Nigeria and UAE drop flight bans following round of diplomatic talks

By 'Tofe Ayeni
Posted on Friday, 11 February 2022 10:01

An Emirates airliner against prepares to for landing at Heathrow airport.

After almost one year of diplomatic talks, Nigeria and the UAE have reinstated direct flights between the two countries. The move marks a big economic win for the two countries. 

On 2 February, Nigeria reactivated the Emirates Winter Schedule, while the government of the UAE removed the travel restrictions on Nigeria and 11 other African countries (including Kenya, Tanzania, Eswatini, Lesotho and Zimbabwe) that had been in place since December 2021.

What caused the ban

The UAE had suspended all inbound flights from Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia over Covid-19 concerns arising with the spread of the Omicron variant.

“The decision to suspend flights from Nigeria and other African countries had no scientific basis, it was just a discriminatory move … As far as we are concerned it was just a political move,” said Mukhtar Muhammed, the National incident manager/head technical secretariat of the Presidential Steering Committee.

Many African countries felt the flight ban was unjust given many European countries with rising cases were not subject to the same restrictions.

The popular airline Emirates had already stopped flights between the UAE and Nigeria in late March 2021, following a disagreement over testing protocols in February, but tourists and workers continued to travel between the two using Etihad airlines.

The UAE additionally halted granting or renewing the Direct Employment visa, reportedly causing over 500 Nigerians to lose their jobs. In response, many moved back to Nigeria, feeling they had no other options.

A good economic relationship

In addition to a fairly large number of people from Nigeria working in the UAE, the two countries share a strong trading relationship.

  • In 2019, the UAE exported $1.7bn to Nigeria (postage stamps, cars), with exports increasing at an annualised rate of 25% over the last 23 years.
  • Nigeria on its part exported $450m to the UAE in the same year, with exports having increased at an annualised rate of 41.7% over the same time frame.

In 2021, Sheikh Muhammad bin Shakhbut Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC), assured its Nigerian counterparts that the “UAE is the ninth largest exporter to Nigeria globally. The UAE continues to see Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa and also an important, trusted partner.”

Bottom line

With renewed diplomatic relations between the two countries, the strong economic bond can continue to thrive. And ultimately, Nigerians who travel often to that part of the world, whether for work or play, can now do so without any plane hassles.

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