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Flight resumptions: We won’t allow VIPs’ aides enter airports – Sirika

In adherence to social distancing policy, very important personalities (VIPs) embarking on local trips in the country would not be allowed to travel with their aides. Also, Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, yesterday, said that he has no jurisdiction to determine the airfare for the airlines.

Domestic flights are billed to resume next Wednesday, July 8. Sirika stated this while responding to questions from senators at an interactive session with members of the Senate Committee on Aviation on the proposed resumption of domestic flights next week.

Apart from the fact that personalities won’t be allowed to travel with their aides, Sirika stated that, even important personalities who were not traveling would not be allowed to enter the airport. “We have circulated this information and Mr. President has approved; all those who have no business in travelling will certainly have no business to enter the airport. They will not enter the airport, not at all. “So, anybody coming into the airport, this time around, whether as a personality, a minister, or even honourable members, the senators will not be carrying their aides into the airports any longer. “So, the VIPs should help us and take responsibility, so that we ensure that they don’t add to our problems in the country.”

This was as he also urged Nigerians to desist from stigmatisation of persons who had tested positive for Coronavirus, stressing that the pandemic was not as deadly as Ebola and Lassa fever. Speaking on the airfare, Sirika said that even though it was not within his statutory powers to determine the price, increases by airline operators would not be significant. “Price is not in my hand, but like I said from what we put in place, I do not think that anything significant will happen to affect the propensity to fly,” he said. Sirika said that the Abuja and Lagos airports would resume domestic operations on July 8, as Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri and Maiduguri would resume on July 11, while other airports would resume on July 15.

The minister said the airports authorities were committed to ensuring the provision of necessary safety protocols of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There is nothing like rush hour. People have to stay safe before anything happens. “So, I’m sure that as civil aviation, we are responsible to ensure that everybody remains safe.

“There should be no fear, no panic, the industry is highly regulated. It is one aviation and I’m sure that you have seen from what we have been doing lately. “We have been following the international convention and practices. “So, this will not be different, there is nothing to panic about, we will ensure physical distancing when required.” On if the social distancing protocol would result in the reduction of the boarding capacity of an aircraft in terms of number of passengers, Sirika said: “No, we didn’t say so. “Bear in mind that most of the flights are not always full. That is number one. Number two, I said to you that we are working with the airlines to come up with the protocols before we open. That will be unveiled to you in due course.”

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