June 21 not feasible for flight resumption, says FG

The Federal Government yesterday said the June 21 date for resumption of domestic flights was no longer feasible.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who disclosed this during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, said the industry was not ready yet to resume operation.

Represented by the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA,  Musa Nuhu, Sirika said the agency would not approve the resumption of flight operations until it gets confirmation that operations could be carried out in a safe and organised manner.

“We never said aviation is going to start definitely on the 21st, we were supposed to put a report back based on what we have and we have some work to do. As such, June 21 is not a feasible date to resume operations.

“Despite the pressure from different quarters, we will not start operation on any date until we are sure we can start operation in an efficient manner.” He explained that there was a lot of work to be done before operations could resume in the aviation sector.

“Prior to this mandate from the presidential task force, the regulatory body, NCAA, had developed advisory circulars distributed to the different sectors of the industry. These circulars required all sectors of industry to present a restart plan to the regulatory body for approval.

“A lot of service providers have provided their restart plans and these restart plans are to be reviewed by the civil aviation authority. “When we review those documents, if we are happy with those documents, then we will go to each individual organisation to verify what they have given as their restart plan.

“Some provided inadequate documents and their documents were sent back to them.  Significant progress has been made but there is still a lot of work to be done.

The aviation system is a very complex system and this system has been compounded with the public health care concept which a lot of them in the aviation system are not used to implementing.”

He maintained that the agency and all stakeholders in the sector had a statutory duty to make sure operations were safe and secure. In his presentation, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, warned Nigerians to see the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country as an indication that the number of fatalities would also increase.

He said increase in number of fatalities could be mitigated if the most-at-risk group, such as persons aged 50 years and above and those with pre-existing ailments, such as diabetes, cancer, and hypertension, among others, were protected.

“As the number of cases rises, COVID-19 kills more people. We’ve said that the increasing number of cases should be a warning that fatalities will increase too; but there are measures we can take, to limit the case fatality rate.

“Since majority of fatalities are over 50 years of age, or have pre-existing ailments like diabetes, cancer, hypertension, kidney disease, HIV, etc, this group of citizens has to be specially protected.” In his own views, PTF Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the government would not tolerate the flouting of the relaxation guidelines.

Aliyu said: “The fact that we are getting many reports on the flouting of the COVID-19 guidelines is a call for concern.  We would not sit back and allow public safety to be endangered by a few people and that businesses which flouted COVID-19 guidelines have been sanctioned or fined.

We relaxed the lockdown not because COVID-19 has gone but to ensure the economy does not collapse. Speaking, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, appealed to Nigerians to obey the guidelines issued by NCDC and the PTF, adding that COVID-19 was not a death sentence. He said: “Pray not to get infected. 

And the only way not to get infected is to follow what the NCDC is saying.  Listening to what the NCDC is saying is the only medicine for COVID-19. “It is quite unfortunate that over 99 percent of Nigerians interviewed are aware of COVID-19 ,  yet many are not listening to NCDC, many are not wearing masks, many not observing social distancing, many are to be found in large gatherings. ”

Our call to take personal responsibility cannot be more strident than now. Our approach to this is that we will continue to deepen our advocacy programme. Our relaxed lockdown should never be interpreted to mean otherwise.”

On his part, the PTF chairman, Boss Mustapha said: “The greatest challenge we have in fighting COVID-19 is human resistance to change and discrimination, among others.

He said the second wave of the infection in countries like China should remind us to do our part in fighting the pandemic. “Always remember the virus is here, and among us.

We continue to encourage our researchers.” Since inception, the PTF has instituted several measures to protect Nigerians and curb the spread of COVID-19. 

The COVID-19 figures are not just numbers; they are people. “There have been some modest achievements in the fight against COVID-19.






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