It is sad that some Very Important Persons (VIPs) are flouting the COVID-19 protocols put in place by the Ministry of Aviation to ensure safe air travel in Nigeria. Three of such incidents involving some prominent Nigerians reportedly occurred in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano airports. There may be some unreported cases of such infractions in some of our airports.
We condemn any breach of COVID-19 protocols by any Nigerian, no matter how highly placed in the society. It is unfortunate that such acts are coming up at a time the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of imminent surge in COVID-19 infections in Africa following the reopening of land and air borders. Such brazen acts of disobedience by those, who should know better, leaves much to be desired. The exponential rise in the infection rate of the pandemic from the first index case in February this year to over 40,000 cases in the last week of July should worry every Nigerian. Indulging in habits that will further increase the COVID-19 infections is not the best anyone can do for the country.
We recall that in line with global trends, Nigeria commenced the gradual relaxation of the ban on air travels with the resumption of domestic flights on July 8, as a way of opening the economy. Accordingly, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), rolled out measures to ensure that the disease does not escalate with the resumption of flights. Among these measures were the mandatory use of face masks, physical distancing markings, multiple screenings, early arrival at airports, no meals on board, regular decontamination of aircraft, High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters in the cabins. FAAN also banned VIP aides or welcoming parties in the terminals. To avoid crowding in and around the airports, FAAN barred loitering travel agents, taxi drivers, and roving Bureau de Change agents.
In March this year, some eminent Nigerians, including politicians returning from COVID-19 endemic countries reportedly resisted health screenings at Lagos and Abuja international airports. The unwholesome attitude might have hastened the spread of the pandemic across the country despite the six weeks of lockdown.
We call on the relevant authorities to ensure that any breach of the COVID-19 protocols by any Nigerian, no matter his or her status, is not condoned. It is good that the Minister for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has declared that no VIP will be allowed to board an aircraft without observing the prescribed directives. Stiffer punishments should be meted to those flouting the rules. The recommendation of four-month ban on those flouting the rules, in addition to their prosecution, can deter other VIPs from doing so.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 pandemic is real and portends danger to the society. Observation of the established protocols is a necessary step towards containing the pandemic. Doing so is not a favour to anybody. Any disobedience to the COVID-19 protocols must not be tolerated at all. Whatever position any person holds in the society cannot be a basis for flouting the protocols. To avoid further spread of the pandemic, we enjoin all citizens, especially the VIPs, to observe the protocols.
Any prominent Nigerian who flouts the rules should be dealt with according to the laws of the land. Elsewhere, leading public officials and highly placed individuals lead the COVID-19 campaigns. Nigeria should not be an exception. Our so-called big men and women must show good example in observing the COVID-19 protocols. If they do so, we believe that other Nigerians will follow suit. Available statistics on the pandemic have shown that it is no respecter of persons. It afflicts the rich and the poor. It does not discriminate. The disease has affected many Nigerians, including government officials. Some of them have died on account of the disease. Therefore, no effort should be spared to curb its further spread.