Condemnation trails violation of Covid-19 protocols by VIPs at Airports

Condemnation trails violation of  Covid-19 protocols  by VIPs at Airports

Chinazor Megbolu |

Few weeks ago, a governor, one former governor and top official of the Department of State Security (DSS) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria violated the Covid-19 protocols at different airports across the country.

The regulation was set up by the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 towards containing the spread of the virus in the country. 
Efforts by airport officials to make the VIPs and their aids to observe the simple protocols proved abortive, leading to condemnation by the citizenry.

For non-compliance by  the former Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari and Adamawa State Governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri who flouted the rules and their aides to the protocols approved by the Federal Government through the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 recently, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), said that top public officials and very important personalities (VIPs), who do not comply with the new protocols that have been approved for the aviation sector will be barred from accessing the airport terminals. 

Recall Yari had on Saturday, July 11, 2020, at Aminu Kano International airport, Kano refused to adhere to the port health protocols and procedures.
Similarly, Governor Fintiri on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, at the Port Harcourt International airport, with eight other passengers also refused to observe airport security and port health protocols.

The most recent is that of the Head, DSS, Mr. Safiyanu Abba on July 17, 2020 at Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, which report says deliberately obstructed airport security process and even allegedly slapped an aviation security officer in the process, who tried to call his attention to do the needful.

All these acts were condemned by Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for their refusal to adhere to laid- down rules of airport security and port health protocols airports.

FAAN in a tweet said; ‘’the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) notes with dismay, two acts of infractions on the rules and guidelines for air passengers and airport users. 

“The first incident occurred on Saturday, July 11, 2020 at the Aminu Kano International airport when former governor of Zamfara State,  Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, declined to adhere to the port health protocols and procedures.

Meanwhile, The Federal Government has warned Very Important Personalities (VIPs) and unruly passengers against breaching laid down airport protocols on Covid-19, stressing that the alleged unruly conduct of the VIP passengers will be investigated and prosecuted by the police for the alleged infraction, which attracts a jail sentence of not less than two months if found guilty.

“The ministry and agency have received a lot of enquiry regarding some alleged unruly passengers. One of the agencies – FAAN in particular received a lot of complaints. 

“FAAN has escalated what has happened. These alleged unruly passengers included the former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari whom I spoke with at length and the current Governor of Adamawa State, Ahmadu Fintiri.

“They are being investigated. And if it is found to be true, we will do the needful. If it is found to be untrue, we will definitely apologise to these individuals,” Sirika , the Minister of Aviation, said.

The Minister quoted the Nigeria Civil Aviation regulations part 19 Section 91 (1) and part 17 97 (2), which define an unruly passenger and how to deal with them for the offence committed at the airport terminal building or on board an aircraft.

Sirika also pleaded with VIPs to conduct themselves in a manner that dignifies their status, adding that whoever breaks the rule will be investigated and prosecuted once found guilty.

However, the aviation regulator, NCAA through its Director General, Capt Musa Nuhu, recently disclosed that the seemingly long time it took to open the nation’s sky was not because of air safety, but for the immense challenge of instituting the Covid-19 safety protocols and related paraphernalia for airport and airlines to make it compelling for passengers to voluntary comply.

“So, first, it is an offence to fight or carry out any disorderly conduct on board an aircraft or in the terminal building.
“The E part of the regulation states that an unruly behaviour also includes disobedience of lawful instructions issued by the airport commander, the captain or flight cabin crew/attendant, check-in staff, or any lawful staff on lawful duty at the airport.

“So, if you refuse instructions, you have become an unruly passenger. An unruly passenger, according to table 29 (51), says such behaviour requires the punishment or criminal referral for imprisonment between two months and 10 years.”
“Please VIPs, show that you are a VIP by conducting yourself in the manner that you would want to be identified with,” NCAA said.

However, some stakeholders and the general public  had come out to condemn the act exhibited by the so called VIPs at the airports. 
A stakeholder, Mr. Zebulon Ikokide on the VIPs attitude  noted that there is nothing to investigate by the government because Covid-19 is meant for them.

According to him; “you know Covid-19 is actually meant for VIP’s, so nothing to investigate there. “VIP does not respect protocols and does not obey laws. I prefer you live them to their fate”.

 A Chieftain of  Association of Nigeria Licenced Customs Agents  (ANLCA), Mr. Pius Ujubuonu didn’t mince word when he said that Government of Nigeria is replete with official indiscipline. 
“The burial of  the late Chief Staff to the President was in total breach and many of such occasions.

“I will certainly not support any breach of protocol of covid-19.
“It’s debilitating effect cannot be overemphasised, it behoves on all to join in the fight. The government is at liberty to let offenders face full wrath of the law,” he said.

A former member, Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders in Nigeria (CRFFN) Freight Forwarders Consultative Forum, Mr. Chidi Anthony Opara during an online chat via phone maintained that the VIPs behaviour was rather unfortunate because laws of the land seems to be obeyed by the non influential persons. 

“Unfortunately, in Nigeria, laws are unofficially meant to be obeyed by persons without influence and the mark of someone’s importance and influence in Nigeria unfortunately it’s his/her ability to disobey the law and get away with it,” Opara said.

He maintained such action exhibited by the so called VIPs has to stop by law enforcement agents  because the law is meant for everyone and not some persons.

“This has to stop. Law enforcement should be reoriented to be operated in a manner that puts premium on the maxim that the law is no respecter of persons,” he said.

According to a freight forwarder, Mr. Emma Adigwe, “the leaders have always been the problem of this nation. He acted as if he’s above the law and I think he should be punished for that.

“Once a governor can be lawless, then what do we expect from the governed? 
“People in leadership position think too much about themselves and always above the law. They never set good example”.
Another source who runs a travel agency off Airport road and chose to be anonymous said that any of the VIPs who refused to adhere should be restricted from flying.

“By the time he travels from Lagos to Kano by road, he will be forced to do the right thing,” he said.  

Despite the fact that the Federal Government has said it will investigate and prosecute the violators, it remains to be seen if it will be achievable given the immunity one of the governors enjoys.

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