By Bayo Onanuga
Nigerian travellers have narrow choices of external destinations they can go when the authorities resume international flights on 5 September.
Last week, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika announced that Nigeria will resume post-COVID-19 flights, at two of the nation’s gateways, Abuja and Lagos.
He gave the tentative date of 29 August, which was shifted by one week on Thursday.
He was quick to add last week, that the country will only accept flights from countries, that have no existing travel ban against Nigerians.
Many countries, amid the COVID-19 pandemic shut their airspace and closed their borders since March. Some of them are now easing things up, but with a lot of restrictions.
Britain has Nigeria on its travel ban, just like the United States, which imposed its ban in February.
UK, the most favourite destination of Nigerian travellers, pre-COVID, has drawn up an exempt list of countries and territories. Nigeria i conspicuously missing.
In Africa, only the islands of Mauritius, Reunion, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha are are on the list.
For Nigerians, flights to Britain can only be on ”essential” only basis, such as medicare, studies or joining families.
Those coming in outside of the exempt countries will have to abide by the 14-day quarantine rule that was put in place on June 8, including travellers coming from the United States, with the world’s heaviest coronavirus caseload.
While Nigerians are welcome in the United Arab Emirates, they cannot go to Cyprus and Saudi Arabia.
The UAE clarified recently that Nigerians are welcome, amid speculations that they may have been banned because of the reputation damage caused by the arrest of international fraudsters, Ramon Abbas a.k.a Hushpuppi and Olalekan Ponle a.k.a Woodberry..
The EU has also slammed an iron curtain against Nigerian travellers. It means Nigerian travellers are not welcome for now in almost all its 28-member countries.
These are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden
EU has an existing ban on MedView Airline from its air space. So the ban of Nigerian travellers is a double blow.
However, Nigerians are not exceptions, as Americans, almost the entire Latin America nationals, China, Russia are on the list.
The exceptions are Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay. EU is constantly updating its list.
But Croatia, a member of the EU is allowing all flights, including from Nigeria, if travellers can provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result procured within 48 hours of arriving at the Croatian border, or submit to an otherwise mandatory quarantine.
In Africa, Although Egypt has opened its airports to scheduled flights , it only allows limited flights from other countries.
In West Africa, there is no reported ban of Nigerian travellers in any of the countries in the region.
There are restrictions however.
Ghana insists on COVID-19 positive certificate.
In East Africa, Ethiopia is also open to Nigerians, with conditions.
Ethiopian Airline explains the existing policy:
” Effective July 18,2020 the Ethiopian Government has decided to quarantine all arriving passengers entering Ethiopia for 7 days at the expense of the passengers, except travellers who can bring certificate of negative RT-PCR SAR-CoV test done up to 5 days before arrival to Ethiopia.
“All travellers arriving at Bole International airport who can bring a certificate of negative RT-PCR SAR-CoV test done up to 5 days before arrival to Ethiopia, will be required mandatory 14-day self-quarantine at home after giving sample upon arrival.
“All travellers with NO certificate of negative RT-PCR SAR-CoV test done up to 5 days before arrival to Ethiopia as well as returnees will be quarantined at selected hotels including the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel for 7 days at passenger’s own expense or will be placed at different quarantine centres for 7 days.
“After 7 days, travellers will be tested and then self-isolated for an additional 7 days at home”.
Kenya also allows Nigerian travellers to come in. But they must undergo quarantine, according to an advisory by the country’s foreign affairs ministry.
The country does not include Nigeria among 129 countries exempt from quarantine, but exempts America that has the world’s worst COVID-19 cases and deaths and India, with the third worst. COVID. Even Saudi Arabia, with Arab world’s second worst cases after Iran is on Kenya’s quarantine exemption list.
Kenya urges travellers to fill a mandatory ministry of health travellers health service online form and submit prior to travel.
The online form can be accessed from the ministry of health website https://bit.ly/covid19
The east African nation, despite the exemptions, insists all arriving passengers on international flights into Kenya must be screened.
“If body temperature is not above 37.5° c (99.5°f); do not have a persistent cough, difficulty in breathing or other flu-like symptoms; have negative COVID – 19 test carried out within 96 hours before travel and are from approved states they shall be exempt from quarantine”.
Up till Thursday Nigerian authorities are still gathering data on countries which have banned both Nigerian flights and passengers, ahead of 5 September.
Hadi Sirika explained the policy of reciprocity: “If they ban both the passengers and the carriers together, then that’s what’s going to happen,” Sirika said.
Sirika said imposing completely reciprocal measures ensures fairness to Nigerians.
“Our (COVID-19) numbers are not equal to the numbers we’ve seen in Europe,” Sirika said, adding that with travel bans, “we feel that it is discriminating against our people.”