The management of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, through its Twitter handle @LOSairport, had on Thursday afternoon tweeted that there would be a special repatriation flight and that the aircraft would come in from Cotonou, Benin Republic, for the operation.
A letter of approval from the ministry dated March 26 and obtained by The PUNCH, showed that there would be similar flights on April 2 and April 9, 2020.
The ministry however ordered the airline to operate strictly based on the protocol guiding such operations under COVID-19.
It was gathered that the pilot and crew were not allowed to disembark and that after facilitation, the nationals were escorted to the aircraft to board.
In an emailed response to our correspondent’s enquiries, Air France said, “Due to COVID-19, Air France is doing all it can to ensure French and European nationals currently abroad can return home.
“Air France teams all over the world are fully mobilised and are doing all they can to assist French and European nationals at this difficult time. Air France is working together with the French and international authorities to adapt its flight schedule in real time in line with the evolving situation and the new restrictions imposed on airlines.”
The General Manager, Public Relations of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Sam Adurogboye, said the flight was captured under essential operations which could only be approved by the minister.
He said, “They obtained special clearance for the flight. During this period, every flight that comes will be under special clearance.
“We are in a period of emergency and in section 36 of Nigerian Civil Aviation Act, the minister has power to approve or clear flights in emergency. the NCAA will then process the clearance after the approval.”
The NCAA had last week issued a circular that all international airports should remain closed to international flights till further notice.
Exemptions were however made for humanitarian, medical relief, cargo, technical and safety flight operations.