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National Assembly Push for Opening Airports

The House of Representatives, on Tuesday, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately direct the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Federal Ministry of Aviation and other related agencies to commence local flights, beginning with the opening of at least one airport in each of the six geopolitical zones with the view to give all zones a sense of belonging and ensure equity and fairness.

The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by the Majority Chief Whip, Hon Mohammed Monguno and 7 others, during the plenary where the lawmakers unanimously resolved to reconvene on Thursday as part of the post-COVID-19 Legislative plan.

Preparatory to this, the House urged Federal Government to direct relevant agencies to develop an acceptable standard of operation (SOP) that will be in tandem with the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for airlines and workers.

To this effect, the House directed the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to ensure that airports and aircraft are routinely disinfected promptly.

In his lead debate, Hon Monguno noted that “Nigerian government closed its airports to the international traffic on March 23rd and a week later, all the local traffics were also stopped following the discovery of first index case of the COVlD-19 pandemic to curtail the spread of the virus.

The House also notes that the coronavirus pandemic has brought global air travel to an unprecedented halt as the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (WTO) states that 100 per cent of 217 countries worldwide have COVlD-19 related travel restrictions in place. Such measures, the WTO says, represent ‘the most severe restriction on international travel in history’.

“The House also notes that most countries in the world have maintained guided local flight for easy movement of people especially the essential workers and goods but banned international flights.

The House is aware that the continued ban on local flights will further suffocate the economy and equally cripple the local air transport sector including several other ancillary businesses directly or indirectly linked to it and thereby escalate the unemployment situation in the country.

“The House is further aware that some of the airlines and other service providers within the industry immediately sent their staff on compulsory leave without pay and thus brought untold hardships to many homes directly or indirectly connected to the affected employees.

“The House is also aware that all the statutory agencies like the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, the Nigerian College Aviation Technology, Zaira, the Nigeria Meteorological Agency and the Air Accident lnvestigation Bureau which generate their revenue when the aeroplanes are struggling to pay staff salary at the moment.

The House is concerned that travelling within the country has become severe nightmare as a result of the poor state of our roads and the challenging security situation makes the reopening of our airports more imperative.

The House is also concerned that most of the aeroplanes now lying idle at the various airports across the country will require huge sums of money in hard currency to service them if efforts are not made to put them back into operations thus posing more hardship for the operator,” he noted.

While ruling, the Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, who presided over the plenary, mandated the House Committees on Aviation, Legislative Compliance and Ad-hoc Committee on COVID-19 to monitor compliance and report back to the House within two weeks for further legislative action.

SOURCE: The Tribune (Nigeria)

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