The federal government yesterday said that it declined the requests of five governors to travel by air in compliance with the travel restrictions imposed in the country to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was disclosed yesterday by the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, at a press conference in Abuja.
Sirika explained that two governors from the South-east, one from the North-central and another two from the South-south regions had made requests to travel by air but he turned the requests down in strict compliance with the federal government’s flight restriction policy.
The minister, however, did not explain whether the governors wanted to travel out of the country or they wanted to travel locally.
Sirika also said that government was very strict about flight restrictions in Nigeria’s airspace, noting that concessions were only allowed on COVID-19 related flights, which might include the movement of medical personnel, medical supplies or related cargo.
He added that the other approvals, which might be one per cent of the air movement during the closure of Nigeria’s airspace were for the evacuation of foreigners by their countries.
The minister also explained that the flurry of flight movements around Abuja yesterday was due to activities by the Nigerian Air Force in preparation to mark its one-week celebration, which started today.
“Every single flight that you would see, that received approval would be an essential flight and 98 per cent of them would be connected to COVID-19.
A few of them; maybe, one per cent might be repatriation request from the diplomatic community, which must go through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or evacuation of illness of another kind and that evacuation must need the stamp of a teaching hospital.”
Sirika denied that VIP movements were going on in Nigeria. “There is no exception given to governors. I had denied several of such flights, including two governors from the South-south, two from South-east and one from the North-central; by the way, three of them are members of APC.
This is just to say that once you see a flight approval, just know that it is diligently done, it must be essential, it must be COVID-19-related or some other flights like cargo that will bring in medicines or equipment or something related to our own well-being like food,” he said.