Emirates Airline Embarrassed President Tinubu, Does Not Deserve To Be Back Into Nigeria – Osita Chidoka

Osita Chidoka

Osita Chidoka, Nigeria’s former Aviation minister, in his response to the announcement by the Emirates Airline on their plans to recommence flight operations in Nigeria, stated the manner in which the ban was and is being handled was embarrassing to the president and do not deserve to be easily allowed back into the country.

In an interview with ARISE NEWS on Thursday, questioned why the country would impose such restrictions and then resume flights to Nigeria without any apparent justification.

“I am saying that Nigeria as a country should refer to logic and treat things with logic. Why will a country embarrass our president in this contentious manner and then just waltz back into Nigeria, announcing that they are resuming flights on October 1?”

Chidoka questioned the rationale behind the visa ban, particularly its timing and its perceived targeting of Nigeria.

He highlighted the inconsistency in the country’s actions, pointing out that while they banned travel from 20 countries, they did not suspend flights to any of them. This discrepancy, according to Chidoka, raises questions about the fairness and logic behind the decision.

Emirate banned 20 countries from going to Africa. They operate 26 flights everyday going to Africa, minus Lagos where they have two flights and Abuja, one and none of the 20 countries stopped operation after the visa ban, telling me that the visa ban was targeted at Nigeria. The other 19 countries they mentioned were just a fax to create the impression that it was a widespread thing. Only in Nigeria did they stop their flight operation.

Emirate as an airline, decided that Nigeria was owing them. Now the top five countries owing airlines in the world include Bangladesh, Algeria, Pakistan, Lebanon, and the emirate did not cancel operations in those countries. They were being owed in these countries, so, what is the rationale with Nigeria? Emirate is the wealthiest airline in the world. What is 85 million dollars to Emirates? They continued to pay their staff salaries in Nigeria. They didn’t stop. They continued to pay their rent because they knew they would come back at some point. I believe that Emirates decided that they didn’t want Nigerians in their country during their expo and decided to ban them to stop Nigerians from coming. Arguably, for criminal behaviours and for some issues with Nigerians.

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Meanwhile, while the ban was on, they invested almost 225 million dollars into Nigeria in that same year. Of the 20 countries they banned, they didn’t cancel their flight to any. Of the top five countries, according to IATA data, they didn’t stop flights to any of the other four except Nigeria. What do you make of this information? Emirates was perceived as Nigeria’s greatest ally. We wanted Emirates as an ally because it opens us up to the eastern economies.”

The former Aviation Minister, issued a compelling call for greater accountability and transparency within the Nigerian government.

He expressed surprise at the lack of action taken against Emirates Airlines despite alleged grievances over non-payment, suggesting a double standard in the treatment of the airline.

Highlighting the importance of establishing clear protocols, Chidoka stressed the need for the Nigerian state to define irreducible minimums for each sector. Whether in health or aviation, he argued, protocols must be established to ensure fairness and accountability.

“People in government tend to forget that the country belongs to all of us and it is not a government business. I am very surprised that the minister will leave the very serious issues of the Emirate airline enjoying unprecedented favour in Nigeria and reciprocating with such venom and hate over non-payment and they didn’t do that to any other country that was owing them.

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“The Nigerian state should make it clear what are irreducible minimums for any sector. If the UN agencies are coming here to do HIV studies in the health sector, we must establish the protocols, if it is in the aviation sector, we must establish the protocols. In Aviation, the problem is that people think it is all high net worth, big names but it is just like every other transport mode and the airport is like a motor park or port. They behave the same way. In aviation, the money that runs FAAN comes from these airlines. Their salaries, everything comes from the money IATA deducted. Nigeria has the highest taxes in the world when you apply from a Nigerian airport. So, it takes the minister or head of agencies to come to terms to say no more.

The basic issues of Nigeria today are issues of governance. When I became minister, one of the first things I did was to arrange with the ICPC to raid the airport and arrest everybody collecting bribes from people coming in. I didn’t tell the president and after the operation, I came under numerous calls. The customs said that we embarrassed their staff, the DSS said I embarrassed their staff. We collected pictures and caught them with money. So, I sent the pictures to the president because every time a visitor comes to Nigeria and you tell him how you dey and you collect money from him, you demean us as a people, he said I support you. For me, it was an ideological issue. If you are going to work in the airport, then these are the ground rules.

He lauded President Tinubu’s administration for its prudent economic decisions, particularly its stance on currency stability and fiscal responsibility. Chidoka’s remarks come amidst ongoing debates over the ideological coherence of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

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“President Tinubu’s government has taken sensible economic decisions; we can’t continue printing naira and sustaining the dollar at the rate that we know is not sustainable and those are difficult economic decisions for a government to take. It shows me that APC as a party is not ideologically coherent because this is an almost drastic opposite of what Buhari believed in. so, I give them kudos for making sensible economic decisions.”

Regarding infrastructure development, Chidoka criticised the construction of coastal highways, arguing that it is unjustified and based on flawed premises.

He cited data to question the rationale behind the project, highlighting the importance of informed decision-making in infrastructure development.

“Regarding the construction of the coastal highways, the government is totally unjustified and I have written a reasoned article that shows that where we are today in Nigeria is because people that manage Nigerian roads don’t know Nigerian roads and that is why they are talking this way. Umahi doesn’t know Nigerian roads and I am very sure about that because if he knows, he will see that from the ministry of works data, 47,000 vehicles leave Lagos average daily traffic towards Ibadan. When it gets to Shagamu, 27,000 turn off to Shagamu. When it gets to Benin, it reduces to 18,000. Where is the 50,000 traffic that will use the coastal roads?”

In October 2022, Emirate airlines suspended flight operations to Nigeria over its inability to repatriate 85 million dollars in revenue trapped in Nigeria. Also, in the same month, the United Arab Emirate immigration authorities announced a ban on visa applications from Nigerians.

On November 19, 2023, Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development Festus Keyamo announced that Emirate airlines will soon announce the exact date of their resumption adding that the federal government was working on some details regarding the resumption.

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