By Eric Elezuo
The National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) has announced the postponement of its earlier scheduled Annual General Meeting (AGM) billed for the city of Kano, Nigeria, saying that the association is “concerned about our people, their health and future wellbeing during and after when this plague.”
Making the announcement before newsmen penultimate weekend, the National President of the group, Mr. Bankole Bernard, declared that the postponement is in response to the spread of the dreaded Coronavirus disease currently ravaging the world.
Lamenting the desire to take such a decision, Bernard noted that it is imperative to understand that the decision was not taken out of fear as it is not his ‘style to enthrone fear where there is none’, but as a precautionary measure to put safety first, adding that it was a veritable time to explain the devastating blow the impact of the disease codenamed COVID-19 has had on the global travel business to which Nigeria is a veritable member. He noted that travel agencies were no longer ‘distributing inventory of our end users who are the passengers’.
He said: “NANTA is not unmindful of the consequences of COVID -19 economically to the wellbeing of our members and our principles but we are more concerned about the health of our industry players and consumers. We therefore, crave for understanding and urge all NANTA members to obey all government rules and regulations concerning the management of this pandemic. We are not alarmed or in panic mood but sufficiently aware to follow directives of the Federal Government task force on COVID -19, daily updates from Centre for Disease Control and daily monitoring of activities at our airports.
“Having taken into consideration, the effective consequence of the development, the EXCO and members of our association directed that our Kano AGM next week in Kano be postponed to a later date. It was a hard decision having assured you all two weeks ago that we are good to go. We are bent to be on the side of caution and not panic. We should know what COVID -19 is all about since we are at the Centre, the engine room of the travel business which is presently grounded globally.”
The president, who is a stickler to laid down rules, however, noted that the transfer of mandate to a new administration will still hold during a private ceremony in order not to cause a constitutional breach as officers for the various offices of the association have already been elected.
“Next week, in Lagos, the board of Trustees and the EXCO… will be here to witness the hand over to a new EXCO which should have been done in Kano but for COVID-19 watch regulations,” he informed.
Describing the airline industry as the hardest hit in the current crisis, Bernard said that the industry has lost a whooping sum of $200 billion and still counting owing to cumulative impact of loss of packing and landing fees and use of terminal charges among others.
Consequently, the association called for a bailout from the Federal government of Nigeria and the International Association of travel Agencies (IATA). This bailout, Bernard noted, should come in the guise of access to soft interest free loan and overdraft from the banks, and relaxation of payment circle even if there is a default.
Lending their voices to the call, the trio of Mr Yinka Folami of Travel and Logistic Agency; Mr. Daisi Olotu of Dees Travel and Mrs. Adelola Adewole of Tifa Travels, acknowledged the Federal Government for releasing N1.3trn to businesses as a relief to the impact of the Coronavirus scourge, but said that the travel agency industry was not captured in the spread. They therefore, variously asked the government to as a matter of urgency come to their aid.
“Let me reiterate that NANTA is not in panic or jumpy but in prayers that this sad period shall not remain a permanent feature. We are strong, hopeful and prayerful and at the same time, in sync with all established protocols to keep safe and avoid unnecessary past-time that may hinder the speedy return to normal life and business not only in Nigeria, but also all over the world,” Bernard concluded.