The end of a travel ban between The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Nigeria could happen if both countries are willing to accept a new COVID-19 testing agreement. In March, Dubai-based carrier Emirates suspended flights between the Gulf state and Nigeria over COVID-19 testing procedures.
When speaking about the suspended flights at a media briefing attended by The Cable, national incident manager of the presidential steering committee on COVID-19, Mukhtar Muhammad said both countries had agreed to review the guidelines and conditions imposed by the UAE.
Both sides are close to an agreement
On Monday, when speaking to the press, Mr. Muhammad explained that Nigeria has succumbed to the UAE testing requirements to maintain harmony between the two nations. He said there had been lengthy talks regarding the direct flights, and both sides were now close to agreeing on the terms. The urgency in resolving the dispute now is that thousands of Nigerian living and working in Dubai could lose their work permits if the disagreement continues much longer.
“They have met some of our requirements, and we are just waiting for one confirmation.” Mr. Muhammad said.
While also commenting on what was happening, the director-general of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Musa Nuhu, said direct Emirates flights would resume soon. In February 2021, Emirates mandated that people traveling to Dubai from Lagos and Abuja airports needed to have a COVID-19 test before departure.
The UAE was worried about Nigerian passengers being infected
When imposing the rapid diagnostic test (RDT) be done at the airports in Lagos and Abuja earlier in the year, Emirates was worried about people from Nigeria bringing COVID-19 into the UAE. Also, while not saying anything in public, health officials in Dubai were worried that some Nigerians were traveling using false PCR test results.
In February, Emirates directed Nigerian travelers at the Lagos and Abuja airports to conduct rapid COVID-19 tests before departure, which led to a ban on Emirates flights in Nigeria. The ban was soon lifted after Emirates agreed to drop the additional testing requirements. Then in a new twist, the Nigerian government reintroduced the ban in March, saying that Emirates still required people to have a rapid test before the flight. Nigerian Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, described the tests as the “discriminatory profiling” of Nigerian travelers.
Emirates Nigeria flights could resume in December
Emirates also appears to be taking a softer stance issuing a statement on its website today stating that direct flights between the UAE and Nigeria will remain suspended until November 30, 2021. This could imply that both countries are close to reaching an agreement and that Emirates hopes to resume flights in December.
Until further news is available, Emirates reminds passengers that anyone who has been in or passed through Nigeria in the last 14 days will not be admitted into the UAE.
If you have a ticket for an Emirates flight that has been affected by the suspension, the airline says you do not need to call and rebook. Simply hold on to your ticket and contact Emirates when flights between the UAE and Nigeria resume.