The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, has disclosed that over 27,000 passengers from abroad have come into Nigeria since the reopening of international travels after the easing of the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aliyu stated this during a town hall webinar meeting on Saturday, organised by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and coordinated by its Chairman/CEO, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, for Nigerians coming into the country at this time.
Aliyu said of the 27,000 passengers, 18,000 of them came in through Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, while the remaining 9,000 arrived via Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
He explained that the Task Force came up with what people considered as stringent procedures because it was imperative to limit the importation of COVID-19 into Nigeria, prevent transmission during the flight and reduce the quarantine period.
He told Nigerians in the Diaspora who participated in the webinar that public laboratories are not allowed to conduct free testing as the Federal Government cannot afford it and it is not sustainable.
He said: “It is not something that government can afford.
“We will run out of test kits.”
Aliyu explained that the Federal Government does not receive any money paid to private laboratories as it would have loved to subsidise, but it is not sustainable by the government.
He added: “We appreciate the difficulties that people are going through.
“It will be sorted.”
Aliyu commended NIDCOM for living up to expectations in coordinating Diaspora concerns on the protocols put in place.
Aliyu added that the advantage of testing before boarding is to stop people with COVID-19 from moving to Nigeria as the test is expected to be done 120 hours maximum before boarding.
He also advised those travelling out of Nigeria to enquire from the country they are travelling to if COVID-19 test is a requirement for entry.
Speaking on the high cost of having the test, Aliyu said the Federal Government is trying to push the cost of PCR down for private laboratories who will in turn work within the travel sector.
The National Coordinator said children below the age of 10 years do not need to have the test and “if they have been subjected to payment, then they will be refunded”.
On the testing process for international travellers staying outside Lagos or Abuja, Aliyu said: “If there is no private laboratory in your state of final destination, the laboratory you have chosen for your test during registration will make arrangements to have your sample taken at a designated laboratory.
“The PTF and NCDC (Nigeria Centre for Disease Control) are urgently working with all states to create a mechanism for private testing.
“We’ve already approached six or seven states that have private labs in their states.”
Aliyu disclosed that a list of accredited private laboratories, especially if one is traveling out of the country, is on the NCDC microsite: covid19.ncdc.gov.ng/
He urged all passengers travelling to Nigeria to update all required information on the Nigerian international travel portal before boarding.
He said this will auto generate a QR code, which is required on arrival.
He also said any passenger made to pay more than once must be refunded, adding that customer service teams have been stationed at the airports.
Earlier, the Chairman/CEO of NIDCOM, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said the Commission had to organise the webinar town hall meeting owing to complaints and frustration encountered by some Nigerians in the diaspora to enlighten and disseminate useful information.
Dabiri-Erewa appealed to all travellers to be patient with the PTF COVID-19 immigration policy, saying everything will be done to ease the difficulty being encountered by those coming into the country.
Responding, Obed Monago, Chairman NIDO Americas; Olawale Odutayo; Tony Issima; and other speakers commended Dabiri-Erewa for always being proactive in taking care of the Diaspora concerns all the time.
Apparently excited about the platform provided by NIDCOM to clarify all the knotty issues on travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic, participants described the webinar as “useful, timely and informative”.
“This is the first time Nigerians in Diaspora have influenced major policy decisions in the country,” many commented.