FRANCE has airlifted all of its nationals out of Nigeria after an Air-France KLM aircraft landed at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos yesterday having received special permission from the aviation ministry.
Nigeria has closed all her five international airports and shit her official land borders, sealing off all contact with the outside world as part of measures to combat this coronavirus. However, a special concession was made to allow for the evacuation of expatriates and several other Europeans are believed to have been airlifted from Lagos as part of the operation.
Airport officials have confirmed the details of the operation, pointing out that the flight left on the same day. In a tweet on its official handle, Murtala Mohammed International Airport officials revealed that the flight arrived from Cotonou in neighbouring Benin Republic.
A letter of approval from the Nigerian aviation ministry dated March 26, revealed that there will be similar evacuation flights on April 2 and April 9. Under the protocol guiding such operations, the pilot and crew are not allowed to disembark from the aircraft and all the expatriates will be escorted on to the plane.
An Air France spokesman said: “Due to Covid-19, Air France is doing all it can to ensure French and European nationals currently abroad can return home. Air France teams all over the world are fully mobilised and are doing all they can to assist French and European nationals at this difficult time.
“Air France is working together with the French and international authorities to adapt its flight schedule in real time in line with the evolving situation and the new restrictions imposed on airlines.”
Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Sam Adurogboye, said: “They obtained special clearance for the flight and during this period, every flight that comes will be under special clearance. We are in a period of emergency and under section 36 of Nigerian Civil Aviation Act (NCAA), the minister has power to approve or clear flights in emergency.”
He added that exemptions have been made to the airport closures for humanitarian, medical relief, cargo, technical and safety flight operations. Meanwhile, Akwa Ibom State Government airline, Ibom Air, has said it is suspending its flight operations as from today.