The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has called on the Federal Government to take urgent steps to immediately announce a comprehensive travel restriction to only two entry points for Nigerian travelers coming into the country and foreign nationals of countries that have been confirmed to have over 100 cases of the COVID19 Virus popularly known as Corona Virus.
The call is coming on the heels of a strategic response meeting held between the Managements of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), 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 influx of the virus into the country as well as curb its spread.
Chairman, AON, Captain Nogie Meggiso said, Nigeria was 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.”
He therefore proposed that the Fedt Government should immediately reduce entry points into the country to Lagos and Abuja airports only, as this would allow for effective deployment of critical medical support staff and utilization 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 were already overstretched.
The AON Chairman went further to cite examples of countries in Africa that had taken action including Kenya, Rwanda, Egypt, South Africa, Ghana, Guinea, Angola, Morocco, Chad and Tanzania.
He therefore called for an immediate action to reduce the number of entry points into the country so as to be able to effectively control the influx of people into the country as AON members were willing to offer their services to distribute travelers around the country from the two entry points.
The AON Chairman also 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 in order to reduce the burden of colossal loses they have suffered and continue to suffer from the impact of the virus on air travel.
“Just yesterday, March 16, 2020, the Central Bank of Nigeria 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 9 to 5 percent per annum for one year; and created a N50 billion targeted credit facility to cushion the impact of the virus on businesses”.
He added, “Nigerian airlines are suffering heavily from the impact of the Corona 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 Corona Virus 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% cost of disinfecting all aircraft for this period and provide thermal scanners and hand sanitizers as well as mobilize more manpower and training of Port Health Personnel at our local airports to encourage more people to travel.
“What we are asking for is not unprecedented. For instance, in the United Stated of America, airlines are seeking a $50 billion bailout. As part of its response, an Emergency Stimulus Package was passed by the US Senate and House and they reduced interest rates to 0.25%. Also, the bill granted their airlines tax credit for their losses during the Pandemic.
Our government can do the same therefore by granting the above stated reliefs to Nigerian airlines as a way of assisting them during this very difficult time to recover from their losses.
In his submission, the AON Chairman stressed that: “The potential impact of the virus to our economy and security is unquantifiable and we need the immediate response of restricting travel into the country by allowing only entry points in order to minimize the spread of the virus.”