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Travel Ban: Nigeria, UAE diplomatic Row Escalates


The frosty diplomatic relations between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over travel restrictions escalated yesterday.

The UAE authorities directed airlines not to fly any passenger with Nigeria’s international passport into its airports, it was learnt.

But, the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19  has assured Nigerians that the Federal Government was working assiduously to ensure that the flight restrictions were lifted in about a week.

The UAE’s latest directive, which appears to be a response to Nigeria’s decision to stop flights from the oil-rich Arab country, affects Nigerian passport holders across the globe. The ban may result into heavy losses to both countries as it may affect international trade between them.

It was learnt that UAE may go a step further in tightening the noose by introducing stringent rules for visa applications for Nigerians desirous of visiting Dubai for medicals, tourism, and business.

Aviation sources also linked the order not to fly Nigerians to the reduction of Emirates weekly flights into the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos from 21 to only one.

Emirates is UAE’s national carrier.

The Middle East country had earlier denied the Nigerian flag carrier airline – Air Peace- from operating to Sharjah, near Dubai, three times a week.

The Arab country had last week joined the United Kingdom(UK), Canada, and Argentina in putting Nigeria on the red lists of countries with positive cases of Omicron variant of COVID-19. With the addition, all flights from Nigeria into the four countries were banned.

The Federal Government, which had asked the countries to rescind the ban on Sunday, announced that it would also bar flights from their airports as from today. But yesterday, Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika said the government  had decided to wait till next week to see if the four countries would lift the ban or not.

Sources said airlines like Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Air, and other international carriers connecting transit flights from their headquarters/hubs into Dubai are already refusing to board Nigerians.

Ethiopian Airlines yesterday declined to fly Nigerian passengers to Dubai, according to sources.

A travel agent, who spoke on the development at the MMIA, said the passengers were shocked when told that the UAE had instructed airlines not to pick passengers from Nigeria through their hubs.

He said: “One of our customers at the airport (MMIA), who was about to board Ethiopian Airlines, told us that the airline said that flights have been banned from Nigeria to Dubai. So no entry for Nigerian passengers from any airline.”

Aviation security consultant Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retd) said it was shocking that Ethiopian and other airlines are not allowed to take passengers to Dubai.




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