The Federal Government has confirmed that the United Arab Emirates has conceded seven flight slots to Nigeria’s carrier, Air Peace.
The move, which was confirmed by the Ministry of Aviation on Tuesday, follows the withdrawal of Emirates’ 21-slot winter schedule by the Federal Government owing to what it described as a breach of reciprocity.
The UAE had earlier denied Air Peace flights from operating to Sharjah, near Dubai, three times a week.
It also joined the United Kingdom, Canada, and Argentina in adding Nigeria on its travel red list over cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19.
While the UK has cleared Nigeria and 10 other countries from its red list, the UAE has still maintained the travel restrictions.
The presidential steering committee on COVID-19 has assured Nigerians that the Federal Government is working assiduously to ensure that the flight restrictions are lifted in about a week.
Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, met with representatives of Emirates Airline, the Chairman/CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, and heads of agencies in the aviation sector over the flight flow between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Nigeria.
Others present at the meeting were the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, and his aviation counterpart, Hadi Sirika.
After the meeting which lasted for about three hours behind closed doors, Gbajabiamila told journalists that it was a fruitful deliberation where issues at stake were discussed.
The Speaker said both Nigeria and UAE had good diplomatic relations and that they would not allow the current row to mar the long-standing friendship.
President Muhammadu Buhari Saturday in Dubai declared that Nigeria remains the most viable and attractive investment destination in Africa, adding that the country is on the path of becoming the continent’s leading industrial and trading nation.
Addressing a trade and investment forum at Dubai Expo 2020, organised by the Nigerian Arabian Gulf Chamber of Commerce, Nigeria’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, and the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), the President said Nigeria is reaping from the efforts his administration has made to consciously improve the investment environment.
‘‘Nigeria’s pavilion at the Expo 2020 clearly shows why we remain the most viable and attractive investment destination in Africa. Our location, our natural resources, our population, and our regulations are there for all to see. Nigeria is on its way to become a leading industrial and trading nation in Africa,” special media aide, Femi Adesina quoted Buhari as saying.
‘‘To achieve this, our government focused on policies, projects, and programs that support private sector investors. We introduced numerous fiscal incentives and infrastructure projects aimed at enhancing the viability of investments.
‘‘Despite the adverse global economic environment of recent years, Nigeria’s investment environment has greatly improved both at the national and sub-national levels.’’
The president also assured captains of industry, and entrepreneurs, who have shown interest and commitment to further enhance trade and investment relations with Nigeria, that his administration would continue to work with them to improve the business climate especially as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) comes into full effect.
‘‘Just last month at the Intra Africa Trade fair in Durban, I reminded business leaders that most of Africa’s challenges, whether security, economic or corruption, can be traced to our inability to domesticate the production of our most basic requirements and provide jobs to our teeming and dynamic youth population.
‘‘I am pleased that this Forum focuses on ‘Unveiling Trade and Investment Opportunities in Nigeria,’ and will encourage you all to keep an open mind and look beyond the challenges.
‘‘In this room, we have governors, ministers, and heads of government agencies that can address all your questions and concerns. We are here to support you and I hope you will all take this opportunity to move your investment decisions forward,’’ he said.
The Nigerian leader also used the occasion to express profound gratitude to his hosts, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates and the Emir of Abu Dhabi, for their unwavering commitment to strengthening trade and investment relations between both countries through various initiatives, partnerships, and support.
President Muhammadu Buhari has departed Abuja for Dubai where he is expected to attend the Expo 2020 in the United Arab Emirates.
The Expo 2020 Dubai is aimed at creating an environment for Nigerians to join over 190 countries to forge true and meaningful partnerships.
According to a statement by the president’s spokesman, Femi Adesina on Wednesday, the expo will provide an opportunity for the Nigerian delegation to highlight significant strides in the economy in the last six years as a basis for making the country an important destination for foreign direct investment.
