Emirates (EK, Dubai Int'l) is the latest airline to be banned from Nigeria, according to the country's aviation minister, Hadi Sirika.

The ban takes effect today (September 21, 2020), Sirika said on Twitter. The Middle East carrier was previously excluded from a list of blacklisted airlines published by Nigeria's Federal Ministry of Aviation ahead of the reopening of its international airspace on September 5, 2020.

However, Sirika said the decision to reverse the approval was taken after a meeting of a sub-committee of Nigeria's Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 with European Union ambassadors on September 18. He did not explain the reason for the decision. The earlier banning of fellow Middle East carrier, Etihad Airways, followed travel restrictions imposed on Nigerians by Abu Dhabi, even though the UAE Embassy in Abuja recently denied this, pointing to “growing bilateral relations between the countries”.

Sirika said discussions with the EU on Nigeria's ban on Lufthansa and Air France-KLM "progressed well". According to official documents, Lufthansa, Air France, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines have been blacklisted because of restrictions imposed on Nigerian tourist visa holders by the European Union. The EU recently moved to make it more difficult for Nigerian nationals to obtain Schengen visas, accusing Nigeria of failing to play its part in the return and readmission of its nationals staying in Europe.

However, Sirika backtracked after meeting with EU ministers, saying Nigeria's approval of international airlines was determined by the current capacity of the country’s airports; and "not to cause any diplomatic hiccup between Nigeria and other countries", local media reports.

Initially not approved, RwandAir (WB, Kigali) told ch-aviation its flight applications had not been processed at the time. The airline resumed flights to Lagos and Abuja on September 14, confirmed Chief Executive Officer, Yvonne Makolo. She pointed out that Nigerians are allowed entry to Rwanda under COVID-19 protocols. "Rwanda has the same requirements for all countries," she said. Rwandan government regulations require arrivals to be tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours before departure and receive a second test upon entry into the country.

According to the list, other African airlines not approved include Royal Air Maroc, Air Namibia, and TAAG Angola Airlines, but, at the time of listing, they had not yet resumed international flights. Morocco in the meantime reopened its borders to authorised business visitors beginning September 10, 2020.

Airlines approved to fly to Nigeria include British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Qatar Airways, and Ethiopian Airlines. Flights are also permitted from Virgin Atlantic, ASKY Airlines, Africa World Airlines, Air Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya Airways, and Turkish Airlines, according to the list.

Following a briefing of the Presidential Task Force on September 15, Sirika confirmed that airlines no longer needed permission to operate domestic flights and that all airports had been cleared for domestic operations. However, operators should check the status of private airports with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

International commercial flights resumed at Lagos and Abuja on September 5 after having been closed since March due to the outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus. Sirika said other airports would reopen for international flights as soon as they met the required safety protocols for operation. He said approval was still required for international chartered flights.