Nigeria Newspapers

Emirates must apologise for disrespecting Nigerians, says ex-aviation minister 

A former Nigerian aviation minister, Osita Chidoka, has faulted the return of Emirates Airlines to Nigeria. Chidoka, who was aviation minister from July 2014 to April 2015, said the airline, with its hub in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), disrespected Nigerians when it suddenly stopped its Lagos-Dubai flights in 2022, a decision which the UAE followed with visa restriction on Nigerians.
“The audacity of Emirates Airlines to even consider returning to Nigeria reeks of contempt and disdain towards our nation,” Chidoka said in a statement on X yesterday.
“The actions of the government of UAE and their airline, Emirates, from the unwarranted visa ban on all Nigerians to the suspension of flights, have been nothing short of a blatant attack on the dignity of Nigerians,” he said.
Emirates Airlines suspended its Dubai-Lagos flights in 2022 over its inability to repatriate trapped funds in Nigeria in the heat of a diplomatic row between the two countries.
Nigeria and the UAE have a long history of restriction of flights between both countries based on certain unresolved issues surrounding the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA). Visa restrictions later surfaced as diplomatic fireworks continued between Nigeria and the UAE, which is a top destination for Nigerian migrants and tourists.
On May 16, 2024, the airline made a U-turn on its earlier decision to suspend flights and announced the resumption of its services to Nigeria effective October 1, 2024. However, the UAE has not officially announced its latest decision on the visa ban imposed on Nigerian travellers.
The ex-minister argued that the airline “shamelessly abandoned” Nigerians when the country faced economic challenges. “All the African and European Airlines, equally owed by the Nigerian government, continued operating and weathered the storm with us as a people – a remarkable show of solidarity and a vote of confidence on a market they had enjoyed for decades,” he said.
“They (Emirates Airlines) did not just walk away. The UAE government imposed an egregious visa ban on all Nigerians. The imposition of a visa ban on all Nigerians is an unwarranted and vile display of aggression and dehumanisation of Nigerians.”
Chidoka said: “Nigerians must say no to the unjustified stigmatisation and degradation. The behaviour of the UAE government and their airline is an unprovoked attack, and Nigeria should insist on a wholesome redress. As we speak, there is no word yet on the visa ban and no apology to Nigerians.

“The Nigerian government must not allow Emirates Airlines to waltz back into our skies without being held accountable for their disrespectful and demeaning conduct. We demand a thorough investigation and restitution before even considering their return.
“Respect for our nation and people is non-negotiable and an irreducible minimum. We will not allow our pride to be trampled upon by arrogant corporations or foreign governments.”