The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), the umbrella body of indigenous carriers in the country has called on the Federal Government as a matter of urgency to restrict entry points into Nigeria to two.
The body emphasized that the measure if adhered to would reduce the possibility of spreading the deadly Covid-19 disease, which has been ravaging the country in the past two months.
The airline body advised the Federal Government to restrict international travels to only Lagos and Abuja.
A statement by Capt. Nogie Meggison, the Chairman of AON, said the measure has become necessary for the government to immediately announce a comprehensive travel restriction to only two entry points for Nigerians and foreign nationals coming into the country from countries with confirmed cases of over 100 cases of the virus.
Meggison emphasised that the call became expedient following a strategic response meeting held between the management of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigeria’s Representative to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), members of Port Health and Chief Executives of airlines and helicopter operators to develop and implement measures to prevent the influx of the virus into the country as well as curb its spread.
Meggison decried that Nigeria remained one of the few countries in Africa yet to take decisive action and put in place strict measures to stop the inflow of the virus into the territory.
“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 the government to stand tall by putting Nigeria first at this time and take immediate action by restricting travel into Nigeria.
“May I propose that the 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 the utilisation of thermal scanners and other resources as well as promote proper monitoring of those entering the country through our airports by members of the Port Health that is already overstretched,” Meggison added.
According to him, Kenya, Rwanda, Egypt, South Africa, Ghana, Guinea, Angola, Morocco, Chad and Tanzania are African countries that have taken decisive actions against the spread of Covid-19.
Furthermore, the AON Chairman called on the Ministry of Aviation to take a cue from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by directing the various agencies under its supervision to immediately put in place and extend critical palliative measures to Nigerian airline operators to reduce the burden of colossal loses they have suffered and continue to suffer from the impact of the virus on air travel.
Meggison recalled that the apex bank had on Monday issued a statement acknowledging the adverse impact of the virus on the global and Nigerian economies and announced a moratorium of one year on all principal repayments of intervention loans effective March 1, 2020; reduced interest rates from nine to five per cent per annum for one year; and created N50 billion targeted credit facility to cushion the impact of the virus on businesses.
He lamented that Nigerian airlines have suffered heavily from the impact of the coronavirus, stressing that the passenger numbers had dropped drastically, while its overheads remained the same.
He stated that the nation’s airlines trade in naira while doing business in dollars, saying “The agencies should, therefore, help the airlines by immediately streamlining the over 32 multiple charges given to airlines, which are mostly double billing.