Reps investigate cancellation of visas granted 264 Nigerians by Saudi authorities

The House of Representatives has launched an investigation into the immediate and remote circumstances surrounding the cancellation of already granted visas to 264 Nigerians on arrival at Jeddah aboard Air Peace.

It also urged the federal government to urgently take such diplomatic steps as might be necessary to protect the image of the nation, ensure the full implementation of the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA), protect Nigerian national Carriers flying into Saudi Arabia and protect the Nigerian travelling public.

The House condemned the cancellation of visas of 264 Nigerians on arrival at Saudi Arabia by the country’s authorities on Monday, 13th November 2023;

The decision of the House followed the adoption of a motion moved at the plenary on Tuesday by Kama Nkemkanma and four others.

Moving the motion Nkemkanma recalled that Saudi Arabian authorities cancelled the visa of all the 264 passengers airlifted by Nigeria’s major carrier, Air Peace on arrival at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia from Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport on Monday, 13th November, 2023;

The lawmaker noted that all the passengers went through the Advanced Passengers Pre-screening System, (APPS), which was also monitored live by the Saudi Arabia authorities before the flight left Nigeria;

He stressed that the Nigerian Embassy in Jeddah, even the Saudi immigration personnel could not locate who authorised the cancellation of the visas, even when the APPS which was live between both countries was concluded and the airline was already airborne to Jeddah.

Nkemkanma said upon the intervention of the Nigerian Embassy in Saudi, the authorities were said to have reduced the number of passengers that would be returned back to Nigeria from 264 to 170;

He observed that Saudi Air has been operating directly from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia and that Air Peace has been receiving high patronage as a Nigerian carrier since it started flight service to Saudi at relatively lower fares, thereby helping Nigeria to conserve foreign exchange.

The lawmaker expressed concern that stakeholders in the sector have attributed the development to aero-politics, stating that it could be a way to force the Nigerian operator out of the route.

He said the stakeholders were of the view that Nigerian carriers could actually be forced out of the route unless the government intervenes, probably using the principle of reciprocity;

Nkemkanma pointed out that the action of Saudi authorities was an infringement on the letters and intendments of the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia which is still in force.

He expressed worry that this unfortunate event and diplomatic slight on Nigeria happened even when President Bola Tinubu was on a state visit to Saudi Arabia.

It mandated the “Committees on Foreign Affairs, Interior and Pilgrims Affairs to inquire into the immediate and remote circumstances surrounding the cancellation of already granted visas to 264 Nigerians on arrival at Jeddah aboard Air Peace and to report back within two weeks.”

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