There has been great relieve among Nigerians and Israelis as the two countries commenced direct flights, enabling travelers from both countries to begin to enjoy five hours’ direct flight instead of the excruciating 15 hours connecting flight, ten years after Nigeria and Israel signed bilateral agreement on air Transportation. The flights, which began Thursday, April 20, is expected to open up tourism and other huge investments between the two countries which already have huge potentials to share from each other. Prof. Viola Onwuliri, former supervising Minister of Foreign Affairs, speaking during a ceremony to mark the inaugural flight, said that the gesture is an accomplishment of a process which began in 2013, during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Onwuliri said before now, it was difficult to travel to Israel, because of rigorous journey of connecting different countries which takes 13 to 15 hours, but now, the journey is just five hours and will cut cost, health risk and improve tourism and growth of economy among the countries. On airlines willing to fly the route, she said: “Air Peace remains the only Nigerian airline willing to take the task for now, however, Turkish airline was part of the agreement signed during my days in office and had established Lagos route in the past.” Onwuliri commended the efforts of Mr. John-Kennedy Okpara, former Executive Secretary, Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission, on the efforts made to ensure that this becomes a dream come true, as she said that efforts were made in the past to ensure that Nigerian pilgrims to the Holy Lands gets the best of services.
Also speaking on the occasion, Mr. Solomon Nwachukwu, Ground Handler, Nigerian pilgrims and tourists travelling to Israel, said that the Nigerian/ Israeli relationship, may grow stronger more than people had expected owing to economic benefits. Nwachukwu revealed that people who had in the past expressed fear over the 15 hours’ flight can now joyfully key in and have only five hours. He said the two countries have many things in common, especially in agriculture and other business investments. For his part, Michael Freeman, Israel Ambassador to Nigeria, stated that both Nigeria and Israel can now enjoy full benefits of the bilateral agreement signed in the past, adding that many Nigerians and Israelites can now find possible and easy ways of moving into both countries for economic benefits. He said: “Today is a historical day. It is an opportunity for people of Israel and Nigeria to be brought closer. I can tell you that what was formerly 13 to 15 hours’ journey, has been brought down to five hours. It means a huge boost for tourism, a huge boost for those who had wanted to visit the Holy Land 2000 years’ history, but couldn’t because of the cost of transportation”.