The Federal Government on Tuesday urged all affected passengers of Air Peace whose visas were cancelled and deported from Saudi Arabia to remain calm and that investigation into the “unfortunate” incident has been launched.
This is contained in a statement by Francisca Omayuli, Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to Omayuli, reports received from the Nigerian Consulate in Jeddah indicated that Air Peace Flight No. P4-752 transported 264 passengers from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos and the Aminu Kano International Airport and landed at the King Abdul-Aziz International Airport – Hajj Terminal Jeddah on Nov. 13.
She said in the statement that on arrival at the Hajj Terminal, the Saudi immigration authorities informed the passengers that their visas had been cancelled and 177 passengers had to be evacuated on the same flight back to Nigeria.
No fewer than 87 of the passengers were cleared by immigration and allowed entry into Jeddah, she added.
Omayuli explained that the Saudi authorities are yet to give reasons for the cancellation of the visas and the outright ban imposed on 18 of the passengers from Saudi Arabia for various offences they 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 recurrence 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,” the statement quoted Omayuli as saying.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the House of Representatives had condemned the cancellation of the passengers’ visas, describing the act as embarrassing.
They urged the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, take the necessary diplomatic steps to protect Nigeria’s image and ensure the full implementation of the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA).
The lawmakers also called for the protection of Nigerian national carriers flying to Saudi Arabia and protect the Nigerian travelling public.
They also mandated the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and that of Interior and Pilgrims Affairs to launch an enquiry into the immediate and remote circumstances surrounding the cancellation of the visas and report back within two weeks.