NIGERIAN lawmakers Wednesday recommended the chief executive officer of an airline, Air Peace, Allen Onyema for “higher” national honour.
“We hereby commend Mr Allen Onyeama and recommend him to the federal government for higher honours in Nigeria,” Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila said.
Onyema volunteered to use Air Peace to evacuate Nigerians from South Africa after renewed xenophobic violence saw foreign-owned businesses attacked and looted earlier in September.
Gbajabiamila said Onyema’s gesture to his fellow citizens was heroic.
The lawmakers before the close of Tuesday plenary deliberated on recommending Onyema for a national award but yet to reach an agreement on the suggestion.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari then ordered the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa through the airline.
On Wednesday, September 11 about 185 Nigerians returned from South Africa. Another set of 319 Nigerians are expected to return to Nigeria Wednesday, September 18 after it was initially denied landing South African authorities.
Onyema said his decision to offer his airline was an act of patriotism and not of any other motives.
He insisted that it was not the first time he was making a contribution to the nation’s development and highlighted his role in restoring peace to the Niger Delta in the heat of militancy in the region.
“I expended more than this pursuing the issue of the Niger Delta question when there was violent militancy in the Niger Delta. I was the one who brought non-violence education into this country for the first time in order to address the issue of violent militancy,” Onyema said.
Onyema dismissed suggestions that Air Peace will suspend evacuation flights, stating instead that Air Peace is willing to deploy a bigger aircraft with a capacity for 367 passengers to bring home Nigerians willing to leave South Africa.