Gov. Ben Ayade of Cross River has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to lift the ban on domestic flights as Nigerians grappled with the impact of COVID-19 on the economy.
Ayade made the appeal on Sunday while inspecting ongoing asphalting of the dualised Odukpani-Calabar highway in the state. He said the continued closure of Nigeria’s domestic airspace was impacting negatively on the aviation, hospitality and tourism sectors of the economy. He, however, warned that the adverse effects of another four weeks closure of the airspace could be catastrophic.
“The suspension of domestic flights has affected most hotels leading to their closure. “It is so bad that most hotels including the 5-star hotels are shutting down because they cannot even sustain the cost of diesel for their generating sets and as that happens, they start laying off workers. “So you have a lot of workers, young people who used to work in the hotels and tourism industry out of jobs. And the big question is, how long can this continue?
He said the closure of the country’s domestic airspace was also having negative spiral effect on small businesses and service providers, thus further worsening the economic situation of that category of Nigerians. “The caterers who supply food to the hotels are all out of business. All the suppliers are out of business. “So, as we continue to lock the domestic airports for another four weeks, what we are going to have in terms of economic loss, and in terms of social delinquency, the associated moral and social tension that will come with it will be just too huge for the country to bear,” he noted.
Ayade said rather than ban domestic flights, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC ) should devise strict guidelines to enable the airlines sector to continue to operate without escalating the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. “We can still be safe while allowing the internals of Nigeria to run. We can do so by allowing the domestic airlines to start flying.
“As they fly, NCDC should spell out certain conditions like making sure aircrafts are properly disinfected, ensuring temperature tests are carried out before passengers get on board and of course, ensuring that all passengers wear proper masks. “The airlines can have their own masks that they can give to passengers,” he said.