NCAA to Certify International Airlines Before Resumption

Musa Nuhu

Chinedu Eze

Contrary to the reports that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has approved some international carriers for the resumption flights expected to commence on August 29, the regulatory authority has said foreign airlines must abide by certain Covid-19 protocols.

The agency said international airlines flying into the country are expected to show evidence of compliance with health, safety and security protocols as spelt out in the All Operators Letter (AOL) already issued.

According to the authority, when the terms are met, NCAA would clear them as they attain compliance levels; only then can they have restart dates.

The NCAA further said it was revising Foreign Airlines Operational Procedures (FAOP) as spelt out in the 2015 NigCARs (Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations) to ensure compliance, adding that it had communicated to the airlines on these conditions in a Zoom meeting held on Wednesday night.

The Director General of NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, who said this explained: “As regards to international flights, it is a different scenario because we have several agencies that handle international flights. We have agencies like the immigrations, customs, Port Health Authorities, and you have foreign airlines coming into the country.

“Although there are significant experiences and lessons learnt from the domestic flights; the issues of the non-pharmaceutical interventions, wearing of face masks, social distancing, the cleaning of hands amongst others are some of the things we will also apply to the international flights.

“For international flights, we don’t want people flooding the country bringing the infection. We already have a significant community spread of this disease so we don’t want to large inflow without having some checks to ensure that people that come, we have some kind of guarantee that the majority of them are not infected by the disease. This is the major difference between domestic and international flights.”

The Director General explained that the authority was following detailed protocol as enunciated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for international passengers.

He said departing passengers must abide by the regulation of the country they are travelling to because different countries have different requirements.

Also each airline has its regulation on Covid-19, as some insist that passengers must have Covid-19 test certificate within 72 hours before the flight.

“Those NCDC certified centres are to conduct those checks. People could go to those areas to do their checks before they go to the airport. If it is a centre certified by the NCDC, then passengers can go in and check and depart without much delay.

“When they get to the airport, they will wear their masks, observe social distancing, check their temperature, clean their hands, check for the symptoms etc.

“For departure, there won’t be so much hassle. For the arrival, it is still been worked out but from the 29th of August, you will be required to so a test between 48 to 72 hours before you will be allowed from wherever you are.

“There is also going to be an online platform where you can fill all the information. Then you pay for the tests when you come to Nigeria. When you come to Nigeria, you have your receipt that you have paid online.

“You go through the normal process and you are expected to do another test after seven or eight days of arrival just to ensure you don’t have symptoms. According to medical experts, about 5 per cent of the passengers that have been coming to Nigeria that do the test turn out positive when they come.

“So, we are still prepared to catch that 5 per cent by the second test within seven or eight days,” the Director General explained.

Continuing, Nuhu explained that the NCAA as a regulatory body has the responsibility to ensure that the entire industry and all the service providers, both public and private complied with the guidelines “we developed and these guidelines we started developing on our own even before the International Civil Aviation Organisation, (ICAO) sent the global guidelines.”

“We shared our guidelines with international organisations like ICAO, African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) for their review and their input. After that we got a lot of guidelines which we made sure were implemented starting from the airport, throughout the aviation eco-system.

“For the domestic flights, which we successfully started a few weeks ago, so far so good, it has been a pleasant experience with the exception of some few hitches here and there which the system has handled effectively,” he said.