Despite the current suspension of flights between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Nigerians are visiting Dubai through neighbouring African countries, Daily Trust has learnt.
This however comes with a risk as they were forced to undergo a 14-day quarantine before settling down in Dubai.
Some of the countries that are taking advantage of the over six-month flight ban between Nigeria and the UAE include: Ghana, Benin Republic, and recently Kenya.
Daily Trust reports that there has been a diplomatic row between Nigeria and the UAE over COVID-19 protocols in respect of passengers arriving at Dubai, a top business and holiday destination for Nigeria.
While the Federal Government stipulated a negative PCR test, the UAE authorities introduced additional rapid antigen test for passengers, a development that the Federal Government resisted, leading to the present imbroglio.
Daily Trust reports that all airlines flying into the UAE cities including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjar, among others have lost billions of dollars due to the ban.
Our correspondent learnt that an average of 6000 passengers shuttle between Nigeria and UAE every week shared among airlines including Emirates, Air Peace, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, and Etihad.
With the suspension, there is a lull on the highly lucrative Nigeria-UAE route as airlines and travel agencies continue to count losses.
But for those who must go to Dubai, Accra and Cotonou, and other West Coast countries where Emirates especially flies to have become the alternative cities to connect Dubai.
Kenya Airways is also attracting that category of passengers in recent times to connect Dubai via Nairobi. This however comes with a 32-hour transit time, according to those familiar with the arrangement.
Also for those connecting Dubai through another country, they are expected to go through 14-day quarantine.
The National President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mrs. Susan Akporiaye, told Daily Trust however that the number of people connecting via other countries is insignificant.
She noted that already people are exploring alternative countries for vacation and business even as many partners are conducting their businesses virtually.
Akporiaye warned that people going through other means to connect Dubai also stand the risk of coming back positive with COVID-19.
“People who are going through that route are either people with medical cases who just have to see their doctors, or students going back to school. But for a businessman, it makes no economic sense. You can as well stay here and order your goods. There is nowhere you can’t order goods from.
“If you have a partner in Dubai where you buy things from, you just contact them, give them a list of what you want, conclude on your transactions, and send through shipping. You have saved yourself Hotel reservations, Covid test. Doing a Covid test alone is over N200,000, the ticket is not included yet. Any businessman will sit at home and contact his/her business partner which saves a lot of stress,” she said.
She however said discussions are going between the two countries to resolve the impasse diplomatically.
Commenting on the stalemate, an aviation analyst, Capt. Alex Nwuba said, “What the government is doing is to hold our ground irrespective of the losses. But people will still move, people would conduct their businesses eventually
“If Nigeria feels Nigeria is important in the scheme of things, then they would have to compromise, that is how nations and societies are run and not through bullying. Nigeria has refused to be bullied,” he said.
According to him, “We must earn our respect one way or the other and the things you buy in Dubai can be gotten elsewhere.”
Also speaking, former Secretary-General of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Olayinka Abioye said both countries must come to use diplomacy to resolve the impasse.
“There is a fundamental reason why they said our flights or passengers should not come. Don’t you know how much money they make from Nigeria every week? They are forgoing such money for critical safety and security reasons. You know it is not everything that the minister says that we can believe.
“Diplomatically we can resolve it. It is not by raising tantrums because we don’t have the capacity to. What do we have? We only have numbers. Our tantrums are too much, let us calm down and act normal.”