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Saudi Arabia Cancels 264 Air Peace Passengers’ Visas | Citizen NewsNG

ByCitizen NewsNG

Nov 14, 2023

 

 

Saudi Arabia authorities have cancelled the visas of all 264 passengers airlifted by Air Peace upon their arrival in Jeddah, from Kano.

According to a source, the Middle Eastern nation asked the airline to return all 264 passengers to Nigeria, but later allowed 87 passengers to remain.

The flight, which took off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, via the Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano, on Sunday night, was said to have arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Monday.

However, on landing, according to the source, Saudi Arabia authorities announced that all the passengers’ visas were cancelled.

The source said the cancellation was a shock to passengers and airline personnel because they went through the advanced passengers pre-screening system (APPS) — which was also monitored by the Saudi Arabia authorities before the flight left Nigeria.

The source questioned whether the development was a plot to dissuade Air Peace from continuing its operations on the route given the carrier has been recording a high load factor, and also the flight expected to leave on Tuesday to Jeddah was already fully booked.

“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 Nigerian carrier, it helps to conserve foreign exchange for the country,” the source said.

It was understood that the Nigerian embassy waded in, forcing the Saudi authorities to reduce the number of passengers that would be returned from 264 to 177.

A source at the Nigerian embassy in Jeddah, said Saudi immigration personnel are unaware of who cancelled the visas, noting that the airline was already airborne to Jeddah when the passengers’ travel documents were voided.

“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,” the source said.

The source added that Air Peace is already returning the deported 177 travellers to Nigeria.

“They are on their way to Nigeria now,” the source said.

‘VISA CANCELLATION DUE TO GEOPOLITICS’

Speaking on the issue, John Ojikutu, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Centurion Aviation Security and Safety Consult, Nigeria, said the action of the Saudi authorities was due to geopolitics.

To prevent the situation from reoccurring, he suggested that the Nigerian government should designate domestic airlines with foreign operations as flag carriers as the United States did.

“There is geopolitics there and there is also diplomacy. There is the need for the Nigerian government to stand firmly with Nigerian carriers and also designate them as flag carriers; so that other countries will know that they represent Nigeria,” Ojikutu said.

“Government must come out and intervene. The government must be behind Air Peace now to ensure that it is not denied its rights as contained in the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) between the two countries.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must not keep quiet. Nigeria must not keep quiet. Ideally, the government is expected to stand behind any of the country’s airlines that it designates to fly overseas.”

Earlier in November, Air Peace, Nigeria’s flag carrier, expanded its operations into the Middle East with the commencement of direct scheduled commercial flights into Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

By Bunmi Aduloju

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