By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, has revealed that over 27,000 passengers arrived Nigeria during the Covid-19 pandemic despite the strict procedures when the Lagos and Abuja Airports were opened.
Aliyu stated this during a town hall webinar meeting on Saturday organised by Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) and coordinated by its Chairman, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
He said: “Of the 27,000 passengers, 18,000 of them came in through Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, while the remaining 9,000 came in through Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja.
“The Task Force came up with what people considered as stringent procedures because it was imperative to limit the importation of Covid-19 to Nigeria, prevent transmission during the flight and reduce the quarantine period.”
A statement issued Sunday by NIDCOM Head of Media and Public Relations Unit, Mr. Abdur-Rahman Balogun, added that Aliyu told Nigerians in Diaspora who participated at the Webinar that public laboratories are not allowed to conduct free testing as the federal government cannot afford it and it is not sustainable.
“It is not something that government can afford. We will run out of test kits,” he said.
Speaking on the high cost of having the test, the National Coordinator said the government is trying to push the cost of PCR down for private laboratories who will in turn work within the travel sector line.
He said that children below the age of 10 years do not need to do test and “if they have been subjected to payment, then they will be refunded”.
On the testing process for international travellers staying outside Lagos or Abuja, Aliyu said: “If there is no private laboratory in your state of final destination, the laboratory you have chosen for your test during registration will make arrangements to have your sample taken at a designated laboratory.
“The PTF and NCDC are urgently working with all states to create a mechanism for private testing. We’ve already approached six or seven states that have private labs in their states.”
He disclosed that a list of accredited private laboratories, especially if one is travelling out of the country, is on the NCDC microsite covid19.ncdc.gov.ng/privatelabs.
Earlier, Dabiri-Erewa said the Commission had to organise the webinar town hall meeting owing to complaints and frustration encountered by some Nigerians in diaspora, to enlighten and disseminate useful information.
She, however, appealed to all travellers to be patient with the PTF COVID-19 immigration policy, saying everything will be done to ease the difficulty being encountered by those coming into the country.