From Uche Usim, Abuja
Emirates, a Dubai-based airline, can now resume flight operations into Nigeria as the federal government has lifted its months of suspension. The development forced Nigerian passengers going to UAE and other destinations via other African airlines.
Emirates suspended the direct flights to Nigeria owing to a disagreement with Nigerian authorities on modalities for COVID-19 testing.
The Nigerian government on its part stopped Emirates from subjecting Nigerian travellers to additional rapid antigen tests, against its stipulated negative PCR tests at the Lagos and Abuja airports before departure.
Emirates then halted flights to and from Nigeria. But flights resumed after talks between authorities of the aviation ministry and Emirates Airlines. Emirates, however, continued to conduct tests on passengers before departure from Nigeria.
The decision irked Nigerian authorities and consequently suspended the airline from flying to and from Nigeria.
Emirates initially said it was going to resume flights on June 23. But it said in a statement that month that it was suspending its to and fro Nigeria from June 21 without setting a resumption. Several resumption dates have been announced and later cancelled.
However, announcing the latest suspension in a statement, the
Minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, through the Spokesman of the Aviation Ministry, Dr James Odaudu said flight suspension was in direct response to the yearnings of Nigerians, adding that the deal came after painstaking negotiations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Emirates Airlines home country.
Odaudu said that Sirika, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Oyeama and the National Incidence Manager of Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Dr Muktar Mohammed briefed newsmen that UAE has also removed all travel restrictions on Nigerians.
“The FG had previously barred Emirates from flying into Nigeria over discriminatory policies on Nigerians as regards to COVID-19 protocols by the UAE. He however disclosed that the lifting of the ban was without conditions.
“Today we received communication from the UAE removing some of the conditions of travel of which we had concerns about. Having done so, we feel we should lift the ban on the suspension of Emirates Airline” Sirika stated.
The Minister, according to Odaudu, noted that from today (Friday), all the impediments on Emirates have been lifted and that the airline can now operate in Nigeria.
“Sirika expressed his appreciation for the understanding shown by Nigerians despite the obvious hardships experienced as a result of the spat between the two countries.
“Also speaking at the briefing, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema noted that the Nigerian Government recognises that the United Arab Emirates has a responsibility to protect the lives of her citizens thus whatever measures that they had taken was for the interest of her citizens.
“He said the negotiation that led to the renewed relationship was a balanced one and that it was a win-win for both countries
He reiterated that though Nigeria has always had an excellent relationship with the UAE, the negotiations had made the relationship even stronger.
“On his part, the National Incidence Manager of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Dr Muktar Mohammed commended the leadership provided by members of the Committee in ensuring the resolution of the impasse between the two countries.
“He also disclosed that the Presidential Steering Committee was closely watching the developments within the Southern African regions with regards to the discovery of a new variant of the virus, saying everything necessary to prevent its entrance into Nigeria would be done”, Odaudu stated.
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