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Keyamo, Chidoka clash over Emirates’ Airlines planned return to Nigeria

Former Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka, has disagreed with the current Minister, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, over the return of Emirates Airlines into the country.

Emirates had announced it would resume flights to Nigeria on October this year two years after suspending flights.

Keyamo had, out of excitement, taken to his verified X handle to announce the Emirates’ return.

But the former Minister in a post titled, “No to The Return of Emirates Airlines to Nigeria” in response to the announcement by Keyamo said, “The gleeful announcement of the return of Emirates Airline to Nigeria by the Hon. Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, SAN, on X is a sad reminder of the deepening lack of national pride and the growing irrelevance of Nigeria in the World.

“The audacity of Emirates Airlines to even consider returning to Nigeria reeks of contempt and disdain towards our nation. The actions of the government of UAE and their airline, Emirates, from the unwarranted visa ban on all Nigerians to the suspension of flights, have been nothing short of a blatant attack on the dignity of Nigerians.

“During my time as Aviation Minister, Emirates Airlines enjoyed an unprecedented two slots to Lagos and one slot to Abuja granted by my predecessor and sustained over the years. This gesture showed Nigeria’s desire to forge close relationships and build regional alliances in the Gulf. Yet, when Nigeria faced economic challenges, Emirates shamelessly abandoned us while other airlines stood by us.

“Emirates Airlines, arguably the wealthiest airline in the world, was the only airline that suspended operations. All the African and European Airlines, equally owed by the Nigerian government, continued operating and weathered the storm with us as a people—a remarkable show of solidarity and a vote of confidence on a market they had enjoyed for decades. Emirates Airlines, like UAE’s Mubadala, the major investor in Etisalat Nigeria, fled at the first sign of trouble, leaving Nigerians stranded and insulted by their mean behaviour.

“They did not just walk away. The UAE government imposed an egregious visa ban on all Nigerians. The imposition of a visa ban on all Nigerians is an unwarranted and vile display of aggression and dehumanisation of Nigerians. Nigerians must say no to the unjustified stigmatisation and degradation of Nigerians, almost akin to the ghettos of 20th-century Europe.

“A national visa ban suggests a desire to humiliate and cast a slur on a people as a group. The behaviour of the UAE government and their Airline is an unprovoked attack, and Nigeria should insist on a wholesome redress. As we speak, there is no word yet on the visa ban and no apology to Nigerians.

“The Nigerian government must not allow Emirates Airlines to waltz back into our skies without being held accountable for their disrespectful and demeaning conduct. We demand a thorough investigation and restitution before even considering their return. Respect for our nation and people is non-negotiable and an irreducible minimum. We will not allow our pride to be trampled upon by arrogant corporations or foreign governments. This administration must reaffirm our priceless sovereignty at all times. Our sovereignty is not for sale,” Chidoka wrote on Wednesday.

But Keyamo in his response said Chidoka’s opinion was warped even as he stated that the UAE would soon lift the visa ban on Nigerians.

He wrote: “Thank you, @osita_chidoka for your opinion. However, to demonstrate your patriotism, sincerity and fidelity to the touted ‘Nigerian Pride’, the big puzzle is, why did you fail to similarly advise your boss, principal and mentor ATIKU Abubakar @atiku to immediately relocate from Dubai to Nigeria and sell off all his assets there in protest when the ban on visa and flights were announced? Hypocrisy has never been this audacious!

“Again, it is curious that, as a member of the think-tank of the PDP, your election strategy at a time (popularly dubbed ‘the Dubai Strategy’) was hatched in the same Dubai and not in Nigeria before the ban was announced. Why export a purely Nigerian project to Dubai if you loved Nigeria so much? For the avoidance of doubt, this Government is focused on fostering healthy relationships with major partners around the world for the ultimate benefits of Nigerians.

“Considering the huge investments and interests of Nigerians in the UAE, should we continue to engage in ‘Bolekaja’ (motor park) diplomacy capable of hurting the interests of Nigerians? Will the imminent return of Emirates to Nigeria and in reciprocal manner, AIRPEACE returning to operating that route, not lead to better competition which will ultimately crash the present high fares on that route? Who will benefit more? How many Emiratis visit Nigeria and invest here as much as Nigerians visit the UAE and invest there?

“Have you bothered to ask about the lifting of the visa ban before issuing your warped statement? For your information, that has been resolved too and the announcement is imminent. Rather than craftily resorting to the card of false nationalism in pursuit of cheap political points, you should have told Nigerians the economic disadvantages Nigeria stand to suffer, if any, as a result of the commendable effort of the Tinubu administration to straighten our relations with our friends in the UAE. I will advise your PDP to work harder to regain power in 2027 and maybe resume your hostilities with the UAE authorities thereafter.”