Closure of international airspace not extended to October 15  -NAMA

 Chinelo Obogo

 

The Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has denied reports that the country’s airspace will remain shut to international flights until October 15, 2020. 

 

The General Manager, Public Affairs, Khalid Emele, said NAMA received an Aeronautical Information Circular (AIC) from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) stating that the closure of airports to all international flights with the exception of emergency and essential flights, and scheduled cargo operations with approved summer schedules, will continue until a date of resumption is approved.

 

He said on the 15th July 2020, in line with international standards, NCAA issued a 3-month duration NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) (from 15th July to 15th October 2020) stating that the Federal Government of Nigeria has extended the closure of the nation’s airports to all international flights with the exception of aircraft in a state of emergency, but that approval may be requested and granted for essential services.

 

“Following the receipt of an All Operators Letter (NCAA/DG/AIR/11/16/152) from NCAA, the agency issued an Aeronautical Information Circular (AIC) titled “Phased Resumption of Domestic Flights” on 7th July 2020 to the effect that Lagos and Abuja airports will open for domestic flight operations on 8th July, Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Maiduguri and Uyo opens on 11th July and all other airports on 15th July 2020.

 

“Furthermore, paragraph 9 of the AIC states that “The closure of Nigerian Airports to all international flights with the exception of emergency and essential flights, and scheduled cargo operations with approved summer schedules, will continue until a date of resumption is approved”.

 

“For the avoidance of doubt, the agency on the 15th July 2020, in line with international standards, issued a 3-month duration NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) (from 15th July to 15th October 2020) stating that the Federal Government of Nigeria has extended the closure of the nation’s airports to all international flights with the exception of aircraft in a state of emergency, however approval may be requested and granted to:

Overflights, Operations related to humanitarian aids, Medical relief flights; Alternate aerodrome in the flight plan and also those being used for extended diversion time operation;Technical landings where passengers do not disembark; Cargo flights and other safety-related operations.

 

“From the foregoing, there was no indication that the closure of Nigerian airports to international flights was from 15th July to 15th October 2020. However, the NOTAM was issued for a minimum duration of 3 months in view of the fact that a specific date for resumption of international flights has not been confirmed by the Minister of Aviation nor the Director General of NCAA. 

 

“While the agency looks forward to the reopening of Nigerian airports to international flights, we wish to clarify that the import of the said NOTAM and AIC is NOT that Nigerian airports remain closed till 15th October 2020.

 

“Therefore, we crave the indulgence of our customers, airspace users and the general public to disregard the misconception being circulated as Nigerian airports will reopen to international flights at any date the Federal Government, Federal Ministry of Aviation and NCAA consider it safe, secure, and appropriate.”

 

There were earlier reports that the FG has extended the closure of the country’s international space to October 15 instead of August 19 as previously reported. But Sirika debunked the reports saying  that international flights may resume earlier than October. 

 

On his Twitter handle on Tuesday, July 21, Sirika said NAMA only issued a routine 90-day NOTAM and that the ministry will announce the agreed resumption date, regardless of the ban by countries in Europe.

 

“International Flight resumption date is not October. NAMA just issued a routine 90 day Notices to Airmen (NOTAM). In liaison with the Federal Ministry of Health, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Presidential Task Force of  COVID-19, we will announce the agreed date, regardless of the ban by Europe, UAE etc. May be earlier than October,” Sirika said. 

 

Nigeria placed travel restrictions on international flights into the country on March 21, after the country’s coronavirus cases doubled from 12-22. The airport closure was meant to last one month but as cases grew globally, the date of resumption got postponed 

 

The Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja and Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos were the first to be shut as measures to stem the spread of COVID19, the country’s civil aviation regulator, NCAA, announced in a statement while Enugu, Kano and Port Harcourt were shut afterwards.

 

FG said the closure was necessary to contain the spread of the virus across the country. However, domestic flights have resumed in the country.

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