On Monday, May 18, 2020, Hadi Sirika, Nigeria’s aviation minister rectified the name of the British-based aircraft that was recently impounded for operating commercial flights in the West African country contrary to the coronavirus-related ban.
It will be recalled in a tweet by Sirika on Sunday, May 17, that a UK company, Flair Aviation, was caught conducting commercial flights. However, while speaking during the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 barely 24 hours later, Sirika apologised to Nigerians for disseminating a wrong claim via his Twitter handle attributing his error to the on-going Ramadan fast.
“I want to apologise what I tweeted in the afternoon (on Sunday) when the fasting was biting harder, ” The aviation minister stated. Sirika therefore, confirmed that “the correct name is Flairjet and it is a UK registered company.”
Additionally, the minister revealed the airlines business address and information on the impounded aircraft -Legacy 600 with registration number GPRFX. With Nigeria’s ban on local and international flights to curb further spread of COVID-19, Sirika reprimanded the airline for violating the nation’s directive.
Prior to now, only flights for essential services, such as the delivery of food supplies and items for humanitarian use, are permitted in Nigeria as an effort to prevent a surge in coronavirus cases. Consequently, passenger flights into the country, with the exception to evacuate people or repatriate Nigerian citizens, have been banned for weeks till June 4.
The company, Flairjet according to Sirika, applied and received approval from the Ministry of Aviation to operate humanitarian flights. Unfortunately, the airline was later caught operating “conducting commercial flights.” Thus, Sirika concluded in his announcement that investigations are ongoing while “the pilots are subjected to 14 days quarantine at the moment.”
Despite the coronavirus travel ban in Nigeria and most nations of the world infected with the pandemic, some airlines are still carrying out passenger flights. The possibility of human smuggling in countries with coronavirus-related travel restrictions is therefore brought to question.
Sirika noted that such repelling actions by airlines renders the lockdown on interstate movement and flight operations pointless. Aircraft companies are therefore advised to visit government websites frequently for updated information and details on international and local flights so as not to violate lockdown measures.
Meanwhile, as of Monday, May 18, there were 6175 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nigeria with 191 deaths.