The Nigerian government on Sunday impounded a British-operated plane claiming the pilot ignored the country’s flight ban aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, reported Reuters.
As a precautionary measure to stop the spread of coronavirus in the country, the Nigerian government had banned passenger flights into the country both local and international flights for weeks, with the exception of ones to evacuate people or repatriate Nigerian citizens.
The ban on flights was announced earlier this month and is set to continue until at least June 4. Only flights to deliver essential services, such as the delivery of food supplies and items for humanitarian use, are permitted.
On Sunday, Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika said on Twitter that a plane had been impounded after the rules were broken.
Sirika said a UK based company was given approval for humanitarian operations but it was found to be conducting commercial flights.
“The craft is impounded, crew being interrogated. There shall be maximum penalty,” the tweet read.
In a telephone interview with Reuters, James Oduadu, an aviation ministry spokesman, said that the plane was operated by a company called FlairJet.
In a statement, FlairJet, a British private charter company that is an affiliate of Flexjet, said the matter was an “evolving situation”.
“We are continuing to respectfully work with the Nigerian authorities to resolve this situation,” it said.
While the spread of coronavirus is relatively slow in Africa, Nigeria has emerged as a new hotspot on the continent in recent weeks. As of Sunday, there have been over 5,600 confirmed cases of the virus in Nigeria with some 176 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.
Despite an increase in the number of coronavirus cases, the Nigerian government has already eased the lockdown restrictions in Lagos, the country’s commercial hub, and the capital, Abuja.