Businesses, tourists to suffer as FG suspends outbound Emirates flights

THE Nigerian government on Friday issued a suspension to outbound Emirates flights from Nigeria due to the airline’s non-adherence to the stipulated protocol of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.

The federal government’s suspension of the outbound Emirates airline was contained in a circular signed by Musa Nuhu,  director-general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), on Thursday.

Nuhu said Emirates had continued to engage in airlifting passengers from Nigeria using rapid antigen tests conducted by laboratories which were not approved by regulatory authorities on COVID-19.

“Based on the foregoing and to enable the Nigerian government to put in place the needed infrastructure and logistics for COVID-19 RDT testing for departing passengers, the PTF has directed that Emirates Airlines should either accept passengers without RDT pending when the infrastructure and logistics are put in place or suspend its flights to and from Nigeria until such a time when the required infrastructure and logistics are fully established and implemented,” the letter read in part.

The Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) is a medical diagnostic test that is quick and easy to perform but mostly used for emergency medical screening while the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test is performed to detect genetic material from a specific organism. Due to its rigorous process, PCR tests are said to be more reliable than the RDT.

However, the Nigerian government stated in the circular that Emirates Airlines had not been in compliance with the two options given by the PTF.

NCAA stated that records obtained from the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) indicated that Emirates Airlines operated its flights from both Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos,and  Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja.

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Over 300 businesses, tourists to bear the burnt

Following the Nigerian government’s 72-hour suspension to outbound Emirates flights from Nigeria, no fewer than 300 businesses and tourists would suffer the consequences.

Dubai, capital of the United Arabs Emirates (UAE), has been a tourist attraction to many Nigerians over the years. Apart from tourism, Nigerians who are involved in importing and exporting businesses also visit the UAE capital in large numbers.

According to Data obtained from Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Nigeria ranks 14 of the top 20 countries that visited the UAE capital in 2020.






     

     

    The Data states that between January to December 2020, 81,000 Nigerians visited Dubai despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

    While there are no publicly available data to show the number of daily travellers from Nigeria, The ICIR can confirm that as of the time of filing this report, the last Emirates aircraft that left Murtala Muhammed Airport had a capacity of over 300 passengers.

    These passengers were visiting the UAE capital either on business or on tourism.

    Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation, did not respond to The ICIR‘s calls and messages on the fate of passengers already booked to travel to Dubai through the airline

    Lukman Abolade is an Investigative reporter with The ICIR. Reach out to him via [email protected], on twitter @AboladeLAA and FB @Correction94

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