The House of Representatives on Wednesday held a session in honour of the Chairman of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, for the free air services offered by his airline to the Federal Government for the evacuation of Nigerians in South Africa.
The Nigerians were evacuated from South Africa over xenophobic attacks in that country.
Also, the House passed a resolution asking President Muhammadu Buhari to give a national award to Onyema in recognition of his patriotism, which the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, asked the Clerk to the House, Patrick Giwa, to transmit to Buhari immediately.
The lawmakers also vowed to give the first priority to Air Peace when flying to any part of the country.
The Speaker, shortly after saying the opening prayers, asked that the Order Paper for Wednesday’s plenary be temporarily suspended to allow the lawmakers to receive Onyema for recognition.
Gbajabiamila asked the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, to move that Onyema be allowed into the chamber.
As the Chief Whip, Mohammed Monguno, ushered the Air Peace boss into the chamber, several lawmakers embraced and shook hands with him.
The Speaker hailed Onyema for his patriotism, saying the lawmakers had recommended the Air Peace boss for Federal Government’s recognition.
Gbajabiamila said, “I believe that we are all witnesses to what he has done for our brothers and sisters in the last couple of weeks. We watched the scenes of Nigerians on TV being reunited with their families and friends; the emotional scenes was brought about or made possible by only one man among many men; a businessman who is into business like every other businessman to make money, but who sacrificed his wealth and business, and at no cost – and I dare say at a loss – deployed his aircraft to bring back our brothers and sisters who were facing danger in South Africa.
“This is a feat that should be commended. And we hereby commend Mr Allen Onyema and recommend you to the Federal Government for higher honour in Nigeria.”
The lawmakers gave Onyema a standing ovation when called upon to address them.
“You have brought tears to my eyes again. I have never been so honoured in my life,” Onyema said in the opening of his speech.
The Air Peace boss told the House that the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa has brought respect to Nigeria across the world. He also stated that South Africa was suffering dearly for the attacks by its citizens on non-citizens. He said flights were now going to South Africa empty and while stocks in the country were falling.
“That singular act has brought so much respect for Nigeria worldwide,” he said.
The Air Peace boss said the pressure on South Africa forced the country to apologise to Nigeria and other African countries.
“It wouldn’t have happened if the evacuation hadn’t take place,” he said.
According to him, xenophobia will die a natural death in South Africa.
The Air Peace boss noted that he had been previously involved in national projects, urging other wealthy Nigerians to be philanthropic.
He said, “The kind of support we have got from Nigerians through commendations and everything gladden our hearts to the extent that my pilot and cabin crew stood for 24 hours because they (South African authorities) tried to frustrate us. They didn’t want us to evacuate, they pleaded with the Nigerian High Commission not to do it. But they (the commission) told them that they (South African authorities) could not stop the private citizens. They delayed us for 15 hours before allowing us to do the first evacuation.
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“In the last one week, this country has bonded. No more Hausa, no more Yoruba, no more Igbo. Let me use this opportunity to plead with all of you here, the representatives of our people; as long as we fight against each other, we shall not have a nation. It is only when we start fighting for each other that can we have a nation.”