The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika said on Monday that the government’s reason for not resuming flights to United Arab Emirate (UAE) is as a result of the country’s discriminatory protocol introduced recently.
According to the Minister, the protocol appeared to be targeted at only Nigerians, noting that it was discriminatory and not backed up scientifically.
Sirika made the remark during the briefing by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 in Abuja on Monday.
He explained that UAE was insistent that all passengers intending to visit the country must use Emirates Airline or spend two weeks in the alternative carrier’s country before gaining entrance to Dubai.
The minister dismissed insinuations that the continuous delay in the resumption of flights was ego related.
He, however, said that talks were ongoing to resolve the matter.
According to him, Emirates in particular and other airlines, including KLM, gave some conditions that were not acceptable to Nigeria 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 Covid-19 test 48 hours 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.
“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.
“That dragged on and in the interest of our people and cordial relationship, even though it is a commercial decision for the airline to take at any point in time, we ceded and accepted that we would do those tests that doesn’t make scientific sense to us at the expense of our people and our monies.
“We accepted what Emirates presented and proceeded even though KLM and other airlines saw our reasons and rationale and towed the lines of Nigeria.
“In this case, Emirates insisted again that in addition to the test on arrival and other tests, that Nigerians cannot fly to UAE except through Emirates airline.
“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 Nigerians before we continue to Dubai.
“Meaning that if I buy my ticket in a free market which Nigeria and UAE practice, 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 may be higher than other airlines,” Sirika explained.
He stressed that civil aviation was being guided by agreement and international convention.