The United Arab Emirates has denied claims by the Nigerian government that it has lifted a year-long visa ban on Nigerian travelers.
An official from the Gulf state told CNN: “There are no changes on the Nigeria/UAE travel status so far.”
The source asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The UAE said in a notice last October it will no longer issue visas to citizens from Nigeria and 19 other African nations. It did not provide further details. Obtaining a 30-day tourist visa was relatively easy until the UAE abruptly stopped issuing the visas to Nigerian nationals.
Flights between both countries were stopped last year after Dubai’s Emirates airline suspended its operations in Nigeria citing trapped revenues.
The carrier said it could not access and repatriate its funds amounting to $85 million withheld in Nigeria.
The UAE’s Dubai emirate has been a popular destination for Nigerian travelers for many years.
Earlier this week, Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu met with UAE leader Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi where both men “finalized a historic agreement,” according to a statement released by the Nigerian government.
The government said in the statement that the agreement paved the way for the lifting of the visa ban, including the immediate resumption of flights between both countries.
“Furthermore, by this historic agreement, both Etihad Airlines and Emirates Airlines are to immediately resume flight schedules into and out of Nigeria, without any further delay,” a statement by Nigeria’s presidential spokesman Ajuri Ngelale said.
However, a statement by the UAE government later Monday said both leaders had during the meeting, “explored opportunities for further bilateral collaboration” with the hope of “reinforcing ties between the UAE and Nigeria,” but did not mention lifting the visa ban or flights restarting.
In a follow-up statement, Nigerian government spokesman Ngelale said officials from both countries needed more time to finalize agreement details, contradicting his earlier statement.
“Given the agreement struck between the two Heads of State, there is need to allow cabinet officials from both sides to work out the finer details and finalize the cross-sectoral agreements,” he said, adding that “Everyone can now allow the process to work itself out organically, devoid of speculation.”
An elite’s playground
There was much jubilation from excited Nigerians when it was announced that the visa ban was lifted.
Dubai is a popular destination for thousands of Nigerian tourists. It is also a haven for real-estate investors from the country.
Before the pandemic, Nigerians ranked among Dubai’s largest foreign real-estate investors, with investments valued at nearly $2 billion, according to local media reports citing the Dubai Land Department.
Before the ban, Emirates Airlines operated two daily flights from Lagos, Nigeria, to Dubai, and one daily flight from the capital Abuja to Dubai.