Experts in country have expressed optimism that the new Nigeria-UAE deal facilitated by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will boost the nation’s foreign investments and revenue generation.
The experts have also said that the return of Emirates and Etihad airlines to the nation’s aviation sector will reduce ticket fares on international routes, increase investment and create employment.
LEADERSHIP reports that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, yesterday finalised a historic agreement which has resulted in the immediate cessation of the visa ban placed on Nigerian travellers.
By this historic agreement, both Emirates and Etihad airlines are to immediately resume flight schedules into and out of Nigeria without any further delay.
The statement added that the immediate restoration of flight activities through the two airlines and between the two countries does not involve any immediate payment by the Nigerian government.
Speaking against the backdrop of the president’s visit to the UAE and the immediate end of the visa ban on Nigerian travellers, former president, Aviation Round Table Initiative (ARTI), Dr Gabriel Olowo, and the director of research, Zenith Travel Consult, Olumide Ohunayo, both agreed that the outcome of the peace move by the president would bode well for country’s economy.
Olowo said the fact that Nigeria is back to the route is a good one but there must be reciprocity from the UAE as Nigerian airlines plying the routes must be allowed to operate without hindrances.
“That is a very positive move by the government. We need to make peace and have positive economic relationships with almost every country of the world. That we are back there is a very good one, but as we are doing this, and as the trade policies are coming up, I hope airlines that will fly the routes and that will do the commercials are equally cited during the negotiation.
“I didn’t see Air Peace management during the negotiation, and Emirates Airlines cannot be calling the shots during such negotiation. So, in the next trade meeting with the government, the stakeholders should be there. Air Peace has been designated to that route and I do know that the playing ground wasn’t too level, and it has to be level when we are talking about reciprocity,” he stated.
Olowo also urged the government to prioritise the repatriation of Emirates airlines’ trapped fund.
He went on: “Emirates has a lot of backlogs trapped in Nigeria and that is bothering them because they need it back home. These are some of the issues that need to be addressed. They didn’t buy anything from us; they did business in our economy and we must pay them. I told the minister that we need to pay them. We need their services in as much as our airlines are still weak.
“When we develop them and they begin to get stronger, then we can rescue market share and Nigeria will participate almost equally because foreign airlines have mastered this for long, so it will take us time to get near them; therefore, we still need them.”
According to Olowo, Nigeria has the unenviable record of being the number one country that does not remit airlines’ funds.
On his part, the director of research, Zenith Travel Consult, Ohunayo, said the return of the two airlines will reduce ticket fares as well as create employment and increase government revenue generation in the sector.
According to him, the federal government should ensure repatriation of trapped funds belonging to Emirates airlines, saying Nigeria should expect more investment.
He said, “We expect to see more investment, more Nigerians employed and those providing services to them and other allied services outside the airports. There will be more revenue for the agencies, revenue will come in from passengers and other airlines charges. Also, I look forward to them partnering with our airlines and creating investment in the aviation sector.
“We must be responsible enough to meet with the agitations of the Emirati. We should refund money trapped and curb the misbehaviour of Nigerians, but most importantly, we should expect drop in ticket fares on the routes, especially with the capacity that Etihad and Emirates have. We should expect ticket fares to come down.”
He, however, commended the president for securing the reversal, saying Nigeria must demand prime spots for Nigerian airlines operating on the routes from the Emirati government.
“It’s good to see Emirates and Etihad returning. I just hope Nigerian airlines will have the same slots and frequencies into Dubai and not outside Dubai airport.
“I hope they are going to use their coming to correct their past errors. Anyone that wants Lagos (route) must give us the prime spot in their country. Anyone that wants us to pay for slots in their airports should also pay for slots here. That is the principle of reciprocity. We must be able to defend our own irrespective of who is flying the flag. If Emirates and Etihad are coming to Lagos, two Nigerian airlines must get to Dubai, not Sharjah; they must create the space and give us the slots,” he stated.
Abike Hails Tinubu’s Intervention
The chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has applauded the swift intervention of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that led to the lifting of visa ban on Nigerians by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and resumption of Etihad and Emirates Airlines into the country.
In a statement in Abuja by Abdur-Rahman Balogun, NIDCOM’s head of media and public relations, Dabiri-Erewa said with this landmark unique diplomatic achievement, Nigerians working in the UAE, who could not have their work permits renewed, can now heave a sigh of relief.
The NIDCOM boss said this intervention will usher in a new era of collaboration and friendship between the two nations – Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates.
Besides the lifting of ban and resumption of flights into Nigeria, Dabiri-Erewa said the bilateral parley also laid a robust foundation for substantial investments in various sectors in Nigeria.
Dabiri-Erewa, who said she had been bombarded with calls from excited Nigerians living in the UAE, urged them to continue to be good Ambassadors of the country.
A diplomatic row had broken out between the two countries over a year ago due to some unresolved differences which had brought untold hardship to travelling Nigerians as well as those living in the UAE.