The Minister of aviation in Nigeria, Sen. Hadi Sirika, has announced the resumption of international flights from the 29th of August, 2020. The flights he stated would begin with Lagos and Abuja, as did with the domestic flight resumption.
According to him, protocols and procedures will be announced in due course, as he thanked travelling public for their patience over the much awaited resumption.
The minister said passengers must take a COVID-19 test wherever they are coming from very close to departure dates.
International fligts are expectd to resume in Nigeria. Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, receives most of Nigeria’s about 15 million passengers annually
He also emphasised the importance of ensuring the monitoring and control of the spread of the COVID-19 as he noted that another COVID-19 test will be carried out eight days after arrival in Nigeria.
“A portal will also be opened for passengers to pay for another COVID-19 test to be done eight days after arrival in Nigeria. They will also fill in health questionnaires online, and hand them in at the point of entry, instead of filling the forms on the aircraft or on arrival,” Sen. Sirika said.
The Minister noted that non-pharmaceutical measures including physical distancing, wearing of nose masks, washing of hands, and temperature checks will remain in place.
Nigeria remains an important aviation market for many large global carriers, foreign visitors and millions of international travellers, all of whom have waited anxiously to travel to or from Nigeria.
Nigeria lifted the ban on domestic flights some weeks ago, which is expected to be complemented by the expected resumption of international flights in Nigeria from August 29, 2020.
Towards the end of July, Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 had said that government was working tirelessly to establish the protocols that would guide the resumption of international air travels.
Mr. Boss Mustapha, Chairman Presidential Task Force, at a media briefing, had stated that all relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies were collaborating to achieve this, bearing in mind the importance of international air travels to the economic development of the nation.
Sen. Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, had then disclosed that a National Air Facilitation Committee had been established to work out the modalities for a safe resumption of international flight operations in the country.
The committee was made up of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigeria Custom Service (NCS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Airport Security Committee, Ground Handlers Association, Directorate of State Security Service (DSS), Freight forwarders association, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Committee and the Quarantine service.
The Minister lamented that aviation was one of the worst hit by COVID-19 pandemic, and noted that a quick lifting of ban of international travel without adhering to the laid down protocols would amount to disaster.
Sen. Hadi Sirika bemoaned the harrowing experience and downturn in the economy of Nigeria and by extension, its impact on aviation which has made it extremely difficult for many organizations to pay salaries.
“The committee will meet today to further discuss the protocols for the re-opening. Certainly, aviation is worst hit with this. There must be passengers’ movement for us to be able to survive. We have said here on this here that salaries are becoming difficult for us to pay,” Sen. Sirika added.
“So, we want to open more than you want us to open. We have been living with the question of when we are going to open. This is subject to so many factors and all of these sacrifices that we are making is in the interest of the public and the interest of all of us to fly safe,” Sen. Sirika stated.
The Minister also debunked insinuations that airspace in Europe and other places had re-opened saying it was not true that Nigeria was the one holding down the return of international operations.
“Like I said, if it is on us, we would open yesterday. If we open, we will make more money to enable us carry out all our activities. The purpose of us is to be able to judge what is safe for our citizens of our country. Please, bear with the situation. We feel your pain. We understand it as much as you do. We know that some people are cut away from their families, businesses, but this is an act of God,” Sen. Sirika noted.
“This is force majeure. Please, bear with the situation. We are very responsible people. We will open only when it is the right time to open and I am sure it will be sooner than later.”
“There is also a meeting at the Ministry of Interior where all the stakeholders will also meet and discuss analyze and review the protocols and they will announce when it is safe to open. This is the similar way we went to open domestic flights. Having opened domestic flights, we found out that some of the domestic airports were not ready and we didn’t open them and we can see that over 80 per cent of the airports are opened. So, therefore, international airports for international travel will be opened, and it will be soon”, Sen. Sirika noted added.
The Minister had equally denied reports that some highly placed citizens try to smuggle people across borders in the name of evacuation flights, noting that it would be wrong to stop people from coming back home.