In a surprising turn of events, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has contradicted recent claims made by the Nigerian government regarding the lifting of a year-long visa ban on Nigerian travelers.
An unnamed official from the Gulf state refuted the reports, telling CNN, “There are no changes to the Nigeria/UAE travel status so far.” This official requested anonymity due to a lack of authorization to speak to the media.
Last October, the UAE announced that it would cease issuing visas to citizens from Nigeria and 19 other African nations, though no specific reasons were provided for this decision. This abrupt move had a significant impact on Nigerian nationals, as obtaining a 30-day tourist visa had previously been a relatively straightforward process.
Furthermore, flights between the two nations had been suspended when Dubai’s Emirates airline halted its operations in Nigeria, citing difficulties in accessing and repatriating $85 million in funds that were withheld within the country.
For years, Dubai, within the UAE, has remained a popular destination for Nigerian travelers, attracting both tourists and real estate investors. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigerians were among the largest foreign real estate investors in Dubai, with investments valued at nearly $2 billion, as reported by the Dubai Land Department.
Hopes for a resolution were raised when Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu met with UAE leader Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi earlier this week. A statement from the Nigerian government indicated that a historic agreement had been reached, seemingly paving the way for the lifting of the visa ban and the immediate resumption of flights between the two countries.
The statement by Nigeria’s presidential spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, even mentioned the swift resumption of flight schedules for Etihad Airlines and Emirates Airlines into and out of Nigeria.
However, the UAE government released a statement on Monday that did not confirm the lifting of the visa ban or the resumption of flights. Instead, it referred to both leaders exploring opportunities for further bilateral collaboration to reinforce ties between the UAE and Nigeria.
In a subsequent statement, Nigerian government spokesman Ngelale explained that officials from both countries needed more time to finalize the agreement’s finer details, contradicting his previous statement. He emphasized the importance of allowing the process to unfold without speculation.
The conflicting reports have left many Nigerians in suspense, hoping for a resolution to the visa ban and the resumption of flights to the beloved UAE destination of Dubai.