The Anambra State government has praised the founder and chairman of Nigeria’s biggest airline, Mr Allen Onyema, for what it called his unprecedented patriotic gesture in bringing back free of charge yesterday 147 Nigerians from South Africa afraid of their safety in the ongoing xenophobic attacks against African and Asian immigrants in the rainbow nation.
The commendation is contained in a statement today in Awka, the Anambra State capital, by the state Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr C. Don Adinuba, who explained that the government decided to commend Mr Onyema after a meeting in the Governor’s Lodge this afternoon at which Governor Willie Obiano presided.
Adinuba explained that the “huge humanitarian gesture is the latest in a series of philanthropic activities by the Air Peace chairman which Governor Obiano recognized in his public declaration last July 2 when he stated that Mr Onyema was driven by sheer patriotism rather than profit by starting direct flights into Shirjah and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates at less than 50% of the tariffs charged by foreign carriers”.
The Anambra State government noted that “no persons, not even our suffering and frightened people in South Africa, sought free flights when Chief Onyema decided to offer one of his planes to the former apartheid country to bring our distressed people home at no charge to them.
“The flight must have cost him at least N50m in view of the fact that the machine spent an additional two nights at Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, causing the airline to pay more to the South African aviation authorities.
“We also note that Chief Onyema didn’t know any of the persons he lifted all the way from Johannesburg free. He was only moved by sheer patriotism and love of humanity, especially the downtrodden and the distressed.
“As is already well known, Chief Onyema went into airline business five years ago to create jobs for Nigerians, enhance business opportunities in the industry for our citizens and enhance Nigeria’s presence in global business.
“He exemplifies the principle of solidarity with the human family and commitment to the common good”.
The Anambra State government, while encouraging the Federal Government to do everything within its power to bring back as soon as possible over 500 Nigerians who have signified interest in leaving South Africa immediately, thanked all Nigerians for supporting the Federal Government’s robust response to the latest wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
“The Nigerian people are far more united than most people seem to appreciate”, Adinuba quoted Governor Obiano as observing, adding, “It is only when we act as one united family that we make progress and the world takes more seriously”.