The Nigerian government announced the lifting of the year-long visa ban barring Nigerians from entering the UAE following a meeting between President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria and the President of the United Arab Emirates, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. However, there is some controversy as the UAE has not confirmed the ban removal.
In October 2022, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) imposed a visa ban on Nigerians and other African countries owing to an increase in criminal activity in the Arab country. However, on 11 September 2023, the Nigerian government announced that the ban had been lifted. While Nigerians wait anxiously for flights to resume, the elephant in the room sparks discussions on the reality of Nigeria’s negative global reputation which continues to plague the country’s international relations.
On 21 October 2022, the UAE government imposed a visa ban on 20 African countries, including Nigeria. The UAE also added that all submitted applications were automatically rejected and the fees non-refundable. The ban was announced in a statement sent to travel agencies in Nigeria by the UAE immigration.
In July 2023, Seychelles imposed a ban on Nigerian passport holders applying for holidays and short-term visas. The news spread as ‘X’ (previously Twitter) travel content creator, MunafromTravelletters (@Munachimsoooo) posted a rejection email from Seychelles immigration. The email read, ‘We regret to inform you that your application has been denied, as per immigration regulation, for now, we are not accepting any NIGERIAN passport holder for holiday purposes.’
The news came as a shock as just six months prior to the ban, Seychelles and Nigeria signed an agreement for direct flights between the two countries. Nigerians were also able to enter the country visa-free for up to 30 days. Then Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika and Seychelles’ Minister of Transport, Anthony Derjacques, had intended for the agreement to promote the African Union agenda 2063 and enhance tourism. Seychelles has since cleared the air about the reasons behind their decision.
The Seychelles vice president, Ahmed Afif, cited an increase in drug trafficking and fraudulent activities by Nigerians as the reason for the ban. He said, ‘We have seen a clear link between this with certain people from Nigeria. In the past two weeks, for example, 13 people coming from Nigeria have been arrested when entering Seychelles because they were carrying drugs into the country.’
The President of the Nigerian community in Seychelles, Mathias Adidi, also confirmed that a drug syndicate was using Nigerians to smuggle drugs into Seychelles. He wrote in a statement, ‘Someone in Nigeria is sending Nigerians to bring drugs to Seychelles.’
Unfortunately, the list of countries restricting visa options for Nigerians still goes on. Last year, the Republic of Turkey removed Nigerians from being able to obtain an e-visa to enter the country, also citing security concerns. Ethiopia also scrapped Nigerians from the visas-on-arrival option.
While Nigeria and the UAE had been involved in a series of diplomatic rows months prior to the ban, speculations arise that the ban was a response to the negative reputation the country has globally, alluding to fraud and other criminal activity.
Following President Bola Tinubu’s attendance at the G-20 summit in India, he had a technical stopover to the UAE to discuss bilateral relations. To that effect, he visited the UAE and spoke with the leader, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday 11 September.
A statement from President Tinubu’s spokesperson, Ajuri Ngelale, said that Tinubu and the President of the United Arab Emirates, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan finalized a historic agreement ‘which has resulted in the immediate cessation of the visa ban placed on Nigerian travellers.’
Ngelale also said that Etihad and Emirates Airlines are to resume flights into and out of Nigeria effective immediately. Yet, there are currently no flights scheduled to and from Nigeria on either Etihad or Emirates official websites.
On 15 September, the Federal Government announced that there is no timeline yet set for lifting the ban. This was announced by the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Fetus Keyamo, at the closing ceremony of the 7th African Aviation Summit in Abuja. He also confirmed that the details of the announcement are still being decided on saying, ‘We are working the details out. When two countries agree at the very top level then of course all the government operatives will begin to work out the tiny details.’ According to CNN however, the ban has not been lifted. The news network quoted an unnamed source who claimed that ‘there are no changes on the Nigeria/UAE travel status so far.’
The continued suspension of flights and visa restrictions placed on Nigeria from countries around the world do more than just inconvenience travellers. They also have a negative impact on trade and business relations between Nigeria and the related countries. There is a consensus among nations concerning their reason for restricting Nigerians and it all boils down to reputation.
Nigeria has become synonymous with fraud caused by years of Advance Fee Fraud (419) prevalence in the global community. The Nigerian prince scam has now become a global joke used as a punchline in TV shows. Although it is now a publicly known scam, Americans still lost $703,000 to the scam in 2018. According to Olubukola Stella Adesina, a professor of International Relations at the University of Ibadan, the result is scepticism when international financial organizations interact with Nigerians.
Currently, there is still uncertainty surrounding the ban and other travel bans placed on Nigerians. The overarching reason remains the scam culture in Nigeria and its far-reaching web encroaching into the borders of other countries. From fraud to drug trafficking and organ trafficking, Nigerians have been caught abroad on numerous occasions engaging in embarrassing criminal activity. The alarming increase in these criminal activities across borders will only prolong these travel restrictions and subsequently cause more⎈
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