As Nigeria reopens its airspace and international flights resume at the airports, there are concerns that non-compliance issues in the payment of COVID-19 tests into the government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA), are causing disruptions to flights.
By law, passengers flying into Nigeria are required to present a negative PCR test certificate before boarding and are also expected to pay about N43,000 for a repeat test in Abuja and Lagos.
On Monday, an Ethiopia Airlines flight from Addis-Ababa to Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja was nearly aborted following a disagreement with passengers over Nigeria’s COVID-19 protocols for arriving passengers. According to media reports, the pilot ordered Nigerian passengers whose repeat test payment had not been approved, to disembark from the plane.
The passengers, however, refused to exit the aircraft and vowed to abort the trip unless they were cleared to fly with other passengers. It was only after the intervention of influential Nigerians who called relevant authorities that the pilot secured the nod to operate the flight following about an hour delay.
The payments for COVID-19 PCR tests are made through the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) via its National International Travel Portal (NITP). According to the NCDC guidelines, inbound travellers are to select an appointment date and laboratory for a repeat COVID-19 test to be done 7 days after arrival in Nigeria and then proceed to pay for it online.
However, investigations show that payments made by several passengers for the mandated COVID-19 test were not being processed through the stipulated national payment gateway as other payment processors have been introduced. This development is seen as a violation of the TSA guidelines which stipulated that all funds collection by federal government agencies should be done via the Remita TSA payment gateway.
“There is brazen flouting of TSA provisions going on as payments for the mandated COVID-19 tests are not transacted through the national payment gateway, Remita. One of the immediate repercussions of this is the complaints of payers boarding aircraft and being told their payments have not been approved,” a source said.
“Another consequence of this disturbing development is that when something goes wrong with the process, it is difficult to know where it is coming from since there are now multiple payment processors,” the source added.
Besides the NCDC and the Ministry of Aviation, several other government establishments have been accused of flouting TSA guidelines in the past. Prominent names include, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigerian Customs Services (NCS).
A media report by Businessday in June 2019 uncovered a private arrangement made by the NIS outside of the TSA for payments into accounts outside the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), raising serious questions whether the NIS, in fact, remits its revenue to the coffers of the government, makes full disclosures of monies received and makes itself available for revenue monitoring and audit as stipulated by the TSA.
In a December 2018 circular, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha had reiterated that it is mandatory for all Government Owned Enterprises (GOEs) to use the Treasury Single Account (TSA) for all financial transactions after a forensic report by auditing firm, KPMG, confirmed that some GOEs failed to remit N8.1 trillion within a period of five years.