RingTrue By Yemi Adebowale
I was left depressed by the news that President Tinubu was heading to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from the G-20 summit in India, to lobby President Mohamed Al Nahyan for the removal of a Visa ban placed on Nigerian travellers by the UAE authorities. Unfortunately, it happened. Tinubu landed in the UAE. The Arab country had in October 2022 banned nationals of 20 African countries, including Nigeria, from entrance. In that notice issued to trade partners, including travel agents, the UAE authorities directed that all Visa applications should be rejected from Nigeria and the aforementioned countries.
In February 2023, former President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to Al Nahyan via telephone to lift the Visa ban but he rejected the request. This is a clear case of racism and aspersion casting on an entire continent. What nonsense! What an insult! Who the hell is Al Nahyan and his UAE?
Regrettably, Nigeria is no longer the great country we used to be, no thanks to years of failed leadership and policies. We are no longer the leader of Africa. This UAE rubbish could not have happened to this country during the golden era of our foreign policy. It could not have happened during the superb era of our foreign relations. I’m talking about the 1976-1979 Murtala-Obasanjo era; an era during which the Nigerian government and people enjoyed global respect. If this UAE garbage had happened then, Nigeria would have retaliated with a reciprocal suspension of Visa issuance to UAE citizens.
So, racist UAE suspended Visa issuance to Nigerians and the Nigerian government went begging this disrespectful President Al Nahyan. Yes, it occurred. President Tinubu landed on September 11 in UAE to lobby President Al Nahyan after insulting our entire country with his Visa ban. The Nigerian government went begging instead of retaliating. UAE showed so much disrespect for us as a country and our leader went pleading. So, what has happened to Nigeria’s dignity? This is not the Nigerian leadership of my dream. Leadership has clearly collapsed in this country and it is now affecting Nigeria’s international relations.
Our President came out of the meeting with insolent Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi celebrating; that he had sealed a historic agreement, resulting in an immediate cessation of a Visa ban placed on Nigerians by the UAE authorities; that by the agreement, both Etihad Airlines and Emirates Airlines are to resume flights into and out of Nigeria without delay.
Those leading Nigeria should be ashamed that the UAE authorities did not even acknowledge these so-called agreements announced by our President. In a statement the same day on its website on the outcome of the diplomatic meeting, Emirates News Agency, UAE’s official news agency, did not mention anything about the lifting of the Visa ban on Nigerians as well as flight resumption. The agency only noted that UAE’s president and Tinubu explored opportunities for further bilateral collaboration in areas that served both countries’ sustainable economic growth, including the economic, development, energy, and climate action fields.
Emirates News Agency added, “The two sides also exchanged views on a number of regional and international developments of interest. The meeting discussed the upcoming COP28 climate conference set to take place in the UAE later this year, with both parties stressing the vital importance of encouraging and enabling international cooperation to tackle global issues, including climate change.”
Evidently, there is nothing like “an immediate cessation of a Visa ban placed on Nigerians by the UAE authorities.” There is nothing like “both Etihad Airlines and Emirates Airlines are to resume flights into and out of Nigeria without delay.” The word, “immediate” is an exaggeration by the Nigerian authorities. The arrogant authorities in the UAE have not agreed and will still have to hold further meetings on the issues. That is the meaning of that report released by Emirates News Agency which did not acknowledge any immediate resumption of Visa and flights.
In any case, I don’t think resumption of Visa issuance to Nigerian travellers is of interest to traumatised masses of this country. How would this put food on their table? How will this improve our health, education and roads? This Tinubu Visa drive should not be a priority of a people-oriented government. A good government should improve security and encourage domestic tourism in order to develop our country and reduce pressure on forex.
Government should be involved in an aggressive drive to encourage more Nigerians to spend their holidays at home and motivate them to visit our tourists’ resorts. This idea of promoting UAE Visa is preposterous. It amounts to promoting UAE tourism and trade. Nigerians have been going there to bring in all sorts of useless goods at the expense of our local industries. This also puts pressure on forex.
Those in support of Tinubu’s “begging mission” to the UAE argue that it would help thousands of Nigerians working in that country who urgently need to have the Visa ban lifted. But they forget that Nigerians are trooping to the UAE and jostling for Visas because our beloved country failed to meet their hopes in life. These Nigerians are victims of failed leadership and policies of our country. The rush abroad was not happening in the 60s, 70s and 80s because we had a government, a country and good leadership with good policies. We also had a good economy with strong Naira. This is the path Tinubu should return this country to, so that Nigerians won’t be trooping abroad to become second class citizens. The nature and character of the leadership is pertinent here. Tinubu must be proactive, effective, pro-people, courageous and lead by example. Enough of “begging missions.”
