If a serving governor and a former one could so flagrantly disregard coronavirus (COVID-19) protocols at our airports, barely one week after reopening the facilities for local flights, as alleged by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), it is only a matter of time before more very important personalities (VIPs) joined the ranks of such passengers.
FAAN said Governor Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa State, and former Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, flouted the protocols.
Ex-Governor Yari was accused of assaulting an environmental officer at the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, on July 11. He also allegedly did not allow them to disinfect his luggage.
According to FAAN, it was the turn of Governor Fintiri and his entourage not to submit themselves for the routine temperature check at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Port Harcourt, on July 14. FAAN said the two VIPs claimed such protocols were not meant for personalities like them.
The airports were shut in March following an outbreak of COVID-19. They were only reopened from July 8. We therefore find it disgusting that some Nigerians would be disregarding the protocols so soon. The protocols were put in place by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in conjunction with the agencies responsible for operations at the airports, in furtherance of government’s resolve to flatten the COVID-19 pandemic curve. The situation has become so worrisome that the airport authorities had to report these alleged infractions to the Federal Government.
If the allegations are true, we are disappointed that these personalities have failed in their responsibility of being exemplars of good conduct. We welcome FAAN and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s (NCAA) decision to alert the authorities to the dangers posed by the alleged conducts of these VIPs.
We also welcome the suggestion of the chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, that VIPs who feel too big to abide by the health and safety protocols around the nation’s airports be denied future access in order to safeguard staff and air travellers from contracting COVID-19 virus. An angry Nnaji said: ”This type of behaviour cannot be tolerated. It is not a must that you have to travel by air, but if you choose to, you must abide by the laid down procedures established by FAAN and NCAA in line with the NCDC guidelines”.
Nnaji, who noted the huge amounts spent by governments on COVID-19 charged the leadership of the agencies to be courageous in enforcing the protocols, adding, for effect, that the National Assembly was solidly behind them. An equally alarmed senate has also recommended a four-month ban for anyone who violates the protocols, irrespective of his or her standing in the society.
The point must be made that, indeed, no one is above the law. There are enough laws to punish people who misbehave at the airports; these should be applied without fear or favour. Our VIPs comport themselves outside our shores; they only find it convenient to flaunt undue influence at home because we condone such.
COVID-19 is no respecter of persons. As at 8.00pm on July 29, Nigeria had 41,804 confirmed cases, with 868 deaths and about 18,764 persons, including several political appointees and six governors that had fully recovered after receiving treatment, and had been discharged.
However, with both Yari and Fintiri denying the allegations, FAAN has to strengthen its case with proofs beyond doubts that these VIPs actually committed the infractions. This should not be difficult with the technology at our disposal in this age. If the two persons initially reported to have disregarded the protocols denied, and even a third, the Head of the Department of State Security Services (SSS) at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Safiyanu Abba, who was similarly accused by FAAN of assaulting an aviation security personnel who called him to order, also denied the accusation, FAAN should simply go to town with the video clips of these infractions. It is several days after and there is no proof beyond the verbal accusations. This is unhelpful to the efforts to enforce compliance with the protocols at our airports. The embarrassment of VIPs watching their misbehaviour on video is enough to keep them silent and serve as deterrence to others who might want to toe such paths.
Nigerians know that many governors are emperors in their states. But such governors should not flaunt this imperial majesty in a public facility like the airports, especially in a manner that could jeopardise the health and lives of other people.
As Nnaji rightly said, people who feel too big to abide by simple safety protocols at our airports should travel by other means.