The Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Musa Nuhu, has explained why the date for the resumption of domestic flights in the country was postponed.
He said the aviation industry has not yet adjusted to the current public health reality.
Nigeria shut its airports, except for essential flights, in March as the country began to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic which has caused over 400 deaths in the country.
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 had earlier announced that some domestic flights would resume on June 21
The team’s national coordinator, Sani Aliyu, said the aviation industry had three weeks to develop a protocol for the proposed resumption.
However, Mr Nuhu while speaking at the bi-weekly PTF briefing on Thursday said the June 21 date initially fixed for the resumption of domestic flights is no longer feasible.
Mr Nuhu, who represented the minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the aviation industry “is trying not to be a vector for the mass transmission of the COVID-19 virus.”
“The aviation system is a very complex system and this complex system has been compounded by the public healthcare concept which the aviation sector is not used to implementing.
“Now, we have to develop and implement these systems to ensure that the aviation industry is not a vector for mass transmission of the coronavirus,” he said.
He said the industry is still carrying out safety checks to ensure all aircraft are air-worthy.
“The industry has been grounded for close to three months now and we have to ensure that all aircraft are checked, they are air-worthy, all pilots will have to check their proficiency(ies) and ensure that they are updated.
“We have to ensure security at the airports is up to date and so many other areas.”
He stated that the industry will not approve the start of operations until it becomes safe for everyone.
“The civil aviation authority despite all pressures coming from all quotas will not approve the start of operations any date until we are sure and (can) confirm that we are ready to start in a safe, secure, organise and efficient manner.
“We are not too far, we are close but there is a need for time to ensure that we are absolutely ready to start work,” he said.
Mr Nuhu said the government will consider the new resumption of domestic flights by the end of June.
“On our new proposed date, we are looking towards the end of this month. Hopefully, by mid of next week, we will submit a report through the ministry of aviation to the PTF for review and possibly set a fixed date.
“I know a lot of people are anxious, the industry is anxious, we understand, but to do otherwise will be a great disservice and neglect of our mandate from the government of Nigeria,” he said.
He also noted that the sector was in talks with others to ensure a successful and safe commencement of operations.
”We have had about four stakeholder meetings via zoom and we have had feedback from the industry and we will respond to their concerns,” he said. “We have also had lots of inputs from international organisations like International Civil Aviation Organsation (ICAO), WHO, African Union Commission and other international organisations.”
“We have to adopt all these because the industry is very complex. Be rest assured that the civil aviation industry will only give the go-ahead when we are ready. Nothing before then.”