hopefully by Wednesday we will start deploying planes to start bringing the Nigerians,” the minister said.
Onyeama argued that it was not the sole duty of the Federal Government to evacuate Nigerians that were stranded abroad because this was not the global practice. He said people who use their own money to travel abroad ought to be able to return home by themselves.