Aviation experts have excoriated the Angolan government for placing entry restriction on Nigerians that wished to visit the country, due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus (Covid- 19) in the West African country.
Industry observers expressed surprise about the action taken by Angola, a fellow African country, due to one case recorded by a visiting foreigner from Italy, which was being effectively handled in Nigeria.
An official from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) told THISDAY that the matter would be handled at the government level and expressed surprise that there was no official notification by the Angolan government to the regulatory authority placing entry restriction on Nigerians .
“They will resolve that issue at the government level. It is always government-to-government and in diplomacy everything is usually two-way; so Nigeria will have to react and reciprocate their gesture. Our government will take a position. I expect they will communicate to us, maybe by phone first, later they will formalise it,” the NCAA official told THISDAY.
TAAG Angola, Angola national carrier, started operation to Lagos in December, last year, and Arik Air used to operate to Angola, but recently suspended its operations to the South African country.
General Secretary of the industry think-tank group, Aviation Round Table (ART) and former Commandant of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, Group Captain John Ojikutu (retd), expressed disappointment with Angola over the decision to place entry restriction on Nigerians and insisted that there might be extraneous reasons for the decision, using Coronavirus as a façade.
Ojikutu traced the history of rivalry between the two countries over oil deposits, saying Angola was only jealous of Nigeria.
“Any country can take any decision. What is the relationship between Nigeria and Angola before now? But I am surprised that an African country can do that.
“But nobody has told me whom Coronavirus has affected in Africa. Angola’s decision has nothing to do with the virus; it is out of jealousy that the country placed restriction on Nigerians.
“I see this as economic warfare. Maybe the international oil companies, which explore oil and gas in the two countries, have been posting more Nigerians to Angola and because there is nothing they can do to those foreign oil firms, they decide to express their displeasure in another way. We are using the same manpower and we have more skilled manpower. So one can understand why the drastic decision they have taken,” Ojikutu said.
Spokesman of Arik Air, Banji Ola, who confirmed that the airline had suspended operation to Angola for about three months, said he was surprised at the decision of the country to place entry restriction on Nigeria, saying that such rash decision could bring down a nation’s economy.
Lead Consultant, ETIMFRI Group, Amos Akpan, said he expected the Nigerian government to react swiftly to the decision of the Angolan government by reciprocating in the same measure, remarking that the index case in Nigeria that is being well managed is not a reason for Angola to take such drastic decision.
“Why is the Minister of Foreign Affairs silent on the entry restrictions placed on all Nigerians from entering Angola because of coronavirus? It is insulting with very lame excuse.
“The only one case announced by Nigerian authorities is by an Italian who is well contained. Our press and our government should have been lashing Angola.
“According to their press release, the Immigration is instructed to refuse entry, and the airlines have been warned that they will be forced to carry back the Nigerian they have brought. We should talk about it. Angola is right to take whatever measure it deems fit to protect its citizens.
“But what is Nigeria’s response to preserve the dignity of our Nation in the light of the process we have followed thus far? Lack of response is weak diplomacy and very condescending.”