On Thursday, Emirates airline announced the suspension of flights from Lagos and Abuja into Dubai, the United Arab Emirates’ capital.
Emirates announced in a statement posted on its official website the suspension of flights from Murtala Muhammed and Nnamdi Azikwe International airports to Dubai on Thursday
“In line with the government directives, passenger services from Nigeria (Lagos and Abuja) to Dubai are temporarily suspended until February 28, 2021.”
The airline further said that passengers who had been to Nigeria in the past 14 days would not be allowed entry into UAE until the stipulated date.
However, it noted that its flights from Dubai to Lagos and Abuja airports would continue to operate according to the normal schedule.
The ICIR can confirm that the suspension of Emirates flights is in connection with a ban earlier placed on the airline a few days ago by the Nigerian government.
The Nigerian government had suspended outbound flights from Nigeria to Dubai through Emirates airline over failure to comply with government directives.
According to the suspension notice, the Nigerian government said Emirates airline was demanding RDT test conducted in unapproved laboratories from Nigerians after the PCR had been done. This was against the Nigerian government’s directive.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) had warned the Emirates airline to either accept passengers with PCR test only or suspend its flights pending the time the Nigerian government would come up with an approved infrastructure for RDT test.
Sam Adurogboye, spokesperson for the NCAA, during a telephone interview, told The ICIR that the suspension of flights by the Emirates airline could have something to do with compliance with government’s earlier directive.
He noted that although the NCAA did not suspend the flight, the airline took the initiative to suspend part of its operation following the government’s directive.
“At first instance, we suspended their operation for violating the PTF protocol on air travels and the protocol is that they cannot be asking for extra test for Covid. They have to abide by what we have. Maybe alluding to the issue of fake results, they introduced an additional measure on their own and, of course, they are making the passengers pay,” Adurogboye said.
He added that the NCAA noticed the violation and placed a ban on them following which the airline promised to comply with the government’s directive.
“When we saw the violation, we placed a ban and they wrote us again, pledging to abide by our own position. Now, we gave them two conditions: It’s either you bring in passengers and don’t take out or suspend your operations. They chose to opt for one of the conditions until a certain period,” Adurogboye further stated.
UAE government ban Nigerians
Apart from Emirates airline, Air Peace announced Thursday that the UAE government had suspended the airlifting of Nigerians to Dubai until February 28. According to Air peace, the directive was in connection with UAE’s ‘measure’ on COVID-19.
“The Management of Air Peace wishes to notify the flying public that the UAE Government has stopped the airlifting of Nigerians from Nigeria to UAE as part of its COVID-19 measures.
“However, flights bringing Nigerians back from UAE are not affected. To this end, Air Peace flight from UAE(Sharjah-Dubai) to Lagos is not affected. Normal flights shall resume when the restriction is lifted from February 28, 2021,” said Air Peace.
The refusal of the UAE government to allow Nigerians into the country at this period is said to be in connection with reports of fake COVID-19 test in Nigeria. There are reports that some Nigerian passengers have been travelling to other countries with fake COVID-19 tests.
Adurogboye had also suggested that ‘maybe’ the reason for the request for the RDT test was due to the issue of fake COVID-19 tests in Nigeria.
The alleged issue of fake COVID-19 result is not peculiar to Nigeria or Africa as some European countries have also been found to either possess fake COVID-19 test results or to be travelling with them.