Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government on Saturday said that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is 90 percent ready to open up the airways for domestic flights in the country to fly.
It said even though it is not 100 percent satisfied with what it’s on ground, it is 90 percent satisfied with what has been done to get the sector ready for business.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made this known at a Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing in Lagos after the Aero Contractors plane dry test run flight from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja to the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
The test run of the facilities in the two airports is to determine their readiness for the resumption of domestic flight operations across the country.
According to the minister, passengers for domestic and international flights will arrive three and five hours respectively before boarding due to the present reality of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He reiterated that all protocol guidelines will be observed stressing that the measures are for safety.
He said to ensure persons not permitted to be at the airport will not gained access to the airport, the physical distancing will begin right from the drop off points.
The aviation minister said, passengers will aside from presenting their mode of identification, will remove their masks for five seconds for the security operatives to confirm that they are truly the person to fly before they will be allowed into the airport.
He said, “Nobody not permitted to travel will access the airport, adding that the new airport security operatives, have been trained to handle will ensure compliance with the help of K9.
Sirika said President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the directives for such and that it would be implemented to the later.
The minister explained that there will be zero contact with the person screening passengers, even as added that the number of seats in the departure hall has been reduced from 500 or 700 to 200 or 250.
Sirika said that part of the readiness of the airports is the automated dispensing of soap and water at the toilets and limitation to maximum of five persons in the rest room, are part of measures to ensure physical distancing.
He however assured that efforts will be made to stagger the flights to accommodate everyone without creating additional burdens for passengers.
The minister also explained that airlines have been given permission to carry out dry run of flights across the country to ensure the air worthiness of the planes.
The Minister of State for Health, Olorunnibe Mamora, said no matter what is out in place by the aviation authority, individual responsibility is the most important form of protection and that compliance is very critical.
He said where people fail to comply there will be enforcement.
The coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said the aviation sector has done tremendously well and is ready to begin business.
He however, restated the call for every Nigerian to take responsibility for his/her own safety.
This is even as he added that henceforth government will enforce compliance with the protocols.
He said: “what will protect you is yourself, you have to challenge those putting you at risk who are wearing a face mask and maintaining physical distancing.”
The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on Saturday, re-opened for business with passengers duly screened, in line with safety protocols against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airport also witnessed strict compliance to other safety measures, aimed at curtailing spread of the virus.
Provisions were made for hand wash and alcohol-based sanitisers, temperature checks, as well as strict compliance to social distancing of about one metre apart.
Journalists covering the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, were led on dry run test from Lagos to Abuja, to witness firsthand, reopening of the aviation sector.
Checks for COVID-19 safety protocols and screening, were carried out on passengers at the departure lounge.
The seats, which were usually crowded, have been rearranged in compliance with the social distancing rule.
Inscriptions to further guide passengers, such as “do not use this seat”, “keep your distance”, were placed on the seats.
Also, two newly acquired machines, for the purpose of identifying passengers, had been stationed at the airport.