Asides from touring the Nigerian pavilion at the expo on Friday, Nigeria’s national day, the president will also receive in audience prospective investors as well as meet with his highness, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai.
On Saturday, President Buhari will be the special guest of honour at the special trade and investment forum.
Top government officials in the president’s entourage include the ministers of foreign affairs, industry, trade and investment, finance, budget and national planning.
President Buhari is expected back in Abuja on Sunday, December 5.
Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum authorised the use of spying software to hack the phone of his ex-wife, according to a British court ruling published on Wednesday.
The phone of Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, 47, and those of her lawyers and others in her entourage were hacked using Pegasus spyware during the pair’s acrimonious divorce custody case in London, the High Court found.
The 72-year-old sheikh, who is the vice-president and prime minister of the UAE, gave his “express or implied authority” for the phone of Princess Haya to be hacked with the multi-million-pound software only available to national governments, the ruling said.
Presiding judge Andrew McFarlane concluded Sheikh Mohammed was “prepared to use the arm of the state to achieve what he regards as right”, explaining the surveillance of at least six phones was attempted.
“He has harassed and intimidated (her) both before her departure to England and since,” he added.
In March 2020, McFarlane ruled on the balance of probability that the billionaire Emirati sheikh had ordered the abduction of two of his daughters by another marriage and subjected Princess Haya to a campaign of fear.
She was forced to flee to London in 2019 with their two children, Al Jalila, 13, and Zayed, aged nine, as a result.
After Sheikh Mohammed applied for the two children to be returned to the Gulf kingdom, Princess Haya — his sixth wife and a half-sister of Jordan’s King Abdullah II — filed for the children to be made wards of court and requested a non-molestation order for herself.
The use of the Israeli-developed Pegasus software, which can track a person’s location and read texts and emails, was revealed in August 2020 following a tip-off by lawyer Cherie Blair, whose husband is former British prime minister Tony Blair, to the princess’ legal team.
Rights groups have accused software developer NSO of allowing its spyware to facilitate state-sponsored repression after it was used to hack the phones of activists and journalists around the world.
Sheikh Mohammed has denied any knowledge of the hacking but his lawyers suggested another country like Jordan could be responsible in efforts to embarrass him.
He has previously strongly denied the claims made by the princess in the case about their children’s welfare.
Despite a diplomatic row with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – the host country for Expo2020 – over COVID-19 protocols, Nigeria’s pavilion which opened a few days back has started gaining traction.
The country’s pavilion is located in the Opportunity District for the six-month-long exhibition.
Nigeria joins a long list of participating countries that are seeking to make the most of the global event which kicked off on October 1st.
At the Nigerian pavilion, music can be heard by passers-by, while images of different cultural attire are displayed on walls outside it. From Afrobeat star Fela Anikulapo Kuti to Grammy winner Burna Boy, the success stories of Nigeria’s music industry are also on display.
The roof is covered with art by Victor Ehikhamenor. Other arts are also on display; from the ancient to the contemporary, including a life size horse sculpture by Dotun Popo.
A peep into the pavilion reveals different sections promoting opportunities in the creative, agricultural, culture and tourism, sports, and tech sectors. Screens in the pavilion share information about states and sectors in need of investment.
While it is unclear how the country would fare in Expo2020, the exhibition is expected to further open up Nigeria to more investments and bring tourists to the nation.
Before the Expo, Nigeria had a fractured relationship with the UAE. This was after the Middle East nation imposed a ban on transit flights from Nigeria as it battled a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Although the move was reversed in early August, the Federal Government faulted the COVID-19 protocols put in place by the UAE, claiming discriminatory treatment by the UAE.
“The story is they (UAE) have a protocol that discriminates against Nigeria and it was specifically targeted at Nigeria and we said no, and it’s on behalf of the people,” the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika said during a briefing of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 in Abuja on September 14.
“We’ve gone through the ministry of foreign affairs, now we’re been mandated by the task force (PSC) jointly with the foreign affairs to resolve this impasse.
