Local airlines have urged the Federal Government and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to reopen the airspace for airlines and airports that have satisfied safety protocol to begin operations.
The carriers, under the aegis of Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), said more days were bound to be wasted and revenues lost should the system wait for every stakeholder to be ready.
The appeal was made on the heels of the disclosure that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), was concluding its findings and would submit recommendations to the PTF today.
AON Chairman, Capt. Nogie Meggison, at a webinar forum for aviation stakeholders, said a restart date would spur more stakeholders to intensify preparations and save newer investments recently made by the airlines.
The Director-General of NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, however, informed the stakeholders, especially the airlines, that the restart plan would be submitted to the PTF today, “all things being equal”.
“We are yet to get there but we are pretty close. The plan is that by Wednesday, we will submit our report to PTF. I reiterate, we are pretty close,” Nuhu said.
He added that the restriction in local flight operations also puts the NCAA in a difficult situation. “Our revenue is down by 90 to 95 per cent. We are almost ready. Like I said earlier, not all the airlines and airports have to be necessarily ready before the restart. If anything goes wrong, the NCAA will be held responsible.
“Sometimes this week, the proposed restart date will be made known. If the airports get it right, the airlines’ job will be made easier. The airlines that have disinfected their aircraft should show proof to the NCAA. On the middle seats, we need to listen to the health authority, even though I do not support the middle seat regime. We are liaising with the health authority to get the best for the airlines. It is our interest that airlines start flying yesterday,” he said.
The Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, also pleaded with the stakeholders to exercise patience, as the grey areas bother mostly on airport safety and security.
“Please, bear with us. It is primarily on safety and security issues. We need to improve on what we have. That is why we started training our personnel. On procurement, there are things you do not get on time. We have been going at a drastic pace since June 21, 2020, to achieve the common goals.” Yadudu said.
The Chairman of the NCAA COVID-19 Committee, Godwin Balang, earlier enumerated the guidelines’ control measures employed by NCAA to work towards the restart of the industry.
Balang said they had developed the guidelines on uncharted grounds, which are to: issue regulations in compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs); issue guidelines to aviation industry and approve restart of aviation industry, in totality or at individual level.
He said: “Restart and recovery guidelines are based on 10 key principles which are to: protect people in harmonised but flexible measures; work as one aviation team and show solidarity; ensure essential connectivity; actively manage safety, security and health related risks; make aviation public health measures work with aviation safety and security systems; strengthen public confidence; distinguish restart from recovery; support financial relief strategies to help the aviation industry; ensure sustainability and learn lessons to improve resilience.”
As at yesterday, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) was 80 per cent ready; domestic airlines were 70 per cent set; NIMET was also prepared and domestic airports at 57 per cent — a major setback in the restart plan.