Abuja, December 12, 2021 (NIGERIA) In a retaliatory move, Nigeria placed restriction on flights coming from Canada, United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia with effect from Tuesday.
Nigeria would also place the United Kingdom, Canada and Saudi Arabia on a red list over the outbreak and spread of the Omicron variant.
Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika said that the decision was taken on Sunday in Lagos.
He explained that it was to reciprocate restricted flights from Nigeria into those countries over the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron.
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 those Canada, the UK, Saudi Arabia and Argentina also be put on the red list.
“As they did to us, if they do not allow our citizens into their countries; who are they coming, as airlines, to pick from our country?
“They are not supposed to come in. I am very sure in the next three days; Monday or Tuesday, all those countries will be put on the red list of COVID-19,’’ the minister said.
He stressed that airlines of the affected countries remained banned and the countries placed on Nigeria’s red list.
Sirika apologised to Nigerians intending to travel to those countries, but said Nigerian government’s decision was in the interest of the country.
Nigeria’s information and culture minister Lai Mohammed had on December 6, 2021 called on UK to immediately rescind its ban on foreign travels from Nigeria over the discovery of cases of Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the West African country.
Mr Mohammed at a media briefing that the decision by the British government to put Nigeria on the red list, just because of less than two dozen cases of Omicron which did not originate in Nigeria, “is unjust, unfair, punitive, indefensible and discriminatory”.
He said the decision is also not driven by science and should be rescinded immediately
He said: “How do you slam this kind of discriminatory action on a country of 200 million people, just because of less than two dozen cases?
“Whereas British citizens and residents are allowed to come in from Nigeria, non-residents from the same country are banned.
“The two groups are coming from the same country, but being subjected to different conditions.
“Why won’t Britain allow people in both categories to come in, and be subjected to the same conditions of testing and quarantine?’’
“This is why this decision to ban travellers from Nigeria, who are neither citizens nor residents, is grossly discriminatory and punitive,” he said.
He said that the travel ban, the type that had been slammed on some African countries, is “a knee-jerk reaction that could only be detrimental to our quest to most conclusively tackle this pandemic’’.
He said instead of reflex responses, driven by fear, rather than science, the world should take a serious look at the issue of access to vaccines.