The United Arab Emirates has responded to the viral claim by the Nigerian government that the Gulf state has lifted the visa ban it placed on Nigerian travelers, following the intervention of President Bola Tinubu.
A CNN report on Friday quoted a UAE official who spoke on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak as saying: “There are no changes on the Nigeria/UAE travel status so far.”
The presidential spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, had on Monday, announced that Tinubu and the President of the UAE, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, reached a “historic agreement” in Abu Dhabi, resulting in the “immediate cessation of the visa ban placed on Nigerian travelers.”
The UAE, in its official statement on the meeting between Tinubu and Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, did not say anything about the agreement to lift the visa ban.
“His Highness underscored the UAE’s ongoing commitment to fostering ties with countries that share the same aspirations for stability, sustainable growth, and development and prosperity for their people,” the statement said, adding that “the UAE attaches to its relationship with Nigeria, within the framework of its strategic vision for relations with the African continent.”
The Gulf state had last October, announced that it will no longer issue visas to travelers from Nigeria as well as 19 other African countries. The development, which followed a series of disputes emanating from the actions of Africans living in the UAE, resulted in the cancellation of the issuance of a 30-day tourist visa to Nigerians.
Ngelale said in his statement on Monday that Emirates and Etihad airlines are to resume flights immediately, following the agreement.
“Furthermore, by this historic agreement, both Etihad Airlines and Emirates Airlines are to immediately resume flight schedules into and out of Nigeria, without any further delay,” he said.
Emirates airlines had last year suspended its operation in Nigeria, citing its inability to repatriate about $85 million in trapped revenues.
The news that the UAE has lifted the travel ban on Nigerians brought great excitement to Nigerian travelers, who have over the years, seen Dubai as a choice destination.
Before the ban, Emirates Airlines provided two daily flights from Lagos, Nigeria, to Dubai, as well as one daily flight from the capital city, Abuja, to Dubai.
However, skepticism followed the excitement as many questioned the authenticity of the news. The UAE visa portal was still closed to Nigerians days after the announcement by the Nigerian government.
The situation forced Ngelale to issue a follow-up statement, explaining that the two countries will still have to work on the final details.
“Given the agreement struck between the two Heads of State, there is need to allow cabinet officials from both sides to work out the finer details and finalize the cross-sectoral agreements,” he said, adding that “Everyone can now allow the process to work itself out organically, devoid of speculation.”
The Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo, also said that there is no fixed timeframe for both Emirates and Etihad airlines to lift the suspension of their flights to Nigeria.
“So, we are beginning to work out all the tiny details. I met with Emirates before I left UAE, and we are working out the details. We cannot say the time frame. Kicking off an airline operation again on a route does not mean you will go and grab one empty plane sitting in a place,” he said.