The Nigerian government has begun a probe into the shocking cancellation of visas by the Saudi Arabian government of all the 264 passengers airlifted by Nigeria’s major carrier, Air Peace, on arrival in the Middle East country from Kano State, insisting that they be returned to Nigeria.This is coming at a time President Bola Tinubu is in Saudi Arabia attending the Arab-Africa summits.
Reacting last night, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement by the Special Assistant, Media and Communications Strategy to the minister, Alkasim Abdulkadir, said it was investigating the matter to see if any consular or aviation rule had been violated.
The ministry said it would ensure actions that would impact the welfare of Nigerian citizens were mitigated in the future, in line with the strategy of Tinubu.
“Nigeria has just participated in the Saudi-Africa Summit where bilateral discussions covering several sectors of the economy and mutually beneficial commitments were made,’’ the statement read.
When contacted, the Presidency said it was aware of the situation but was yet to get the facts of the matter.
Speaking with Vanguard, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Tope Ajayi, said: “I am aware of what happened but we don’t have the facts of what happened. We are waiting to get updates on the matter.”
The flight took off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos via the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano on Sunday night and arrived Saudi Arabia’s major city, Jeddah, on Monday without issues.
However, on landing, the Saudi Arabia authorities announced that all the passengers’ visas were cancelled.
A source who pleaded anonymity, said all the passengers and the airline personnel were shocked at the cancellation of the visas because during check-in of the passengers, they went through the Advance Passengers Pre-screening System, APPS, which were also monitored by Saudi Arabian authorities before the flight left Nigeria.
The source wondered whether what happened was a strategy to discourage the airline from operating to the destination, having recorded high load factor since it started the operation.
It was also learned that even the flight to leave Jeddah today for Nigeria was already fully booked.
When the Nigerian embassy waded in, the Saudi government was said to have reduced the number of passengers that would be returned to 170 from 264.