The Federal Government has said it is engaging the United Arab Emirates in diplomatic talks over the travel ban imposed on Nigerian travellers by the Arab country.
Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, disclosed this at a press briefing on Monday in Abuja.
It was learnt that the UAE issued a travel imposition directive on passport holders of Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, effective 13 December.
The UAE was said to have issued the new directive following the surge in the countries’ COVID-19 cases from passengers of the two countries.
Reports surfaced on social media on Monday of Nigerian travellers asked to disembark from an Ethiopian Airlines plane at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, which was scheduled to go to Dubai, a popular tourist city for Nigerians in the UAE.
The travel ban on Nigerians to the UAE comes just days after Emirates Airline, one of the Arab country’s national flight carriers, once again, suspended its flight operations in Nigeria, particularly the Lagos/Abuja to Dubai routes.
The decision is sequel to the decision by the Nigerian government last Thursday to limit the flight operations of the airline from daily flights to a flight of just once per week into Abuja.
According to the Federal Government, it took the decision following the refusal of the UAE authorities to grant Air Peace equal rights to Sharjah international airport despite Emirates being allowed to operate 21 weekly passenger flights to Nigeria.
Reacting to the development, Sirika said the Federal Government has begun speaking with its UAE counterpart, adding that there are “huge signs” that the ongoing issues will be resolved soon.
He said: “We have followed the normal diplomatic routes to continue to engage UAE. There are huge signs that we are getting to resolve this matter soon.
“We have a responsibility as a government to take certain decisions on behalf of people that are in accordance with the law and that will ensure that our citizens are treated fairly and equally and also enjoy mutual relationships.”
Sirika insisted that the decision to reduce the number of frequencies of Emirates Airlines to Lagos and Abuja was in line with established ICAO protocols and the spirit of the BASA signed with the UAE.
“The PSC also evaluated the developments on the relationship between Nigeria and the UAE and we are pleased to inform you that the position of the Federal Government is in line with established International Civil Aviation Organization ICAO Protocols and the spirit of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement, BASA, signed with the UAE,” he added.
‘’Our sovereignty remains paramount, and mutual respects shall be our guiding principle in as much as it should be in the best interest of Nigeria.
“The PSC will at its next regular briefing on Monday, December 20, brief you fully on developments.”