FOLLOWING the indefinite suspension of flights between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced by Emirates Airline on June 21, the Nigerian government has broken its silence by apologising to Nigerians for inconveniences arising from the development.
The government also provided more insight into reasons for the seeming deadlock in ongoing talks towards resuming flights between the two countries.
The Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika disclosed on Monday in Abuja that the UAE introduced a COVID-19 protocol that was not backed by science and tends to target only Nigerians.
He explained that diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue have not been successful.
“We are aware that some have to travel for medical reasons while some have to resume work, some are students and even holidaymakers. We believe that you have the right to travel to Dubai and you will do so.”
Sirika, who spoke during a press briefing by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, stressed that the government will not allow Nigerians to suffer discrimination.
“For the sake of the international convention, we cannot be discriminated against.
“We thought we could take it diplomatically and we have been meeting and exchanging ideas but at some point, they said they are being hard on Nigerians because there are fake results,” he said.
The minister explained that in addition to presenting a negative test result for a PCR test taken 48 hours prior to departure and another PCR test taken on arrival in Dubai, the UAE is insisting that all passengers from Nigeria must use Emirates Airline or spend two weeks in the alternative carrier’s country before gaining entrance to Dubai.
“Meaning that if I buy my ticket in a free market which Nigeria and UAE practices, if I buy a ticket on Ethiopian Airline, that means I must remain in Addis Ababa for two weeks whether I have a visa or not before I proceed to Dubai.
“We found this position to be discriminatory against our country and it is not acceptable,” he explained.
Addressing the issue of fake results, Sirika said there are fake results in UAE, Germany, UK, USA and all over the world. He added that the Nigerian government has put measures in place to detect fake results, noting that the rate of infection and deaths from the virus recorded in Nigeria was far less than some of the countries with unrestricted access to the UAE.
“If you look at the rate of infection and the rate of people catching COVID-19 in Nigeria, we are far less than many other countries in the world which UAE did not apply that principle upon. Even Ghanaians, Nigeriens and other African countries can go to Dubai directly; so the protocol is country-specific and it is not acceptable by the agreement and convention that we signed with UAE,” he stressed.
Flight between Nigeria and the UAE has been suspended since March 17.
The minister disclosed that talks with the UAE are still ongoing. He expressed optimism that the disagreement would be resolved soon to prevent the Nigerian government from escalating the matter.