Flights to Dubai are expected to resume in December as the federal government has released some of the trapped funds for Emirates and Etihad Airlines, BusinessDay findings show.
A source familiar with the matter revealed to BusinessDay on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Dubai Business Forum at Madinat Jumeirah.
The Dubai Business Forum, a transformative global event powered by Dubai Chambers, began on Wednesday with in-depth discussions on the future of globalization and foreign direct investment.
Organized under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, the forum welcomed a stellar cast of distinguished guest speakers.
According to the source, the trapped funds of Etihad and Emirates are being repaid and have been reduced from $85 million belonging to Emirates to $12 million, albeit at a loss because the naira has weakened against the dollar (N489/$ and then to 789/$ today) as airlines suspended operations.
BusinessDay’s findings show that the repatriation of trapped funds is linked to the lifting of the visa ban and deals are likely to be finalized during COP28 scheduled for Dubai in December.
In October 2022, immigration authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced a ban on visa applications by Nigerians.
A month later, Emirates suspended flight operations to Nigeria, for the second time this year, over its inability to repatriate its $85 million in revenue trapped in the country.
A few weeks ago, Nigerians celebrated when the Federal Government said talks were underway at the highest level to lift the visa ban on Nigerians and ensure direct flights to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) resumed.
Festus Keyamo, Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development in September, said the federal government is working on details on the resumption of flights from Nigeria to the United Arab Emirates.
However, since the announcement by the federal government, Nigerians have continued to wait for the resumption of flights and the visa ban tactically imposed on Nigerians to travel to Dubai.
According to travel agents, Nigerians love traveling to Dubai. The Emirati city, known for its shopping malls, luxury stores and iconic buildings, remains one of the top destinations visited by Nigerians during summer, holidays, medical and recreational tourism and to see family and friends.
“Although the visa ban continues, some Nigerians still obtain visas to Dubai, especially those traveling for business purposes or those attending conferences for a few days. The visa ban really affects those traveling on vacation or as tourists and these make up more than 80 percent of travelers to Dubia,” Gina Chika, a travel consultant, told BusinessDay.
He said once the visa ban is lifted, Nigerians would be happy to take flights to Dubia again, adding that the few people who are granted visas to the UAE have to pay more not only to connect flights, but also face challenges accessing visas and yellow cards for countries passing through connecting routes.
The United Arab Emirates also calls for the elimination of double taxation; For example, Emirates and other UAE companies will not pay taxes in Nigeria.
Sources who spoke to BusinessDay are concerned that bilateral air services agreements (BASA) in Nigeria are not strong enough to eliminate double taxation: Emirates operates 21 flights compared to the two weekly flights operated by AirPeace.
Olumide Ohunayo, industry analyst and research director at Zenith Travels, told BusinessDay that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Lagos and Abuja are the most expensive airports in Africa and this is due to the taxes and charges that charged by the government and airport authorities. .
Ohunayo said that after IATA’s comments a few months ago, he hoped that the federal government would establish a committee to address the issue, but nothing has been done since then.
He said if foreign airlines complain, then it is worse for Nigerian airlines and he is not surprised that the airlines are making the demands.
Dubai-based businesses, from shops selling garri, semovita and kponmo to restaurants, are closing as the influx of Nigerians dries up.
Village Chief, a popular Abuja-based restaurant set up in Dubai just after the visa ban, is now operating at a loss and staying afloat with the support of the Nigerian branch, according to Businessday.
The restaurant had ventured into the Arab state, hoping that the impasse would end quickly. Currently, Village Chief is unable to bring in its chefs to prepare its famous grilled catfish to serve Nigerians in Dubai.
Last year, many Nigerians who usually purchase large volumes of luxury items such as gold, assorted jewellery, wristwatches, clothing, fabrics, shoes, hair extensions, other accessories and electronics during the festive season looked for other destinations to shop and Enjoy Christmas and New Year. sights.
“For me, business is a little slow in this period. I used to have a lot of clients from Nigeria who would come here during the festive season to buy from me. They have not come because of the visa ban,” Amin, sales director at Atlantis Trading, which deals in human hair extensions in Dubai, told BusinessDay by phone.
He said patronage from Nigerians was always critical to his income during the festive seasons, but sales have fallen this year.
Nigerians who travel with their groceries find it difficult to buy products they are used to at home. Supermarkets that sell these foods and other products say they are going under and will not be able to supply beyond December.
The source confirmed that when President Bola Tinubu met Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum more than a month ago there was an agreement in principle to resolve the visa ban and the repatriation of stranded airline funds. However, Ajuri Ngelale, President Tinubu’s media aide, announced that the ban would be lifted and flights would resume immediately.
The Emirates and the UAE government frowned at FG’s decision to go to the press to make the premature announcement.
BusinessDay recently reported that a delegation from Abu Dhabi came to Nigeria to meet the presidency in Abuja. They met with Nuhu Ribadu, National Security Advisor, during the two days of meetings.