COVID-19 business booms: Inbound travellers bribe officials to evade tests, experts warn of spike - Punch Newspapers
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Adepeju Adenuga, Deborah Tolu-Kolawole and Solomon OdeniyiPublished27 September 2021Virologists and other health experts have warned that corrupt practices of airport officials who aid inbound passengers to evade the COVID-19 test may lead to the spike in infections in the country.
The PUNCH gathered on Sunday that passengers who were supposed to undergo the test were being aided to shun it by airport officials who were collecting between N10,000 and N15,000 from them.It was learnt that law-abiding passengers, who paid the mandatory N51,400 for the test were sometimes not assigned to any laboratory by the officials.
A professor of Medical Virology at the University of Maiduguri, Prof Marycelin Baba, and other health experts, who spoke to The PUNCH, blamed test evaders for increasing infections.They warned that unless the errant officials and the evaders were checked, the country would record more infections. headtopics.com
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority had in memo dated September 11, 2021 relaxed restriction on inbound travellers without evidence of payment for their COVID-19 test.According to the memo signed by the Director-General of NCAA, Musa Nuhu, airlines were directed to board passengers without evidence of payment for day seven COVID-19 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test or generate paid QR code/permit to fly.
The memo was titled “Permission for airlines to board passengers travelling to Nigeria who are unable to show evidence of payment for day seven COVID-19 PCR test or generate paid QR code/permit to fly”.The NCAA stated that the decision was taken in view of the challenges some travellers to Nigeria were experiencing while trying to fill their health and travel history into Nigeria’s international travel portal.
Before, foreign travellers were required to show proof of payment for their COVID-19 PCR test before they were boarded.The NCAA, however, said with the new directive, such passengers would be required to make payment for the repeat day-7 COVID-19 PCR test at their destination airports in Nigeria.
According to Nigeria International Travel Portal, inbound passengers are supposed to pay N51,400 each for the test at their destination airports.The PUNCH findings, however, indicated that airport officials in Lagos and Abuja were cashing in on this directive to make illegal money. headtopics.com
Sources at the airports said the officials waved the test for passengers who could part with between N10,000 and N15,000.A passenger, who confided in one of our correspondents, said, “When I arrived from Canada on September 17, I discovered that I was the only one waiting to pay for the mandatory test at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport. After paying the money, another passenger told me he didn’t go through the hassle of undergoing the test after giving the airport officials N10,000.”
A security official, who spoke to The PUNCH on the condition of anonymity, confirmed there were reports of the illegal practice.He said security agents would soon descend on the corrupt airport officials.“We have reports of officials collecting bribes from passengers. We are monitoring them and we will soon fish out some scapegoats,” the security official stated
Narrating his ordeal, the law-abiding passenger, who arrived in the country on September 17, stated that an airport official assisted him with the documentation of his pre-arrival COVID-19 test because he was unable to submit his registration details prior to his arrival.
The traveller stated, “He asked me to pay and informed me that I would receive a receipt and details of my test centre via email. I paid the sum of N51,950:00 for my day seven COVID-19 test. But I have received neither the receipt nor details of my test centre.” According to him, he was supposed to take day 7 test on Thursday. headtopics.com
He further said that he sent to the airport officials, numerous emails requesting a receipt of the payment of N51,9500 and an email assigning him to a test centre, but his requests were ignored.He added, “I have called their telephone number repeatedly but it is switched off. I have sent messages to the number via WhatsApp but they were not delivered. According to WhatsApp, that number was last active on July 23, 2020.
He stated, “I contacted my preferred test centre on Wednesday, September 22 and Thursday September 23 and I was informed that they did not have my name on their list for post-arrival COVID test.”When contacted, the General Manager, Public Affairs The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, Mrs Herietta Yakubu said, “Honestly I am not aware of this, I am going to discuss this with the management of the airport to find out if there is any such racket going on in the airport. We would look into it and I can assure you anyone found doing that would face the wrath of the law, it is not allowed you are supposed to do the proper test and the test is for your own good.So what do you want to derive by not doing that.
“Although the COVID-19 test is not a responsibility of the airport authority, it is handled under the Ministry of Health but I can assure you Nigerians do it, because without a COVID-19 test result you can travel.”The General Manager, Public Relations, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority Mr Sam Adurogboye when in a SMS interview said, “I don’t react to rumours. But if you have an evidence of that, we will be glad to have it and take it up from there.”
N39,000 is the official rate, not N51,000, we will investigate graft– Presidential committeeBut the Secretary to the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Dr Muktar Muhammed, when contacted by The PUNCH on Sunday told one of our correspondents that the government was not aware of the excesses going on at point of entries.
He however promised to investigate and prosecute errant passengers.Muhammed said, “N39,000 is the official rate and not N51,000. The test is not meant to be done at the airport. It is supposed to be done on Day 7.“However, they are supposed to pay before arrival or upon arrival. Let me investigate.
“It is illegal for anyone to collect any money at the airport. If anyone has been collecting money for whatever reason, it is wrong and we would investigate that and take action if anyone is found culpable. Read more: The Punch Newspapers »
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