The Federal Government says Emirates Airlines has been included in the list of airlines not allowed to operate in Nigeria as part of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country but that isn’t the main reason for the decision NewsWireNGR understands.
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made this known via his Twitter handle on Friday.
He said the decision was taken after a meeting between members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and European Union ambassadors.
He said the ban would take effect from Monday, September 21, 2020.
“The PTF sub-committee met today with EU Ambassadors to discuss Lufthansa, Air France/KLM ban. The meeting progressed well. Emirates Airlines’s situation was reviewed & they are consequently included in the list of those not approved, with effect from Monday the 21st September 2020,”
Multiple sources confirm to NewsWireNGR that the decision to bar Emirates follows refusal by the UAE to issue Nigerians visas.
“Over the last week since the Federal Government allowed Emirates and other airlines to resume international flights, Nigerians have been unable to get visas to travel”, an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that doesn’t want his name in print tells NewsWireNGR.
“The same way we told the European Union airlines not to fly to Nigeria because Nigerians weren’t allowed in the EU is the same treatment we are giving to Emirates until they start issuing our people visa”.
Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has urged Nigerian government to have a rethink over restrictions placed on KLM, Lufthansa and Air France.
The request was made on Friday during a meeting between the Presidential TaskForce on COVID-19 and European Union ambassadors.
Nigeria had announced restrictions on some foreign airlines ahead of 5th September 2020 resumption of international flights.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Angolan TAG, Air Namibia and Royal Air Maroc were not approved to operate flights into Nigeria.
He said only approved airlines would be permitted into the Nigeria’s airspace.
He listed British Airways, Emirates, Ethiopian, AWA and Middle East Airlines as airlines permitted into the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Godfrey Onyema, led Nigeria delegation to the meeting, which includes Minister of Health, Dr. Osage Ehanire; Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunmibe Mamora; Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika and National Coordinator, Sani Aliyu
The EU delegation, which includes three Ambassadors was led by EU Head of Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Ketil Karlsen.
Speaking at the end of the meeting, Karlsen said: “The availability of flights from Europe to Nigeria and vice versa is very essential.
Nigeria’s airports had been shut down since March 23 to all but essential international flights as part of the country’s efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The federal government had fixed September 5 for the reopening of airports for international flights starting with the MMIA and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja.
As the airport reopened, the first flight operated by Middle East Airlines, ME 571 from Beirut, Lebanon, landed at the airport at about 2:18 pm with 222 passengers and 17 crew members.
“Air France, KLM, Etihad, Rwandair, Lufthansa, TAAG Angola Airlines, Air Namibia, and Royal Air Maroc are airlines denied entrance into the country,” the aviation minister, Hadi Sirika, said.
Mr Sirika also said some airlines have been given approvals to operate within the COVID-19 protocols.
These airlines include: Middle-East, British Airways, Delta Airlines, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Egyptair, Air Peace, Virgin Atlantic, Asky, Africa World Airways (AWA), Air Cote-d’Ivoire, Kenya Airways, Emirate, and Turkish airlines.
But Emirate airline as at late Friday, 18th September is banned until further notice..