No country can demarket Nigeria as Dubai’s loss is our gains —Akporiaye

AT the end of the ongoing breakdown in communication created by the United Arab Emirates authorities following its COVID-19 protocols which singled out Nigerian travelers for discriminatory treatment, the Arab nation may be the greatest loser as indications have emerged that the huge passengers traffic hitherto enjoyed by the Dubai authorities from the Nigerian travelers with billions going to its coffers, has now been diverted to Egypt, an African country also known as a tourist destination like Dubai.

The communication breakdown between the two countries started early this year when UAE in its determination to prevent a spike in the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in its country announced the ban of airlines except Emirates from carrying Nigerian passengers into the United Arab Emirates’ country.

A circular which emanated from the Dubai Airport Operations Control Center in January this year titled ‘Dubai Travel Protocol Update-Travel from Nigeria’ and dated, Friday, January, 2021, the Dubai authorities had declared: that from February 1, 2021 that all passengers departing from Nigeria to Dubai are required to obtain a negative COVID-19 certificate. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) should be conducted within 72 hours of the date of departure.

According to the new UAE policy, all Nigerian passengers were required to conduct a rapid COVID-19 test and obtain a negative result within four hours of their departure time even while the Dubai government insisted that passengers from Nigeria must travel directly from Nigeria to Dubai while adding that; “No passengers may enter Dubai from any other country /station if they have visited or transited via Nigeria in the last 14 days.”

Even after stopping other airlines from flying Nigerian passengers into Dubai coupled with the forceful prevention of the only Nigerian carrier, Air Peace from operating into the Arab country, it was discovered that Emirates airlines still continued to violate the two options discussed with the UAE authorities.

Reacting on behalf of the Nigerian government then, the director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu declared: “This is a violation of paragraph five of NCAA letter with Re: NCAA/DG/AIR11/16/281 of 02, February2021 addressed to your good self. The paragraphs clearly states: Based on the foregoing and to enable the Nigerian government to put in place the needed infrastructure and logistics for COVID-19 RTD testing for departing passengers, the PTF has directed that Emirates airlines should either accept passengers without RTD pending when the infrastructure and logistics are put in place or suspend its flights to and from Nigeria until such a time when the required infrastructure and logistics are fully implemented.”

The NCAA Director-General  had accused Emirates Airlines of not been in compliance with the two options given by the Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force committee on COVID-19  as records obtained from the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (BAMA) indicated that Emirates Airlines operated the following flights from both the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos  dated February 3, 2021 with flight UAE784 with aircraft type B777-300 marked A6EEQA and  another flight on February 04, 2021 with aircraft type B777-300, flight UAE 784 and marked A6EQC.

The airline in violation of the agreement also operated two flights through the Nnamdi  Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, dated February 3, 2021 with flight UAE786 and flight: UAE786 with aircraft type B777W marked A6ECV respectively.

“This is in addition to an advert by Emirates Airlines (attached) for PTF to conduct RTD that are not approved by the appropriate regulatory bodies and PTF to conduct RTD for departing passengers.

 

Last blow

Following the violations of the agreement, the obvious facts that the UAE new policy has mainly targeted Nigerian travellers and coupled with the refusal of the Dubai authorities to come down from their ‘high horse’, Nigeria government retaliated the hostility by also banning Emirates airlines from operating into Nigeria.

While the crisis seemed to have been resolved with the Emirates airlines recently announcing plans to resume operations into the country by June 23, 2021, the airline within few hours rescinded its decision saying flight resumption between the two countries had been suspended till further notice.

The latest sudden reversal of the UAE airlines earlier decision has sparked anger and hopelessness amongst the Nigerian travelling public including the business class, tour operators, students and leisure travellers.

 

Dubai’s loss is the gain of Egypt

As there seems to be no end in sight to the crisis, Nigerians according to investigations may soon call the bluff of the UAE authorities as they have now discovered other countries that may offer them the same interests that had hitherto attracted them to Dubai.

The efforts of the Nigerian tour operators to think out of the box as the crisis lingers on with the stubbornness of the UAE authorities to withdraw its unpopular COVID-19 policy targeted at Nigerians has started yielding positive dividends.

From the latest information, the Nigerians traveling to Dubai for pleasures and other business interests have now found an alternative in Egypt.

