UAE, Nigeria dialogue signal optimism over flights resumption

Emirates Airlines has said that it continues to hold dialogue with the Nigerian authorities, stressing that the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would continue to advance its dialogue with the Nigerian authorities.

The airline in a statement to Aviation Metric disclosed that the latest discussions signal great optimism for a positive way forward.

The carrier however denied allegations of suspension of flights from Nigeria, noting that, “We regularly update our website to keep our customers informed, and although our operations are still on hold, Emirates is keen to restart services to and from Nigeria, and are working closely with designated laboratories in Nigeria to provide the required tests and hope to be able to get all laboratories ready for implementation very soon”.

 

Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika

The airline reiterated its commitment to Nigeria, saying it looks forward to providing much-needed connectivity for its customers, helping to meet growing air travel demand in and out of our two Nigerian gateways, and making air travel more accessible to and through Dubai to over 120 destinations across our global network.

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The Senate and the House of Representatives had on Tuesday, resolved to intervene in the diplomatic row between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) following disagreements between both countries.

The decision to wade into the dispute was reached in the Senate as a sequel to a point of order by the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, during plenary.

Abaribe, while relying on Orders 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules, recalled that in December 2020, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Nigeria and the UAE to provide a platform for both countries to engage each other bilaterally.

Giving insight into the circumstances surrounding the disagreement, the lawmaker noted that in February 2021, the Federal Government stopped the UAE national carrier, Emirates Airline, from subjecting Nigerian travellers to additional rapid antigen tests as against its stipulated negative PCR test at the Lagos and Abuja airports before departure.

Abaribe said the Emirates Airline then shut down flights to and from Nigeria owing to the disagreement between it and the aviation authorities on the propriety of subjecting passengers travelling from Nigeria to an emergency COVID-19 protocol.

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He, however, said after an interface between the authorities of the aviation ministry and Emirates Airline, flights resumed but the airline continued to conduct tests for passengers before departure from Nigeria, a development that the federal government frowned at and thus suspended the airline from flying in Nigeria.

What started as a child’s play on February 1, 2021, later snowballed into a major diplomatic spat between both nations; although, they have hidden under the COVID-19 pandemic to try to force each other into doing its bidding. This has remained one of the smoothest political maneuverings one has ever seen as both nations use two instruments of their countries to play the game.

While Nigeria used the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to stand its ground, the UAE on the other hand deployed Emirates, one of the country’s unifying institutions to make a very loud statement by stopping services to Lagos and Abuja.

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Whenever ego comes into play, nothing else matters to nations or individuals. Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic has made a mess of airlines’ bottom-line leading to the first-ever $5.5 billion loss by Emirates in 33 years.

Emirates A380 aircraft set for take-off

Yes, the first-ever loss may not mean anything to the carrier as it is heavily backed by the government of UAE. The oil-rich nation had already injected $1.1 billion in state support after a collapse in long-haul travel due to the coronavirus pandemic triggered the airline’s first annual loss in more than three decades.

The Nigeria government had stopped the UAE national carrier, Emirates Airline, from subjecting Nigerian travellers to additional rapid antigen tests as against its stipulated negative PCR test at the Lagos and Abuja airports before departure.

Wole Shadare