NIGERIA has opened the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in the capital Abuja to domestic flights three months after it was shut down as part of the lockdown measures introduced to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a major move towards easing the nationwide suspension of inter-state travel, the Nigerian government has decided to open five of its airports. They are the ones in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano and Owerri, who will be allowed to operate under certain strict conditions and the government has decided to get the ball rolling with the Abuja airport.
On Saturday, journalists covering the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 were taken on dry run test from Lagos to Abuja to witness firsthand the reopening of the aviation sector. As part of the checks, screening was carried out on passengers at the departure lounge and seats, which were usually crowded, have been re-arranged in compliance with the social distancing rule.
Also, inscriptions to further guide passengers, which instructions such as “do not use this seat” and “keep your distance”, were placed on seats. Hadi Sirika, Nigeria’s aviation minister, has said that when international travel starts, passengers travelling abroad must arrive five hours before departure to undergo Covid-19 protocols.
Mr Sirika added: “We will announce all the protocols again before opening but you need to be at the airport three hours ahead of your flight. The experience is quite nice but it takes a bit of time which is why you will need to be at the airport three hours before your local flight, while for an international flight, we may do five hours.”
Addressing concerns about the profitability of the aviation business upon the resumption given the new protocols to be followed, Mr Sirika said the new guidelines would be implemented in a way that flights would still be profitable. He added that toilets at the airports were also Covid-19 compliant, stressing that everything was being done to minimise physical contact.
Mr Sirika said that the pilots, engineers, traffic controllers and catering staff among others at the airports were now certified and licensed to carry out certain activities only when they have the valid clearance. For now, however, the government is give a date when international flights will resume.
“Those new norms are coming and we will implement them in such a way that flights are profitable. The World Health Organisation and the International Civil Aviation Organisation have developed protocols of the sitting,” Mr Sirika added.