The United Arab Emirates says issuance of visas to Nigeria was suspended temporarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic as against speculations of severed bilateral relations between the two countries.

Earlier this week, a graphic from Flyworld travel and tour surfaced on social media, indicating that visa renewal for Nigerians in UAE, approval for permanent residents returning and tourist visas has been stopped.

“All Previously Issued Visa Invalid. All Visas for those presently in Dubai Expires Next week,” the travel agency added.

Social media users, in their reactions, linked the restrictions to the cases involving multi-million-dollar fraudsters, Ramon Abbas and Olalekan Ponle, the two Nigerians who were nabbed in Dubai in June.

Popularly addressed as Hushpuppi and Woodberry respectively, the duo has been extradited to the U.S. and are facing charges bordering wire fraud.

However, in response to the recent social media reports, the UAE embassy in Nigeria said the restriction was in line with the COVID-19 protocols.

“In an affirmation of the growing bilateral relations between the two friendly countries, the UAE Embassy in Abuja denies the accuracy of the information contained in these reports,” the statement shared via its verified Twitter handle read.

“At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE took a number of precautionary measures to combat the virus’ spread, including the temporary suspension on issuing UAE visas for all nationalities as of March 17, 2020.

After entering the recovery phase of the pandemic, the UAE eased some measures on July 7, permitting visitors from various countries to adhere to the necessary precautionary measures, including by showing negative PCR test results within 92 hours of travelling to the UAE. This includes those visiting from Nigeria.”

The embassy noted that the travel between the UAE and Nigeria has remained limited due to the closure of Nigerian airspace.

“… the UAE Embassy in Abuja continues to work closely with the Nigerian Government to obtain the necessary approvals to facilitate travel between the two countries,” it stated.

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