…pilots, crew refused to fly with PPE — Onyeama
The Federal Government has apologized over the slapdash associated with the evacuation of some Nigerians from the United Kingdom to Abuja, the nation’s capital.
It admitted that it did not get the logistics right with flight arrangements that conveyed them back home.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffery Onyeama, tendered the apology during the daily media briefing of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 on Friday in Abuja.
He said it was regrettable that passengers had to wait unreasonably for long hours at Lagos Airport before connecting their flight to Abuja.
“This is really a most regrettable situation and we apologize wholeheartedly to those passengers for having put them through that,” he said.
Persecondnews reports that the stranded Nigerians in the UK in the wake of COVID-19 lockdown arrived in Lagos on Friday afternoon aboard a British Airways 9155 plane which touched down at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport about 13:45 pm.
The returnees were reportedly stranded at the airport and were not airlifted to Abuja, where they are to be tested for COVID-19 and put in isolation for 14 days before being released to go home.
Onyeama noted that the 14-day mandatory isolation was required to ensure that the coronavirus status of every returnee was ascertained.
He said: “The day before yesterday (Thursday) from Dubai and that the Nigerians are evacuated has settled into Lagos and that today will be another flight, a British Airways flight.
“Now the challenge we had with the flight is that we had wanted it to come directly to Abuja because that is where the passengers are supposed to be quarantined.
“But the British Airways insisted that the people they are coming to pick and take back to the UK were in Lagos and if they also came to Abuja it would exceed the hours for the pilot.
“So this has put us in a very awkward position, it meant that the plane will land in Lagos and we would have to ferry the passengers to Abuja and this required a lot of coordination at many different levels.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get it right and the result is that passengers had to wait for unreasonably long hours at Lagos airport before connecting.
“We were working frantically with all the different parties concerned to try and get those passengers who have been staying on the tarmac and the Airport for over two hours.
“This is really a most regrettable situation and we apologize wholeheartedly to those passengers for having put them through that. The latest report I have from Lagos is that they are ready to go, to come to Abuja where they will then be quarantined.”
Explaining further, he said: “You know, one of the challenges, of course in this whole situation that we also faced is that the crew of plane also have to be quarantined for 14 days.
“So a lot of air crew and Pilots don’t want to take any kind of risk that will necessitate they being quarantined for 14 days and the situation that happened in Lagos is a new protocol that has been introduced that the crew and the pilot have to be wear the personal protection equipment at all times and this was introduced.
“And so that caused some issues and the pilots were not keen to fly until they were provided with these PPEs.
” But a number of things and as I said again yesterday, we haven’t had any practice of this, this is why we are just going through this thing blind with no previous experience.
“So there will be some mistakes here and there and we’re just doing everything we can to minimize the impact of those errors here and there.
“And as I said, we apologized profusely to those passengers that have unfortunately had to spend more time in Lagos than was planned under the conditions that are not comfortable.
“But we are doing everything possible to assure the quick transfer to Abuja and we hope that will certainly go more smoothly.”
According to the Minister, henceforth all the arrangements that are being made for the flights coming into the country will only go to the final destination to avoid grappling with complicated situation where the plane stops in one city and ferry the passengers to another city.
“So hopefully will not be confronted with this kind of situation again, but as I said, you know on behalf of the PTF and all the people that are working to evacuate our Nationals.
“We wholeheartedly apologize for this slip in building the process in evacuating these particular passengers that are coming from London,” foreign affairs minister