According to an investigation, many inbound passengers scheduled to arrive in Nigeria through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos are stranded in various parts of the world because they were unable to pay for their PCR test through the platform provided by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Travelers have been experiencing issues for several weeks, but the companies that provide payment platforms for NCDC, Flutterwave, and Paystack have done nothing to improve their system.
Many travelers who were harmed by the payment system expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that nothing was being done to improve the system, implying that “travelers will continue to suffer this trauma.”
Arriving travelers were directed to make payments in the travel protocol released by the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, without which airlines would not allow them to travel to Nigeria.
“Following successful payment, travelers should download the Permit to Travel Certificate/ QR Code using the “Get Permit to Travel” button visible in the top right corner of the portal, save, and print the form for presentation at the point of boarding,” according to the PSC circular. If payment is successful, the Permit to Travel Certificate/ QR code will have a “PAID” label, and if payment has not yet gone through or is unsuccessful, it will have an “UNPAID” label. Passengers with the label “UNPAID” will not be permitted to travel. A copy of the Permit to Travel Certificate/QR Code will also be emailed to the traveler’s email address.”
Travelers must also present two documents at their point of departure before being allowed to board for Nigeria, according to the circular.
One of the documents is a COVID-19 PCR test that was negative within two days of departure (48 hours).
“Airlines have been instructed not to board passengers who have non-PCR COVID-19 tests (such as antigen or antibody tests), a positive COVID-19 PCR test result or tests performed more than 48 hours before boarding,” the statement continued.
On completion of a health questionnaire, uploading of a negative COVID-19 PCR result, and scheduling of PCR tests on Days 2 and 7 upon arrival in Nigeria, the second requirement is a Permit to Travel Certificate/QR Code generated from the Nigeria International Travel Portal.
Travelers who fail to show a Permit to Travel Certificate (which confirms payment)/QR Code will be denied boarding, according to the circular.
Ikechi Uko, a travel expert and the organizer of the Akwaaba African Travel Market, described how he was a victim of the NCDC payment portal while traveling from Turkey to Nigeria.
Uko claimed that he paid the platform but that it refused to accept it, and that he would have been stranded in Istanbul if interventions had not arrived, “a kind of intervention that might not come for ordinary travelers who do not have access and connections with airlines and aviation agencies.”
“My payment was refused by the platform.” My family tried to pay, but it kept rejecting their payment and telling them they needed to set up another payment option. A tour operator in Abuja tried to pay for me, but it was declined. We started a new registration, but it will ask you to pay if your passport number is the same; it will then decline the payment.
“Now I’m stuck in a foreign country with no way of getting back home.” So I activated my network. I informed the airline managers that I would be flying, and they immediately got to work. NCAA was contacted (Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority). They requested that the airline write a letter on my behalf. The airline was happy to help. The NCAA and the airline worked all night to get me a waiver to fly. The waiver included a stipulation that if I didn’t finish the process, the airline would face sanctions.
“No airline would agree to such a responsibility if it weren’t for my relationship,” he explained.
Uko questioned why the payment platform was unstable, noting that in this day and age, “where Nigeria is listed as one of the fastest instant payment countries in the world, my travel plans were thrown off by the NITP (Nigeria International Travel Portal) payment portal.” Do you understand the ramifications of missing a connecting flight during the holiday season?”
“We sincerely apologize for the delay you have experienced,” he said, referring to Flutterwave, which provided the platform on which he made the failed payment. This is not the type of experience we want you to have.
“Please be advised that Flutterwave is a payment processor that serves a variety of merchants in Africa and around the world. Although the referred transaction was successfully processed to the merchant, we contacted the merchant (NCDC) on your behalf for further assistance. We’d like to apologize once more for the delay in responding to you, as well as any inconvenience this has caused.”
“Oh, I had a terrible experience with the portal that cost me N1.2 million,” another passenger remarked. The portal kept debiting my account, but no QR code appeared. Qatar Airways refused to let me board, and I ended up missing my flight.
“It was a dreadful experience.” I didn’t even have access to the internet to contact high-ranking friends. That night, it was as if the universe conspired to show message.’ Anyway, I returned home and caused havoc with the Lagos State Biobank and Qatar. Qatar only sent a lengthy apology email, citing a clause in the Nigerian government’s law that requires them to find them if they transport any passenger who does not have a QR code.
“Lagos State Biobank sent an apology email and refunded all COVID-19 payments debited, but that didn’t compensate for the emotional trauma I went through, nor the funds I lost due to the date change and hotel stay.” It’s disappointing to learn that things haven’t changed.”
When contacted by the NCAA, the organization stated that it has no authority over COVID-19 protocol and that the Presidential Steering Committee is in charge.
“The PSC only issues statements through NCAA because the airlines only recognize NCAA, and such statements are disseminated via NOTAM” (Notice to Airmen). So, in aviation, we’re just PSC’s mouthpiece,” a PSC official explained.