By Stephen Ubanna
While Godwin Emefiele, governor of Central Bank of Nigerian, CBN, and Chairman of the Bankers Committee, Comprising of all the Managing Directors of the Money Deposit Banks, MDBs, are no longer thinking about layoff and sack in banks because of the Wuhan Town in the Hebei Province of the Asian country of China emerged Coronavirus, popular, COVID 19, Hadi Sirika, a Katsina state born politician and minister of Aviation is not a happy person.
Sirika’s source of unhappiness was informed by the fact that no fewer than 125,000 workers in the nation’s aviation sector would be thrown into the job market because of the pandemic which had forced the indigenous airline Operators to ground their operation in the last one month.
The problem of the indigenous airline operators was said to have started with the shutdown of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Rivers state, Akanu Ibian International Aiirport, Enugu and Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, for flight operations.
The case of the indigenous airline operators may have been made worse with the Presidential lock down of Lagos, the nation’s Commercial center, described as the epicenter of the disease, FCT and Ogun, because of its proximity to Lagos, to curb the spread of the pandemic in the country. The fallout was that the airlines were said to have lost billions of naira in the last one month of low activity as the prominent ones could not be chartered for international assignments by the government such as evacuation of Nigerians abroad due to one reason or the other.
Take for instance the current evacuation of 4000 Stranded Nigerians in the North American country of the United States, US, United Kingdom, Europe, Middle East and China where the indigenous airline operators could have made some good money but could not be allowed to open up for operations after closing for several weeks.
The ministry of Foreign Affairs under the close watch of Geofrey Onyeama was forced to charter the United Arab Emirate, UAE, British and Ethiopian Airlines Aircrafts for the assignment. Although, the minister had kept as a closely guided secret the cost implication of bringing back the returnees, but he has made Nigerians to understand that the indigenous airlines had lost over N17 billion in the last one month which include the money that could have been paid to THE airlines which could have participated in the evacuation of the Foreign based returnees.
The most readily mentioned indigenous airlines that could have participated in the evacuation process of the Nigerian returnees but lost out were Air Peace, Arik Air and Aero Contractors. These three indigenous airlines , according to Aviation sources , are the highest employer of Labour in the nation’s aviation sector. Insiders said they may experience the highest number of Staff layoff as the airlines could no longer muster enough Funds to maintain their current Staff strength because of the impact of COVID 19 on the economy.
Note that in 2019, Air Peace , which had in a working arrangement with the ministry of Foreign Affairs, had deployed its Boeing 707, for the evacuation of 640 Nigerians from South Africa following the Xenophobic violence in the country. Recall that here were the Emirates, British and Ethiopian Airlines, which were still running their scheduled flights and had air worthy planes that could be chartered at that time but the ministry gave the International assignment to Air Peace, which is an indigenous Airline to do.
Notwithstanding the number of weeks that Air Peace , Arik, ero Contractors and other indigenous airlines have been out of Service in the country, Sirika, the minister of Aviation , may have spoken the mind of President Muhammadu Buhari, when he said, ‘’we will bring them back into service, we will ensure that they are air worthy and they can make both local and International flights safely’’.
The minister was said to have appealed to the indigenous airline Operators to take advantage of the pandemic period to renew their operating licenses which will fall due within this period instead of thinking that they will just pick up their bags and continue from where they stopped if the Airports are reopened for Flight operations again. This is because they must conform to all International Standards to ensure that they are Safe to operate in terms of their health and proficiency to be able to conduct a Safe flight.
In a related development , there are signs that the indigenous airlines may remain grounded for a long time as there are fears that the Katsina born Nigerian President may extend the lock down in the two major cities of Lagos and FCT, including Ogun state, because of the daily increase of the COVID 19 infections in the country. The NCDC, under the close watch of Chikwe Ihekweazu, may have given a signal to that effect of asking people to go back to their homes as they have failed to learn anything from the agency and World Health Organisation, WHO, Social Distancing regulations.
The agency has made it clear to those that cares to listen that ‘’Face Mask alone is not a form of protection because the virus is primarily spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks’’. It is not surprising why those infected by the disease are on the increase in the country in the recent time. On Thursday, May 7, 2020, the Nigerian health agency confirmed that there are 381 new cases of the infections thus bring the total number of the infected patients in the country to 3,526 patients, barely three days after the Boss Mustapha , Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID 19 and Secretary to the government of the Federation gave the governors of Lagos, Ogun and Muhammed Bello, minister of the FCT, the nod to start the phased implementation of easing of the lock down as promised by the President.
The bad news was that Lagos alone produced 183 new COVID 19 patients which had been blamed on the relaxation of the lockdown in the state. This may have shut up the total number of confirmed COVID 19 infected persons in the state since February 27, 2020, to 1, 491, or 42.3 percent of the 3,526 cases in the country.
Tasuku Honjo, a Japanese Professor of Physiology and a Nobel Laurete winner, had said that the disease is not natural. The Professor had argued that if it is natural , it would not have affected the whole world as it had done. He averred that if it is natural as argued in several quarters , it could only have survived in countries with the same temperature as China. Instead it spreads to countries like Switzerland, the same way it spreads to countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Given an insider knowledge of his research on animals and viruses, the Professor maintains that the disease was manufactured and that the virus is completely artificial. He disclosed that he had worked for four years in the Wuhan Laboratory in China, suspected to created the enabling environment for the disease to thrive the country and knew all the Staff very well.
He regretted that three months after the Coronavirus emergence in the Asian country, all their phones went dead, fueling speculations that the Laboratory technicians who could have known something on how to deal with disease are all dead. The Professor may be sending a message to the WHO, the UN, health agency that only China , has the key to the cure of COVID 19.
The UN, health agency recents reports that the world was counting COVID 19 infections of 3,918.678 persons. It had been reported as of April21,2020, that over 35,000 health workers were infected by the disease. The number, according to the agency sources are significantly higher because of underreporting.
The health agency also disclosed that 1,344,579, had recovered from the disease, leaving 2,303,316, across Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South American and Australia currently infected by the disease. The agency had reported that the COVID 19 had killed 270,765 persons , across the world between December 31, 2019 and now.