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Updated: Nigeria reciprocates, bans flights from Saudi Arabia, UK, Canada on Omicron

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With effect from Tuesday, December 14, the Federal Government will restrict airlines coming from Canada, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia into Nigeria.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, announced the decision on Sunday in Lagos and explained that it was to reciprocate restricted flights from Nigeria into those countries over the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron.

The development is part of the decision taken at a meeting of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19.

Sirika said President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration would also place the United Kingdom, Canada and Saudi Arabia on a red list over the outbreak and spread of the Omicron variant.

The minister noted that if those countries placed Nigeria on a red list, they lacked a moral right to have their airlines fly into Nigeria on commercial operations.

“There is also the case of Saudi Arabia that put Nigeria on the ban list. On Sunday, I participated in a meeting with the COVID-19 task force. We have given our input that it is not acceptable by us and we recommended that Canada, the UK, Saudi Arabia and Argentina should also be put on the red list.

Read also: Omicron: UK adds Nigeria to its travel red list

The UK had on November 4, added Nigeria to its red list and imposed a travel ban, citing the Omicron variant.

British health minister Sajid Javid, who announced the development, had said Nigeria was second only to South Africa in terms of Omicron cases linked to travel.

Canada and Saudi Arabia had also banned flights and Nigerians from coming into their countries.

Nigeria has signed Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with over 90 countries.

However, over the years, stakeholders have lamented that most air agreements between Nigeria and other countries have been one-sided as Nigerian airlines have been unable to reciprocate the agreements due to what they termed, “aero-politics”.

According to Sirika, Nigeria can no longer fold her hands to overlook the sovereignty of over 200 million of her citizens being taken for granted.