Home Top Stories UAE-Nigeria Flight row: Gbajabiamila meets ministers, Air Peace boss

UAE-Nigeria Flight row: Gbajabiamila meets ministers, Air Peace boss


By Chibuike Nwabuko

Abuja (Sundiata Post) – The Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila had met with the Minster of Aviation, Hadi Sirika his Foreign Affairs counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama and the Chairman of Airpeace, Allen Onyema, to resolve the flight row between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates.

The meeting took place behind closed doors at the National Assembly Complex on Tuesday after plenary.

Members of the House Committee on Aviation had assembled at the venue for the meeting, but was told after about two hours of waiting, that the Speaker was already meeting with the ministers in his office.

After the closed-door session, Mr Gbajabiamila, alongside the ministers briefed journalists on the outcome of the parley.

The Speaker said that these consultations are welcome developments considering the relationship between UAE and Nigeria particularly in the last few days. He said the president has been there, the vice president has been there and many of our government functionaries have been there to foster stronger ties between the two countries.

“And so we are not going to allow these to mar the giant strides that have been made between the two countries,” the Speaker said.

He also commended Nigerians for standing by the government to defend the country’s ‘national pride’. Adding that “national pride, if well justified, trumps every other thing.”

Earlier, the House had resolved to intervene in the row following a motion moved by Ndudi Elemelu (PDP, Delta) in November.

Recall that Nigeria had reduced Emirate Airline slot to one from the initial 21 slots approved as a retaliation for the ‘unfair’ treatment of Air Peace airline.

The irate Dubai-based Emirates had then suspended all its flights to Abuja and Lagos after the Nigerian government’s decision on the airline.

Following the controversy, UAE had in a letter signed by the Director-General of General Civil Aviation Authority, Mohammed Ahli, directly to Air Peace, offered the airline the option to fly directly to Dubai and not Sharjah Airport that it had earlier requested.

It said the slots have been made available for Air Peace “as a gesture of goodwill and in support of the relations between the two countries.”

Sundiata Post recalls that the seeming diplomatic row between Nigeria and UAE had persisted since the outbreak of COVID-19, and it increased after the Omicron variant emerged.

On Friday, for instance, the Federal Government provided explanations on why it had to cut down the daily flights of UAE’s Emirates Airlines to just one per week to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

Providing explanation for its action, the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Musa Nuhu, stated that following the lifting of the ban on Emirates Airlines passenger flights to Nigeria by the government, the UAE-based airline applied to Federal Ministry of Aviation for approval of its winter flight schedule.

He said the requested schedule consisted of 21 weekly passenger flight frequencies to Nigeria, comprising two daily flights to Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos and one daily flight to the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja.

Nuhu said in a statement that the Minister of Aviation graciously approved the winter schedule as requested without any hindrance or arrival slots requirements in the spirit and intent of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement between Nigeria and UAE.

He further stated that Air Peace Airlines, the only Nigerian airline that operated passenger flights to Sharjah International Airport in UAE, requested for three weekly passenger flight frequencies and was granted only one weekly passenger flight frequency.

The NCAA boss stated that the Director-General of General Civil Aviation Authority in the UAE attributed this action to non-availability of arrival slots at Sharjah International Airport.

Nuhu said, “Bilateral Air Services Agreement between countries are based on the principle of reciprocity for transparency and fairness to both sides.

“While Nigerian authorities approved the request of Emirates Airlines, UAE authorities acted in total disregard of the terms and provisions of the BASA between the two countries by approving one out of the three weekly passenger flight frequencies requested by Air Peace Airlines.”

Nuhu said he held series of meetings with his GCAA UAE counterpart at the sidelines of the ICAO Air Negotiation Conference in Bogota, Colombia which all ended in stalemates.

“The Minister of Aviation (Nigeria) decided to apply the principle of reciprocity and withdraw the approval of the winter schedule given to Emirates Airlines and instead approved one weekly flight frequency to Abuja on Thursday,” Nuhu stated in the statement.

He said he notified the Country Manager of Emirates Airlines and DG GCAA of the new approved weekly passenger flight schedule.

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