The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has called on the Nigerian Government to urgently announce a comprehensive travel restriction to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic in the country. The AON gave the charge on Tuesday at the end of a strategic response meeting held with aviation and health authorities in Lagos.
They argued that only two entry points – Lagos and Abuja – should be opened for Nigerian travellers coming into the country as well as foreign nationals of countries that have over 100 cases of the novel coronavirus.
The operators also called on the Ministry of Aviation to take a cue from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by directing the various agencies under its supervision to immediately put in place and extend critical palliative measures to Nigerian airline operators in order to reduce the burden of “colossal” losses they have suffered.
At the meeting were the Chief executives of all Aviation agencies including the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigeria’s Representative to ICAO, members of Port Health and Chief Executives of Airlines and Helicopter operators.
The meeting was aimed at developing and implementing measures to prevent the influx of the virus into the country as well as curbing its spread.
Speaking at the meeting, the Chairman of AON, Capt. Nogie Meggison, noted that Nigeria is the only country without a strict measure in place to curb the influx of people into the country.
He said restriction of flights would allow for “effective deployment of critical medical support staff and utilization of thermal scanners and other resources as well as promote proper monitoring of those entering the country through our airports by members of the Port Health Services that are already overstretched.”
He said: “Nigeria is about the only country in Africa yet to take a decisive action by putting in place strict measures to stop the inflow of the virus into our shores. “We can say for sure that if the situation escalates in Nigeria, other countries of the world would not hesitate to stop us from flying into their country.
“We would like to appeal to the government to stand tall by putting Nigeria first at this time and take an immediate action by restricting travel into Nigeria. “May I propose that Government should immediately reduce entry points into the country to Lagos and Abuja airports only.”
The AON Chairman cited examples of countries in Africa that had taken action to include Kenya, Rwanda, Egypt, South Africa, Ghana, Guinea, Angola, Morocco, Chad and Tanzania. He therefore called for an immediate action to reduce the number of entry points so as to be able to effectively control the influx of people into the country as AON members are willing to offer their services to distribute travellers around the country from the two entry points.
He added that palliative measures for airlines should be deployed to alleviate the challenge faced by the airlines as a result of the COVID-19 challenge.
“Just yesterday, March 16, 2020, the Central Bank of Nigeria issued a statement acknowledging the adverse impact of the virus on the global and Nigerian economies and announced a moratorium of one year on all principal repayments of intervention loans effective March 1, 2020; reduced interest rates from 9 to 5 percent per annum for one year; and created a N50 billion targeted credit facility to cushion the impact of the virus on businesses,” Megisson added.