From Fred Itua, Abuja
The Senate has resolved to intervene in the diplomatic row between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), following a disagreement between both countries.
Direct flights between both countries were suspended in March over issues relating to COVID-19 protocol. Emirates Airline is the flag carrier of the UAE.
Senate’s decision was reached sequel to a point of order by the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, during plenary, yesterday.
Abaribe, while relying on Orders 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules recalled that in December 2020, a memorandum of understanding was executed 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 between both countries, 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 test as against its stipulated negative PCR test at the Lagos and Abuja airports before departure.
According to Abaribe, Emirates Airline then shut down flights to and from Nigeria owing to the disagreement between the airline and the aviation authorities on the propriety of subjecting passengers travelling from Nigeria to emergency COVID-19 protocols.
He, however, said that after an interface between the authorities of the aviation ministry and Emirates Airline, flights resumed but the Emirates Airline continued to conduct test for passengers before departure from Nigeria, a development the Federal Government frowned at and thus suspended the airline from flying to and from Nigeria.
Abaribe expressed concern that “there are allegations that hundreds of legal resident Nigeria living in UAE are losing their jobs on account of the refusal of the authorities to renew their work permit which offends the letters of bilateral agreements which both nations are signatory to.
“Worried that there are speculations that the refusal by the UAE authorities to renew work permit for Nigerians living in there is a calculated attempt to pressure the Nigerian government into accepting their conditions of service for their national airline that may have lost humongous revenue from the Nigeria route.
“Further worried that if the Nigerian government does not urgently engage the authorities of the UAE, thousands of Nigerians living and working will lose their jobs and means of livelihood hence the need for a quick interface with the authorities of the UAE.”
The upper chamber mandated the Senate Committees on Foreign Affairs, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and national security and intelligence and Interior (Immigration Service), respectively, to interface with the ministry of Foreign Affairs, and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on best ways of resolving this crisis and report back to the Senate within 2 weeks.
The House of Representatives, in a unanimous adoption of a motion by Ndudi Elumelu, resolved that members of the ad hoc committee be drawn from House Committees on Aviation, Foreign Affairs, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Interior, National Orientation, Diaspora and Treaties and Protocol.