Saudi Arabia has revoked the visas of 264 passengers who arrived in Jeddah from Nigeria on an Air Peace flight, as reported by Daily Trust. The passengers, primarily in Saudi Arabia for Lesser Hajj, experienced visa cancellations upon landing at King Abdul-Aziz International Airport. The reason for the denial of entry remains unclear.
The flight, originating from Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, via Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, landed in Jeddah on Sunday night. According to Daily Trust, airline staff were taken aback when Saudi authorities announced the cancellation of all passengers’ visas.
The incident comes just one week after Air Peace initiated direct flights to Saudi Arabia. A source familiar with the situation told Daily Trust, “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.”
The source expressed suspicion that the visa cancellations might be a deliberate attempt to undermine Air Peace’s presence on the route. “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.”
Passengers had undergone Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) checks during check-in in Nigeria, monitored by Saudi authorities. The Nigerian embassy intervened, resulting in Saudi authorities reducing the number of passengers to be returned from 264 to 177.
Before Air Peace introduced direct flights, Saudia, a Saudi Arabian flag carrier, operated direct flights from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia. This incident coincides with President Bola Tinubu’s presence in Saudi Arabia for the Saudi-Africa summit in Riyadh. President Tinubu aims to strengthen economic ties and attract foreign direct investment to Nigeria. During the summit, he emphasized the longstanding special relationship between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia at both bilateral and multilateral levels.