The Kingdom of Saudi on Monday cancelled the visa of all Nigerian passengers that arrived Jeddah on an Air Peace flight.
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An 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.
A source from the Nigerian embassy in Jeddah said that even the Saudi immigration personnel said that they didn’t know who cancelled the visas but that they were cancelled when the airline was already airborne to Jeddah.
According to the source, quoted by several media houses, “The airline was exonerated in all this as the APPS, which is live between both countries would have screened out any invalid visa and its passenger. The system accepted all affected passengers and passed them on.
“Those deported were 177 passengers and Air Peace has already left with them back to Nigeria. They are on their way to Nigeria now.”
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.
Nnamdi Maduakor is a Writer, Investor and Entrepreneur