Aviation sector worst hit by COVID-19 pandemic ― Sirika

• Says organization under the sector struggling to pay salaries • Sets facilitation committee for resumption of international flights

The Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika has disclosed that the Aviation Sector is one of the worst casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic which has crumbled the economy of the industry, making payment of salaries even difficult.

Sirika speaking in Abuja explained that “there must be passenger movement for us to be able to survive. We have said here on this platform that salaries are becoming difficult for us to pay.”

The Minister said though the aviation sector was one of the worst-hit by COVID-19 pandemic, “lifting of the ban on international travel without adhering to the laid down protocols would amount to disaster.”

He further lamented the harrowing experience and downturn in the economy due to COVID-19 and its impact on aviation which has made it extremely difficult for many organizations to pay salaries.

Sirika noted that passenger movement was important to the economy of the aviation sector, adding that government working towards the resumption of international flights as means of re-opening up the economy of the entire country.

He said a National Air Facilitation Committee has been established to work out the modalities for a safe resumption of international flight operations in the country.

According to a statement made available to the media by James Odaudu, Director, Public Affairs of the Aviation ministry, the committee is made up of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

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“Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Airport Security Committee, Ground Handlers Association, Directorate of State Security Service (DSS), Freight forwarders association, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Committee and the Quarantine service.

The statement stated that “the committee will meet tomorrow to further discuss the protocols for the re-opening of the airports. Certainly, aviation is worst hit with this. So, we want to open more than you want us to open.

“We have been living with the question of when we are going to open. This is subject to so many factors and all of these sacrifices that we are making is in the interest of the public and the interest of all of us to fly safely.

The Minister also debunked insinuations that airspace in Europe and other places had re-opened saying it was not true that Nigeria was the one holding down the return of international operations. “As I said, if it is on us, we would open yesterday. If we open, we will make more money to enable us to carry out all our activities.

“The purpose is to be able to judge what is safe for our citizens of our country. Please, bear with the situation. We feel your pain. We understand it as much as you do. We know that some people are cut away from their families, businesses, but this is an act of God.

“This is force majeure. Please, bear with the situation. We are very responsible people. We will open only when it is the right time to open and I am sure it will be sooner than later. Tomorrow, as I said, this committee will meet, discuss, analyze and review the protocols and they will announce when it is safe to open the airports for international flights,” he stated.



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