“Nigeria has no issue with the Emirates, but against the preferential treatment.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has called for more investments in Africa, stressing that the continent is in dire need of funding to develop critical sectors.
He made the comment on Wednesday during the Africa-Dubai Business Investment Summit organised by the Africa World Business Centre (AWBC) and Leaders Without Borders.
“I believe that Africa is crying for investments and there can be no better, auspicious period for investment in Africa,” the former Nigerian President added.
“Especially when you take all the things that have been happening in Africa and the world in general; the COVID-19 pandemic, the unpredictability of the situation, almost everywhere in the world and then of course, the uncertainty in the economic arena.”
While noting that in the past, there was limited knowledge about Africa, Obasanjo explained that business interactions between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the continent, should be a two-way thing.
“I would say that there has been substantial, tangible investment in the United Arab Emirates from Africa, particularly in the area of properties,” he said.
According to him, the insufficient knowledge about Africa is impeding the flow of investments into the continent.
He said: “Not sufficient knowledge, not sufficient understanding, not sufficient confidence and that is the reason why I believe that nothing flows in both directions, as it should have been.
“I do believe that Africa has the greatest yield in terms of returns for investment in the world today; but then, how do you get there?”
Obasanjo, who also blamed limited investments on the continent from the UAE on some unscrupulous elements, said such development should not deter investors.
“I believe, in the past, probably some unscrupulous Africans have done what they should not have done or businessmen. Investors in Africa from the United Arab Emirates have met such unscrupulous people; but I do not say that that is limited to Africa. I believe, what I should say now is, what we should all bear in mind is buyer beware,” Obasanjo said.
“There are crooks everywhere but we also have real men and women of integrity (honest and), people that you can do business with, either at individual, at corporate or even at government level. Let us make sure these are the sort of people that we look for, in terms of investment, in terms of doing business.”
He, however, said that with the Africa Continental Free Trade Zone Agreement and other efforts being made by leaders on the continent, investing in Africa will become easier.
“You will not have to think of 55 different custom regulations, 55 different immigration systems and our leaders have moved fast in that direction,” the 84-year-old explained.
“When the treaty was signed, it was this treaty that came into force within the shortest period of time and that is the interest that our leaders have shown. So, the problem of having to deal with 55 different immigration, 55 different custom rules and regulations will soon be a thing of the past.”
It’s been a tough period for many Nigerians living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as they lament the loss of jobs and difficulty in obtaining a work permit.
Bisi Kazeem, one of the affected Nigerians, believes authorities in the Middle East country are punishing them for the sins of a few.
“As far as I’m concerned, I can only say maybe it is one out of 10, or 10 out of 100 Nigerians that are doing the bad things,” he told Channels Television. “Every other person is facing his/her job.”
She continued: “It has not been easy at all. I have been feeding from hand to mouth. Even as I speak, in the next two to three days, the rent here will expire. I don’t even know how I am going to pay the owner.”
Reports of a ban on work permits for Nigerians living in the UAE first surfaced over two months ago.
Since then, hundreds of legitimate workers have lost their jobs, or have been unable to secure new employment. The effect, for most, has been devastating.
“We are starving here,” Azeez Akogun, a technician, said. “We are facing a lot of stress. A lot of people are being frustrated; I am being frustrated. Every day, being at home without any income; so, it’s kind of crazy.”
“I never had any issue with my company,” said Olabanji Folorunsho who is still in shock after he was relieved of his security job. “Not a single warning letter from my company.”
An Attack On Migrants?
Officials at the Nigerian Embassy in the UAE say they are doing everything in their power to resolve the issue, but the question the victims are asking is for how long?
“I am begging them (UAE authorities) to lift the ban so I can continue my job,” a disturbed Kazeem pleaded. “They should just pity we the innocent ones so that in the nearest future, one will not become a destitute or a nuisance in the land of UAE.”
