Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Ndubuisis Orji, Abuja and Chinelo Obogo
The Federal Government said it has begun investigating the flouting of COVID-19 protocol put in place at three domestic airports of country by VIPs, warning that if found guilty, they will either go to jail of two months and above or pay a fine.
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, gave the warning at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, yesterday.
He spoke against the backdrop of reports that Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State allegedly flouted COVID-19 protocol at the domestic wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Rivers State.
FAAN had accused Governor Fintiri of refusing to observe the airport security and public health protocols by refusing to have his temperature checked or sanitised by the health officials.
The agency said Fintiri arrived Port Harcourt International Airport aboard aircraft 5N-IZY at 17:08 hrs on 14th July 2020 with eight people in his entourage who did exactly as he did.
Fintiri’s team was also reported to have driven right through the barricades up to the terminal building ignoring traffic and aviation security instructions when they came to receive him.
The agency said the governor’s action is unacceptable.
Fintiri is the second high profile person that has been accused by the agency of flouting guidelines this week.
On Wednesday, July 15, FAAN accused former Zamfara governor, Abdulaziz Yari, of violating public health procedures on travels at the Aminu Kano International Airport.
The agency said Yari refused to adhere to the protocols and procedures put in place by the Federal Government through the PTF on COVID-19 by forcefully pushing away an officer of the environment department when he insisted that his luggage must be disinfected.
Yari has insisted that the incident cited in the tweet simply never happened.
He, therefore, demanded an unreserved apology from FAAN authorities for allegedly publishing falsehood about him.
Sirika said if investigations revealed that the VIPs did not flout they protocol as alleged by FAAN, apology will be tenderer publicly to them.
Reps condemn violations of guidelines
While condemning violations of safety protocols put in place at the airports, House of Representatives through Chairman, Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, in a statement, charged FAAN and NCAA to ensure those who fail to subject themselves to the safety protocols are denied access into the airports in future.
Nnaji stated that it was regrettable that some leaders, who should show good examples were exhibiting acts of indiscipline that endanger the lives aviation workers and travellers at the airports.
“This type of behaviour cannot be tolerated. It is not a must that you have to travel by air but if you choose to, you must abide by the laid down procedures established by FAAN and NCAA in line with the NCDC guidelines.”
The lawmaker charged the regulatory authorities at the airports to firm and courageous in the discharge of their duties to ensure that every passenger, not matter the status observes the protocols.
Reps assured agencies in the aviation sector and frontline staff of the support of the National Assembly.
We’ll focus on non-pharmaceutical means to fight COVID-19 –Ehanire
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has noted that as the cases of coronavirus pandemic continue to rise, Nigeria, like many other countries has hardly any other tool left than to focus on the value of non-pharmaceutical measures for prevention.
“Studies in many countries have confirmed the effectiveness of wearing masks in reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, since it provides mutual protection to all wearers. It is therefore still important, for us not to give up, but all continue to practice these measures, especially using facemasks, physical distancing and imbibing social courtesies like not sneezing or coughing into open space, but into a tissue, especially with people around.
“The stated aim of the Federal Ministry of Health, once again, is to reduce fatalities by ensuring that those citizens defined as vulnerable to COVID-19 are offered protection by prioritizing them for advice on non-pharmaceutical measures like staying home, except for essential activities outside the home, and in such cases, wearing and retaining a mask and avoiding gatherings of persons.”