What has this country lost since Emirates and Etihad stopped flying to Nigeria over a year ago? Nothing! These two airlines are only interested in taking away forex from Nigeria. Emirates suspended flight operations to Nigeria over its inability to repatriate $85 million at government subsidised forex rate. Major players like British Airways, Qatar Airways, Air Maroc, Virgin Atlantic, Air France did not suspend flights to Nigeria despite the forex challenges. It was just the avaricious and selfish Emirates and Etihad that pulled out. These shameless exploiters want to be enjoying Nigeria’s subsidised forex while selling tickets to Nigerians at prices far higher than they do in other countries.
Before the crisis, the racist UAE authorities also did everything possible to frustrate the Nigerian airline, Air Peace, that was flying to Dubai using the BASA slots. At a point, it reduced Air Peace’s three weekly flights to one. At another point, it cancelled Air Peace’s approval to land in Dubai and moved the airline to the unattractive Emirate of Sharjah. The Nigerian government did very well then by also withdrawing the approval to Emirates to operate 21 flights to Nigeria following the refusal of the General Civil Aviation Authority of UAE to grant equal rights to Air Peace. The flight allocation crisis was eventually resolved. However, Air Peace was eventually forced out of the UAE by the Visa ban on Nigerians.
Nigerian flag carriers like Air Peace should be protected by a good government. Government should be concerned about our strategic interest in the aviation sector. The return of Emirates and Etihad will not do any good to this interest. The interest of Nigeria’s aviation sector and flag carriers must be served first. The Nigerian state has an obligation to protect our interest, not begging Emirates and Etihad to return. Foreign airlines should not enjoy any special treatment. No serious-minded country does that. Air Peace did not enjoy full BASA rights in the UAE before the crisis. Besides, a country struggling with forex liquidity issues should not be talking about doing business with Emirates and Etihad. They are simply extreme capitalism firms interested only in capital repatriation.
My message to Nigerians today is very simple: Embargo racist and insolent UAE’s tourism, goods, education, hospitals and everything about this country. We must preserve our dignity.
Naja’atu Abdulahi’s Murder and Abducted NYSC Members
For those not following the story, Hajia Naja’atu Abdulahi was the pregnant woman murdered by terrorists in Tsafe Local Government Area of Zamfara State last Sunday. The innocent woman was declared missing by her husband on Thursday, September 7, 2023. She left home to braid her hair in Tsafe town but did not return. Naja’atu was abducted by terrorists on her way home. These bastards roam unhindered in Tsafe in a country supposedly with a government. Her husband and relatives waited patiently for a call from her abductors, who would, as usual, demand ransom.
The demand for ransom did not come. What her husband found was her dead body dumped in a farm behind the College of Health Technology in Tsafe, with many cuts and injuries on her body. The bastards murdered Naja’atu with her unborn baby. This is the tragedy of this country called Nigeria. Daily, scores of people are killed by terrorists in communities across Zamfara State. They control territories, collect taxes and terrify citizens. Those who fail to cooperate with them are summarily murdered. So sad that Nigeria can no longer protect its citizens.
Asking the Nigerian state to ensure that Naja’atu gets justice is a waste of time. As usual, the terrorists will get away with this latest murder. Security agents will pretend as if the murder did not happen. However, one thing is certain: Those who murdered Naja’atu have murdered sleep. They will never sleep again. Naja’atu will get justice in the court of Allah.
On the flip side, the eight young graduates from Akwa Ibom State who were abducted in Zamfara on their way to the Sokoto State National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp are 31 days old in the dungeons of terrorists today. The traumatised parents of the abductees have paid N13 million to the terrorists, yet, they have refused to release these young Nigerians who were on the way to serve their father’s land. As at press time, the terrorists were demanding an additional N200 million ransom to free these young Nigerians.
A family member of one of the abductees remarked: “We don’t know how we are going to raise that kind of money. Everybody was shocked when two parents, who have been in Sokoto State since the incident happened, told us that after they paid the final N8 million (to make up the N13 million ransom negotiated), the terrorists suddenly refused to release our children.”
“They said instead, the kidnappers contacted them to demand an additional N200 million ransom. We have paid N13 million already. First, we paid N5 million, later N8 million. Some parents sold their lands, and some even collected loans to raise the N13 million. We have not received any help from the government. So, how are we going to raise this fresh ransom of N200 million? We have deliberately kept this development from my mother. I don’t think that poor widow will survive if she hears this. We are suffering and helpless.”
The health conditions of the abductees are deteriorating due to the nature of the place they are being held captive, so says another parent. Terrorists molesting our children with impunity! This is heart-wrenching. The terrorists are communicating with the parents and relations of the abductees on phone, yet, security agents can’t tap into this to rescue these young graduates. What a country! I’m challenging Governor Dauda Lawal of Zamfara State to raise his game and lead the mission to rescue these young graduates. They must not die.