The Federal Government on Thursday said the airports would be reopened to international flights in weeks and not in months.
When international flights eventually resume, passengers are expected to arrive the airport three hours before their flights.
The government said the prolonged ban on international travels was not punitive but mainly to keep Nigerians across the country safe from the spread of COVID-19.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, disclosed this in Abuja while answering questions at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
He said, “On the question about the reopening of the airports, I will like to use this medium to reiterate and to be consistent with what we’ve been saying. I want people to understand that this is not purely an aviation function.
“It also has to do with our health and is so huge that it made Mr President in his wisdom to set up the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. This is in the interest of the nation.”
The minister said operators in the civil aviation sector had wanted to open the airports a long time ago in order to return to business and halt the loss of revenue.
Sirika said the ban on international flights had warranted the mass sacking of workers in the aviation sector and non-payment of salaries by airlines.
He said, “So we really want to open. But we can’t open alone, for within the space where we operate we’ve got all kinds of people there in the airports.
“We’ve got immigration, police, Customs, civil defense, port health, etc, and so the PTF has set up a technical committee to come up with a date when everybody will be happy to start.”
The minister added, “So we will open as soon as all of us are happy to open. And I want to adopt what the coordinator has said; it will be in weeks rather than in months.”
Sirika urged Nigerians not to blame any government official for the ban on international flights. Rather the blame should be on COVID-19, he said.
“We feel your pain. We know that this closure of airports has separated families and friends, denied people access to hospitals abroad, schools, businesses, etc. We feel this pain,” he said.
He insisted that the prolonged ban on international flights was not on purpose but was to ensure that Nigerians remained safe and healthy.
The PTF National Coordinator said the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and other agencies, as well as airlines, should commence the process for the resumption of international flights.
According to Aliyu, passengers would arrive three hours before flights when the country’s airspace finally reopens for international operations.
“We have modified the protocol for passenger arrivals at the airports. Domestic passengers arriving at the airports are advised to arrive one hour before their flights and three hours before international flights – when this restarts.”
He said there may be additional infrastructure for some of the airports.
“Hopefully in weeks but not months,” he added.