The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), last week, suspended the planned resumption of domestic flights tentatively scheduled for June 21, 2020; citing the continued restriction on interstate movements as a reason.
The agency said there was no way domestic airlines could resume operations if people would not be able to move freely from one state to another.
At a press briefing on Thursday, June 18, 2020 in Abuja by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said NCAA would only commence local flights when it is safe to do so.
Sirika, who was represented by the Director General of NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, added that to force the resumption of flights when the agency is least prepared, would not only be disastrous for the industry but could worsen the spread of COVID-19.
He said the NCAA needs more time to prepare and shall only give the go-ahead when it is safe to do so.
According to him, resumption of domestic flights may be towards the end of June.
The Senate has also advised the federal government not to reopen five of the airports shut in March this year in the wake of the pandemic.
The Senate Committee on Aviation, after an emergency meeting with leaders of the unions in the sector led by the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, said it would be disastrous to reopen the airports now.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Smart Adeyemi, said based on serious issues raised by stakeholders in the sector as regards safety and security, the planned unlocking of the aviation sector should be postponed.
Similarly, the federal government on Tuesday, June 16, 2020 gave conditions for the reopening of schools and tertiary institutions in the country.
Speaking at the 2020 Policy Meeting on Admissions to Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, the Minister of State for Education, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, announced that “All Institutions must have (1) Hand-washing facilities, (2) Body temperature checks, (3) Body disinfectants at all entry points to their major facilities including the gates, hostels, classes, and offices, (4) The whole premises of each institution must be decontaminated, (5) Maintenance of the highest level of hygiene, and (6) Ensure social and physical distancing in class sizes and meeting spaces.
The minister, however, warned against reopening schools without the federal government’s authorisation.
Nwajiuba further urged heads of educational institutions in the country not to wait for the announcement of reopening of schools before putting in place all necessary preventive measures in compliance with the protocols of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Airports and schools are locations that involve large human gatherings where interactions are nevertheless free.
Nonetheless, persons who have reasons to be at airports are mostly adults and could formally be made to comply with NCDC’s protocols.
NCAA is encouraged to announce the re-opening of airports to local flights only when it is certain that adequate safety measures against COVID-19 are in place at the airports.
The longer the country’s airports remain closed, the longer the country’s economy lingers in comatose; a situation that portends disaster for a developing nation that Nigeria is.
The biggest challenge that is envisaged to confront us when airports reopen lies with airlines’ capacity to prevent infections inside aircraft.
Port health officials should strengthen their surveillance mechanisms to ensure that every airline operates within the protocols defined by NCDC.
With school children, it is a different matter altogether as strict compliance to hand washing, social distancing or use of face masks is unpredictable even where authorities fulfil the conditions stipulated for safe re-opening of schools.
It would be wise to tarry a while and watch how matters turn out in offices, markets and worship centres before the government authorises schools to open.
There is a lesson to learn from countries that re-opened schools but had to reverse the decision.