Following the impasse between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which led to visa restrictions that are affecting businesses, stakeholders have said that the country needs Nigeria as much as Nigeria needs it.
Speaking at the weekend conversation of the LEADERSHIP Twitter Spaces (now X), stakeholders viewed the steps taken by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu concerning the two countries, stating the Middle East country, UAE, has more investment in Nigeria than any other Asian country, insisting that the discussion should be centred around mutual and beneficial relationship.
Even though some stakeholders said that bad behaviour from Nigerians especially in Dubai led to the visa restriction, other noted that some nationals in UAE commit crimes but that their citizens are never treated the way Nigerians are being treated in UAE.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on transit from China met with the UAE President, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi and held bilateral talks last week.
Presidential spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, said UAE had lifted the visa ban placed on Nigerian travellers after the meeting but the UAE authorities failed to corroborate such a deal.
Former minority leader in the Kaduna State House of Assembly, Prof Usman Modibbo, who took time to discuss the coming together of Emirates to form the UAE, said they depend on the influx of other nationals to grow their economy. He added that even though they need to maintain a balance, they need Nigeria as much as Nigeria needs them.
“The relationship between UAE and Nigeria started cordially because Nigerians use Dubai for shopping. Some Nigerians will move there for shopping unlike what was obtained in the 80s and early 90s.
“Muslims that go for lesser Hajj use the Emirates Airlines. So, the UAE is benefiting tremendously from Nigeria. The benefits of a relationship is supposed to be 50-50. But the benefits between Nigeria and UAE is 70-30. They benefit more. The relationship turned sour when some Nigerians there started behaving strangely even though such was from a particular ethnic group.
“Over 400,000 Nigerians were jailed. In 2018, there was a cult clash and most of them were Nigerians. Any black person that commits a crime, they will claim to be Nigerians.
“So, the people going for tourism and other businesses in Dubai were scared. It was a very difficult decision to say they were banning Nigerians because Nigeria is their significant market,” Modibbo said.
According to him, if the impasse is resolved, it will be more beneficial to the UAE.
“Hardly do you find Dubai importing goods from Nigeria. We import from there almost everything. What the UAE should do is to have a strict visa process for people who have business trips.
“The market in Sharjah was like a market in Nigeria where they are dragging customers’ hands and some of them are not used to it. So, on trade balance, UAE benefits more. More Nigerians use Emirates Airline than people in UAE use Nigerian airlines. They should allow Nigerians to enjoy the benefits of being in their country.
“Nigerians were denied work permits and even shelter just because some people’s visas expired and they couldn’t renew. The UAE should renew Nigerians’ work and residency permits.
“The Lagos-Dubai, Abuja-Dubai is one of their lucrative routes. Emirates was given such slots to be flying but they did not reciprocate such a gesture. Air Peace should be allowed to use Dubai as a home. Then the visa ban should also be lifted,” Modibbo added.
On his part, a Nigerian resident in Dubai, Sinwal Mohammed said he had seen all in terms of the problem Nigerians are facing with authorities and individuals in Dubai.
He said some Nigerians are being denied work permits and even houses to rent.
“We in the UAE need them more than how they need. We mostly rely on other Nigerians coming to the UAE. With the visa restriction, Nigerian businesses in the UAE are dying.
“Our problem starts from the embassy because whenever a Nigerian runs to the embassy to complain, the embassy doesn’t give them the needed support.
“When the visa ban was about to be lifted last November, some Nigerians were supposed to be deported but the Nigerian government did not cooperate and these Nigerians went on naked protest which was a strange thing to the UAE authorities.
“So, the government is not sincere on these visa issues because the UAE government is saying the visa ban is still in force.
“The UAE is not quite disturbed with their funds that are trapped here even though they are a capitalist nation but Nigerian businesses are dying in Dubai.
“This move is good because the UAE will listen to their president and I believe before the end of December, the issue will be resolved.”
According to him, over 2,000 Nigerians are in detention in different cities in UAE.
“Nigeria must look at how to repatriate our people back home before the issue is resolved finally,” Simwal said, adding that it is a good thing that President Tinubu commenced the talks.
“But let’s ensure that we protect our people in the UAE,” he added.
Also, the general secretary, Aviation Round Table Initiative, Olumide Ohunayo said it was a good thing that President Tinubu opened talks with the UAE authorities but added that the UAE needs Nigeria more.
“For the President to have stopped in the UAE from India, I think it is a good initiative. UAE has the highest investment than any other Asian country in Nigeria, followed by Singapore.
“But the issue of the Emirates airline, it was Nigeria that invited them. They brought some other airlines and Emirates Airline joined and they benefited from good slots.
“There was an error from the presidential spokesman because the UAE did not come out to talk about visa ban lifting. Nigeria was part of the 22 countries that were restricted from getting visas. While we have investments there in UAE, we also have bad eggs there.
“UAE airlines were given five slots into Nigeria. Air Peace was only given one slot and not to a big city. So, the immediate past minister of Aviation banned the Emirates airline because Air Peace was not given a slot in Dubai.
“Emirates Airline pulled out, not because of the visa ban but because Nigerians wanted payment in Naira, the airline wanted payment in dollars. We want the Nigeria government and the UAE to resolve this issue and let it be mutually beneficial.”
He called for the visa ban to be lifted so that Nigerians can start traveling. “Nigerians in the UAE have visas. But once the visa is not renewed, it becomes illegal. They have not lifted the ban, unlike what the presidential spokesman said. But we want the issue to be resolved.
“Some countries, whenever their nationals travel to other countries, they are given loans and support because the economy will improve. These countries protect their citizens. But we don’t do that in Nigeria,” Ohunayo added.
Also, Mr Onyemaechi Bosah said the meeting between Tinubu and the UAE government was meant to open further discussions on the visa ban.
He said some Nigerians in the UAE do not behaving well there, just like other nationals, but they are given such harsh treatment as Nigerians.
“Nigerians should not be treated badly because of the behaviour of some bad eggs. Everything is still at the discussion stage,” Bosah said.