Emirates (EK, Dubai International) and Etihad Airways (EY, Abu Dhabi International) will resume flights to Nigeria even though the West African country will not make any immediate payment of outstanding foreign exchange to the two airlines, according to a statement by the spokesman for Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

This follows an agreement between Tinubu and UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi on September 11, which also resulted in the immediate lifting of a UAE visa ban on Nigerians.

Flights will be restored "without further delay", said Ajuri Ngelale, Tinubu's special advisor. "As negotiated between the two Heads of State, this immediate restoration of flight activity, through these two airlines and between the two countries, does not involve any immediate payment by the Nigerian government," he said. However, the leaders announced a new foreign exchange liquidity programme between the two governments, details of which will be revealed in the coming weeks.

Diplomatic relations between the two nations have thawed since the appointment of Tinubu, ending a year-long spat that saw the Gulf state stop issuing visas to Nigerians and Emirates suspend flights over funds being held back by the Central Bank of Nigeria. The country faces a foreign exchange crisis and a plunging local currency, the Nigerian naira.

As reported, Emirates initially suspended flights to Nigeria on September 1, 2022, but resumed them after the Central Bank of Nigeria released USD265 million of outstanding ticket revenue. However, Emirates suspended flights again in November 2022 due to unsuccessful negotiations with Nigerian authorities. The airline demanded the repatriation of at least 80% of its remaining frozen funds and a guaranteed mechanism to prevent future remittance delays.