By Favour Nnabugwu
Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has said that the reason why Nigeria and Dubai resumption with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is discriminatory nature of protocols introduced by the Emirati authorities.
Sirika, in his update, during the briefing by the Presidential Steering Committee on Covid-19, on Monday, June 28, 2021, in Abuja said the protocol appeared to be targeted at only Nigerians, added that it was discriminatory and not backed up scientifically.
He explained that UAE insisted that all passengers intending to visit its country must use Emirates Airline or spend two weeks in the alternative carrier’s country before gaining entrance to Dubai.
According to the Minister, if a Nigerian buys a ticket in a free market which Nigeria and UAE practice on Ethiopian Airline, that means he or she must remain in Addis Ababa for two weeks whether they have a visa or not before proceeding to Dubai.
This means the UAE was subtly insisting that Nigerians must fly by Emirates, a position the country found to be discriminatory and not acceptable.
Sirika dismissed suggestions that the continuous delay in the resumption of flights was ego related, but stated that both countries were in talks to resolve the matter.
He said Emirates was not the only airline caught up in something of this nature as other airlines which Nigeria had also meted same treatment out to saw reason and adjusted.
He explained, “After review, some of the airlines, especially KLM, saw sense with what Nigeria presented which is that you can do the test 48 hours to 72 hours before you leave and do another test on arrival.
“Emirates at that time wanted us to do the test 48 hours before boarding and 48 hours is not yet the incubation time. They expect us to do a rapid test at the airport and then fly seven hours later and do another test in Dubai and then follow us to our hotel or our accommodation and do another test.
“That dragged on and in the interest of our people and cordial relationship, even though it is a commercial decision for the airline to take at any point in time, we ceded and accepted that we would do those tests that doesn’t make scientific sense to us at the expense of our people and our monies.
“We accepted what Emirates presented and proceeded even though KLM and other airlines saw our reasons and rationale and towed the line of Nigeria. In this case, Emirates insisted again that in addition to the test on arrival and other tests that Nigerians cannot fly to UAE except through Emirates airline.
“And that if we choose to do so through other airlines like Ethiopia, Qatar, Turkish or other airlines, we must remain in the country of that airline for two weeks if we are Nigerians before we continue to Dubai.
“Meaning that if I buy my ticket in a free market which Nigeria and UAE practices, if I buy a ticket on Ethiopian Airline, that means I must remain in Addis Ababa for two weeks whether I have a visa or not before I proceed to Dubai.
“So, they insisted that we must fly by Emirates and majority of Nigerians are petty traders and the ticket of Emirates, in this case, may be higher than other airlines.’’
He said,”It is only one aviation and we found this position to be discriminatory against our country and it is not acceptable.
We thought we could take it diplomatically and we have been meeting and exchanging ideas because at some point, they said they are being hard on Nigerians because there are fake results.
And I said there are fake results in UAE, Germany, UK, USA, all over the world, there are fake results but Nigeria went ahead to put measures in place to detect fake results.
So, we have gone the extra mile plus if you look at the rate of infection and the rate of people catching COVID-19 in Nigeria, we are far less than many other countries in the world which UAE did not apply that principle upon.”
Recall that the UAE authorities in Dubai had on June 19, announced a revision in procedures for international passengers coming from Nigeria, the Republic of India, and South Africa.
In the newly announced procedures, the authorities said it would ease restrictions and confirmed that Emirate Airlines would start carrying passengers from the countries with effect from June 23.
The Emirates Airline, however, on June 21, announced a fresh suspension of flights to and from Nigeria, in line with the directives from the UAE authorities.