The federal government has banned citizens of Canada, UK, Saudi Arabia and Argentina from entering the country in retaliation to the travel restriction placed on Nigeria and other African countries for fear of the Omicron variant.
Aviation minister Hadi Sirika, a senior member of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, disclosed during a meeting with northern Muslims on Saturday, saying that they had reached an agreement to place a ban on those countries in retaliation.
“We recommend that those countries, Canada, UK, Saudi Arabia and Argentina, be also put on red list. Just like they did to us,” Mr Sirika said in an audio of the meeting obtained by Peoples Gazette. “And if they don’t allow our citizens to go into their country, who are they coming with airlines to pick out of our country? They might as well stop coming.”
Mr Sirika added that: “I am very sure in the next three days, between now and Monday, or perhaps Tuesday maximum, all those countries will be put on red list.
“Once they are put on red list, which means they are banned, then of course their airlines will also be banned. I am so sorry we are going through difficult moment, but we have to do it in the interest of our country.”
The UK government had last week banned Nigerians from entering the country, citing growing concerns of the recently identified COVID-19 Omicron variant.
“You cannot travel to the UK if you’ve been in a red list country in the previous 10 days unless you are a British or Irish national, have residence rights in the UK,” the British government’s website said.
“Children arriving in England from a red list country should not be travelling alone unless they are students in boarding school, higher education or further education,” the website added.
Also, Saudi Arabia, in a circular issued by the General Authority of Civil Aviation on December 8, banned non-citizens that have visited Nigeria in the past 14 days from entering the country.
Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, while faulting the travel ban imposed on African countries, said it was stigmatisation against the continent.
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum also faulted the travel ban by Canada and UK, describing it as “precipitate, unfair and discriminatory.”
The forum said “there is also no evidence that harsh, blanket travel bans will protect the countries that impose them,” describing the ban as ironical when the WHO advised that “rational proportional risk reduction measures” be taken by countries.