Saudi-Nigerian relations prompted by widespread visa cancellations at airport

Saudi-Nigerian relations prompted by widespread visa cancellations at airport

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Saudi-Nigerian relations prompted by widespread visa cancellations at airport

The visas of 177 Nigerian nationals were revoked by Saudi authorities upon arrival in Jeddah. Image: Ayman Zaid/iStock Editorial/Getty Images


Saudi-Nigerian relations prompted by widespread visa cancellations at airport.

After Saudi Arabia denied entry to 177 Nigerians on Monday, the country’s relations with Nigeria came under scrutiny.

The foreign ministry of Nigeria reported that out of 264 Nigerian nationals who touched down in Jeddah on Monday via an Air Peace flight, only 87 were granted entry. Everyone else was deported after having their visas revoked.

Local media outlets have reported that some of the passengers were Muslims their route to Mecca, the Islamic holy city, to perform the lesser Hajj, also known as the Umrah.

Massive visa cancellations took place while Bola Tinubu, president of Niger, was still in Saudi Arabia following bilateral discussions with the Saudi authorities.

Amidst online outcry, the Saudi embassy in Nigeria issued a statement stating that the affected passengers “didn’t fulfil the entry conditions and requirements in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations of the Kingdom, as they submitted incorrect information to obtain a category of visa that doesn’t apply to them, which was discovered upon their arrival.”

Particular travel documents, such as Umrah or Hajj visas, are necessary for pilgrims to enter Saudi Arabia.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has issued restrictions prohibiting anyone with tourist visas from completing the Hajj or Umrah during the Hajj season.

The specific visas that the deported Nigerians possessed are currently unknown.

Nigerian airline Air Peace expressed shock and dismay that Saudi Arabia cancelled its passengers’ visas upon arrival, claiming that it “strictly followed the profiling procedures stipulated by Saudi Arabian authorities.”

According to the airline’s statement on Wednesday, “No notice of cancellation or any form of denial from the Saudi authorities was received against any of these passengers despite the live transmission of their details.”

They went on to say that all the passengers on the flight to Jeddah had their visas checked and verified through the necessary procedures, so they were validated before takeoff.

The Saudi statement went on to say that the cancellations affected more than just Nigerian citizens, and that “… all passengers should review all the documents to determine their conformity with the conditions prior to departing from their countries to the Kingdom.”

‘An insult to diplomacy’

Since Nigeria’s president was still in the nation following last Friday’s Saudi-Africa Summit, observers felt the episode was humiliating for the country.

The president departed for Guinea Bissau on Thursday morning to participate in Independence Day festivities, according to the presidency.

The African Diaspora Foundation’s advisory board member and champion for the diaspora’s welfare, Victor Okhai, said, “This is obviously a very big diplomatic slap in the face.”

The president of Nigeria was visiting that nation, and as a result, “there was a total lack of sensitivity (by Saudi officials),” Okhai stated.

Reno Omokiri, a former presidential assistant from Nigeria, criticized Saudi Arabia’s behavior, calling it “embarrassing” and a stain on the two countries’ bilateral relations.

Given that the president of Nigeria is now in Saudi Arabia, why would the Saudis cancel the visas of more than 100 people travelling on an Air Peace trip to Jeddah? The outlook for the two countries’ relations is dim as a result.

I feel humiliated. Omokri took to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, earlier last week to express his hate for Nigeria and her people.

A number of other Nigerians demanded the immediate summons of the Saudi ambassador to the nation.

There have been other regional countries where Nigerians have had trouble getting visas.

Despite Tinubu’s efforts, the United Arab Emirates—a Saudi neighbor—has maintained its visa restriction on Nigerian travelers for the past year.

Shortly after Tinubu met with UAE leader Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in September, his administration issued a statement confirming the ban’s termination.

A UAE official, however, informed the reporter that the restriction had not yet been lifted.

For thousands of Muslims in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia is the ultimate pilgrimage destination.

Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia has a history of refusing admission to travelers, including Nigerian nationals who were deported on Monday.

More than a thousand Nigerian female pilgrims were deported in 2012 by the authorities for entering the nation without male chaperones.

A repetition will not be tolerated, according to the Nigerian government.

“This unfortunate incident will not happen again,” stated Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry, adding that “traditional and strategic partners” Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are prepared to work together to prevent such incidents.

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