The Federal Government has said airports would be reopened to international flights in some weeks and not in months as earlier assumed. Passengers are expected to arrive the airport three hours before their flights when international flights do resume.
The government said the extended ban on international travels was primarily to ensure the safety of Nigerians from the spread of COVID-19. The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, revealed this in Abuja at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
He said, “On the question about the reopening of the airports, I will 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 interest of the nation.”
The minister also said operators in the civil aviation sector had desired to open the airports a long time ago in order so as to resume business and halt the loss of revenue. Sirika said the ban on international flights had led to mass sacking of workers in the aviation sector and non-payment or reduction of salaries by airlines.
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 also 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 encouraged Nigerians to support government official for the ban on international flights, since COVID-19 necessitated the response.
“We feel your pain. We know that this closure of airports has separated families and friends, denied people access to hospitals abroad, schools, businesses, etc. We feel this pain,” he said.
The PTF National Coordinator said the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, other agencies and airlines, should initiate the process for the resumption of international flights.
“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 some of the airports may receive additional infrastructure.
“Hopefully in weeks but not months,” he added.