The Federal Government has explained why it was yet resume flight to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on Monday in Abuja at the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, said that flights were yet to resume to the UAE because of the discriminatory nature of the protocol introduced by Emirates.
According to him, the protocol appears to be targeted at only Nigerians as it was discriminatory and not backed up scientifically.
He also said that Dubai is insisting 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.
He, however, said talks were ongoing to resolve the matter.
“Emirate in particular and other airlines including KLM gave us some conditions that were not acceptable to us because they don’t make scientific sense. After review, some of the airlines, especially KLM, saw sense with what Nigeria presented which is that you can do the test 48 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 yet and 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.
“We accepted what Emirate presented and proceeded even though KLM and other airlines saw our reasons and rationale and towed the lines of Nigeria. In this case, Emirate insisted again that in addition to the test on arrival and other tests, that Nigerians cannot fly to UAE except through Emirate airlines 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 a Nigerian before we continue to Dubai,” Sirika said.
He added, “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 maybe higher than other airlines. 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.
“The total number of deaths in Nigeria maybe 3000; but in one day, 3000 Italians die or British and they are still allowed to go direct to UAE. Even Ghanaians, Nigerians, and other African countries can’t go to Dubai directly, so the protocol is country-specific and it is not acceptable by the agreement and convention that we signed with UAE.
“In one of our discussions, they said it is also the same case with South Africa, I want to put it on record that South Africa as a country wrote and demanded that the condition be applied upon them, so it is their own choice but it is not the choice of Nigeria that we should be excluded and discriminated against.
“We are still talking with them and we would likely escalate the matter and I am sure that we would resolve it soon.”