Barring any last-minute hitches, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will today, review the visa restriction placed on Nigerian travellers, following the ban of Emirates Airlines from the most populous black nation.
Sources at the company’s office in Lagos confirmed that the issue was being reviewed, and the “right” diplomatic approach taken. This came as aviation stakeholders commended the Federal Government for going “tough and playing tit-for-tat with countries that would not accept Nigerian travellers into their domains.”
The Federal Government, following pressure from some quarters, banned Emirates Airlines from Lagos and Abuja airports, effective today, over refusal to grant fresh visa applications submitted by Nigerians. The government earlier banned European carriers, with the exception of British Airways, over travel restrictions. Emirates officials said: “We have met with the Nigerian government on this issue, and we assured them that we will resolve it. We are presently working on it.” “I hope this issue will be resolved before Monday. One thing I will assure you is that the issue will be resolved earlier than expected,” a manager said.
The Chief Executive Officer of Finchglow Travels, Bankole Bernard, said assurances had been given on the matter. He noted that Nigeria was third-biggest market to Emirates, adding that the UAE would do everything to sustain their operations. “UAE should have resolved this matter long ago. The ban means that they will lose the market, and they know the implication. A market lost is never easily regained. Right now, we are certain that the ban will only affect Monday flights, and hoping that things will be normal by Tuesday,” he added.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, at the weekend, via his twitter handle, announced the suspension of Emirates Airlines from Nigeria, saying the ban would take effect from today. “Emirates Airlines’ situation was reviewed, and they are consequently included in the list of those not approved, with effect from Monday, September 21, 2020,” he said. The President Muhammadu Buhari administration had in August warned that Nigeria would activate the principle of reciprocity in granting permission to airlines to resume operations in the country as it reopens its airspace.
It said the decision was informed by the embargoing on flights from Nigeria by some nations. Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Angolan TAG, Air Namibia and Royal Air Maroc were not approved to operate flights into the country. Aviation stakeholder, Julius Akintunde, said the measures were in the best interest of the economy.
Also speaking, Secretary-General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), urged that the reciprocity should be done with caution in order for the Nigerian market not to be undermined by neighbours.