The Federal Government and House of Representatives said yesterday they were investigating the visa cancellation of 264 Nigerians by Saudi Arabia government.
Recall that the ministry of foreign affairs had said on Monday it was investigating to know whether any consular or aviation rule was violated by the Nigerian travellers and Air Peace which conveyed them to Saudi Arabia.
The Special Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on Media and Communications Strategy, Alkasim Abdulkadir, told Vanguard yesterday that the ministry was still 8investigating the matter and would make its findings known in due course.
”We are still investigating the matter and we have not concluded the investigation,” he told Vanguard on phone yesterday.
Also reacting to the development yesterday, spokesperson of the ministry, Mrs. Francisca Omayuli said: “According to reports received from the Nigerian Consulate in Jeddah, Air Peace Flight No. P4-752 airlifted 264 passengers from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos and the Aminu Kano International Airport and landed at the King Abdulaziz International Airport – Hajj Terminal Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Monday, November 13, 2023.
“It was on arrival at the Hajj Terminal that the Saudi Immigration authorities informed the passengers that their visas had been cancelled. Conseqently, 177 passengers were made to return on the same flight back to Nigeria, while 87 passengers were cleared by immigration and allowed entry into Jeddah.
“The Saudi authorities are yet to give reasons for the cancellation of the visas, except for 18 of the passengers who were outrightly banned from Saudi Arabia for various offences committed in the past.
”Notwithstanding the fact that it is the prerogative of a sovereign nation to determine who is permitted entry into its territory, Nigeria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are traditional and strategic partners who are willing to guard against a recurrence of this unfortunate incident.
”In this regard, investigation is ongoing in both Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. The affected passengers are, therefore, implored to keep calm, while the matter is being resolved.”
On its part, the House of Representatives condemned what it described as the embarrassing act of the Saudi government.
It also urged the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, take necessary diplomatic steps to protect the image of the nation, ensure the full implementation of BASA, protect Nigerian national carriers flying into Saudi Arabia and as well protect the Nigerian travelling public.
The House equally mandated its 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 Nigerian on arrival at Jeddah aboard Air Peace and to report back within two weeks.
The resolutions of the House were sequel to a motion of urgent public importance moved by Kama Nkemkanma, Olumide Osoba, Makki Yalleman and Tolulope Akande-Sadipe
Moving the motion, Nkemkanma explained 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, November 13, 2023;
According to him, 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 expressed worries that according to sources at the Nigerian Embassy in Jeddah, even the Saudi immigration personnel could not locate who authorized 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;
He further noted that 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;
“Saudi Air has been operating directly from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia and Air Peace has been receiving high patronage and as a Nigerian carrier since it started flight service to the Saudi at relatively lower fares, thereby helping Nigeria to conserve foreign exchange;
“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, and raised concerns that Nigerian carriers could actually be forced out of the route unless the government intervenes, probably using the principle of reciprocity;
“The fact that this action of Saudi authorities is 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 concern that this unfortunate event and diplomatic slight on Nigeria happened even when President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was on a state visit to Saudi Arabia.