Adelani Adepegba and Stephen Angbulu
13 December 2021
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• Press statement on travel ban stands despite FG’s planned retaliation – High Commission
• UK, others lack moral rights to allow their airlines to come to Nigeria, says aviation minister
• We have recommended travel ban for Canada, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, others
The British High Commission on Sunday said the United Kingdom would not reverse its travel ban on Nigeria because of a threat of retaliation by the Federal Government.
The spokesman for the British High Commission, Dean Hurlock, said this in response to an inquiry by The PUNCH on Sunday over a statement by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, that the UK, Canada and Saudi Arabia would be put on Nigeria’s travel ban on Tuesday.
Hurlock stated that Britain had made it clear that travel abroad would be different this year, adding that the UK was sticking to its “standard background lines.”
In a text message to the high commission, one of our correspondents stated that the Federal Government had said it would place a travel ban on the UK as a retaliatory move.
The correspondent then asked, “Will that make the UK to rescind its travel ban?”
In his response, Hurlock stated, “The UK Government propose sticking to our standard background lines on whether ‘x’ country will put us on the red list and avoid getting into hypothetical situations.
“The UK government has been clear that travel abroad will be different this year and countries may impose border measures at short notice in line with their own coronavirus policies.”
He added that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice was kept under constant review and asked travellers to continue to check it for entry requirements of the destination they plan to visit.
“Travellers can also sign up for e-mail alerts on GOV.UK to get the latest updates as soon as they happen. We are in regular conversations with other countries about their travel policies,” Hurlock explained.
Position stated in our press statement of last weekend still stands at present – UK high commission
In an earlier response to The PUNCH correspondent’s enquiry, he said, “The position stated in our press release of last weekend still stands at present.”
In the press release, the UK had said Nigeria would be added to the travel red list as from 4am on December 6 following 21 cases of Omicron variant of COVID-19 reported in England, which had travel history from Nigeria.
“These are temporary measures that have been introduced to prevent further omicron cases from entering the UK and will be examined at the three-week review point on 20 December.”
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, had said Omicron cases in the UK had clear links to overseas travel from Nigeria and South Africa.
Also On Thursday, Laing, in an interview with Channels Television, insisted that the travel ban was evidence-based.
According to her 19 out of 21 passengers with Omicron variant with Nigeria’s travel history flew directly to Britain from Nigeria.
But the Minister of Aviation, Sirika, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos on Sunday said the Federal Government would place travel ban on the UK, Canada, Argentina and Saudi Arabia as a retaliation for the travel restriction on Nigeria.
He disclosed the Federal Government would restrict airlines coming from Canada, the UK and Saudi Arabia into Nigeria.
According to him, the decision is to reciprocate restricted flights from Nigeria into those countries over the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron.
Sirika said the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, (retd.) would also place the UK, Canada and Saudi Arabia on a red list over the outbreak and spread of the Omicron variant.
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.
Meanwhile, the President has called for stronger partnerships among ECOWAS leaders to tackle challenges facing the region.
Buhari who was speaking on Sunday at the 60th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States,also said the political, economic, security and the current wave of the pandemic and its new Omicron variant requires collective action.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, disclosed this in a statement titled ‘President Buhari urges stronger partnership among ECOWAS countries to tackle health, economic, security challenges’.
According to Buhari, “All of these challenges require our collective action to work in concert with each other to pragmatically address and provide our people better prospects in life.
“Today’s realities remind us of the need to continue to forge stronger solidarity to address the new challenges, including the current third wave of the pandemic and its new Omicron variant.
“I am glad that the commission of the Economic Community of West African States and the West Africa Health Organisation are continuing to work with our respective National Disease Control Centres to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on our people and sub-region,” he said.
While commending his Ghanaian counterpart, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo, who is also Chair of Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, for the purposeful leadership and commitment the exerts to resolve the challenges confronting the organization, Buhari said “Despite the enormity of these challenges, our Chair has navigated us well and continues to do so. We owe him enormous gratitude.”
He noted that challenges of COVID-19 and the catastrophic consequences hoisted on the socio-economic environment had continued, adding that the regional resilience, determination and resolution of working together, in solidarity with each other, assisted greatly to lessen the burdens of the Pandemic.
“Without doubt, the occasion for which we have gathered here today is a clear demonstration of our resolute commitment to the effective integration of our sub-region.”
In his remarks, Akufo-Addo said about 10,000 people had died from the Covid-19 pandemic in West Africa, and only two per cent of the population had been fully vaccinated, while 6 per cent got one dose.
He said the emergence of a new variant poses fresh challenges, adding that the sanctions and restrictions on travelling were unjustified