NIGERIA’S largest commercial airline Air Peace has said it did not receive any official notification about the lifting of flight restrictions by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that was supposed to normalise aviation operations between the two countries.
Over the last year, Nigeria and the UAE have been involved in a bitter aviation dispute centered around travel rights but this week agreed to resolve matters. Last year, Nigeria barred UAE airline Emirates Airlines from operating in the country as part of its imposition of reciprocal restrictions on airlines whose countries do not allow Nigerian flights into their airspace.
Emirates Airline a subsidiary of the Emirates Group, which is owned by the government of Dubai, was barred because the UAE imposed travel restrictions on Nigerians under the guise of fighting Covid-19. Over the last few weeks, negotiations have been ongoing on response to Nigeria’s retaliatory measures and UAE backed down, allowing Air Peace in principle to resume flights into the country.
Air Peace spokesman Stanley Oliseh, said: “If they have conceded a number of slots to us they would normally write to the ministry of foreign affairs, since is a matter between Nigeria and UAE. I’m not aware such a letter got to us, although I’ve seen it flying around electronically.
“I don’t know if it leaked or if it was deliberate but I just can’t speak on that at the moment in terms of confirmation. However, once we have an update on our Dubai operations we will let the public know via our regular communication channels.”
On Friday, Nigeria’s federal government provided explanations on why it had to cut down the daily flights of Emirates Airlines to just one per week to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) director-general Captain Musa Nuhu, said that following the lifting of the ban on Emirates Airline passenger flights to Nigeria, it had 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 of two daily flights to Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos and one daily flight to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. Captain Nuhu said the aviation minister 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 the UAE.
He further stated that Air Peace, 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. Captain Nuhu added that the director-general of the General Civil Aviation Authority in the UAE attributed this action to the non-availability of arrival slots at the Sharjah International Airport.
Captain Nuhu said: “Bilateral Air Services Agreement (Basa) 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.”
“The minister of aviation 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. We want to assure the public that national interests in all aviation matters will be jealously guided and protected while regretting any inconvenience this action might caused.”