The federal government has said that initial reduction of international flights into the country is to enable it test handling capacity of designated airports on resumption of flights.
Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, said however that the decision to allow four airlines each for Abuja and Lagos is a temporary measure to test capacity and preparedness of the country to handle challenges faced with COVID-19 as it affects air travel.
He, stated that the experiment would last for just two or three weeks before the doors will be open to all carriers that meet with all compliance guidelines of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to resume full operations in the country.
Sirika, who spoke at an all stakeholders webinar, on Friday said: “After two or three weeks, things will change.
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 said they cannot yet handle a specific number of flights. That is the reason we staggered the flights.
“We have done in a way that British Airways can come into Lagos today while Virgin Atlantic comes in tomorrow. I am very sure we all listened to the Director-General of NCAA that not more than four airlines would be allowed for Lagos and Abuja airports as we resume. We are coming up with a template for that.”
The Federal Government had last week disclosed that international airlines would have to alternate their operations to Nigeria as flights are expected to resume on August 29, 2020.
Aside that, the number of passengers they can bring to Lagos and Abuja has been pegged to 1280 for each of the airports.
However, a former Director- General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren urged the relevant aviation authorities to conduct mock operations for international flights for the nation to be able to benchmark its preparedness.
Meanwhile, the Director- General of NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu has said that passports of intending passengers into Nigeria would no longer be collected for safe keeping for 14 days by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). He noted that all passengers entering into the country would be required to show their COVID-19 certificates.
This, however, vitiates position held last week Thursday by the PTF in its revised quarantine protocol for persons arriving Nigeria from abroad (including returnees/ stranded Nigerians).
The revised protocol contained in a circular to all diplomatic, consular and international organisations accredited to Nigeria on the COVID-19 protocols to be observed by passengers arriving Nigeria includes depositing their passports with the Nigeria Immigration Service for two weeks, pending the verification of their COVID-19 status.
It said after all the COVID- 19 protocols had been followed, instructions would be given to the NIS to release the passports to their owners.
According to the protocol, alternative arrangements could be made to collect passports via special delivery