By; BAYO AKAMO, Ibadan
National Coordinator of Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu on Saturday said over 27,000 passengers from abroad came to Nigeria during the COVID-19 Pandemic despite the strict procedures following the reopening of Lagos and Abuja Airports.
The PTF National Coordinator made this known during a townhall webinar meeting on Saturday organised by Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) and coordinated by its Chairman/CEO, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa for Nigerians coming into the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Aliyu pointed out that of the 27,000 passengers, 18,000 of them came in through Muritala Muhammed International Airport Lagos while the remaining 9,000 came in through Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja and that the Task Force came up with what people considered as stringent procedures since it was imperative to limit the importation of COVID-19 to Nigeria, prevent transmission during the flight and reduce the quarantine period.
He emphasized the need for Nigerians in Diaspora who participated at the Webinar that Public Laboratories are not allowed to conduct free testing as the Federal government cannot afford it and it is not sustainable, as, “it is not something that government can afford” so as not to run out of test kits.
Maintaining that Federal Government does not receive any money paid to private laboratories as it would have loved to subsidize, as it is not sustainable by the government, Dr Aliyu added, “we appreciate the difficulties that people are going through. It will be sorted”
While lauding NIDCOM for living up to expectations in coordinating Diaspora concerns on the protocols put in place, he stated 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.”
Dr Aliyu advised those travelling out of Nigeria to enquire from the country they are travelling to if COVID-19 test is a requirement for entry, noted that on the high cost of having the test that federal government is trying to push the cost of PCR down for private laboratories who will in turn work within the travel sector line.
Dr Aliyu also hinted that children below the age of 10 years do not need to do test and that ” if they have been subjected to payment, then they will be refunded”
Speaking further on the testing process for international travellers staying outside Lagos or Abuja, the PTF National Coordinator stated that “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 are urgently working with all states to create a mechanism for private testing. We’ve already approached 6 or 7 states that have private labs in their states”, .
Dr Aliyu stressed 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/privatelabs“, urging all passengers travelling to Nigeria to update all required information on the Nigerian International travel portal before boarding as this will auto generate a QR code which is required on arrival.
He maintained that any passenger made to pay more than once must be refunded, adding that customer service teams have been stationed at the Airports.
Chairman/CEO of NIDCOM, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa earlier in her remarks stated that NIDCOM organised the webinar townhall meeting following complaints and frustration encountered by some Nigerians in 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, Mr. Obed Monago, Chairman NIDO Americas, Mr Olawale Odutayo , Mr Tony Issima and other speakers commended Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa for always being proactive in taking care of the Diasporan’ concerns all the time.
Participants at the webinar described it as “ useful , timely and informative, saying, “this is the first time Nigerians in Diaspora have influenced major policy decisions in the country.