Crime rate is said to have been rising among foreigners in the UAE. Earlier this year, videos surfaced online, showing the aftermath of a violent cultist-related altercation linked to Nigerians – an incident many believe has now led to work restrictions.
Similarly, in February, it was reported online that an Indian was robbed of Rs 55,30,806 by four Nigerian women in Dubai. The 33-year-old man was reportedly lured into a fake massage parlour through a dating app.
Following an investigation, Dubai Police say three women were arrested in Sharjah – a city also in the UAE – in connection with the crime.
Amid concerns raised by law-abiding Nigerians and nationals of other African nations said to have also been affected, the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor and ImpACT International released a joint report on Thursday.
According to the international bodies, the report was compiled based on about 100 interviews with migrant workers from Nigeria, Cameroon, and Uganda, and over 20 of those who spoke confirmed a massive campaign of arrests against African workers in the UAE.
‘They Were Just Laughing At Us’
The workers said the attacks, carried out on June 24 and 25 allegedly by authorities, were planned, targeted, and racially motivated.
At least 800 workers were reportedly taken over the course of two nights, with an unknown number still under detention. Many were said to have been deported despite having valid residence visas and/or work permits.
“I was kidnapped on 25 June at 2am on my bed sleeping,” Melachio Carlos, a Cameroonian who worked as a waiter, was quoted as saying in the 54-page report. “They took me and asked about my ID, passport, valid residency permit, and phone.
“They stole everything in my room. They beat me and took me half-naked, only with my sleeping clothes, to Al Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi. We arrived there and they put us in prison. They also took our wives, some of them were pregnant.”
“They took us to the prison, and when we got there, they did not give sanitary pads for the women who were doing their menstrual cycle,” a Ugandan nanny, Catherine Kuheisa, said. “Blood was running down their legs and when we went to ask for pads, they were just laughing at us.”
The UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) is responsible for issuing work permits to foreigners willing to work in the country.
According to the law of the country – Article 1 of Ministerial Decree No. 766 of 2015, a worker whose employment is terminated due to contract expiration can get a new work permit whenever he/she wishes to join new employment.
The law also allows an employee to get a new work permit for all limited and non-limited contracts if it is determined that the employer has failed to meet the legal and contractual obligations, among other conditions.
In his reaction, the UAE Ambassador in Nigeria, Dr Fahad Obaid Al Taffaq, stated that the said ban is not official and not from UAE authorities.
“From what I believe as an official position from the UAE, the UAE is a very welcoming country. We have no discrimination against any nationality,” Taffaq said in a conversation with the Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
Like many immigrants, Possible Ukaoma arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in search of better opportunities.
After several failed attempts to get into his dream University of Port Harcourt, Possible travelled to the UAE in 2013 where he now works as a security officer.
Eight years after he moved to the UAE, Possible’s impressive display of skills on the piano is winning the hearts of many Dubai residents.
When a fitness expert, who gyms in the same building where Possible works, recorded and sent one of his videos to local media, a new chapter opened up for the husband and father of one.
“When I started going for rounds, to check the places in the building, some guys were going to the gym – they said, ‘Man I saw you. I saw your picture (video). You’re an incredible man’,” the Abia State indigene told Channels Television.
“I was like ‘Are you serious?’ Even that same day, some guys said – ‘Man, I want to take pictures with you’. I felt so special!”
One post on Instagram and Possible’s life story began to change.
“After 5 minutes,” he added, “different messages and calls were coming from different people that had never sent me a message.”
Many who regularly visited Possible’s workplace admitted to having no idea such “talent” existed in the area.
But once the Dubai residents discovered him, “everything stopped”.
“Yeah, I was honestly mesmerized. I’ve been here for two years in this same tower and never did I think that we have this talent here,” said Zaina Jaleel, who was beaming with a smile.
“Just walking past, getting coffee – just full on, everything stopped. You know, it’s breathtaking.”
Possible wishes to get certifications in health and safety, but this may soon change completely as new opportunities in Dubai’s music space open up for the Abia indigene who started playing musical instruments in his father’s church.
