May 20, 2024

Why Emirates Airline return may drain our limited FX – AITE Chairman

Emirates Airline

By Dickson Omobola

Following the disclosure that Emirates Airlines would re-commence operations to Nigeria on October 1, Chairman of the Africa Investment and Trade Summit and Exhibition, AITE, Mr Tunde MacAlabi, has warned that the airline’s return may drain the country’s limited forex exchange.

MacAlabi, who urged the Federal Government to correct the Bilateral Air Services Agreement, BASA, that exists between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates, UAE, said if not rectified, the Middle Eastern nation would be the agreement’s sole beneficiary.

Faulting what he termed gross imbalance in flights between Nigeria and UAE, he said the federal government should also get the UAE authorities to lift the visa ban on Nigeria in order to reduce the disparity.

He said while Emirates would begin operations to Nigeria on October 1, Air Peace, the Nigerian carrier operating to the UAE, was unsure of when it would resume flights to either Dubai or Sharjah.

Recall that Air Peace suspended flights to the UAE in October when the Middle Eastern nation stopped issuing visas to Nigerians in 2022.

His words: “There is no need for excitement because it would seem that the most important question in the BASA between Nigeria and the UAE has not been addressed. The question is how can the gross imbalance in the flights between Nigeria and the UAE be corrected, all the more so considering that Etihad, another UAE airline, operates to Nigeria.

“While Emirates, a state-owned enterprise that belongs to Dubai, one of the federating regions in the UAE, will start flying from Lagos to Dubai next October 1, it is not yet feasible that the only Nigerian air Carrier which flies to the UAE, Air Peace, will resume flights to either Dubai or Sharjah, a neighbouring region to Dubai.

“The main question in the Nigerian-UAE relations is therefore how to get Air Peace, Nigeria’s biggest airline to resume flights to the UAE. The onus is on the federal government to get the UAE authorities to lift the issuance of visas to Nigerian citizens, so as to reduce the imbalance in flights between the two countries.

“Otherwise, Emirates’ return in October will mean an unrestrained haemorrhage of Nigeria’s limited forex market without any form of reciprocity. Emirates suspended flights to Nigeria simply because it could not repatriate its funds immediately, despite making a fortune from our country over the decades it monopolised the Lagos-Dubai route, one of the most lucrative. Emirates had the resources to stay, as most other foreign airlines did, during our forex crisis period.”