The House of Representatives has resolved to intervene in the ongoing diplomatic dispute between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
These followed the adoption of a motion on a matter of urgent public importance by the House minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu.
Mr Elumelu recalled that in February 2021 the federal government stopped the UAE national carrier, Emirates Airlines, from subjecting Nigerian travellers to additional rapid antigen tests as against its stipulated negative PCR test at the Lagos and Abuja airports before departure.
This, according to the minority leader, caused Emirates Airlines to shut down flights to and from Nigeria. He reiterated that the frayed nerves between the two countries were owing to the disagreement between the UAE airline and the Nigerian aviation authorities on the propriety of subjecting passengers travelling from the country to emergency COVID-19 protocols.
The lawmaker expressed concern that despite the resumption of in-bound and out-bound flights, Emirates Airlines has continued to conduct tests for passengers before departure from Nigeria. That development, he said, forced the federal government to suspend the airline from flying to and from Nigeria.
“… there are allegations that hundreds of legal resident Nigerians living in UAE are losing their jobs on account of the refusal of the authorities to renew their work permit which offends the letters of bilateral agreements which both nations are signatory to,” the lawmaker complained.
He cited widespread speculation that the refusal by the UAE authorities to renew work permits for Nigerians living in the country was “a calculated attempt to pressure the Nigerian Government into accepting their conditions of service for their national airline”, given the humongous revenue the airline may have lost by not flying the Nigerian route.
Mr Elumelu warned that if the federal government did not urgently engage the UAE authorities, thousands of Nigerians living and working in the Gulf country could lose their means of livelihood.
He called for a quick interface with the UAE government.
Adopting the motion, the House, therefore, resolved to set up an Adhoc committee comprising members from various relevant committees, such as Committees on Aviation, Foreign Affairs, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19, National Security and Intelligence and Interior (Immigration Service).
Others include National Orientation Agency, Diaspora and Treaties respectively. Their mandate is to interface with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aviation and National Intelligence Agency (NIA), PTF on Covid-19, immigration Service, Diaspora commission and National Orientation Agency on best ways of resolving the crisis and report back to the House within 4 weeks.
Reporting by Ibrahim Shehu, editing by Daniel A