“For him, there are two things that he could look at. One is doing sessions for music composers…… that’s one aspect of it. The other aspect is for him to kind of decide about his own music and his voice musically,” the founder of Mango Jam Studio, Wilbur D’Costa said. “So, he could do his own music.”
While Nigerians in the UAE have been linked to several crimes like illegal stay, gang violence, robbery, and prostitution, raising concerns from citizens doing business and working in the Asian nation, Possible is advising his compatriots to shun crime and concentrate on working hard.
“Security is a professional job in Dubai, which everybody will want to pass through,” he said.
A fire that broke out on a container ship in Dubai’s main port following a blast has been bought under control with no casualties reported, the emirate’s media office said Thursday.
At least three residents in the area of the blast, the cause of which remains unknown, reported windows and doors in their homes were shaken as a result of the incident.
“A fire caused by an explosion within a container on board a ship at Jebel Ali Port has been brought under control; no casualties have been reported,” the Dubai Media Office wrote on Twitter.
The post was accompanied by video of firefighters tackling the blaze on a large vessel stacked with containers, identical except for their logos, as the flames scattered detritus over the quayside.
An AFP correspondent at the scene said there was a helicopter circling overhead as smoke rose from the tightly secured facility.
The port is capable of handling aircraft carriers and was the US Navy’s busiest port of call outside of the United States in 2017, according to the US’ Congressional Research Service.
Such events are a rarity in the ultra-secure Gulf emirate, one of seven which make up the wealthy United Arab Emirates.
– ‘Saw the windows shaking’ – “I was outside on my balcony. My friend saw something yellow coming (like) the sun. I took the picture and after (there was) a sound,” said intern Clemence Lefaix, who is staying near the blast site and posted a photo of a bright orange light against the night sky in front of apartment buildings.
A resident of Dubai’s Marina district, close to the Jebel Ali port, told AFP they “saw the windows shaking”.
“I have been living here for 15 years and this is the first time I’ve seen and heard this,” they said.
The port of Jebel Ali handled 14.1 million TEU in 2019, a 5.6 percent decline, but still leaving it among the top 10 globally.
There are 8,000 companies based at the Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA) which contributed a whopping 23 percent of Dubai’s gross domestic product last year. It is the Middle East’s largest trade zone.
The glitzy Gulf emirate of Dubai transformed itself over 50 years from a sleepy port town to a regional travel, trade and financial services centre.
The city state is now home to more than three million people, mostly foreigners, compared with only 15,000 inhabitants in the 1950s.
Unlike Abu Dhabi, the leading member of the UAE that sits on a large wealth of petroleum, Dubai has dwindling oil resources and has worked to develop non-oil industries, diversifying into services.
The United Arab Emirates announced Wednesday it will lift a cap on non-local ownership and allow full foreign control of business ventures from June 1,
The reform, originally flagged in 2019, will make it easier to do business in the Gulf state and encourage investment, the economy ministry said.
“The amended Commercial Companies Law aims at boosting the country’s competitive edge and is a part of UAE government efforts to facilitate doing business,” said Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq al-Marri.
The decision abolishes a longstanding law that limits foreign ownership to just 49 percent.
To dodge the limit, some of the seven emirates that make up the UAE — including Dubai — have for years established free trade zones where foreigners can own up to 100 percent of their business.
The UAE’s economy is the second-largest in the Arab world, behind Saudi Arabia.
It counts as the most diversified, particularly thanks to Dubai which gains 95 percent of its income from outside the oil industry.
The capital Abu Dhabi sits on the majority of the UAE’s vast oil reserves.
The country ranks 16th in the World Bank’s index on the ease of doing business.
The decision opens up 13 major economic sectors to unrestricted foreign investment, including renewable energy, agriculture, transport and e-commerce.
In 2019, the UAE was the top destination for foreign direct investment in the Arab world, attracting nearly $13.8 billion, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).