By Yunus Yusuf
The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has urged the Federal Government to immediately announce a comprehensive travel restriction to nationals of countries that have been confirmed to have Coronavirus.
Capt. Nogie Meggison, the Chairman of AON, made the call in a statement in Lagos on Tuesday.
Megisson said the government should also announce a comprehensive travel restriction to only Lagos and Abuja entry points for Nigerian travelers coming into the country.
He said the call came on the heels of a strategic response meeting held between the management of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Megisson said others at the meeting were the Nigeria’s representative to ICAO, members of Port Health and Chief Executives of Airlines and Helicopter operators to develop and implement measures to prevent the importation of the virus into the country as well as curb its spread.
“Nigeria is about the only country in Africa yet to take a decisive action in putting in place strict measures to stop the inflow of the virus into our shores.
“We can say for sure that if the situation escalates in Nigeria other countries of the world would not hesitate to stop us from flying into their country.
“We would like to appeal to government to stand tall by putting Nigeria first at this time and take an immediate action by restricting travel into Nigeria.
“May I propose that government should immediately reduce entry points into the country to Lagos and Abuja airports only.
“This will allow for effective deployment of critical medical support staff and utilisation of thermal scanners and other resources.
“This will further promote proper monitoring of those entering the country through our airports by members of the Port Health that are already overstretched.”
Meggison cited examples of countries in Africa that had taken action to include Kenya, Rwanda, Egypt, South Africa, Ghana, Guinea, Angola, Morocco, Chad and Tanzania.
He called for immediate action to reduce the number of entry points into the country.
According to him, this is to effectively control the influx of people into the country as AON members are willing to offer their services to distribute travelers around the country from the two entry points.
Megisson also urged Ministry of Aviation to take a cue from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by directing the various agencies under its supervision to immediately provide extend critical palliative measures to Nigerian airline operators.
He said the measures would further reduce the burden of colossal loses they had suffered and continue to suffer from the impact of the virus on air travel.
Meggison called on the aviation agencies through the Federal Ministry of Aviation to follow the same path by taking action to support domestic airlines that were the drivers of its national economy.
“Nigerian airlines are suffering heavily from the impact of the virus issue as the passenger numbers have dropped drastically and our overheads remain the same on many fronts and even increasing significantly on other fronts.
“Like we all know, Nigerian airlines trade in naira, but we do our business in dollars and the naira has come under pressure since the Coronavirus pandemic.
“The agencies should therefore help the airlines by immediately streamlining the over 32 multiple charges given to airlines which are mostly double billing.
“Government should also bear 100 per cent cost of disinfecting all aircraft for this period and provide thermal scanners, hand sanitisers and mobilise more manpower and training of Port Health personnel at our local airports to encourage more people to travel,” he said.
The AON chairman said the potential impact of the virus to the economy and security was unquantifiable.
Meggison said it need the immediate response of restricting travel into the country by allowing only entry points in order to minimise the spread of the virus.