The Federal Government has said it is investigating the cancellation of visas for 264 passengers who were airlifted by Air Peace from Lagos and Kano to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The Air Peace flight had taken off from Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, via Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano on Sunday night and arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Monday.
Upon arrival at the King Abdul-Aziz International Airport, Jeddah, the Saudi authorities announced that all the passengers’ visas had been cancelled, and insisted that the airline return them to Nigeria.
The cancellation came as a shock as all the passengers went through the Advanced Passengers Prescreening System, APPS, which was also monitored by the Saudi Arabia authorities before the flight left Nigeria.
When the Nigerian embassy waded in, Saudi authorities were said to have reduced the number of passengers that would be returned to 177 from 264.
Reacting to the development, the Nigeria Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through its Special Adviser, Al-Kasim Abdulkadir, in a statement said that it is now investigating the matter to determine if any consular or aviation rules were violated.
“Nigeria has just participated in the Saudi-Africa Summit, where bilateral discussions covering several sectors of the economy and mutually beneficial commitments were made,” Al-Kasim stated
“The Ministry will ensure such actions that impact the welfare of Nigerian citizens are mitigated in the future in line with the 4Ds strategy of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.” he added
Meanwhile, industry experts are attributing the development to aeropolitics. Stating that it is a way to force the Nigerian operator out of the route; unless the government intervenes, adopting the principle of reciprocity.
This is happening barely one week since Air Peace launched a direct flight to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Air has been operating directly from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia and since Air Peace started flight service to the Middle East nation at relatively lower fares, it has been receiving high patronage and as a Nigerian carrier, it helps to conserve foreign exchange for the country.
Ifunanya Ikueze is an Engineer, Safety Professional, Writer, Investor, Entrepreneur and Educator.