Sanwo-Olu to meet PTF, seeks resumption of Lagos-Abuja flights


The Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has said the state government is trying to get the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to allow flights from Lagos to Abuja to operate, following the increasing impact of the closure of the airports on the state’s economy.

The governor lamented that the aviation industry, as well as the entertainment, hospitality and transportation sectors, had been “significantly” affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Federal Government on March 23 shut all international airports in the country before it later extended the closure to all airports in the country, banning all local and international flights.

Sanwo-Olu spoke as a panellist at a webinar hosted by FSDH Merchant Bank on Friday. The webinar, titled, ‘A global pandemic: local realities and peculiarities – a view from the frontlines’, was anchored by the Chairman, FSDH Holding Company, Mr Hakeem Belo-Osagie, and the bank’s Managing Director, Mrs Hamda Ambah.

Other panellists included the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai; his Edo State counterpart, Godwin Obaseki; Senior lecturer and consultant, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Dr Alero Ann Roberts; Director, Centre for International Development, Harvard University, Prof Asim Ijaz Khwaja, and Assistant Professor, Harvard Business School, Dr Jaya Wen.

The governor said, “In terms of direct economy, I know that the entertainment industry has been affected badly. I know the hospitality industry has been affected greatly, especially as people could not go out. It affected those sectors badly. Transportation business and the aviation sector have been affected significantly and these are large employers of labour. We all know that Nollywood employs many people, so we are thinking through how to reset these economies very quickly, but in a very gradual manner.

“So, the aviation industry has been badly hit and just this (Friday) morning, I spoke with a major player in that industry and we are trying to get the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to see whether we are going to resume Lagos–Abuja flights before we get to other sectors. There has to be some gradual process in lifting the lockdown.

“We will continue to have engagements with all of the players down the value chain. At the right time when we see that the t’s have been crossed and the i’s have been dotted, we will do that and you can hold us to that.”

Meanwhile, El-Rufai explained that he had had to deploy senior government officials to oversee the borders to ensure the enforcement of the interstate lockdown imposed by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and upheld by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

The governor said, “Virtually all of our cases came from Lagos or Abuja and in the last couple of weeks, most of the infections we had actually came from Kano. We just had a case in which one person that came from Kano infected 10 of his family members and that has some consequence on the entire community.

“So, reducing travels through advocacies, policing borders and enforcement has been a challenge. The security agencies have been compromising and we have had to deploy senior government officials; our commissioners and permanent secretaries now police our borders because the police just collect money and allow people to pass, which has been a major problem.”

In his contribution, Obaseki noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed the inadequacies in the Nigerian system, noting that his state had also felt the impact of the largely criticised enforcement of the interstate lockdown by security agencies.

The governor said, “Edo State being a transportation hub that essential goods and services have to go through, we feel the full brunt of the unfortunate incidents on the highways leading to our state and it is an issue that has been with us for a while.