* Says ban on Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, others not political
*All airports now open for domestic flights, says FG
Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The federal government has reminded all states of the federation to be vigilant in adhering to the safety protocols developed by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID 19 ahead of the reopening of schools this week across the country.
The Chairman PTF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, made the appeal yesterday when the task force briefed the media in Abuja.
He said the fear of a likely surge in the pandemic should always put everyone on the toes, while warning that the stringent measures on schools’ reopening announced by a number of countries, including Israel, should serve as warning signs for Nigeria and Africa.
He also expressed delight that the latest numbers on COVID-19 coming out of Africa has revealed a flattening of the curve in the African region, which has seen a weekly decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases reported since the July 20, while number of deaths is also on a downward trend.
While he noted that the country has progressively witnessed a decline in confirmed cases of the pandemic with a record low number of 79 cases on Sunday which, suggested that virus is under control, the SGF however said it is incumbent to improve the commitment to eliminate the virus completely by abiding with the safety protocols.
He charged the public not to lose sight that the cautious approach adopted by the PTF has tremendously helped in the containment efforts, adding complacency we should be avoided at all cost.
The federal government has vowed to descend heavily on travellers that fail to conduct the mandatory COVID-19 PCR test.
It also explained its decision to ban some international airlines from coming into the country is not politically motivated.
While Nigerians will get six- month passport suspension, foreigners face outright visa cancellation, it said.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, disclosed this during the briefing.
Meanwhile, the federal government has explained its decision to ban some international airlines from coming into the country is not politically motivated.
According to the government, its decision is health-related and based on its capacity to handle a certain number of passengers to curb the import of coronavirus into the country.
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, stated this during the briefing by members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID- 19 in Abuja.
He said: “Every decision we have taken is based on certain and concrete variables. So, regarding who comes in and who is not approved, we all know that we have a challenge of the number of passengers that we can process in our airports given the resources; both human and material that we have to fight COVID-19.
“If there are no challenges, we would have opened the airports and everybody will come in but we have a certain number that we can process in these our airports and that is why we are opening Lagos and Abuja and based on that, we have to calculate based on facts, available number, protocols, and facilitation to decide the number of passengers we can handle, from where and how?
He continued: “So, the airlines were contacted and so it has nothing to do with countries per se and that is why for instance, Emirate was approved but Etihad from the same country was denied. So, it has nothing to do with countries.
“Lufthansa, Air France, Air Namibia, and RwandAir were not approved based on these principles. So, we will maintain the number that we can handle in our airports and we will keep it to those who can take non-resident visas, tourists, and others in and out of the country. The decision is collective by the PTF.
“Discussions are ongoing and all Nigerian Lufthansa management was in my office and we discussed at length and I believe they understood. Air France, KLM were also in my office and they understood our position.
“Currently, the PTF has had a request through the normal channel and the PTF has mandated the Foreign Affairs minister to coordinate a meeting with these concerned airlines and perhaps their home countries and representatives.”
Sirika also disclosed that all airports in the country including private airports and airstrips were now opened for domestic commercial flights.
He said, “Regarding approvals for flights within the country – domestic approvals. All airports in Nigeria are now open for domestic flights. Private charter operations will no longer need approvals from us to operate within domestic airports in all government-approved airports and in all government-owned airports.
“However, those airports that are private airports – government-approved airports – the operators should check the safety status with the NCAA (Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority). Such airports like Jalingo, Uyo, Asaba, Gombe, Nasarawa, Damaturu, Osubi, etc.
“So, you won’t need any approvals from the minister but you should kindly check the status of these airports with the NCAA which is normal.”
“All flights out of the country and into the country that are private charter will still need approvals including technical stops,” the minister added.