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AITE Chairman Cautions FG Over Return of Emirates



The chairman of the Africa Investment and Trade Summit and Exhibition (AITE), Tunde MacAlabi, has cautioned the Federal Government over what he considers its undue excitement over the scheduled return of Emirates Airlines to Nigeria in October.

“There is no need for the excitement”, declared MacAlabi in a statement in Lagos today “because it would seem that the most important question in the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has not been addressed.

“The question is how to correct the gross imbalance in the flights between Nigeria and the UAE, all the more so considering that Etihad, another UAE airline, operates to Nigeria.”

The AITE chairman noted that while Emirates, a state-owned enterprise that belongs to Dubai, one of the federating regions in the UAE, “will start flying from Lagos to Dubai next October 1, it is not yet feasible that the only Nigerian air Carrier which flies to the UAE, Air Peace, will resume flights to either Dubai or Sharjah, a neighbouring region to Dubai”.

Air Peace suspended flights to the UAE in October when the Middle Eastern nation stopped issuing visas to Nigerians in 2022 in retaliation against its trapped funds in the country due to Nigeria’s foreign exchange constraints.

The main question in the Nigerian-UAE relations, stated MacAlabi, is “therefore how to get Air Peace, Nigeria’s biggest airline, to resume flights to the UAE.

“The onus is on the Federal Government”, he continued, “to get the UAE authorities to lift the issuance of visas to Nigerian citizens, so as to reduce the imbalance in flights between the two countries.

“Otherwise, Emirates’ return in October will mean an unrestrained haemorrhage of Nigeria’s limited forex market without any form of reciprocity”.

The AITE boss, whose firm is organising the second edition of the Investment Summit and Trade promotion program in Atlanta and New York in September, accused Emirates of behaving like a fair weather friend rather than a true Nigeria business partner.

“Emirates suspended flights to Nigeria simply because it could not repatriate its funds immediately, despite making a fortune from our country over the decades it monopolized the Lagos-Dubai route, one of the most lucrative”, MacAlabi remarked.

“Emirates had the resources to stay, as most other foreign airlines did, during our forex crisis period”.

The AITE chairman argued that the air carrier’s behaviour would seem to validate the view in some quarters that its relationship with Nigeria is “purely transactional”

“It is dispiriting that an airline from a developing nation has displayed greater Shylock tendencies than the ones from Europe and North America, with all the talks about South-South cooperation which should not look exploitative like the relationship between the developed world and the poor countries”.

While commending the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, and his Ministry of Foreign Affairs counterpart, Ambassador Yussuf Tuggar for their steadfast support for Nigerian Carriers, MacAlabi urged the Government to take immediate steps to ensure that Air Peace resumes flights to the UAE not later than October.

The Federal Government, he observed, “must make Nigeria derive value from its numerous BASAs, including that with the UAE”.



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