On Sunday, November 12, 2023, an unprecedented incident took place at the international airport King Abdul Aziz of Jeddahin Saudi Arabia. The Saudi authorities have done so canceled visas of 264 Nigerian passengers, all arriving on an Air Peace flight. These passengers, mostly on their way to the Pilgrimage, were surprised by this unexpected decision.
The plane took off from the international airport Murtala Muhammad from Lagos, with a stopover at the international airport Mallam Aminu Kano in Kano, before arriving Jeddah. To their surprise, the passengers were informed that their visas had been cancelled. The cancellation raised many questions, especially since all passengers had been rigorously screened and passed the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS), which involved coordination between Lagos and Jeddah airports.
Jealousy towards Nigerian company?
A source close to the matter suggested that this cancellation could be a strategy to counter Air Peace, which recently entered the direct Nigeria-Saudi Arabia route. This new route offers a cheaper alternative to foreign airline flights, which could upset some players in the sector.
After the intervention of the Nigerian embassy, the number of passengers to return was reduced to 177. This event comes shortly after Air Peace launched direct flights to Saudi Arabia, a cheaper option compared to Saudia, the Saudi national airline.
Despite Tinubu’s presence in Saudi Arabia
Coinciding with the presence of Nigerian President Bola Tinubu in Saudi Arabia for the Saudi-Saudi Africa summit in Riyadh, the incident raises questions about bilateral relations. At the summit, President Tinubu highlighted the extent of cooperation between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, beyond the religious aspects, covering many areas of common interest.
This incident has yet to receive an official response from the Saudi and Nigerian governments or Air Peace. The repercussions of this event on the future relations between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, especially in the field of aviation, remain uncertain.