The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has denied lifting a year-long visa ban on Nigerian travelers, despite claims by the Nigerian government that it had reached a historic agreement with the Gulf state.
An unnamed official from the UAE told CNN that “there are no changes on the Nigeria/UAE travel status so far.”
The source said he was not authorized to speak to the media.
UAE imposed the visa ban on Nigeria and 19 other African nations in October last year, without providing any explanation.
The ban affected Nigerians who wanted to obtain a 30-day tourist visa, which was relatively easy to get before the restriction.
iexclusivenews understands that the visa ban was linked to a dispute between the UAE and Nigeria over the operations of Emirates Airlines, which suspended its flights to Nigeria last year, citing trapped revenues.
The carrier claimed that it could not access and repatriate its funds amounting to $85 million withheld in Nigeria.
The UAE’s Dubai emirate has been a popular destination for Nigerian travelers for many years, attracting tourists, investors, and business people.
Nigerian government announces visa ban lift and flight resumption
Earlier this week, Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu met with UAE leader Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, where they “finalized a historic agreement,” according to a statement released by the Nigerian government.
The statement said that the agreement paved the way for the lifting of the visa ban, including the immediate resumption of flights between both countries.
“Furthermore, by this historic agreement, both Etihad Airlines and Emirates Airlines are to immediately resume flight schedules into and out of Nigeria, without any further delay,” the statement by Nigeria’s presidential spokesman Ajuri Ngelale said.
However, a statement by the UAE government later Monday contradicted the Nigerian government’s claims, saying that both leaders had only “explored opportunities for further bilateral collaboration” with the hope of “reinforcing ties between the UAE and Nigeria.” The UAE statement did not mention anything about lifting the visa ban or restarting flights.
In a follow-up statement, Ngelale backtracked on his earlier announcement, saying that officials from both countries needed more time to finalize the agreement details.
“Given the agreement struck between the two Heads of State, there is need to allow cabinet officials from both sides to work out the finer details and finalize the cross-sectoral agreements,” he said, adding that “Everyone can now allow the process to work itself out organically, devoid of speculation.”
Nigerians react with mixed feelings to visa ban sagas
The news of the visa ban lift was met with much jubilation from excited Nigerians who had been looking forward to visiting Dubai again.
Many Nigerians took to social media to express their happiness and plan their trips.
Dubai is a favorite destination for thousands of Nigerian tourists who enjoy its shopping malls, skyscrapers, and attractions.
It is also a haven for real-estate investors from Nigeria who have invested billions of dollars in Dubai’s property market.
Before the pandemic, Nigerians ranked among Dubai’s largest foreign real-estate investors, with investments valued at nearly $2 billion, according to local media reports citing the Dubai Land Department.
Before the ban, Emirates Airlines operated two daily flights from Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, to Dubai, and one daily flight from Abuja, Nigeria’s political capital, to Dubai.
However, some Nigerians were skeptical about the visa ban lift, saying that they would wait for an official confirmation from the UAE before booking their flights.
Others expressed their disappointment and frustration with the Nigerian government for making false claims and misleading them.
Some Nigerians also criticized the UAE for discriminating against them and imposing unfair restrictions on their travel.
They called for a boycott of Dubai and urged Nigerians to explore other destinations or invest in their own country.
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