The House of Representatives has launched an investigation into why the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia refused entry to 177 Nigerians upon arrival in the Kingdom aboard an Air Peace aircraft.
An explanation was, however, issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Mrs. Francisca Omayuli, that 18 of the 177 passengers were previously banned from entering the country due to past offences.
This explanation was issued, in a statement.
The statement reads in part: “According to reports received from the Nigerian Consulate in Jeddah, Air Peace Flight No. P4-752 airlifted 264 passengers from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos and the Aminu Kano International Airport and landed at the King Abdulaziz International Airport – Hajj Terminal Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Monday, 13th November, 2023.
“It was on arrival at the Hajj Terminal that the Saudi Immigration authorities informed the passengers that their visas had been cancelled. Consequently, 177 passengers were made to return on the same flight back to Nigeria. While 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 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.”
A resolution by the House of Reps to launch an investigation into the incident was passed following a motion by Hon. Kama Nkemkanma and four other lawmakers. Nkemkanma said that all 264 passengers had undergone the Advanced Passengers Pre-screening System (APPS), which was monitored live by Saudi authorities before the flight departed from Nigeria. He expressed concern that even the Nigerian Embassy in Jeddah and Saudi immigration personnel were unable to identify who authorised the visa cancellation.
Nkemkanma noted that the intervention of the Nigerian Embassy in Saudi Arabia had reduced the number of passengers to be deported from 264 to 177. He also observed that Air Peace, a Nigerian carrier, had been receiving high patronage due to its relatively lower fares compared to Saudi Air, which had previously operated direct flights between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.