House honours Onyema, chooses Air Peace as preferred airline

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*Air Peace chairman and chief executive officer, Mr. Allen Onyema, speaker of the House of representatives, Mr. femi Gbajabiamila and minority leader, House of Representatives, Mr. Ndudi Elumelu.

The House of Representatives has commended the chairman and chief executive officer of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema for showing uncommon patriotism for the plight of Nigerian victims of xenophobia in South Africa.

The lawmakers stated this on Wednesday when the House invited Onyema to appear before it in recognition of his magnanimity in deploying his aircraft to evacuate Nigerians who were being attacked in South Africa.

Speaker of the house, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila described Onyema’s gesture as a “rare show of patriotism.”

He said the house will recommend him to the federal government for further honour.

He explained that the honour was in recognition Onyema’s selfless service to Nigeria and Nigerians by evacuating citizens who were endangered in South Africa.

He said it was “one of our epic moments in the chamber…for us to recognise Nigerians who have risen to the call of patriotic duty.”

“Yesterday, the House moved for the admittance into the chamber in a very rare case – hardly do we entertain or invite people into the chamber. But yesterday, unanimously, we moved for the admission into chamber, in recognition of his selfless and patriotic service to our country and to our brothers and sisters in South Africa, Mr. Allen Onyema, chairman and managing director of Air Peace airline. I believe that we are all witnesses to what he has done for our brothers and sisters in the last couple of weeks.

“We have seen the scenes of Nigerians on television being reunited with their families and friends; the emotional scenes 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 business, and at no cost – and I dare say at a loss – deploy his aircraft to bring back our brothers and sisters who were facing imminent danger in South Africa.

“This, we thought, was a feat that should be commended. And we hereby commend Mr. Allen Onyema and recommend him to the federal government for higher honours in Nigeria,” said Gbajabiamilla.

Thereafter, the chairman of house committee on army, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, moved a motion that Onyema should be honored with a higher national award and that members should make Air Peace their favorite airline.

“In view of what a good number have said here and the good works of Barrister Onyema, I want to suggest that the National Assembly, do recommend to Mr. President for a national honour for this great Nigerian. If you go out of the shores of this country, you will realise that a lot of people look at us differently; today, his action has contributed to rewriting the history,” he said.

In his response, Onyema said the motivation for his gesture was to mitigate the hardship faced by Nigerians in South Africa.

“You have brought tears to my eyes again. I have never been so honoured in my life,” Onyema said amidst ovation by the legislators.

ThisDay reports that the airline chief restated his commitment to continue to get Nigerians out of South Africa.

“I want to tell you that Air Peace is ready to repatriate Nigerians. We are ready to go into South Africa as long as there is one single Nigerian remaining in that country to be evacuated and we are doing it free of charge because money is not everything.”

“The kind of support we have gotten from Nigerians through your commendations and everything gladdens our heart to the extent that my pilot and my cabin crew stood out there for 24 hours because they (South African authorities) were trying to frustrate us. They didn’t want us to evacuate. They pleaded with the Nigerian High Commission not to do it; but they told them that they can’t stop these private citizens.

“Those cabin crew stood up for 24 hours and they delayed us for 15 hours before allowing us to do the first evacuation.”

“In the last one week, this country has bonded, in the last one week this nation 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, soon enough shall we not have a nation. It is only when we start fighting for each other as against what is happening now can we have a nation. I believe in nationalism as against sectionalism.

“If you encounter a Nigerian, the first thing he says is I’m Hausa, I’m Igbo, I’m this. This country is blessed with 370 ethnic nationalities, not 250 that make up this country. That is a recipe for strength. Can we decide this day to annex this strength in diversity?” he added.

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