This may not be the best of times for the aviation industry, as both sitting and former governors as well as very important persons (VIPs) have been accused of violating, with impunity, the various safety and security protocols in place as airports reopen nationwide, owing to the further easing of the COVID-19 lockdown by the Federal Government.
The Guardian learnt that the gateways, including the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri; Port Harcourt International Airport, Port Harcourt; and Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, are having a hectic time in impressing it on the bigwigs to comply with the basic safety rules.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), yesterday, called out Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa State, few days after the former chief executive of Zamfara, AbdulAziz Yari, was blamed for similar infraction.
However, the agency has recorded a gradual surge in passenger traffic at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
A document obtained by The Guardian revealed a 50 per cent increase in the first week and second week of resumption of domestic flights.
Prior to the reopening of the airspace about a week ago, President Muhammadu Buhari had directed public office holders and celebrities to submit themselves to both health and security screening at the airports.
Like others passengers, the VIPs are bound to adhere to physical distancing, wear face masks, get checked, and have their baggage decontaminated as part of measures to check the spread of the virus.
But FAAN, in a tweet, said on July 14,2020 at the Port Harcourt Airport, Fintiri and eight others allegedly refused to follow the public health etiquette, an action it described as “dangerous and unacceptable.”
“Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, who arrived Port Harcourt International Airport aboard aircraft 5N-IZY, at 17:08hrs on 14th July 2020 with eight others, flagrantly refused to observe the airport security and public health protocols as directed by the Federal Government through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on #COVID-19 by refusing to have his temperature checked, or being sanitised by the health officials.
“His whole entourage of eight did exactly as he did. The team that came to receive them drove right through the barricades up to the terminal building, ignoring traffic and aviation security instructions,” the report read in part.
FAAN implored airport users, especially the bigwigs, to respect the presidential directive by observing the extant set of rules put in place to safeguard all against unlawful interference, infection and the novel coronavirus.
It also condemned Yari’s conduct, who allegedly violated the public health procedures on travels at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport on Saturday, July 11, 2020.
The agency alleged: “He (Yari) refused to adhere to the protocol and procedures put in place by the Federal Government through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on #COVID19, by forcefully pushing away an officer of the environment department, who insisted that his (Yari) luggage must be disinfected.
“The former governor said the officer should have known he is a VIP. This irresponsible act endangers all other airport users. It is unacceptable. And as such, it has been duly escalated.”
Responding yesterday in a statement issued by his media consultant, Mayowa Oluwabiyi, the ex-governor, who denied the claims, labelled them as “odious and distasteful.”
He, therefore, demanded an immediate apology amid a threat of litigation.
The rejoinder read: “We wish to re-affirm that H.E Abdulaziz Yari, the former governor of Zamfara State, is a law-abiding Nigerian, who will never resort to violence on any issue whatsoever. H.E Yari holds the Federal Government of Nigeria in very high esteem, and supports all steps taken by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to fight the deadly pandemic.