By Chinedu Eze
The Indian government yesterday commenced the evacuation of its citizens stranded in Nigeria as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The government of India celebrated the first direct flight from Nigeria when the nation’s major carrier, Air Peace, airlifted 312 if its citizens from the Murtala Muhammd International Airport (MMIA), Lagos to Kochi.
According to a tweet by the High Commission of India in Abuja, the repatriation exercise was conducted in the early hours of yesterday with the airlifting of 312 Indian nationals.
The commission revealed that the aircraft conveying the evacuees departed the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
It noted that the flight, operated by a Nigerian airline Air Peace, was the first indigenous airline to fly directly to India.
The Indian authorities appreciated the Nigerian government for its support in ensuring that the first phase of the evacuation was successful.
According to the verified twitter account of Indians in Nigeria, @india_nigeria, the “repatriation of India nationals from Nigeria began today (Sunday) with the Lagos-Kochi Air Peace flight with 312 passengers. It is the first ever Nigerian airline to fly directly to India.”
The Indians in Nigeria commended the Nigerian government, the Indian embassy in Nigeria and others that made the flight a reality.
According to information from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Air Peace flight P47812 pushed back by 1:15 am Nigerian time with 312 passengers and 15 crewmembers and was airborne by 1:28 am.
Air Peace in a statement said the 10-hour non-stop flight from Lagos to Kochi was operated with a B777 aircraft with registration number 5N-BWI.
The flight, operated by 15 crewmembers, was expected to arrive Cochin International Airport in Kerala.
The Chief Operating Officer of the airline, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Olajide, who expressed delight over the evacuation flight, thanked the Indian authorities for engaging Air Peace to operate the flight, while also giving kudos to the Nigerian government for supporting the airline in all its special flights during the lockdown.