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Opinion: Why I Oppose Emirates Airlines’ Return To Nigeria

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Osita Chidoka

The gleeful announcement of the return of Emirates Airline to Nigeria by the Hon. Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, SAN, on X is a sad reminder of the deepening lack of national pride and the growing irrelevance of Nigeria in the World.

The audacity of Emirates Airlines to even consider returning to Nigeria reeks of contempt and disdain towards our nation.

The actions of the government of UAE and their airline, Emirates, from the unwarranted visa ban on all Nigerians to the suspension of flights, have been nothing short of a blatant attack on the dignity of Nigerians.

During my time as Aviation Minister, Emirates Airlines enjoyed an unprecedented two slots to Lagos and one slot to Abuja granted by my predecessor and sustained over the years.

This gesture showed Nigeria’s desire to forge close relationships and build regional alliances in the Gulf.

Yet, when Nigeria faced economic challenges, Emirates shamelessly abandoned us while other airlines stood by us. Emirates Airlines, arguably the wealthiest airline in the world, was the only airline that suspended operations.

All the African and European Airlines, equally owed by the Nigerian government, continued operating and weathered the storm with us as a people—a remarkable show of solidarity and a vote of confidence on a market they had enjoyed for decades.

Emirates Airlines, like UAE’s Mubadala, the major investor in Etisalat Nigeria, fled at the first sign of trouble, leaving Nigerians stranded and insulted by their mean behaviour. They did not just walk away. The UAE government imposed an egregious visa ban on all Nigerians.

The imposition of a visa ban on all Nigerians is an unwarranted and vile display of aggression and dehumanisation of Nigerians.

Nigerians must say no to the unjustified stigmatisation and degradation of Nigerians, almost akin to the ghettos of 20th-century Europe. A national visa ban suggests a desire to humiliate and cast a slur on a people as a group.

The behaviour of the UAE government and their Airline is an unprovoked attack, and Nigeria should insist on a wholesome redress. As we speak, there is no word yet on the visa ban and no apology to Nigerians.

The Nigerian government must not allow Emirates Airlines to waltz back into our skies without being held accountable for their disrespectful and demeaning conduct. We demand a thorough investigation and restitution before even considering their return.

Respect for our nation and people is non-negotiable and an irreducible minimum. We will not allow our pride to be trampled upon by arrogant corporations or foreign governments.

This administration must reaffirm our priceless sovereignty at all times. Our sovereignty is not for sale.

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