The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on Tuesday, said international flights in and out of the country may resume before October.
Sirika revealed this in a tweet while dismissing reports the resumption date has been set.
International flights have been suspended in the country since March 23 in a bid to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
International Flight resumption date is not October. NAMA just issued a routine 90 day Notices to Airmen (NOTAM). In liaison with Health, Foreign Affairs & PTF COVID-19, we will announce the agreed date, regardless of the ban by Europe, UAE etc. May be earlier than October. 🙏🏽🇳🇬
The Federal Government has asked air travellers to report at the airport at least 90 minutes before their departure time.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made this call on Monday via Twitter.
Sirika also appealed to air travellers to endeavour to check-in online.
“My colleagues and I have reviewed passenger facilitation at our airports, consequently I am happy to announce that, henceforth travellers are to arrive one hour and a half before their departure time for domestic flights,” the tweet read.
This development comes a month after the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) advised passengers to get to the airport at least three hours before departure due to safety checks.
Airport operations were suspended in March to contain the spread of COVID-19 across the country.
On July 1, Sirika announced that the Abuja and Lagos airports will resume on July 8, while Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri and Maiduguri airports will reopen on July 11.
Other airports are expected to reopen on Wednesday 15 July while the resumption date for international flights will be announced later.
My colleagues & I have reviewed passenger facilitation at our airports, consequently I am happy to announce that, henceforth travelers are to arrive one hour and a half before their departure time for domestic flights. Travelers are advised to check in online, please 🙏🏽🇳🇬🇳🇬🇳🇬🙏🏽
“Regarding the tentative date for reopening of domestic flights from 21st of June, the explanation is that, this is an industry that is highly regulated, it borders on safety and efficiency.
“On the technical aspect, there are aircraft that have been parked for a few months and not been run. We want to ensure that between now and that time, these aeroplanes are good and safe to fly.
“The maintenance for aircraft is either usage or calendar time and there are protocols to the use of such aircraft. So, the airline industry needs to be able to bring those machines to safe operations,” he said.
Sirika added that on the issue of flight crews and carrier crew, efforts are being made to ensure that they get their licence valid again for operations.
He noted further that the medical aspect also needs to be considered as every pilot has a licence which must state that he is fit and able to carry out operations.
According to the Aviation Minister, even the airport needs to be prepared to adopt the new way of life which must reflect social distancing.
“Even the airport where all of these activities will be done needs to be prepared to get ready to accept this new way of air travel,” Sirika said.
The Minister concluded that, although the aviation sector is the worst hit by the COVID-19 lockdown, caution must be taken to ensure reopening in a very orderly and organised manner, “so that we will achieve the intent and purpose of air travel which is safety, efficiency and security.”
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has begun an investigation into the reason why an aircraft belonging to a British company was operating commercial flights into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
The aircraft, a legacy 600 with registration G-PRFX, was impounded by the Federal Government for flouting the country’s ban on airspace amid COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika during Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja, on Monday, said the pilot of the aircraft will be subjected to 14 days of quarantine.
He also disclosed that the company operating the aircraft is based in Westminister in the United Kingdom.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has stated that the Coronavirus pandemic poses a threat that could see over 100,000 jobs lost in the aviation sector.
Mr Sirika noted this on Wednesday at the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
He stated that the aviation sector has been dealt a severe blow by the pandemic, noting that airlines have lost nearly N17 billion monthly since their operations were grounded, as part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
“We are in very difficult moments like everyone else. All of this started because someone travelled and unfortunately came back home with it and the consequence is what we’ve been going through.
“We are the worst hit, than any other sector. Some N17 billion monthly is being lost by the airlines, thanks to COVID-19,” the minister said.
Speaking further, Sirika noted that the sector is highly regulated and very coordinated and has set standards that must be followed at all times, regardless, because it speaks to safety.
This, according to him, would mean that “we will not be able to open up after closing for several weeks and perhaps for some months”.
“There are safety issues and concerns. Those airplanes have been kept and when we are going to bring them back into service, we will have to ensure that they are airworthy and that they can make those flights safely,” he added.
“So also, for the flight crew, they have certain standards they must conform with. They have licencing issues which will fall due for recurrency to be done within this period, so what do you do with them.
“Certainly they won’t just pick up their bags and continue where they left. They must conform to those standards and ensure that they are safe to operate both in terms of their health and their proficiency to be able to conduct a very safe flight”.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, says the ministry has denied the flight requests of several governors, since the closure of the airports and the lockdown order by President Muhammadu Buhari as a result of the COVID-19.
He said this on Tuesday during the briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, while responding to questions about some ongoing flights.
The minister also stressed that governors are not exempt from the lockdown and no-flight orders.
According to him, 98% of any ongoing flights, are either essential flights relating to the COVID-19, or repatriation requests.
“Every single flight that you would see, every single flight that we would approve would be an essential flight and 98% of them would be connected to COVID-19,” he said.
“A few others, maybe 1% might be either a repatriation request from a diplomatic community which must go through foreign affairs or it might be repatriation due to illness of another kind.
“And those repatriations will also need the stamp of a teaching hospital.
“There is no exception to governors. I had denied several of such flights, including two governors from south-south and two from the south east and by the way, three of them are members of the APC and I think one is from north-central.
“Once you see a flight approved, it is diligently done and it must be essential, COVID-19-related or some other flights like essential cargo that would bring in medicines or equipment or something related to our well being like food,” Sirika added.