Attesting to this fact, President of the National Association Nigerian Travels Agents (NANTA), Mrs Susan Akporiaye in an exclusive interview with the Nigerian Tribune cited how the association has been able to use the African Continental Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) agenda of government to railroad into Egypt.

“Am a tour operator, am I losing business to Dubai, yes, but you know interestingly, it’s a case of when one door closes another one opens. I don’t know if you have seen my publication on Egypt Air,  its not all bad for us because we have channelled our Dubai passengers to Egypt. What is it that people are looking for in Dubai, we have been able to prove to our members and the traveling public that they can get it in Egypt also? The AfCFTA agenda that NANTA is pushing from the aspect of tourism, promoting traveling within Africa is working because we needed to let our members know that the closure of Dubai is not the end of our business except that particular tour operator or agency does not really want to think outside the box.

 

Ghana is not an alternative route for Nigerians

Presently, Nigerians caught up in the crisis have taken their destiny in their hands as they now fulfill their desire to travel to Dubai by going through Accra, Ghana.

Reacting, the NANTA President said that the alternative route to Dubai through Ghana is not really an alternative because the cost implication is high as you need to observe the two weeks quarantine in Ghana before you start proceeding to Dubai. “Even if you are not staying in a hotel, you will be staying with friends, may be a sister and you are going to go out and there is a cost on that. Time they say is money and then you will now proceed to Dubai on a five-day, one week or two weeks maximum trip. And for a two weeks trip in Dubai you spend one month away from home, no serious business person is going to do that. What business people do right now is so interesting, with the advent of technology, they are now meeting their clients via zoom to discuss their business, those that want to buy things they discuss it, check out what they want to buy, they pick up their choice, conclude their price and their partners in Dubai ship it for them. No business person will spend one month for a five day trip, it is not economical at all, it’s a lot of time wasting and the percentage of people using this route because of the cost implications is very small, it is not even up to one per cent of the travelling public to Dubai.

 

No country can demarket Nigeria

Akporiaye while reacting to the notion that the decision of the UAE to prevent Nigerian travellers from travelling directly to Dubai may be a ploy to divert market from Nigeria to other places like Ghana among others, rejected the school of thought saying “on the ploy to demarket Nigeria, that’s a big laugh because Nigeria can never be demarketed not by Ghana, not by any West African country and not even by any foreign country either. Our strength is our population, we are definitely not where we want to be and a lot of things are still not in place as we wish them to be. But if there is one thing I know about Nigerians is that our strength is in our population, so we can never be demarketed. Fine, Accra has an advantage, it’s making money now but once the face off is over, they will be back to status quo, they are making more money now as every Nigerian passing through there now will run the COVID-19 test on arrival there, they will do the same while going out from Accra to Dubai. Accra is making more money and may be seeing a little more traffic but mind you it’s not only through Accra, Nigerians go through Cotonou and other West African countries, so the few people that are doing this has made the market splitted between the West African countries that have flights to Dubai. And the ploy of demarketing Nigeria is not possible, Nigeria can never be demarketed because there was a recent publication that said for the first time in 33 years that Emirates recorded a loss so if the Accra business was working for them, they won’t record a loss.

 

We stand by FG

The tour operator expressed full support for the action of the Nigerian government to ensure Nigerians are treated with respect.

“The Federal Government should stand its ground. Honestly, I’m supporting them, you know this is the time to raise our head very high and stand tall. We may have our issues but we shouldn’t be taken advantage of, nobody should treat us anyhow they want; nobody should come up with any policy and dump it on Nigerians. We have issues like every other country, our own issues might be more, o yes, but we still have our pride as citizens of Nigeria. So to our government, I will say kudos to them, let them not back down until they come to a place to ensure whatever decisions the UAE is giving is what is acceptable by Nigerians, they should not accept anything less than Nigerians being treated with respect. We need to be treated with respect. So we need to continue to stand with our head tall until we win this battle.

I’m a tour operator, am I losing business to Dubai, yes but you know interestingly, it’s a case of when one door closes another one opens. I don’t know if you have seen my publication on Egypt air, it’s not all bad for us because we have channelled our Dubai passengers to Egypt. What is it that people are looking for in Dubai, we have been able to prove to our members and the travelling public that they can get it in Egypt also.

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