The Federal Government of Nigeria has made a U-turn from its earlier position, disclosing that the June 21 date for the restart of domestic flights in the country is not reasonable.
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, stated this at a briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja today.
PTF coordinator, Sani Aliyu had on June 1 requested the aviation industry to start developing protocols to allow for the resumption of domestic flights from June 21.
Sirika represented by the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Captain Musa Nuhu, said June 21 was not a feasible date to resume domestic flights operations.
“The civil aviation authority despite pressures coming from all quarters will not approve the start any day until we are sure and we confirm that we are ready to start in a safe, secure, organised and efficient manner. To do otherwise is disastrous for all of us.
“If we open the industry when we are not ready, and we are guilty of spreading Coronavirus, God forbid we have any incident, I believe the government will come hard on us and it is going to be counterproductive and disastrous for the industry.
“We are not too far, we are close but there is a need for timing to ensure that we are ready, absolutely ready to start work.”
The NCAA boss said the Authority has been rubbing minds with airlines, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and other stakeholders, adding that feedbacks have been received and concerns are being addressed.
He added that inputs are also being received from the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the United Nations agency in charge of civil aviation as well as standard and recommended practices for the sector.
Nuhu noted that recommendations are also being gotten from the World Health Organisation, the International Air Transport Association, the Airport Council International and the African Civil Aviation Commission.
“We have to adopt all these, it’s not easy; it’s a very complex process. What I can assure is that the civil aviation authority will only give a go-ahead when we are ready, nothing further.
“We are looking towards the end of this month. Hopefully, by the end of next week, we will submit a report through the Ministry of Aviation to the Presidential Task Force for review. We know the industry is anxious but to do otherwise will be a great disservice and neglect of our statutory mandate from the government of Nigeria,” he said.