The diplomatic crisis between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken a new dimension as the Middle East country has reportedly barred other airlines from conveying Nigerian passengers to the country.
Ever since the row with Emirates Airline started nine months ago, Nigerians heading for Dubai have used other airlines.
Among these airlines are Egypt Air, Air France, KLM, Ethiopian Airlines, Rwanda Air, Etihad.
But on Monday, Daily Trust gathered that many Nigerian passengers who boarded Ethiopian Airlines heading for Dubai were sent off the plane.
This happened hours after the restrictions imposed on Emirates by the Federal Government took effect.
The Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had withdrawn the winter schedule earlier approved for Emirates to operate 21 weekly flights to Nigeria.
The government instead gave Emirates one weekly slot in Abuja, the nation’s capital, in a tit-for-tat measure after the Sharjah Airport Authorities reportedly denied Air Peace the three slots it requested.
Following the development, Emirates had suspended all its flights to Nigeria pending the resolution of the issues between Nigeria and the UAE.
But things worsened after Dubai-bound passengers using other airlines were reportedly barred.
A source said the de-boarding of Nigerian passengers was on the order of the UAE authorities.
“UAE says no entry for Nigerian passengers from any airline. Ethiopian just offloaded all passengers heading to Dubai. We are voiding Dubai bound tickets,” the source told our correspondent.
There has been no official communication from the UAE authorities on the latest development.
Daily Trust had earlier reported how many Nigerian passengers were stranded over the Emirates logjam.
A passenger, who was to travel via an Emirates flight on Monday, had to explore an alternative airline, paying over N500,000 to travel via Lufthansa.
Among those stranded are businessmen, students and others said to be going for medical reasons.
“I had to book another flight on Lufthansa travelling through Brazil just to connect Dubai because the various restrictions across the world have made travel very difficult for everybody because you have to travel via a destination, not on the red list.”
“But I must be in Dubai by all means and that has cost me an extra N500,000. How many people can afford this,” a student who preferred anonymity, said.
The Vice-President of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Abuja Zone, Ambassador Adeshola Kayode, lamented that millions of naira have been lost and businesses affected as a result of the current imbroglio.
“We have lost millions, clients have started requesting refunds and some of these tickets are not refundable and for those that have refunds, it will take time to process,” he said.
He however said the federal government’s decision was a welcome development to protect the sovereignty and integrity of the country.
A former president of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Engr. Isaac Balami, said Emirates and other foreign airlines should begin to respect Nigeria.
“They should begin to take us seriously. When we didn’t fly into the country, we did not die. They must begin to respect Africa, most importantly Nigeria.
“I commend the minister and the DG for this bold step and I pray that we will continue in that trajectory, not just Emirates but any other person who will not respect and honour Nigeria.
“When Emirates solves the problem and makes Air Peace happy, we will also make them happy.”