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‘Nigeria-UAE flights resume soon after 14 months’

Hopes of Emirates resuming flights to Nigeria brightened over the weekend as the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr Festus Keyamo, revealed that the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) carrier has concluded plans to return to the Nigerian airspace.

However, the details of the resumption were being finalised to “avoid the pitfalls of the last presidential engagement” with authorities in the Arab country, it was learnt.

Spokesman of the ministry, Odutayo Oluseyi, in a statement yesterday, stated that Emirates made a commitment to resume flights operations when Keyamo attended the 2023 Dubai Airshow in the UAE.

The statement reads in part: “The Emirate’s government has granted approval to Nigeria’s carrier, Air Peace, to fly direct into and out of the prime airport in Dubai.

“Similarly, the minister met with the management of Airline Executive, led by its CEO, Dana Hatcic, a company that indicated interest in establishing an MRO facility in Nigeria.”

The minister expressed the possibility of holding a maiden edition of the Nigeria Air Show sometime in November, 2024, thereby becoming the first African country to organise such.

Furthermore, he visited the pavilions of leading aviation and aerospace industries in the world to inspect modern technologies that could be of use in driving his five-point agenda for the aviation industry in Nigeria, particularly on the improvement of infrastructure and promotion of innovation and creativity in cutting-edge technologies relating to civil aviation.

Sources revealed to our correspondent yesterday that the airline might announce flight resumption in the first week of December.

It was also learnt that this would be preceded by the lifting of the visa and work permit bans slammed on Nigerians which are some of the requests from the Nigerian government.

It is exactly a year, two months and 20 days today that Emirates suspended flights to Nigeria, citing inability to repatriate its funds from Nigeria estimated at that time at over $85m.

It is part of the $800m funds belonging to foreign airlines which they are unable to repatriate to their home countries.

A cross section of Nigerians living in UAE had cried out to the federal government to resolve the issue of trapped Emirates’ funds which they said was the basis of the “unfriendly” posture of the UAE authorities to Nigerians.

One of the Nigerians in UAE, Enifome Elijah, stated that resolving the Emirates’ trapped funds was key to resolving the row and lifting of the work permit.

Aviation stakeholders however called for due diligence in reaching an agreement with the UAE.

Speaking with our correspondent, aviation analyst, Group Capt. John Ojikutu said, “The Airline and any other like it should no longer be going to Lagos and Abuja but to Lagos or Abuja and to any other in the alternative geographical location to the airport of their first choice. However, they should be allowed to make multiple frequencies to these airports of their choice. Wherever the frequencies are more than the frequencies in the BASA, the airlines should pay an approved rate or charges for the differences in the BASA.”

Also, Capt Ibrahim Mshelia, Chief Executive Officer at West Link Airlines urged the Minister to review previous agreements to deepen reciprocity.