THE United Arab Emirates (UAE) has lifted its visa ban on Nigerian travellers after almost a year.
On Monday, September 11, in Abu Dhabi, Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the President of the United Arab Emirates, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, reached an agreement, lifting the ban.
A statement released by the President’s spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, stated that Etihad Airlines and Emirates Airlines were to resume flight schedules into and out of Nigeria immediately.
The statement clarified that the agreement reached between the two leaders for the flight resumption via these airlines didn’t require immediate payment by the Nigerian government.
Nigeria is one of the 20 African countries banned from entering UAE’s capital city, Dubai.
Although former President Muhammadu Buhari admitted that some Nigerians might be violating UAE’s laws, he said that was not enough to impose a blanket ban.
He said no country, including Nigeria, would condone criminalities and illegal behaviours.
Meanwhile, that wasn’t the first time the UAE would place a visa ban on Nigerians, as The ICIR had in different reports documented the rift between the two countries.
In July 2020, the UAE imposed restrictions on Nigerian visas after two rival cult groups – The Neo-Black Movement of Africa (also known as BlackAxe) and the Aromate Group (also known as Barggas) – had a clash in Sharjah, which resulted in deaths, including the number one leader of the Aromate Group.
During that period, the UAE denied blacklisting Nigerians seeking visas to enter the country as its Embassy in Abuja clarified that the ‘temporary suspension’ of visas was a preventive measure to address the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE took several precautionary measures to combat the virus’ spread, including the temporary suspension on issuing UAE visas for all nationalities as of March 17, 2020,” the embassy tweeted.
The restriction was lifted in September after Nigeria agreed to allow the operation of Emirates Airlines in Nigeria, suspended due to the pandemic, as disclosed by the then Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika.
However, in May 2021, flights between Nigeria and the UAE were halted due to a dispute related to COVID-19 testing protocols, with Sirika noting that these measures were specifically directed at Nigeria.
The ICIR, in a follow-up report, highlighted how Nigerians were losing their jobs and living in the streets due to discrimination and work permit issuance/renewal restrictions by the UAE.
Between July and September 2021, more than 300 Nigerians saw their employment terminated in the UAE due to the government’s limitations on issuing and renewing work permits for Nigerians, according to a report by this organisation.
Apart from restrictions on flights from and to Nigeria, the UAE arbitrarily restricted visas from Nigerians without official communication, Nigerian officials said.
A statement by a group known as Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation United Arab Emirates (NIDO-UAE) in 2021 said hundreds of Nigerians in the UAE were frustrated with no hope due to the work permit issuance/renewal restrictions and were taking to the streets.
Subsequently, The ICIR reported that the rift took a different dimension in July when the Arab country barred Nigerians from applying for work permits and placed visa restrictions on them.
Although an official at the Ministry of Labour (MOL) in the UAE confirmed that work permits were being regulated in view of precautionary and preventive measures for COVID-19, The ICIR gathered that the regulation imposed by the ministry seems to target only Nigerian nationals.
Director of the Nigerian in Diaspora Organisation (UAE) Fernando Judel told The ICIR that the restriction was an internal arrangement restricted only to the ministry, and Nigerians seeking to apply for work permit renewals were barred from doing so.
Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: email@example.com. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M