Nigeria’s Aviation Minister Festus Keyamo has said that the federal government is working out the details of resuming flights between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Speaking at the Aviation Africa Summit in Abuja on Thursday, Keyamo said that once the two countries have reached an agreement at the highest level, government officials will begin to work out the “tiny details” necessary to get flights back up and running.
Keyamo said that the government is committed to ensuring a smooth resumption of flights, and that it will work closely with the UAE authorities to make it happen.
“So, we are beginning to work out all the tiny details. I have met with Emirate before I left UAE, and we are working out the details. We cannot say the time frame. Kicking off an airline operation again on a route, does not mean you will go and grab one empty plane sitting in a place.
“There is no idle plane sitting anywhere, they have to reschedule their flights and restart their routes again. All kinds of permission will be taken from local authorities and of course, I made the point in speaking with them and I made it clear that they will have to give our airlines reciprocal rights under our Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs).
“That is the point I insisted on, and they did say that any spot we need, they will give us too as much as we give them those spots within Nigeria,” the minister explained.
He also explained that the government is doing all it can to make sure that foreign airlines are able to repatriate all of their trapped funds.
“Mr President is very concerned about that. In fact, it is one of the issues we went to discuss in the UAE. I spoke with the minister of finance and the coordinating minister of the economy and he has given an indication that within the next few weeks, the central bank of Nigeria will be very clear as to the programme within which these issues will be addressed,” he said.
Keyamo assured that the airlines will be paid off, adding that the monies are not loans but trapped funds as a result of liquidity issues.
“The issues of liquidity is being addressed as I speak right now. It is something that the president is very concerned about, and very soon, you will hear from the financial sector,” the minister concluded.
In October 2022, the UAE imposed a visa ban on Nigerians following a diplomatic row.
“The rejections are general for Nigerians and approvals are on hold at the moment,” the Dubai authorities said at the time.
Both countries have disagreed on a number of occasions about the number of flights Nigeria’s Air Peace would be allowed to undertake to Sharjah Airport in UAE.
While Air Peace requested three slots, only one was granted.
Also, Emirates Airlines, one of UAE’s flag carriers, has had problems repatriating its funds from Nigeria.