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Abroad returnees’ passports may face 1yr deactivation over COVID-19 tests

By Idowu Abdullahi

Passports belonging to hundreds of abroad-based Nigerians who returned to the country for Christmas and new year celebration may be deactivated for one year should the Lagos State Government go ahead with its enforcement rule on travelers contravening Covid-19 protocols put in place by the Federal Government for both visitors and returnees, in order to prevent further spread of the virus fourth wave, Omicron.

Records from the state government showed that no fewer than 5,987 inbound travelers were currently been investigated by the Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led administration for violating the protocols put it place to break transmission of the deadly respiratory disease.

The government said that the 5,987 inbound travelers under investigation were among the 6,500 visitors and returnees that were suspected of not being compliant with the guidelines established to protect the community, lives, and the country’s economy.

Giving the statistics last Friday, the state’s Commissioner for Health, Akin Abayomi, said that of the 513 others that have already been investigated for allegedly going against the protocols, 432 have been cleared by the government.

He explained that the other 81 confirmed defaulters have been sanctioned and fined by the mobile courts after they were found guilty of contravening the protocol set by the governments to flatten the virus curve across the country.

“Short message service,(SMS) have been dispatched to suspected defaulters in the month of December, adding that 81 out of the 6500 defaulters identified have been sanctioned and plans are in place to go after the remaining 5987 suspected defaulters.

“A dedicated customer care line and personnel was also deployed to call these suspected defaulters. We have also created a dedicated email address to reach defaulters. Subsequently, about 1,000 emails and over 2,000 calls have been received from suspected defaulting passengers.

“To date, 432 suspected defaulters have been cleared after investigation, and 81 confirmed defaulters have been sanctioned and fined by the mobile courts and the process continues until we clear the backlog,” he said.

According to the commissioner for health, the process is executed strictly without prejudice, and nobody would be exempted from the sanctions if found guilty.

“Disregarding the testing and isolation guidelines inevitably introduces new variants of COVID-19 and constitute a State and National public health and security threat which will sabotage all efforts to mitigate and reduce the impact of the fourth wave on citizens and the economy of the State and Country.

“We have started submitting the names of those that do not respond to the SMS or Emails to the Presidential Steering Committee for the deactivation of their passports for a period of one year.” he said.

However, through a text message sent to one of the returnee on Tuesday and seen by our correspondent, the government urged the traveler to immediately scheduled an appearance before the LASG Covid-19 mobile court at Bolade Oshodi area of the state for necessary action to be taken.

Failure to appear before the mobile court, the government said, may warrant the deactivation of the returnee’s passport document for twelve months, which would rendered the holder stranded in Nigeria for the duration of one year.

“Hello, You did not do the day 2 test upon arrival in Nigeria. If so, call 090 344 121 43 or 070 686 655 29 to schedule appearance at the LASG Covid-19 mobile court at Bolade Oshodi within 72hrs, else your NG passport will be deactivated for 1 year. If tested, send to [email protected],” the terse message read.

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