The Saudi Arabian government is yet to explain why it sent 177 Nigerians on an Air Peace flight back home, though they had valid visas that were cancelled on arrival to Jeddah.
However, Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has explained that 18 of those sent back have been outrightly banned from the country for some unstated past offences.
The names of the 18 are still unknown, but the Federal Government, which appears to be speaking for the Saudis said in a statement by Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Mrs. Francisca K. Omayuli (Mrs): “Air Peace Flight No. P4-752 airlifted two hundred and sixty four (264) passengers from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos and the Aminu Kano International Airport and landed at the King Abdulaziz International Airport – Haü Terminal Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Monday, 13th November, 2023.
“It was on arrival at the Haü Terminal that the Saudi Immigration authorities informed the passengers that their visas had been cancelled. Conseqently, one hundred and seventy seven (177) passengers were made to return on the same flight back to Nigeria. While eighty seven (87) passengers were cleared by immigration and allowed entry into Jeddah.
“The Saudi authorities are yet to give reasons for the cancellation of the visas, except for eighteen (18) of the passengers who were outrightly banned from Saudi Arabia for various offences committed in the past.
“Notwithstanding the fact that it is the prerogative of a sovereign nation to determine who is permitted entry into its territory, Nigeria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are traditional and strategic partners, who are willing to guard against a reoccurrence of this unfortunate incident.
“In this regard, investigation is ongoing in both Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. The affected passengers are therefore, implored to keep calm, while the matter is being resolved.”
Recall that there was widespread outrage over what the Saudi authorities did, even when visiting President Bola Tinubu, was barely out of that country, where he had promised to bring down the walls mitigating against bilateral trade relations.
On social media, the outrage was loud and many read racist meanings into the Saudi action. Others said it was a ploy to give an unfair advantage to Saudi Airlines over the Nigerian operating the lucrative route.