The Nigeria government has said it is almost ready to reopen the aviation industry for domestic flights amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made this known at a press briefing in Lagos on Saturday following an Aero Contractors plane dry test run flight from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja to the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
“We must make sure the aircraft are airworthy and certified fit to fly. We will ensure that every single pilot and aircrew have done their proficiency test,” Mr Sirika said.
“All of these procedures are recommended practices and we are almost ready to begin. At least about 90 per cent in that aspect,” he said.
The test run of airports facilities is to determine their readiness for the resumption of domestic flight operations four months after it was shut, the minister said.
Nigeria shut its airports, except for essential flights, in March as the country began to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic which has caused over 500 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.
The aviation ministry, however, said it is not ready to resume flights operation on the proposed date.
According to the minister, passengers for domestic and international flights will arrive three and five hours respectively before boarding as part of measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
This, he said, will help reduce all sources of contamination.
He said all protocol guidelines put in place by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) must be observed.
He also said persons not permitted to be at the airport will not gain access in as all protocols will be enforced right from the drop off points.
Mr Sirika explained that passengers will remove their face masks for security operatives to confirm their identity before flying.
He said part of the readiness of the airports is the automated dispensing of soap and water at the toilets and limitation to a maximum of five persons in the restroom.
He assured that efforts will be made to ensure aircraft accommodate everyone without creating additional burdens for passengers.
He noted that airlines have been given permission to carry out a dry run of flights across the country to ensure the airworthiness of the planes.
At the briefing, the national coordinator of the PTF, Sani Aliyu, expressed his satisfaction with the level of preparedness by the aviation sector.
He stressed the need for citizens to comply with all rules set up at various airports in the country.
“I’m pleased to say the aviation industry has done spectacularly well. They have shown what they are able to do as a highly regulated sector.
“It now depends on Nigerians to be disciplined because some people are not still wearing their masks properly.
“What will protect you is yourself and your behaviour and you have to challenge other citizens putting you at risk,” he said.