Nigeria-UAE diplomatic row forces Emirates to again suspend flights to Nigeria

In a fresh twist  to the diplomatic row between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Nigeria, the UAE has rejected the directive from Nigeria that puts on hold Emirates flights suspension while restricting the carrier to one weekly light to Abuja,

The carrier, in a statement, said Emirates will be completely suspending its flights between Nigeria and Dubai until the Civil Aviation Authorities from both countries find a solution to the current ongoing issue.

According to the carrier, “With the recently imposed directive limiting Emirates to operate one flight per week to Nigeria via Abuja, Emirates will be completely suspending its flights between Nigeria and Dubai, until the Civil Aviation Authorities from both countries find a solution to the current ongoing issue.

“We regret the inconvenience caused,  and customers can contact their travel agent or booking office to make alternative arrangements. Emirates is committed to its operations in Nigeria, and we stand ready to reinstate services once restrictions are lifted by the Nigerian authorities, ensuring travelers have more choice and access to trade and tourism opportunities in Dubai, and beyond to our network of over 120 destinations.”.

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Earlier yesterday, the Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu clarified why it suspend Emirates Lagos flights and restricted it to just only a weekly flight to Abuja.

He said that the NCAA withdrew the approval following the refusal of the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) to grant equal rights to the sole Nigerian carrier, Air Peace flying to Dubai via Sharjah.

 

Nuhu had explained that Sen. Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation had graciously granted Emirates Airlines 21 frequencies weekly to two major airports in Nigeria; Lagos, 14, and Abuja, seven.

He regretted that despite this approval, the GCAA refused to grant Air Peace three weekly frequencies to Sharjah, which the airline requested for, rather than approved just one frequency weekly.

According to him, the GCAA had attributed its refusal to grant the three frequencies to the airline to inadequate slots in Sharjah airport, stressing that the government would continue to protect Nigeria’s businesses.

He said: “The Nigerian Government was gracious to grant Emirates Airlines 21 frequencies it requested for. The airline wants to operate 14 weekly flights to Lagos and another seven weekly to Abuja airports.

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“However, Air Peace only requested for three weekly flights to Sharjah, not even Dubai airport, but the CAA refused the airline. The CAA only approved one weekly frequency to the airline. The only excuse they gave was that they don’t have enough slots. Where is the justice in this? That is the capital flight out of Nigeria. Nigeria should protect its own.”

NCAA had in a letter with the reference number: NCAA/DG/AIR/11/16/329, dated December 9, 2021, with the head: ‘Withdrawal of Ministerial Approval of Emirates Airlines Winter Schedule,’ and signed by Nuhu to the Country Manager, Emirates Airlines withdrew the initial approval granted the airline.

The letter read: “I write to inform you of the withdrawal of the approval granted to Emirates Airlines winter schedule. This approval was conveyed via a letter with reference number FMA/ATMO/501/C.104/XV/356 dated 1st December 2021. The withdrawal becomes effective on Sunday 12th December 2021 at 23002.

“Please kindly note, henceforth Emirates Airlines is granted approval to operate only one weekly passenger frequency to Abuja on Thursdays.”

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Nigeria and UAE had in February 2021 involved in a diplomatic face-off over whether or not to use the Rapid Antigen Test for Nigerians wanting to travel to Dubai.

UAE had insisted that other airlines would not airlift Nigerians to Dubai and gave other stringent measures, including that Nigerian passengers must have to spend 14 days in another country after leaving Nigeria before they would be due to travel to Dubai if lifted by other airlines.

The Federal Government had resisted that and insisted that it did not have the infrastructure for the Rapid Antigen Test and also insisted that airlines flying to Nigeria must abide by its own COVID-19 protocols.

After UAE removed the Rapid Antigen Test for Nigerian travellers, the Federal Government lifted the ban on the airline, allowing the carrier to resume flights to Lagos and Abuja on December 5, 2021.

 

Wole Shadare