FG Shifts Resumption of International Flights to September 5

Captain Musa Nuhu

Captain Musa Nuhu

  • To reduce duration for COVID-19 diagnosis to one hour
  • Launches two dashboards to enhance accountability


Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Chinedu Eze in Lagos


The federal government Wednesday announced a shift in the resumption of international flights to September 5.

According to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the federal government postponed the resumption date, earlier fixed for Saturday, because of its inability to put in place non-aviation logistics for flights resumption.

The government has also said it has deployed a Gene Expert machine at the National Hospital Abuja and University of Abuja Teaching Hospital Gwagwalada (UATH) to reduce the turnaround time for COVID-19 diagnosis to one hour.

It has also unveiled two transparency dashboards to enhance accountability in national COVID-19 response.

Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had said international airports in the country would reopen effective August 29 to resume international flight operations.

But at a press briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 yesterday in Abuja, NCAA Director General, Capt. Musa Nuhu, said there were non-aeronautical logistics that needed to be put in place before the country’s airspace could be reopened to international flights.
He said: “Since the announcement by the honourable minister of aviation a few weeks ago that international flights will resume anytime from 29th of August, the aviation sector has worked assiduously to be ready for this date.

“The aviation sector, including the airports, is ready to resume on the 29th. However, we have other non-aviation logistics we are still working on mostly to do with the COVID-19 protocols, tests and online platforms. We need to get this in place so that we will have a smooth and efficient resumption of international flights without difficulties for all the passengers.

“So, for this reason, unfortunately, I have to let you know that the resumption date has been shifted by one week to the 5th of September, which is now a sacrosanct date. “The initial announcement was anytime from August 29. Now we have fixed a date – 5th of September– ensure that resumption of international flights.

“In due course, once these logistics are done, we will be announcing the protocols for the resumption and also we will be giving further details on the principle of reciprocity we have mentioned. So, hopefully, early next week, we will release this.”

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, also said the federal government had deployed a Gene Expert machine in the National Hospital Abuja and University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, to shorten the turnaround time for COVID-19 diagnosis.

He said with the new development, cases of suspected COVID-19 emergencies could now be diagnosed on-site, thereby “reducing the turnaround and waiting time to one hour.”

Ehanire added that a new state molecular laboratory is currently being optimised in Kebbi and Bayelsa states.
He said: “A Gene Expert machine has been set up at National Hospital Abuja and University of Abuja Teaching Hospital Gwagwalada, as was announced some weeks ago.

“This means that suspected COVID-19 emergencies can now be diagnosed on-site, which will drastically reduce turnaround and waiting time and allow better utilisation of observation rooms.”

According to the minister, the deployment of the testing device is a major advancement in handling distress experienced by patients arriving as emergencies in these hospitals.

Before now, patients and those who submitted their blood samples for COVID-19 test have to wait for at least three days and in some cases up to a week in order to get their results.
Ehanire said UATH had also found access to supplementary medical oxygen supply, courtesy of the Nigeria Air Force, which has a plant in Yola.

Also yesterday, the federal government unveiled two transparency dashboards for the national COVID-19 response.

PTF Chairman, Mr. Boss Mustapha, identified the two dashboards as the Incidence and Response Tracker Dashboard developed by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the COVID-19 Resource Tracking Dashboard developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
He said both dashboards corroborated government’s focus on a data-driven response, which it has consistently maintained from the onset of the pandemic.

”The dashboards are transparent living and very interactive portals for all our resource mobilisation activities, donations, needs and disbursements. We will continue to collaborate with the private sector in creating models that ensure all our activities are easily accessible by the public in line with the Freedom of Information Act,” Mustapha said.

He commended the task force’s funding partner, the Africa Initiative for Governance (AIG), for ensuring that the dashboards became a reality.
In his address at the press conference, the Chairman of the NESG, Mr. Asue Ighodalo, said NESG and the private sector were making history with the launch of the COVID-19 Incidence and Response Tracker and Dashboard.

He said the creation of the dashboard and the joint collaboration by all enablers typified achievable successes whenever the private and public sector actively collaborate.

Also, Mrs. Ofovwe Aig-Imoukhuede of Africa Initiative for Governance (AIG) expressed pleasure in the partnership with NESG and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) towards the development of the Nigeria COVID-19 Incidence and Response Tracker Dashboard.

She described the initiative as a demonstration of what the Nigerian public sector in partnership with the private sector could achieve.
She said beyond improving the transparency, accountability and governance of resources sourced from public, private and development sectors, the Predictive Analytic Model embedded in the platform would allow PTF on COVID-19, and NCDC predict and project the rate of infections, deaths and the resources needed to tackle them.

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