COVID travel ban: Anger trails Nigeria’s slap-on-the-wrist penalty for a British airline

An announcement that the Nigerian government has imposed a fine of about $2,500 on a British private charter plane, Flairjet, which contravened the flight ban imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country, has been greeted by mostly disbelief and anger.

According to the Nigerian aviation minister Hadi Sirika, a Legacy 600 aircraft belonging to Flairjet had arrived the commercial city of Lagos on Sunday May 17 and was found to have been carrying commercial passengers.

Passenger flights into the country have been banned for weeks. The only exception are flights repatriating Nigerians back home from different countries or those carrying humanitarian materials or workers.

When the Flairjet plane landed, it was impounded while the crew was interrogated and placed under compulsory quarantine.

“We are continuing to respectfully work with the Nigerian authorities to resolve this situation,” Flairjet had said in a statement at the time.

The aviation ministry had also indicated that the maximum penalty would be imposed on the airline. It turned out that each violation against the airline carried a penalty of about $1,281 (N500,000)

On Monday, when the penalty was announced on Sirika’s Twitter handle, Nigerians were quick to point out how ridiculous it was and the need to review the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority law.

The Nigerian air ban would be in place until June 4 and is expected to be extended to some degree.

Many Nigerians have been critical of the fact that the government failed to put in place such ban earlier than it did, as it only announced the ban once COVID-19 infections were announced in the country.

It would be recalled that Abba Kyari who was Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, died of COVID-19 complications on April 17, after travelling to Germany through the UK. He started showing symptoms of the virus once he arrived Nigeria.

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