Nigeria will extend a ban on all flights by four weeks as part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, a government official told reporters on Wednesday. Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation, said Thursday would mark the last day for the enforcement of the current ban. “The ban on all flights will be extended for an additional four weeks,” Mustapha told reporters at a regular briefing of a presidential task force on coronavirus in the capital, Abuja. Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika later told the briefing there was a need to train airline staff in safety measures before flights restarted. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has 2,950 confirmed cases and 98 deaths. Lockdown restrictions were eased on Monday in Lagos, the country’s commercial hub, and the capital, Abuja. Mustapha said an early assessment of the eased restrictions suggested Nigerians were underestimating the virulent nature of the disease. He pointed to non-compliance with social distancing measures and the sharing of face masks.

The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari, said the FG will offer marginal oil fields for auction this year amidst the crash in crude oil prices. The marginal fields round was last held in 2003 while the country has not conducted any licensing round since 2007. According to the NNPC GMD, the FG would not be able to conduct any major licensing round going by the current market realities that would dampen foreign investors’ appetite. Kyari said, during a virtual dialogue session on government fiscal policy decisions in response to the current challenges, that Marginal fields by their nature require very small-scale investment. The licensing round, he added, is normally done by countries to encourage local participation. During the event organized by the Ministry of Finance and the UK Department for International Development Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn, Kyari ruled out the possibility of conducting “a substantive, full-scale licensing round, where you require foreign investments”.

President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the immediate evacuation of all imported medical equipment from Nigerian ports as part of efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Buhari also gave a blanket waiver of Customs duty on all medical supplies. According to Buhari’s Special Assistant on Digital and New Media, Tolu Ogunlesi, the president had also directed the Nigerian Customs Service to implement expedited clearing of all imported healthcare equipment, medical and pharmaceutical supplies at the nation’s ports. In a related expert development, about 30,000 tons of cocoa waiting to be exported from Nigeria are stranded at the Lagos port and in warehouses due to the health protocols introduced by the country’s authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19. The president of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, Muftau Abolarinwa, under the rules introduced by shipping regulators, a crew of vessels entering the country’s waters are required to observe a mandatory 14 day quarantine period before they can discharge their goods or take up fresh cargoes. The disruptions have stalled the shipment of cocoa at the Lagos port and delayed arrivals from farms and warehouses. Though most of the shipments are meant to fulfil futures contracts, most exporters are anxious to avoid further postponements, Abolarinwa added. Nigeria has two cocoa harvests, with the main crop happening between October and December, and the smaller mid crop maturing from April to June. The 2019-20 output estimates for Nigeria was revised to 181,475 tons from 213,509 tons by the industry body, citing the threat of fungal disease to the season that started in October. At least, 20,000 tons of the cocoa belonging to Olam International has been caught up in these delays even after being loaded into containers, two ports inspection officials said.

Primero Transport Services Limited, operators of bus rapid transit (BRT) in Lagos, says it is impossible for the company to break-even with the new transport guidelines published by the state government to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of the state, had mandated high-capacity buses to carry only 20 commuters. However, Fola Tinubu, the managing director of the company, said no sacrifice is too big to make in the interest of the Nigerian society. “It is not possible for us to break-even with 20 passengers. We are just running social services; it is not possible at all,” he told NAN. “We know it will be a tough time for the firm but it’s for everybody’s safety.” Each BRT bus had 70 passengers capacity comprising 42 sitting and 28 standing. The BRT boss explained that the firm had scrapped 100 and ₦150 tickets for short distances in the meantime, asking commuters to be ready to pay for the ₦200, ₦250 or ₦300 tickets, depending on their routes. The new transport guidelines also directed 14-seater commercial bus operators to load only 8 passengers to ensure social distancing in public transportation to prevent the spread of the virus. All bus operators and commuters have been directed to use face masks and sanitise or wash their hands with soap and water before and after each trip.