Operators excited as UAE lifts visa ban on Nigerians - PUNCH
SEPTEMBER 13, 2023
BY Stephen Angbulu and Funmi Fabunmi
The United Arab Emirates, on Monday, lifted its months-long visa ban on Nigerians.
Consequently, Etihad and Emirates Airlines will resume flight operations in Nigeria immediately.
“President Bola Tinubu and President of the United Arab Emirates, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on Monday in Abu Dhabi, have finalised a historic agreement, which has resulted in the immediate cessation of the visa ban placed on Nigerian travelers
“Furthermore, by this historic agreement, both Etihad Airlines and Emirates Airlines are to immediately resume flight schedules into and out of Nigeria, without any further delay,” the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, revealed in a statement he signed Monday.
The statement is titled ‘President Tinubu secures landmark deal with United Arab Emirates across sectors; visa ban on Nigerian travelers is lifted immediately.’
Monday’s resolution followed talks between Nigeria’s President, Bola Tinubu and his Emirati counterpart, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
It also comes nearly three weeks after the President expressed his willingness to personally intervene to end the nearly one-year ban.
“We are a family with the UAE; we only live in separate rooms but in the same house. We should look at the issues as a family problem and resolve it amicably. As you know, in every family, there are peculiarities.
“You can have an erring son or daughter, but we must work together. We need to agree on core aviation and immigration issues,” Tinubu told the UAE Ambassador to Nigeria, Salem Saeed Al-Shamsi, at the State House on August 24, 2023.
It marked the first occasion in which Tinubu addressed the deadlock that led to the suspension of flights to Nigeria by Emirates, the UAE’s national carrier.
In October 2022, the UAE banned nationals of about 20 African countries from entering its borders.
“This is to inform you that we will not be posting 30 days visa applications for these nationalities effective today, October 18, 2022,” the notice partly read.
Affected countries include Uganda, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Liberia, Burundi, Republic of Guinea, Gambia, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Benin, Ivory Coast, Congo, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Comoros, and the Dominican Republic.
In a notice issued to trade partners, including travel agents, Emirati authorities demanded that all applications be rejected.
“Any applications from the above-mentioned countries will be sent back or canceled,” said the notice. However, it does not affect persons holding diplomatic passports.
Since the ban, the UAE and Nigeria have been locked in a diplomatic row over issues involving flight allocations and travel restrictions.
In February, former President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to Al Nahyan via telephone to lift the visa ban. However, the UAE authorities rejected the request.
Explaining the recent development, the President’s spokesman noted that the immediate restoration of flight activity through Emirates and Etihad Airlines and between the two countries does not involve any immediate payment by the Nigerian government.
Reacting, an official of the aviation think-tank, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative, Olumide Ohunayo, said, “Congratulations that the President was able to get the visa ban lifted, and business can return fully among the two countries while we make efforts to repatriate airline funds. It is good to see that Emirates and Etihad are returning, I just hope Nigerian airlines will have the same slots and frequencies in Dubai and not outside Dubai airports, under the principle of reciprocity.
Also, a former Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Roland Iyayi, while reacting said, “If Air Peace starts flying into Dubai, Emirates will reduce their price because they know that its price will be lower and will want to match theirs, so they don’t lose most of their passengers. So, there’s a possibility that fares will be reduced given the competition between Emirates and Air Peace which is indeed very good for the country.
Also speaking, a former Military Commandant at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Group Capt John Ojikutu (retd.), said, “It is not about Emirates and Etihad alone, it is about every other foreign airlines that operate to Nigeria and pay our aviation services providers in dollars.”