The rift between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) seems to be worsening as the Federal Government has announced the suspension of inbound and outbound flights by Emirates Airlines.
The suspension order is with effect from midnight on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.
Equally important, the suspension was announced by the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika on Monday. Specifically, Sirika made this known while speaking at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing in Abuja.
Emirates Airlines has since been notified of the suspension of its operations in Nigeria since Sunday.
1st News reports that the latest suspension comes in the wake of the insistence of the UAE national carrier for passengers from Nigeria to have the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests within 72 hours of their flights in addition to Antigen Rapid Test at Nigerian airports and another PCR test on arrival in Dubai.
The Aviation Minister described the requirements as unacceptable; adding that the reasons adduced by Emirates was devoid of any sense of reasoning. Further, Sirika disclosed that the Federal Government had rejected the request of Emirates to subject Nigerian passengers to three PCR tests; as well as a rapid antigen test 72 hours before flight and after arrival.
In addition, the Minister noted that the COVID-19 virus will incubate at least in or after 72 hours; even as he stated that PCR results were also being faked in most of the countries.#
“Therefore, we give the options to the airlines. You either have a PCR test 72 hours before departure or have a PCR test on arrival; or a Rapid test before departure and you have a PCR on arrival. But not a combination of all the three because it makes no sense. It makes facilitation of passengers very cumbersome and our work very difficult. That passengers are going through unnecessary hardship not acceptable,” Sirika said.
Furthermore, he stated that KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has accepted the conditions spelled out by the federal government to bring passengers in and out of the country by having a PCR Test within 72 hours. Consequently, the airline has agreed to start flying immediately.
“We have given them the options to do what we believe is safe and current. KLM has accepted to bring passengers in and out with the conditions we agreed on to have a PCR Test with 72 hours.
”Emirates did not accept that position. So, we have asked Emirates to be banned from operations midnight of Wednesday…That has been communicated to them since yesterday,” Sirika said.
Meanwhile, 1st News had reported that Emirates had earlier suspended flights out of Nigeria as a result of the development. The suspension was set to be lifted on Saturday, March 20, 2021.