Less than 24 hours after the Federal Government placed a ban on Emirates Airlines, the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based carrier, the suspension has been lifted.
This followed the decision of the airline to withdraw the Rapid Antigen Testing (RDT) as a requirement for Nigerian travellers with immediate effect.
The Federal Government had said the introduction of RDT separate to the COVID-19 PCR test was a violation of the protocols on COVID-19 issued by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 (PTF).
The Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu announced the ban in a letter to the airline dated February 4, 2021.
The NCAA said the ban was necessitated by the continued airlift of passengers from Nigeria using the Rapid Antigen Tests (RDT) conducted by laboratories that are “neither approved nor authorized by the appropriate regulatory.”
“This is a violation of paragraph 5 of the NCAA letter with REF: NCAA/DG/AIR11/16/281 of 02 February 2021 addressed to your good self. The paragraph clearly states, “Based on the forgoing and to enable the Nigerian government to put in place the needed infrastructure and logistics for COVID-19 RDT testing for departing passengers, the PTF has directed that Emirates Airlines should either accept passengers without RDT pending when the infrastructure and logistics are put in place or suspend its flights to and from Nigeria until such a time when the required infrastructure and logistics are fully established and implemented”.
The DG added that the airline has not been in compliance with the two options given by the PTF as records of operated flights by Emirates Airlines from Lagos and Abuja obtained from the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has shown.
However, relief came hours later as the NCAA issued another letter announcing that the ban has been lifted.
The DG in the letter said, “We have carefully read your response to our letter NCAA/DG/AIR11/16/285 of 4th February 2021 and arrived at the understanding that the UAE Government has granted approval to Emirates Airlines to withdraw the requirement for Rapid Antigen Testing (RDT) prior to departure of Emirates flights from Nigeria with immediate effect until such a time that the required infrastructure is made available by the Nigerian Government.
“Based on the foregoing, the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) has directed the immediate lifting of the suspension of Emirates Airlines Operations in Nigeria. It is therefore expected that Emirates Airlines will continue to comply with the directives of the PTF on COVID-19 and other protocols of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“Emirates Airlines will be duly informed of ongoing enforcement actions by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) with regards to the established non-compliance to PTF directives and protocols as enumerated in our letter of 4th February 2021.”