By Chinedu Eze
Nigerians who travelled to Dubai and other areas in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are now stranded following the cancellation of their existing visas while they were en-route to the Middle East country.
THISDAY learnt that following the announcement of countries banned entry by UAE due to virus, which included Nigeria, the country had stated that it would stop issuing visas to countries from March 17, but did not indicate that subsisting visas would be cancelled.
But THISDAY gathered that Emirates airlifted Nigerian passengers on Tuesday and arrived Dubai 4:00 am Nigerian time on Wednesday, but on arrival they were informed that their visas were cancelled.
Also many passengers travelling to Dubai via Sharjah on Air Peace flight received SMS alert that their visas had been cancelled after boarding their flights.
On Sunday the UAE issued a statement naming some countries, which passengers with their passports would not be allowed to enter the Middle East nation and Nigeria was included even though the country has recorded few COVID-19 patients, while countries with high spread were included in the countries whose citizens are allowed by the Emirates nation.
The countries not banned included Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece and Hong Kong.
Others included Hungary, Island, Ireland, Italy (from Rome only), Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, Netherland, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Sam Marino.
Other countries are Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Vatican, United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Travel expert and organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Ikechi Uko told THISDAY that he was surprised that Nigeria was excluded from countries allowed for its citizens to travel to Dubai because of the virus, noting that in 2019, Nigeria gave Dubai the highest growth in tourism and so far, the country has not recorded a high number of coronavirus cases.
“I cannot understand why Nigeria was targeted because in 2019, it gave Dubai the highest growth in tourism arrivals and in 2020, countries that have very high cases of coronavirus were allowed to continue travelling to the Emirates, but Nigeria was banned,” he said.
The President of the National Association of Nigeria Travelling Agencies (NANTA), Bankole Bernard, told THISDAY that he did not understand the criteria, which UAE used to ban some countries when many of the nations with high record of coronavirus were allowed.
But the lead consultant on aviation desk at the Etimfri International Limited, Amos Akpan, told THISDAY that the decision to ban Nigeria despite the fact that the country did not have high case has to do with the premium value UAE has for its borders and its citizens and shows the level of responsibility the government takes to protect its citizens.
He said Nigerians should stop overseas travel and maximise the opportunities offered by technology to manage their businesses.
“There is no need for anybody to plan to travel across borders now. This means whether you close borders or restrict travels or not, we should not travel. Closing the border is strictly a security and protective actions by states as their primary responsibility.
“People must learn to use video conferencing and virtual technology. The risk anybody takes in travelling are: You arrive destination and get quarantined.
“You may not have the return flight as flights are getting cancelled in mass numbers. There could be an unpleasant outbreak suddenly and that city is locked down.
“Border closure and travel restrictions are on the priority of almost all governments in the world. Therefore, we must expect it. It is medical advice from experts for people to stay away from crowds and travels.
“In Nigeria for instance the regular travellers for treatment abroad, for shopping, and meetings abroad have already banned themselves,” Akpan said.
But a senior official of the Nigerian Immigration Service told THISDAY that the decision of UAE to ban Nigeria was a proactive measure, which the country adopted to protect its boarders, adding that Nigeria and UAE have a very good relationship.