Airports in Nigeria will not be reopened on April 23rd as earlier scheduled. Instead, they will remain shut for two more weeks, a statement from the Ministry of Aviation said on Monday.
“As a result of the extension on lockdown by Mr President, it is no longer possible for us to open our airspace and airports for normal operations by the 23rd April 2020,” the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, was quoted as saying in a statement by the Director of Public Affairs in the ministry, James Odaudu.
President Buhari had on Monday, April 13 extended a lockdown in Lagos and Ogun states as well as the Federal Capital territory Abuja by two weeks.
Ahead of the lockdown, the international airports in the country had been shut as part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Despite pushing back the reopening of the airports in view of the lockdown extension, the aviation minister said the decision is subject to review as appropriate.
The minister appealed to air travellers and all stakeholders in the aviation industry to see the current situation as sacrifices necessary to safeguard the health and well-being of the people, with the hope that the pandemic will be short-lived.
Since Nigeria recorded its first COVID-19 case on February, infections in the country have risen to 627 with a record 86 cases confirmed on April 19. A total of 21 people have lost their lives while 170 people have recovered from the virus.
The pandemic has disrupted daily life with schools across the countries shut, lockdowns and movement restrictions in several states as the government races against time to flatten the curve.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika has faulted the arrest of two pilots of Caverton Helicopters by the Rivers State Government.
Mr Sirika who was speaking during the Presidential Taskforce briefing on COVID-19 on Wednesday, explained that it was wrong for the state government to have carried out the arrests, within Federal Government-owned properties without clearance from federal authorities.
“Civil Aviation is on exclusive list. So no other person but the Federal Government has authority to legislate upon. So also, the Nigeria Airforce is on exclusive list. There is no other person but the Federal government that has the legal right to legislate upon.
“So the Air force officer who jumped the Commander in Chief and ignored, who also jumped the Chief of Defence Staff and ignored, as well as ignored the Chief of Air Staff, to call a governor to come into a property of the Federal Government to make an arrest has exhibited dangerous ignorance and gross incompetence”.
“The police that also followed the governor to the place to make an arrest have also exhibited dangerous ignorance from our perspective in civil aviation,” Mr Sirika said.
The pilots were arrested on Tuesday for allegedly violating the executive order issued by the Rivers State Governor aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus in the state.
But the Aviation Minister maintained that their operation was indeed approved by the Federal Government as it was in line with national interest.
“Whether we gave the approval for the flight, yes we did and we did in national interest.
“All of those flights are for the purposes of improving the national revenue to which Rivers State is the greatest beneficiary.
“At a time when oil has gone below $30, and the cost of production is $30, in the wisdom of President Muhammadu Buhari, he thought that this be allowed even in this national pandemic, so that the nation will not be crippled.
“Efforts are on to get the pilots back in national interest,” added.
Some Nigerian Ministers were at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport on Tuesday to supervise the process and screening of passengers coming into the country in order to prevent Coronavirus spread.
They include the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed; Minister for Aviation, Hadi Sirika; Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora; and Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouk.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has reacted to the diversion and outright cancellation of flights at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
A statement by the Director of Public Affairs, James Odaudu, on Thursday said the minister noted with great concern the experiences of air travellers to and from the airport Lagos, as a result of highly inclement weather conditions.
Sirika, however, gave the assurance that authorities at the airport were in the process of replacing the old Category 2 Instrument Landing Systems with the newly procured Category 3 system that allows for the lowest visibility landing.
He, however, regretted that there was a malfunctioning of certain components, which, coupled with the unforeseen weather conditions, made landing at the airport difficult.
“The procurement of the Category 3 Instrument landing system is in pursuance of the desire of the Federal Government to ensure the safety of air passengers by ensuring that airplanes can land with almost zero visibility.
“We wish to assure the public and the airlines, that efforts are on to return the system to full working condition and that normalcy of operations will be re-established in due course,” the minister said.
On the diversion of incoming international flights to neighbouring countries, he stated that the decisions were purely those of the airlines which the government has no control over.
According to Sirika, such flights could and should have been rerouted to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja which is shorter or equidistant from Lagos to the foreign airports to which some of the flights have been diverted.
He disclosed that in recognition of Abuja as an alternate airport, Qatar airlines has applied to divert its flights there and the request was immediately approved.
“It is left to be seen why some others decided to divert to another country,” the minister wondered.
He added, “We wish to use this medium to assure the general public that the comfort, safety and, security of the flying populace remain the central focus of this administration and that no effort would be spared in ensuring this.”
All things being equal, the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu should be completed before easter 2020.
That’s according to the minister of aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika who was accompanied by the Deputy Governor of Enugu state on an inspection visit to see the level of work done at the airport terminals and runway.
Mr Sirika listed installation of landing system, taxi and airfield lightings as some of the equipment to be delivered within the timeline, for 24-hour operations at the airport.
The ongoing rehabilitation of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, will be completed and the airport reopened before the Easter deadline, the Minister of Aviation assured.
He said the contractor, PW, had been urged to ensure that he delivered the best of jobs in order to ensure that what happened to the runway, which failed after six years, did not repeat itself.
The minister further stated that apart from the runway and terminal building, where work is also ongoing, critical equipment such as Instrument Landing Systems ( ILS), Air Field Lighting (AFL), approach lights, taxi lights, aerodrome markings, and other facilities would be completed before the reopening date.