After impounding their plane for operating commercial flights into Nigeria, thereby, violating the country’s Covid-19 restriction rules, the Nigerian government has placed on quarantine, pilots of an aircraft owned by a British airline, Flairjet.
Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation, said the pilots would remain isolated for 14 days, while the aircraft, Legacy 600 with registration number GPRFX is grounded.
The airlines faces serious sanctions as the minister said “whatever is there in our laws will be applied to the fullest” against the airline, which he said was airlifting passengers into Nigeria, after the country granted it permission to bring in only essential goods, such as foods and medical supplies.
Speaking at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing in Abuja on Monday, Sirika said, “There is a company called Flairjet. I want to apologise that I tweeted in the afternoon (on Sunday) when the fasting was biting harder and we verified this as Flair Aviation. The correct name is Flairjet and it is a UK registered company.
“They have an aircraft, Legacy 600, and the registration number of the aircraft is GPRFX. Their business address is Business Aviation Centre, Terminal Road, Birmingham International Airport, West Midlands and their code is B26QN.
“This company applied severally as to operate humanitarian flights and we did approve. It is very clear at the beginning of this exercise that we defined what those flights should be: essential flights basically – cargo, medical evacuation, medical supplies, and so on and so forth.
“Unfortunately, this company decided to become commercial in their service, charging money and flying people in and out.
“In the first place, the whole essence of a lockdown is to ensure there is no movement of persons freely because this COVID-19 we are all spending sleepless nights for happened because somebody travelled abroad. So, we believe this shouldn’t happen.
“Current status, we are investigating the matter right now, it would finish very soon. The crew is British nationals. The pilots are subjected to 14 days quarantine at the moment while the investigation goes on. Whatever is there in our laws will be applied to the fullest.”
Sirika did not disclose if the passengers brought by the plane and other crew were tracked and placed on quarantine as well.
Nigeria’s coronavirus cases hit 6,175 after recording 216 new cases on Monday. There have been 191 deaths and 1,644 recoveries.
The country’s airports remain closed to commercial aviation, while it fights to control spread of the dreaded virus which has spread to 34 of its 36 states and political capital, with Lagos, the country’s commercial nerve centre maintaining the epicentre.
Boss Mustapha, leader of the presidential task force on COVID-19 said on that Nigeria could not risk opening a post Covid-19 economy yet.
“The reality is that in spite of the modest progress made, Nigeria is not yet ready for full opening of the economy and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority,” he said du ring the briefing on Monday.