By Suleiman Umaru
For weeks , there have been rumours making the rounds that Hadi Serika, a Katsina state born politician, and minister of Aviation, has given the nod to Musa Shaibu Nuhu, Director General, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority , NCCA, to reopen the Nigerian Air space for resumption of International Flights into the country.
Based on the ministerial approval, the agency had set August 29, 2020, for the International airlines to resume their flight operations into the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT and Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos, for a start.
The two International airports and others, across the country were shut down on March 23, 2020, following the Wuhan Town in Hebei province of the Asian country of China, emerged coronavirus, COVID 19. The pandemic had spread to 214 countries including Nigeria, where over 54,oo patients, were said to have contacted with the disease leaving on its throes hundreds of death as about 40,000 patients were said to have recovered from the disease, according to the Nigerian Center for Disease and Control, NCDC.
Ever since NCCA, gave signal of reopening the two major International airports in the country, there had been jubilation in Aviation circles as Passengers are filled with happiness. Feelers from the Asian country of China, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirate, UAE, and the North American country of the United states , shows that the airlines operators are Competing for Nigerian Passengers.
This is because of the ministerial directive that only four International flights would be allowed to land at the two approved International airports daily as a way of controlling the flights into the country in this trying times and also stop fresh spike of COVID 19, .
Some of the International airlines which were said to have been losing millions of dollar since the pandemic paralysed air travels were said to have taken the advantage of the reopening of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport , and the MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos, to resume flight into Nigeria.
Luthansa, the German, airline giant , and one of the Foreign airlines , which had dominated the Nigerian Aviation industry over the years which was said to be losing $1.1 million per hour as the coronavirus paralyses air travels over the last five months, have concluded arrangement to resume operation into Nigeria.
The other airlines are the popular British airways, Emirate of the United Arab Emirate, UAE ,and the Ethiopian Airline. These major airlines are now jostling for the Nigerian market. While the airlines had concluded arrangement to resume flight into Nigeria based on the August 29, 2020 date, news broke out that the NCCA, had shifted the date of resumption of International flights into the two approved International airports to September 5, 2020, thus forcing the airlines to cancel their schedule flights into Nigeria. It was a big blow to many f the air travelers as they were forced to go back to their Hotel. Staff
Nuhu, the NCCA, Director General had said that the agency was encouraged to take the decision to extend the resumption date for International flights into the country’s reopened airports by one week because the non-aviation logistics were not ready to operate like the airports and airlines.
The airlines have to jostle for the Nigeria market for now because the planes that connect the world, unite families and open people’s eye to the horizon s are almost entirely grounded. The Value News findings shows that there are currently about 17,000 aircrafts parked at airports. around the world, This may have informed why the UK, Civil Aviation Authority , CAA, has taken steps to prevent the backlog of expired Credentials from undermining attempts to get the planes back in the air.
Given the long time the aircrafts had parked at tarmac around the world, many believe that there are clear logistical problems that may be involved with getting thousands of these aircrafts back into service and ensuring enough pilots and technicians to go around.
As at March 1, 2010, there were between 175,000 and 180,000 flights per day. Those flights were said to dropped significantly to 64,522 flights per day as tracked on March 29, 2020. The pandemic was said to have forced he drop further to between 10,000 and 15, 000 flights per day in the recent time.
The situation in Nigerian is worrisome as he airline operators which had made arrangements to put their plane back on air in nNieria air space are worried that the agreed date will be shifted again. This may have force the NCCA boss to speak out by assuring the airline operators and industry stakeholders that ‘’the September 5, 2020, date for resumption of international flights into Nigeria remain the sacrosanct date’’, meaning that the goal post would not be shifted again.
Insider information disclosed that Boss Mustapha , Chairman, Presidential Task, PTF, on COVID 19, and Sani Aliyu, The Coordinator, were instrumental for the extension by one week of the resumption of the International flights into the two approved International airports located at Abuja and Ikeja, Lagos, the nation’s Commercial hub center.
Aliyu Statement at the Monday COVID 19, briefing at the FCT, speaks volume. He had stated that ‘’the government is committed to the safety and security of Nigerians’’, which gave an insight why the August 29, 2020, initially fixed for resumption of International Flights into the two approved International airports in Abuja and Lagos , was extended by one additional week.
The COVID 19, Coordinator, may have confirmed the Task Force , involvement in facilitating the extension of the resumption of International flights into the country when he said ‘’the PTF is working with the relevant stakeholders in the Aviation sector to ensure that the country does not witness a fresh spike of infections He may have alluded to the NCCA and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN. The PTF on COVID 19, according to sources has put in place guidelines to flatten the curve that would make the country COVID 19 free.
Aliyu, the PTF, Coordinator On COVID 19, may have sent to have sent a signal to the International airline operators and the air travelers that it is no longer going to be business as usual, when he said ‘’those who fail to comply with the country guidelines on COVID 19, would be sanction. The Magazine gathered that the PTF officials, had already put in place measures to enforce the guidelines to ensure compliance ranging from suspending travels up to six months or deny Foreign travels altogether.
As part of the sanctions, the airlines were not pared . ‘’Any airline that allow Passengers without COVID 19 PCR result to board their aircraft, would be sanctioned on arrival in Nigeria’’, he had said. This may have informed why the airline operators are now insisting that Passengers must produce the PCR, before boarding any of their aircrafts flying to Nigeria to avoid playing into the hands of the PTF on COVID 19,tEam, NCCA,the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS or the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, that may lead to grounding of their aircrafts and payment of penalty.
Going by the new guidelines that were said to have been put in place by the COVID 19 Task Force, ‘’Passengers entering Nigeria ‘’must undergo the mandatory test to ascertain their COVID 19, status’’. The bad news for the Nigerian travelers this time around is that anyone found to have symptoms of the pandemic will not be granted entry into any aircraft taking off from any of the country’s International airports even after getting a medical report that indicates that they are free from the disease.
Recall that Aliyu had stated the details of Passengers COVID 19 result would be forwarded to the Pr tHealth , NIS , and part of the security services at the airport for necessary action.