Nigeria seizes UK plane violating COVID-19 regulations

FILE PHOTO: Hadi Sirika, Nigeria’s minister of state on aviation, Abuja, Nigeria. / Reuters

The Nigerian government on Sunday seized a plane belonging to a UK company for what it said was a violation of regulations aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus.

According to the Nigerian Minister for Aviation Hadi Sirika, Flair Aviation was given approval for humanitarian operations but was caught conducting commercial flights.

“This is callous! The craft is impounded, crew being interrogated. There shall be maximum penalty. Wrong time to try our resolve,” Sirika said in a tweet.

Only passenger flights which evacuate people or repatriate Nigerian citizens are currently allowed to operate as all airports in Nigeria are closed to all international commercial flights until at least June 4.

However, flights for essential services, such as the delivery of food supplies and items for humanitarian use, are also allowed to operate.

James Oduadu, an aviation ministry spokesman who spoke to Reuters, also confirmed that the plane was operated by FlairJet, a British private charter company which is an affiliate of Flexjet.

Reuters reported that the company issued a statement saying that it was cooperating with Nigeria to sort out the issue.

“We are continuing to respectfully work with the Nigerian authorities to resolve this situation,” FlairJet said in the statement.

Meanwhile, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria also said that it is still working on a post COVID-19 travel guideline and as such the regulations in place remain active.

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