The Federal Government is probing reported violations of COVID-19 safety protocols by some high profile Nigerians accessing some of the newly-reopened airports in the country.
The probe, government said, involving Adamawa State governor, Ahmadu Fintiri and the former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, is with a view to sanctioning violators if it is established that they indeed violated the rules, or apologise to them should the result of the investigations exonerate them.
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, PTF, and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who did not mention the names of alleged violators of safety protocols, urged them to desist from flouting the guidelines.
He said: “You will all recall that the aviation sector reopened domestic operations on July 8, 2020. Dry runs were carried out and guidelines meant to protect all travellers were issued.
“You also recall that we identified and pleaded even before now, with certain classes of persons, particularly VIPs, to desist from flouting such guidelines.
“Unfortunately, we have received reports about violations by some dignitaries who failed to follow the protocols at our airports. We believe leaders must lead by example.
“In truth, as leaders and followers, we must change our behaviour if we must overcome the pandemic. This virus does not discriminate by status, age, tribe, creed or colour. All we require is diligent compliance and vigilance,” Mustapha stated.
According to the SGF, the reasons for extending phase two of the eased lockdown are still present and hence the need for Nigerians to change their behaviour.
“As we continue to monitor compliance, we emphasise that all restrictions that have been eased remain subject to review,”
Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, on his part said the Ministry has received reports regarding the violation of Airport COVID-19 safety protocols by Governor Fintiri and the former Governor Yari.
He said; “The ministry and agencies have received a lot of inquiries regarding some alleged unruly passengers. One of the agencies, FAAN in particular tweeted and because of that we have received a lot of questions.
“So, FAAN has escalated what has transpired. These alleged unruly passengers include the former Governor Yari, who I spoke to yesterday at length and Governor Fintiri.
“While that of Yari was on Saturday in Kano, that of Fintiri was in Port Harcourt. Those are being investigated and if it is found that it was true, we would do the needful. If it is found untrue we will definitely apologise to these individuals.”
Citing provisions of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations, the Minister said untruly behaviour include fighting inside an aircraft or within the vicinity of an airport as well as disobedience to lawful instructions issued by the airport commander which is the captain, the flight crew or engineer, cabin crew, attendants, check-in staff or any lawful staff on lawful duties at the airports.
“So, if you receive instructions, you have become an unruly passenger. An unruly passenger behaviour requires the punishment of criminal referral for imprisonment for not less than two months.
“So, it can be for 10 years. If you are found to be an unruly passenger because you are a big man, VIP, the easiest or simplest thing that we could do is to refer you to the police and they must, by law, prosecute you and it will not be less than two months.
“I am sure you will not want to be a criminal for one day or even for one second.
“Please, VIPs, show that you are a VIP by conducting yourselves in the manner that you would want to be identified with. If you are caught, we will investigate and the punishment will be not less than two months of being criminally liable by a court of law. We mean business. We are very serious about this.”