The Nigerian government has allegedly asked Nigerians to pay a fine of N356,000 if they are unable to pay an estimated N50,000 on arrival into the country for a repeat COVID-19 test.
SaharaReporters learned that this is the directive given to airline operators in the UAE.
The airlines told the affected passengers that they were acting on instructions from Nigerian government officials.
One of the airlines, Rwandair, said the Nigerian government directed the airline to ensure that intending passengers to Nigeria have $160 or N53,000 cash to cover the cost of COVID-19 repeat test to be conducted on their arrival to Nigeria.
The airline representative told SaharaReporters that they would be slammed a huge fine if they return to Nigeria without having the money at hand.
“If you do not carry $160 or N53,000 in your pocket when you arrive at Lagos, the passenger will be asked to pay 3,400 dirhams (N356,889).”
“It is not a directive from the airline. I think you should communicate with your embassy in Dubai,” the Rwandair staff told SaharaReporters.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control directed SaharaReporters to its FAQ web page on the COVID-19 repeat test directive.
“My airline insists on a QR code before boarding, but I haven’t received one since making payment. What should I do?” One of the questions reads.
The answer is: “As a temporary measure, any passenger that is unable to complete the payment online will be allowed to board the flight if they have a valid COVID-19 negative PCR result. The passenger will be required to pay for the repeat COVID-19 PCR test on arrival in Nigeria. Please note that passengers without a QR code may face longer delays on arrival in Nigeria before exiting the airport.”
The information on the NCDC website aligns with the memo released on September 9 directing international passengers to pay on arrival if they cannot complete the payment online.
It is unclear why the airlines were still refusing to board passengers who did not have the required amount of cash or the QR Code.
The Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Musa Nuhu, said he could not comment on what he described as a rumour, adding that no evidence or complaint has been brought to him on the issue.
Health physician, Doyin Odubanjo, who is also the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Academy of Sciences, said forcing travellers to pay for a repeat COVID-19 test was unnecessary.
“If you are going to win a battle like this, you must win public confidence first. And I think that is what we missed. We were putting things like testing and ignoring winning public confidence,” he said.
He said rather than ask people to pay for repeat tests, the government should hand out leaflets with instructions urging arriving passengers to self-isolate, then call them for testing when necessary.
“Now, we have a situation where the system is being subverted,” Odubanjo said. “All we are doing right now is being undermined. People are doing tests now without getting test results.
“You have a system that encourages a false sense of security. Now testing is failing because people are no longer going to be tested. I am fairly certain that we are recording low results at present because people are no longer going to get tested.”