By Ayo Fadimu
There was apprehension on Tuesday as the South African authority attempted to frustrate the evacuation of Nigerians willing to leave the country following the xenophobic attack on foreign nationals by denying Air Peace airline landing permit at the Oliver Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg.
However, the permit was later given to the airline following the intervention of the Nigeria’s Consul-General in Johannesburg, Godwin Adama
The Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, had raised alarm that the South Africans authorities had refused the airline landing permit in the former apartheid country
Apparently responding to questions on when the next set of Nigerians would be airlifted from the embattled country, Onyema said the airline could not take off at 1 am as planned because of the refusal of the landing permit, while efforts by the airline to get a permit from the South African authority proved abortive.
“We did not take off by 1 am as scheduled because South African authorities are yet to give us a landing permit. We are hopeful that they will give us the permit,”
He further hinted that the airline would set off for South Africa once the permit it ready.
“Our crew waited till 3:00 am but when the permit did not come, they went back to the hotel. Once we get the permit we will set off to South Africa. We don’t want to speculate but we are hopeful they will give the permit”, he said
However, following intervention of Adams, the Air Peace Flight B777 was granted landing permit.
Adama while confirming that the permit had been granted said the flight that would evacuate the distressed Nigerians would take off late in the night of Tuesday.
Adama said, “They want Nigerians to arrive during the week, they are taking-off from here midnight.
“I do not know the exact time but they will be leaving (South Africa) midnight.
“I do not know why they were denied the landing permit. I think it is an airline operational issue. They did not get it yesterday but they told me that it came late yesterday (Monday).
“It was weekend and they were going to get it this morning; the airline did not tell me it was deliberate, but they explained to me that they have gotten it.
“Our manifest arrived last night towards the close of work and they were to take-off 1a.m. Nigerian time yesterday (Monday) but they did not because it was late.
“I have gotten it now so they will be able to make me know the time of their arrival here so that we can know when to take-off.”
Adama said buses provided to convey Nigerians wanting to return home were still at the mission premises and everyone was there.
“We are still really working on the number (320) to see how we can fill up the airline capacity with anyone that is readily available.
“We have more than enough, we are even trying to ensure that the aircraft is filled up that is why we are readily taking people who are on ground now.
“We have more than enough to fill the aircraft, the delay has also helped us because as we call names to board we see some people cleared at the last minute.
“The truth is they are people who have not been cleared, those who are ready to go are all here and we are trying to queue them up.
“We may not even be able to take all of them who are hopeful,” he added.
Adama said that the next batch of evacuation would be based on the Federal Government’s directives.