The Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 has accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of adopting double standards in enforcement of its COVID-19 protocol towards Nigerians.
Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation, made the allegation during a press briefing in Abuja on Monday.
The PSC said that the UAE prevented Nigerians from travelling directly from their country to Dubai and other of its cities.
Sirika said that investigations into the situation revealed that the COVID-19 protocol set for Nigeria by the UAE was not the same as what it offered other West African countries despite the nation’s (Nigeria) effort in fighting the virus.
According to him, this is the reason many Nigerians travelled through neighbouring countries like the Benin Republic and Ghana.
“The story is they (UAE) have a protocol that discriminates against Nigeria and it was specifically targeted at Nigeria and we said no, and it’s on behalf of the people,” Sirika said.
“We’ve gone through the ministry of foreign affairs, now we’re been mandated by the taskforce (PSC) jointly with the foreign affairs to resolve this impose.
“Nigeria has no issue with Emirates, but against the preferential treatment.”
Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), said the federal government will continue discussions with representatives of the UAE on the issue.
“The Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Aviation will continue to dialogue with the representatives of the UAE to resolve the issue of Emirates flights between Nigeria and the UAE,” he said.
“Protection of the interest of Nigerians remains our primary focus.”
The issue of COVID-19 safety protocol between Nigeria and UAE has lingered since the beginning of this year.
In February, Emirates directed Nigerian travellers at the Lagos and Abuja airports to conduct rapid COVID-19 tests before departure, which led to a ban on Emirates flights in Nigeria.
The ban was later lifted after the airline agreed to stop the rapid antigen tests, however, it was reintroduced the next month, in which the federal government explained that Emirates had continued to conduct rapid antigen tests for passengers before departure from Nigeria.
The federal government suspended inbound and outbound flights of the airline, few days after the Dubai Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management eased travel restrictions to Nigerian passengers under a new COVID-19 health and safety protocol.
In August, UAE lifted the ban on transit passenger flights from six countries, including Nigeria, effective August 5, however, Emirates announced that flights to and from Nigeria will remain suspended over diplomatic rows.
Over the months, the Dubai flagship carrier has extended resumption more than six times.