Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The National Coordinator of Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, has assured that any passenger made to pay more than once for COVID-19 testing will be refunded, adding that customer service teams have been stationed at the Airports.
He added that children below the age of 10 years do not need to do test and “if they have been subjected to payment, then they will be refunded.”
He gave the assurance this during a townhall webinar meeting at the weekend organised by Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM).
The webinar was coordinated by NIDCOM Chairman/CEO, Abike Dabiri-Erewa for Nigerians coming into the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, the Task Force came up with what people considered as stringent procedures because it was imperative to limit the importation of COVID-19 to Nigeria, prevent transmission during the flight and reduce the quarantine period.
Aliyu told Nigerians in Diaspora who participated at the Webinar that Public Laboratories are not allowed to conduct free testing as the Federal government cannot afford it and it is not sustainable.
“It is not something that government can afford. We will run out of test kits”, he said.
The PTF national coordinator explained that the Federal Government does not receive any money paid to private laboratories as it would have loved to subsidize, but it is not sustainable by the government.
While commending NIDCOM for living up to expectations in coordinating Diaspora concerns on the protocols put in place, he said: “We appreciate the difficulties that people are going through. It will be sorted.”
Aliyu added that the advantage of testing before boarding is to stop people with COVID-19 from moving to Nigeria as the test is expected to be done 120 hours maximum before boarding.
He also advised those travelling out of Nigeria to enquire from the country they are travelling to if COVID-19 test is a requirement for entry.
Speaking on the high cost of having the test, Aliyu said the federal government is trying to push the cost of PCR down for private laboratories who will in turn work within the travel sector line.
On the testing process for international travellers staying outside Lagos or Abuja, Aliyu said that “If there is no private laboratory in your state of final destination, the laboratory you have chosen for your test during registration will make arrangements to have your sample taken at a designated laboratory.
“The PTF and NCDC are urgently working with all states to create a mechanism for private testing. We’ve already approached six or seven states that have private labs in their states”, he stressed.
Aliyu disclosed that a list of accredited private laboratories, especially if one is traveling out of the country, is on the NCDC microsite covid19.ncdc.gov.ng/privatelabs”he clarified.
He urged all passengers travelling to Nigeria to update all required information on the Nigerian International travel portal before boarding .This will auto generate a QR code which is required on arrival.
Earlier, the Chairman/CEO of NIDCOM, Dabiri-Erewa, said the Commission had to organise the webinar townhall meeting owing to complaints and frustration encountered by some Nigerians in diaspora, to enlighten and disseminate useful information.
She appealed to all travellers to be patient with the PTF COVID-19 immigration policy, saying everything will be done to ease the difficulty being encountered by those coming into the country.
Responding, Obed Monago, Chairman NIDO Americas, Olawale Odutayo , Mr Tony Isama and other speakers
commended Dabiri-Erewa for being proactive in taking care of the Diasporan’ concerns all the time.
Excited about the platform provided by NIDCOM to clarify all the knotty issues on travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic, participants described the webinar as “useful, timely and informative.
“This is the first time Nigerians in Diaspora have influenced major policy decisions in the country”, they said.