Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, His Excellency Esmond Reid, says there is opportunity for increased trade and investment between Jamaica and Nigeria, with the commencement of direct flights between the countries.
“We are very excited about it because one of the challenges to Jamaican and Nigerian trade relations has been the absence of direct air connection,” he tells JIS News.
“We are hopeful that there will be much demand related from this and that we can look towards a more sustained framework for flights going forward,” he adds.
High Commissioner Reid helped to organise the inaugural charter flight from Lagos, which landed at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay on Monday night (Dec.21), with 132 passengers on board, including Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister, His Excellency Geoffrey Onyeama, and his wife, Sulola Onyeama.
Among those on hand to welcome the Air Peace airplane were Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, and Minister of Transport and Mining, Hon. Robert Montague.
The inaugural trip is part of a programme of activities to celebrate the golden anniversary of diplomatic relations between Jamaica and Nigeria. The two countries established diplomatic ties on April 29, 1970.
High Commissioner Reid tells JIS News that he is happy that the plans for the flights had come to fruition as other activities had to be postponed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but notes that “we will get to them as time progresses.”
The High Commissioner said the flights will pave the way for tourism, business and other opportunities between the two destinations.
He tells JIS News that the High Commission had been working with various stakeholders, including tour operators and leading airline partners to execute the initiative.
He says that Nigerians as well as Jamaicans had shown interest in the flights when they were announced.
“They had found this new opportunity that we are providing with the anniversary flights as a godsend and so they had signed up to be on this flight,” he says, noting that it also provides an opportunity for the reunion of family members of Nigerians working in Jamaica.
Meanwhile, Senator Johnson Smith, says the trip is significant, since it is taking place “against the backdrop of the major global challenges that defined 2020.”
“We hope that these flights will represent the start of a new era of robust cooperation between Jamaica and Nigeria, and ultimately Africa and the wider Caribbean,” she says.
She notes that the flights hold considerable promise not only for “increased people-to-people contacts through tourism but also for increased trade and investment opportunities.”
Minister Johnson Smith says that the two countries “have worked closely in both bilateral and multilateral contexts.”
“We can be proud of what we have achieved through our strong cooperation in areas such as energy, culture, health, education as well as social and economic development. We have also collaborated in efforts to promote global peace, security and sustainable development,” she adds.
The plane will depart on December 28 and another is expected to arrive in the island on December 30 and leave on January 6, 2021.
Visitors to the island are required to stay in the three COVID-19 resilient corridors – the North Coast from Negril to Port Antonio; the South Coast from Milk River to Negril; and the Kingston Business District (New Kingston and its environs).