Ban on Emirates: Minister Pantami misses 2021 GITEX Technology Week in Dubai

Nigeria's Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami

By Harry Awurumibe, Editor, Abuja Bureau

In a twist of fate, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, on Sunday failed to attend the opening day of the highly publicised Global Information Technology Exhibition called GITEX Tech Week 2021 Dubai holding in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) due to ban on direct flights to and from Nigeria to the Gulf state.

The largest regional IT Expo which is holding from Sunday, October 17 to Thursday 21, 2021 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, UAE, attracted several countries in the world including African nations where Nigeria is a leading light in IT.

But none arrival of Pantami who is leading the Nigerian delegation to the event, where the world’s technology leaders, enterprises and start-ups come together to show the future of every business and industry has cast a blight in Nigeria’s quest to be among countries using IT to create wealth for the citizens.

Prompt News reports that African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda, Egypt, Morocco among others were on ground at GITEX Tech Week 2021 Dubai on the opening day of the most important week in the annual tech calendar and a must-attend, world-class event located in Dubai.

Although the Minister’s arrival in Dubai was said to have been delayed due to flight difficulties from Nigeria to Dubai, there are indications that he may still attend the once-a-year mega IT exhibition where the latest IT are showcased even as it was gathered that Nigeria planned to have a Pavilion that will offer visitors the chance to experience a country with a promising future in IT.

Should Nigeria eventually fails to mount her Pavilion at GITEX Tech Week 2021 Dubai, after the 2020 edition was hosted virtually, country would have suffered a fatal economic blow following the “Cold War” between Nigeria and UAE over Covid-19 Protocols which led the suspension of direct flights from Nigeria to UAE since February 2021.

Recall that Dubai has become a favorite destination of Nigerians both as a final and transit point, due to availability of direct flights operated by Emirates Airline, UAE flagship commercial flights company with its unique services which endeared it to the hearts of many Nigerian passengers especially businessmen and women.

But for nine months now, in early February to be precise, UAE barred passengers from Nigeria from flying into Dubai due to the Nigeria’s government’s refusal to allow the airline conduct the rapid test for Covid-19.

Authorities in Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates had been engaging in diplomatic discussions over issues relating to the rapid COVID-19 tests by Nigerian travellers at the Lagos and Abuja airports before departure which led to a ban on Emirates flights in Nigeria since February.

The ban was later lifted after the airline agreed to stop the rapid antigen tests but on March 15, the Federal Government reintroduced the ban, explaining that Emirates had continued to conduct rapid antigen tests for passengers before departure from Nigeria.

Again, UAE-owned airlines announced its resumption of international flights to and from Nigeria in June after the Gulf nation finally removed Nigeria from her Red List countries that do not require rapid Covid-19 Protocols but Nigerian government and her relevant agencies like Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Federal Ministry of Aviation are yet to acknowledge or reply official letters written by Emirates Airline requesting for authorization to resume normal flights operation in Nigeria.

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