Ben Ayade, governor of Cross River state, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to lift the ban on domestic flights.
He said lifting the ban is necessary as the economic loss being incurred is be too much for the country to bear.
On May 6, the federal government imposed an additional four-week ban on flight operations across the country as a measure to check the spread of COVID-19.
While announcing the extension of flight ban, Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation, had said the aviation sector was recording huge losses as a result of the lockdown, adding that many airlines would not survive the economic loss as a fallout of COVID-19.
But while inspecting the ongoing asphalting of the dualised Odukpani-Calabar highway in the state, Ayade opposed the continued closure of Nigeria’s domestic airspace, lamenting its negative impact on the aviation, hospitality and tourism sectors of the economy.
“The suspension of domestic flights has affected most hotels, leading to their closure. It is so bad that most hotels including the five-star hotels are shutting down because they cannot even sustain the cost of diesel for their generating sets and as that happens, they start laying off workers,” he said.
“So, you have a lot of workers, young people who used to work in the hotels and the tourism industry, out of jobs. And the big question is, how long can this continue? The caterers who supply food to the hotels are all out of business. All the suppliers are out of business.
“So, as we continue to lock the domestic airports for another four weeks, what we are going to have in terms of economic loss, and in terms of social delinquency, the associated moral and social tension that will come with it, will be just too huge for the country to bear.”
Ayade said rather than ban domestic flights, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) should devise strict guidelines to enable the aviation sector to continue to operate without escalating the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
“We can still be safe while allowing the internals of Nigeria to run. We can do so by allowing the domestic airlines to start flying,” he said.
“As they fly, NCDC should spell out certain conditions like making sure aircraft are properly disinfected, ensuring temperature tests are carried out before passengers get on board and, of course, ensuring that all passengers wear proper masks.
“The airlines can have their own masks that they can give to passengers.”