By Kazeem Ugbodaga
The Federal Government has suspended operations of Emirates Airlines to Nigeria for violating COVID-19 Protocols set by the Presidential Task Force of COVID-19 (PTF).
This was contained in a letter signed by Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA’s Director General, Captain Musa Nuhu and dated February 4, 2020 with reference number NCAA/DG/AIR/11/16/285, addressed to the Country Manager of Emirates Airlines in Nigeria.
The government said it had been brought to the attention of the PTF that Emirates airlines had continued to airlift passengers from Nigeria using Rapid Antigen Test (RDT) conducted by laboratories that were neither approved nor authorized by the appropriate regulatory bodies.
It said this is a violation of paragraph 5 of the NCAA letter with Re; NCAA/DG/AIR11/16/281 of 02 February, 2021, addressed to the airline.
The letter had said “Based on the foregoing and to enable the Nigerian government to put in place the needed infrastructure and logistics for COVID-19 RDT testing for departing passengers, the PTF has directed that Emirates airlines should either accept passengers without RDT pending when the infrastructure and the logistics are put in place or suspends its flights to and from Nigeria until such a time when the required infrastructure and logistics are fully established and implemented.”
But the government noted that Emirates had not been in compliance with the two options given by the PTF as record obtained from the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) indicated that Emirates airline operated flights from Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
It said this was in addition to an advert by Emirates Airlines for RDT by The Travel Clinic and Medicaid Mobile Laboratory in Lagos and Abuja, two organisations that were not approved by the appropriate regulatory bodies and PTF to conduct RDT for departing passengers.
According to the letter, the PTF took the violations of the instructions seriously and had directed that Emirates airlines should suspend its operations to Nigeria (Lagos and Abuja) effective 72 hours from midnight (23.00z) on Thursday, February 4, 2021.
The NCAA stated that during the 72 hour leeway, Emirates airlines was only authorized to bring passengers into Nigeria, as outbound passengers were not authorized.
The letter added that NCAA would impose additional sanctions on Emirates for the violations of the PTF directive and COVID-19 protocols and that the airlines would be informed in due time as when to resume operations to Nigeria.