Authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Sunday cancelled the visa of all the 264 passengers who arrived in Jeddah from Nigeria on Air Peace, Daily Trust reports.
It is unclear why the passengers, most of whom were visiting Saudi for Lesser Hajj, were denied entry.
Daily Trust reported that the flight took off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos via the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano on Sunday night and landed at King Abdul-Aziz International Airport, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“But to the consternation of the airline staff, the Saudi Arabian authorities announced that all the passengers’ visas had been cancelled.”
The incident occured barely one week after Air Peace launched a direct flight to Saudi Arabia.
A source who confirmed the development to Daily Trust said, “The screening of passengers from the MMIA and Kano Airport was thorough and there was no issue with the visas. These were people who were duly issued the visa and they passed through the advanced passenger information system which is accessible to both authorities in Lagos and Jeddah. We are surprised because this cancellation was announced when the flight already landed.
“We are suspecting this is a strategy to frustrate the Nigerian carrier out of the route, some people are definitely not happy with the option Air Peace is providing, the direct flight to Jeddah as against using another foreign airline which attracts higher fares the passengers went through the Advanced Passengers Information System (APIS) during the check-in formalities in Nigeria which was also monitored by the Saudi authorities.”
The newspaper gathered that it was when the Nigerian embassy waded in that Saudi authorities reduced the number of passengers that would be returned to 177 from 264.
Daily Trust reports that before the commencement of direct flights by Air Peace, Saudia, a Saudi Arabian flag carrier, had been operating directly from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia.
The incident occurred at a time President Bola Tinubu is in Saudi Arabia.
President Tinubu is currently attending the Saudi-Africa summit in Riyadh this week to attract foreign direct investment to Africa’s largest economy and mobilise capital to build needed infrastructure.
At the summit, Mr Tinubu said Nigeria and Saudi Arabia have always enjoyed a special relationship at both the bilateral and multilateral levels.
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“Within the past six decades, our bilateral cooperation, which was initially hajj-centric, has witnessed diversification to cover a number of areas of common interest. It is delightful to note the presence in this great Kingdom of a large number of our compatriots and professionals, including highly-skilled medical practitioners and professional football players,” he said.
Neither Air Peace nor the Saudi or Nigerian governments have reacted officially to the incident as of the time of this report.
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