In a surprising turn of events, Saudi Arabia revoked the visas of all 264 passengers transported by Air Peace from Kano to Jeddah. Upon landing, the authorities mandated the immediate return of the entire group to Nigeria. After the Nigerian embassy intervened, the Saudi Authorities scaled down the number to 177.
Despite a smooth flight from Kano to Jeddah on Sunday night, shock ensued upon learning about the visa cancellations upon arrival. The passengers had undergone Advanced Passenger Prescreening System (APPS) checks during check-in, a process monitored by Saudi authorities before departure.
Nigerian embassy sources claim Saudi Immigration feigned ignorance of visa cancellations, asserting it happened en route to Jeddah.
Clarifying, the source stated, “Airline exonerated; Advanced Passenger Prescreening System accepted affected passengers despite potential visa issues, allowing boarding.”
The total deportees numbered 177 passengers, with Air Peace promptly returning them to Nigeria.
Amidst these developments, industry observer Group Captain John Ojikutu (retired) attributed the incident to aeropolitics. He suggested it might be an attempt to push the Nigerian operator out of the route. Ojikutu urged immediate intervention by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to safeguard Air Peace’s rights under the BASA.
He emphasized, “Government must stand behind Air Peace to ensure it is not denied its rights. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must not remain silent; Nigeria must assert itself to protect its designated airlines flying overseas.”