65 Israeli passengers were airlifted from the Lagos airport and 209 passengers from the Abuja airport on board flights operated by Air Peace Boeing 777-300 with registration number 5N-BWI.
Israel said the evacuation is necessary because of fears of increasing spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, so the citizens would be taken home where there are better medical facilities and personnel.
Air Peace Chairman and CEO, Mr Allen Onyema called the evacuation “historic’ because it was the first time a Nigeria owned airline is making a direct flight to Israel on the request of the Israeli government.
“It is a historic day for both Nigeria and Israel. History has been made today. 60 years of diplomatic relations, no direct flight has been conducted between Nigeria and Israel till today. So this is the first time Nigeria and Israel will have direct air connectivity.
“So it is a historic day and it is going to portend greater things that will come. Both countries have a lot to gain by having direct flights. Nigeria is a land of huge potential, which Israel may be willing to tap into, while Nigeria will want to tap into science and technology, which Israel is known for.
“I really want to thank the federal government of Nigeria for making this possible. Previous administrations were unable to pull this through, but this government did it. We have a compassionate government; that I can tell you. It is difficult to get flight permits even during this critical period of emergencies from other countries, but Nigeria did not waste a second to approve this flight.
“The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, approved the request the moment it was presented to him. All the heads of aviation agencies gave their support, which made the flight possible. So it is the federal government that made the evacuation possible,” Onyema said.
Mr. Onyema also noted that it was the start of greater things for the two countries: “This is good for our diplomatic relations”.
“So I feel proud, I fell privileged to be part of this history and I thank God Almighty for it. We have to build from here now going forward,” the Air Peace Chairman said.
He expressed optimism in the plans to schedule direct flights to Tel-Aviv in the near future.
The Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Shimon Ben-Shoshan, expressed happiness for the successful evacuation of his country’s citizens from Nigeria and commended the Chairman of Air Peace for his invaluable contribution in making the airlift possible.
“Thank you so much for this cooperation with us. We will work together. During this operation I will work with you hand by hand. I can say that you are the darling of the Nigerian people but you are my hero. Thank you so much,” Ben-Shoshan said.