Nigeria’s government has said the country will soon reopen its airspace to international flight operations in a gradual process after about four months of closure due the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to aviationages.com, Mr. Boss Mustapha, the Chairman of Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said this while speaking at the daily briefing of the PTF in Abuja.
He said, “It’s important to ensure that restrictions are not completely relaxed to control transmission.
“It is also important that at this Community Transmission Phase of the pandemic sub-national governments step up to take more responsibilities by owning the response.
“To sustain gains already made, therefore, the PTF recommended to the President the retention of the current phase of the response with minor changes to address economic, socio-political, and health concerns.
“It is, however, important to inform you that the major changes being proposed are aimed at achieving: Gradual re-opening of international air flights within established parameters.”
Expatiating on the intercontinental and intra-continental restart, the National Coordinator of PTF on Covid-19, Dr. Sanni Aliyu said passengers would arrive three hours before flights when the country’s airspace finally reopens for international operations.
“We have modified the protocol for passenger arrivals at the airports. Domestic passengers arriving at the airports are advised to arrive one hour before their flights and three hours before international flights – when this restarts.”
He said there may be additional infrastructures for some airports. “Hopefully in weeks but not months,” he added.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, while responding to questions at the briefing said, “On the question about the reopening of the airports, I would like to use this medium to reiterate and to be consistent with what we’ve been saying. I want people to understand that this is not purely an aviation function.
“It also has to do with our health and is so huge that it made Mr. President in his wisdom to set up the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. This is in the nation’s interest.”
The minister said operators in the civil aviation sector had wanted to open the airports a long time ago to return to business and halt the loss of revenue.
Sirika said: “We in the civil aviation want to open like yesterday. We are bleeding, we are sacking our workers and we are not paying salaries. You must pay airfares for us to pay salaries.”
He said, “So we really want to open. But we can’t open alone, for within the space where we operate we’ve got all kinds of people there in the airports.
“We’ve got immigration, police, Customs, civil defense, port health, etc, and so the PTF has set up a technical committee to come up with a date when everybody will be happy to start.”
The minister added, “So we will open as soon as all of us are happy to open. And I want to adopt what the coordinator has said; it will be in weeks rather than in months.”
Sirika urged Nigerians not to blame any government official for the ban on international flights. Rather the blame should be on COVID-19, he said.
“We are doing everything we can to reopen. We know this closure of airports has rather separated families and friends, has denied access to schools, businesses, and so on,” he said.
He insisted that the prolonged ban on international flights was not on purpose but was to ensure that Nigerians remained safe.