President Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Tuesday, asked the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to review the blanket visa ban imposed on Nigerians by the UAE Government last October.
He also asked Al Nahyan to restore the resumption of Emirates Airlines flight operations in Nigeria which has been suspended since November 2022.
According to a statement signed on Monday by the President’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, Buhari pushed for these changes during a telephone conversation with his UAE counterpart who doubles as the Emir of Abu Dhabi.
The statement is titled ‘President Buhari canvasses for suspension of blanket visa ban by UAE.’
The UAE authorities placed a visa ban on Nigerians.
Although no reason was given for the ban at the time, Dubai authorities declared that all applications were on-hold until issues between the UAE government and the Nigerian government were resolved.
The UAE Immigration authority announced a visa ban on Nigerians adding that all submitted applications were rejected and fees non-refundable.
In November, the UAE carrier, Emirates Airlines, suspended its flights citing the inability to repatriate ticket funds in addition to the reduced passengers on the route.
Later that month, Nigeria’s indigenous airline, Air Peace, however, said it would be suspending operations with effect from Tuesday, November 22, 2022, “till further notice.”
On Tuesday, Buhari had “called Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to condole with him on the death of his mother-in-law, Sheikha Maryam Al Falasi, during which important issues of mutual concern between the two countries came up.
“The President requested his UAE counterpart to review the blanket visa ban imposed on Nigerians intending to travel to the UAE, recalling that mutually beneficial excellent relations have subsisted between the two nations over many years, symbolized by robust economic interactions and regular consultations on matters of common interest, including engagements at the highest political levels,” the statement read.
Buhari noted that recent irritants in bilateral relations generated by consular issues relating to the behaviour of some Nigerians in the UAE were being ironed out, explaining that no country including Nigeria would condone criminalities and illegal behaviours.
Therefore, he expressed the readiness of the Nigerian Government to apply necessary sanctions through appropriate judicial process against anyone identified to have committed criminal acts in the UAE, urging that the issue be allowed to be handled by the relevant security/intelligence agencies of the two countries and to come up with lasting solutions to the problems associated with criminalities and illegalities.
Buhari also requested a resumption of the suspended operations of Emirates Airline in the country.
He assured the UAE leader that the issue of the Emirates funds was receiving appropriate attention alongside those of other foreign airlines operating in Nigeria.
The President also notified Al Nahyan that the Central Bank of Nigeria had been directed to increase foreign exchange allocation to the airline.