…As FG announces possible resumption of flights to UAE
By Henry Umoru
The Senate yesterday 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 sequel to a point of order by the Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, during plenary.
The intervention came at a time the Federal Government announced the possible resumption of flights between both countries.
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 of Nigeria 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 Emirates airline continued to conduct test for passengers before departure from Nigeria, a development the Federal Government frowned on and thus suspended the airline from flying to and from Nigeria.
Abaribe further expressed concern that “there are allegations that hundreds of legal resident Nigerians 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.”
However, the Federal Government Monday announced possible resumption of flights between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates, UAE.
Direct flights between both countries were suspended in March over issues relating to COVID-19 protocol.
Speaking at a media briefing, Mukhtar Muhammad, national incident manager of the Presidential Steering Committee, PSC, on COVID-19, said both countries had agreed on the reviewed travel guidelines and conditions imposed by the UAE government.
On the resumption of Emirates Airline’s flights to Nigeria, Mohammed said there had been extensive deliberation on the matter, adding that gap had been significantly closed between the positions of Nigeria and the UAE.
“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.”
Accordingly, the upper chamber in a resolution, 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 two weeks.
He explained that the federal government has succumbed to the COVID-19 testing requirement earlier imposed by the UAE government in March 2021 to maintain harmony.
Emirates Airline is the flag carrier of the UAE.