The Nigerian government has impounded an aircraft owned by a United Kingdom company for operating commercial flights into Nigeria as the country battles coronavirus.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made this known via his verified Twitter handle, @hadisirika, on Sunday.

Mr Sirika said the company, Flair Aviation, was authorised to conduct humanitarian flights into Nigeria but was caught operating commercial flights without approval, thereby compromising measures being implemented to curb coronavirus.

The minister explained that a maximum penalty would be imposed on the company for the contravention of Nigerian government’s ban on commercial flights.

As part of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, the government said the penalty would be effected in addition to the confiscation of the aircraft.

“Flair Aviation, a UK company, was given approval for humanitarian operations but regrettably, we caught them conducting commercial flights,” Mr Sirika said in a tweet Sunday.

“This is callous! The craft is impounded, the crew being interrogated. There shall be maximum penalty. Wrong time to try our resolve,” he added.

Nigeria had shut its airports and airspace in March. According to a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari, the move was part of efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
The government placed a ban on commercial flight operations, both for local and international routes. The directive, however, allowed the operation of essential flights including those for medical and evacuation purposes.

These operations are being monitored by the Federal Ministry of Aviation and other relevant agencies.
Earlier in the month, the government said the closure of the airports and airspace had been extended by four weeks after due consultations with experts.

Nigeria says the move is to enable the nation curb the spread of the coronavirus.