The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, on Saturday, said the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, is 90 per cent completed and ready to reopen for business with strict compliance to COVID-19 protocols.
The Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport was undergoing necessary preparation at the time of filing this report with measures being put in place to contain the spread of the virus.
Provisions were made for hand washing with alcohol based sanitiser, temperature check with strict compliance to social distancing of about one metre.
Journalists covering the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19 were led on dry run tests by the Ministry from Lagos to Abuja in a move to witness preparation for the reopening of the aviation sector.
At the screening point where passengers were usually screened at the departure lounge, security officials ensured that the rule guiding COVID-19 protocols were adhered to.
At the departure lounge, the seats which were usually crowded had been rearranged in compliance with the COVID-19 protocol to allow for social distancing.
Inscription, ‘do not use this seat, keep your distance’, to separate passengers was written on the seats to guide passengers on the new protocols in line with COVID-19 guidelines.
Two newly acquired robots with the name ‘Cruzr’ were positioned to screen passengers at the airport for identification of the passengers.
The operator, who refused to give his name, said that the robots could do anything required in the course of screening passengers at the airport.
To demonstrate the robots’ readiness, it correctly identified the Minister and shook his hands.
Also, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) held dry run simulation exercises at domestic terminals of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, the General Manager, Corporate Communications, FAAN, confirmed the development in a statement in Lagos on Saturday.
Yakubu said the exercise, aimed at assessing the readiness of the airports for reopening post-COVID-19, was witnessed by Sirika.
“Also available to witness the exercise were Minister Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora; Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba as well as the National Coordinator, Presidential Task Force, Dr Aliyu Sanni.
“Others are the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Capt. Musa Nuhu; the Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu; and the Chairman, Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, amongst several other stakeholders,” she said.
Yakubu explained that the simulation exercise began in Abuja as passengers were taken through the Post-COVID-19 departure protocols enroute Lagos on a Boeing 737 Aero Contractors flight.
She said the team from Abuja arrived at the General Aviation Terminal, Lagos about 12.00hours.
The general Manager noted that passengers on board the flight were facilitated in line with the normal procedural order of arrival facilitation.
In his remark, Sirika expressed his delight at the level of facilities on ground.
He explained that going by the measures that had been put in place, the airports were about 90 per cent ready to reopen.
“The domestic passengers will now have to get to the airports like three hours before departure, while international passengers would be expected to get to the airports about five hours before their flight.
“This is to ensure that all protocols, including safety markings, social distancing, hand sanitising, baggage decontamination, scanning of personal items are complied with forthwith,’’ Sirika said.
Other ministers on ground and the National Coordinator of PTF also took their turn to comment on their impression of the preparedness of the airports for reopening.
They expressed satisfaction at the measures taken so far and were optimistic that the airports were ready for reopening.
The team from Abuja also went through the departure protocols, signalling the end of the exercise.