By Adegboyega Oni
The Nigerian Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika says a quick lifting of the ban on international travel without adhering to the laid down protocols of COVID-19 would amount to disaster.
But Boss Mustapha, the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, disclosed that government was working tirelessly to establish protocols that would guide the resumption of the nation’s airports for international air travels, especially as it relates to arrivals into the country.
Sirika and Mustapha stated these during a media briefing on the activities of the Task Force in Abuja yesterday.
Mustapha said all relevant government 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.
The aviation minister, who lamented that aviation was one of the worst-hit industries by COVID-19 pandemic, disclosed that a National Air Facilitation Committee has been established to work out the modalities for a safe resumption of international flight operations in the country.
The committee is made up of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigeria Customs 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.
He also 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 the 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”
“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 are in the interest of the public and the interest of all of us to fly safe”
He 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.