The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has banned Emirates Airlines’ operations in Nigeria for violating COVID-19 protocols.
The ban was in compliance with the directive of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, it was learnt.
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Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu announced the ban in a letter to the airline dated February 4, 2021.
The letter was copied to the Chairman PTF, Ministers of Aviation and Health; National Coordinator of PTF, Director-General, UAE, General Civil Aviation Authority, MD NAMA and MD FAAN.
Why the ban?
The NCAA said the ban was necessitated by the continued airlift of passengers from Nigeria using the Rapid Antigen Tests (RDT) conducted by laboratories that are “neither approved nor authorized by the appropriate regulatory.”
This, according to the apex aviation regulatory authority is in flagrant violation of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 directive.
“This is a violation of paragraph 5 of the NCAA letter with REF: NCAA/DG/AIR11/16/281 of 02 February 2021 addressed to your good self. The paragraph clearly states, “Based on the forgoing and to enable the Nigerian government to put in place the needed infrastructure and logistics for COVID-19 RDT testing for departing passengers, the PTF has directed that Emirates Airlines should either accept passengers without RDT pending when the infrastructure and logistics are put in place or suspend its flights to and from Nigeria until such a time when the required infrastructure and logistics are fully established and implemented”.
The DG added that the airline has not been in compliance with the two options given by the PTF as records of operated flights by Emirates Airlines from Lagos and Abuja obtained from the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has shown.
It listed the Emirates flights and date of operations as obtained from NAMA to include: Flight: UAE784 (Lagos-Dubai) with 195 passengers on board and UAE786 (Abuja-Dubai) with 154 on board operated on 03 February 2021.
Also Flight UAE784 (Lagos-Dubai) with 199 passengers on board and Flight UAE786 (Abuja-Dubai) with 175 passengers on board.
“This is in addition to an advert by Emirates airlines for RDT by the Travel clinic and medical Mobile Laboratory in Lagos and Abuja, two organizations that are not approved by the regulatory bodies and PTF to conduct RDT for departing passengers,” added the letter.
According to the DG, the PTF takes these violations of its instructions seriously and as therefore directed that “Emirates should suspend its operations to Nigeria (Lagos and Abuja) effective 72 hours from midnight (2300z) on Thursday 04 February, 2021”.
“During the 72 hours leeway, Emirates airlines is only authorized to bring in passengers into Nigeria while outbound passengers are not allowed”.
“The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority will impose additional sanctions on Emirates airlines for the violations of the PTF directive and COVID-19 Protocols”.
“Emirates Airlines will be informed in due time as when to resume operations to Nigeria,” the letter added.
Daily Trust reports that the suspension came three days after the Airlines banned transit flights with Nigerian passengers on board from coming to the UAE which automatically barred other airlines from carrying Nigerian passengers.
President of NANTA, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye had said the protocols could “put additional financial pressures” on passengers while expressing shock over the protocol from the Dubai Airport Authority, requesting that Nigerian passengers undergo a rapid response COVID-19 antigen test before departure to Dubai is disturbing.
The rapid response antigen test, she noted, can only be done in Lagos and Abuja with Dubai bound passengers from the two Nigerian cities, paying 36, 800 naira and 25, 800 naira respectively, in addition to the PCR test from approved laboratories by Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Presidential Task force.