UAE Bows to FG’s Demand, Stops Antigen Test for Passengers

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Hadi Sirika
Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika

•Restricts outbound passengers to 200 in first two weeks
•N100bn spent on aviation sector, says Sirika

Chinedu Eze in Lagos and Kasim Sumaina in Abuja

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), the host country for Emirates Airlines, has conceded to the demands of the federal government to remove the requirement of Rapid Antigen test for outbound Nigerian passengers.
However, the UAE government has limited the number of outbound passengers to the country to 200 for the first two weeks.

This is coming as the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said yesterday in Abuja that the federal government had spent about N100 billion in developing the aviation sector from 2015 till date.
The UAE, on February 4, 2021, had directed that outbound passengers from Nigeria travelling to Dubai on Emirates must take the Rapid Antigen Test four hours before boarding their flights.

The test was in addition to the federal government’s recommended PCR test carried out 48 hours before travelling.
However, the federal government rejected the UAE’s requirement and the Nigerian government temporarily banned Emirates Airlines from operating in the country over its continuous refusal to fly passengers without a pre-boarding rapid diagnostic test (RTD).

But the UAE, in a letter dated March 24, 2021, issued by the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Abuja to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Protocol Department) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with reference to the ministry verbal note No K.521/2021, bowed to the federal government’s demand.

The letter stated that the UAE has decided to remove the requirement for a Rapid Antigen test at the airports in Nigeria while demanding reciprocity from Nigeria.

The UAE also required that only direct flights between UAE and Nigeria would be allowed, adding that passengers need to present a valid negative PCR test conducted within 48 hours before boarding.

The federal government is also required to provide the embassy with updated lists of all approved PCR test centres in Nigeria.
Airlines are required to ensure the accuracy of the passengers’ information contact details and the place to stay during their stay in the UAE.

“The embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Abuja avails itself of the opportunity to renew to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria the assurances of its highest considerations.

“The embassy has the honour to convey the response to the competent authorities in the UAE regarding the ongoing flight halt between UAE and Nigeria as well as the travel requirements for travellers to the UAE,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, Sirika yesterday said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had spent about N100 billion in developing the aviation sector from 2015 till date.

Sirika, at the aviation workers’ week and award night organised by the Joint Consultative and Negotiating Council (JCNC) and the Ministry of Aviation, added that the funds were spent on staff welfare, training, facilities upgrade, and remodelling of the airports, among others.

Sirika, represented by the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr. Abdullahi Mohammed, stated that the funds were also spent on infrastructure and equipment.