The Federal Government has reaffirmed the closure of all international airports in Nigeria for four weeks in order to tame the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika wrote via his twitter handle (@hadisirika), that “All Int’l Airports remain closed for 4 weeks as said, except for Aircraft in distress and overflights.”
Over the weekend, Sen. Sirika hinted on the possibility of shutting the two main international airports (Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja).
Confirming the hint given by the minister, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) issued directive to airline operators intimating them on the decision of the government to shut the airports to international operations from the midnight of 23 March, 2020 to 23 April, subject to review.
Reeling the exemptions, the Aviation minister commented: “The following are also exempted but with prior approval from Minister of Aviation in advance.
1. Humanitarian, Medical and Relief 2. Cargo 3. Technical 4. Alternate & 5. Safety.”
“Notices to be issued by NAMA & NCAA. It is important to note that in crises situation, single source of information is important. The public should rely on The Presidential Task Force (PTF COVID-19) headed by the SGF. Aviation, NCDC & other relevant MDA’s are members of the PTF.”
Corroborating the minister’s stance on the clarification of exemptions during the airport closure, the NCAA has issued notification to all operators.
The update signed by the Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu reads:
“Further to our earlier letter on restriction of international flights into Nigeria, we wish to confirm the following are considered Essential Flights:
a. Aircraft in State of emergency
b. Over flights
c. Operations related to humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights
d. Alternate aerodromes identified in the flight plan (including those being used for extended diversion time operations
e. Technical stop where passengers do not disembark
f. Cargo flights
g. Other safety related operations.”
The update by NCAA conclude that: “With exception of aircraft in a state of emergency, request for approval for other flights is required and shall be addressed to, ‘the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika. “
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency Aeronautical Information Services in response to this has issued a circular Series A 05/2020 23 Mar 2020 for information, guidance and necessary action.
In the circular signed by the Director of Operations, Pwajok Lawrence for the Managing Director/Chief Executive titled: Restrictions of international flight operations into Nigeria, “Approval may be given, upon request, for the purposes of the following operations:
“ Over flights, Operations related to humanitarian aids, medical and relief flights; alternate aerodrome identified in the flight plan (including those being used for Extended Diversion Time Operations (EDTOs]), technical landings where passengers do not disembark, cargo flights and other safety and security related operations.
According to the circular, request for approval with respect to all the above flight operations, with the exception of aircraft in a state of emergency shall be addressed to the Minister of Aviation, Federal Government of Nigeria as well as the DG NCAA Captain Musa Nuhu.