Much ado about blanket visa ban by UAE

This week, President Muhammadu Buhari called for the lifting of the blanket visa ban clamped down on Nigerians by the Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Recently, the United Arab Emirates immigration department notified its trade partners and travel agencies that it was stopping visa applications from 22 countries, 20 of which are African nations.

Nigeria featured on the list of countries affected by the visa ban. Others include Uganda, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Liberia, Burundi, Republic of Guinea, Gambia, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Benin, Ivory Coast, Congo, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Comoros and the Dominican Republic.
The ban was announced in a statement issued by the UAE immigration authorities to its trade partners in Nigeria, including travel agencies.

The Dubai authorities announced that all applications were halted until problems between the governments of the UAE and Nigeria are resolved.

“All Dubai applications submitted are now rejected.” The statement said. “It is general for Nigerians and approvals are on hold at the moment.”
President Buhari made the call during a telephone conversation he had with the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who doubles as the Emir of Abu Dhabi.

Buhari had, actually, called Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to condole with him on the death of his mother-in-law, Sheikha Maryam Al Falasi, during which important issues of mutual concern between the two countries came up.

Of course, considering the level of trade between the two countries, the President was right to have requested his UAE counterpart to review the blanket visa ban imposed on Nigerians intending to travel to the UAE.

Rightly, too, the President pointed to the mutually beneficial and excellent relations existing between the two nations for many years, symbolised by robust economic interactions and regular consultations on matters of common interest, including engagements at the highest political levels.

He said recent irritants in bilateral relations generated by consular issues relating to the behaviour of some Nigerians in the UAE are being ironed out, explaining that no country will condone criminalities and illegal behaviours.
Although this round of visa ban is not peculiar to Nigeria, many people believe that it cannot be separated from the recent diplomatic standoff between the oil-rich Gulf state and Africa’s most populous country. Yet, the question remains: How will the conflict benefit the two countries?
In August 2021, a viral message on Twitter showed how some Nigerians were held against their wish and maltreated at a Dubai airport, in spite of carrying valid travel documents.

The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) said it might not be unrelated with the violation of new visa rules by some Nigerians in Dubai, prompting the government to evacuate over 500 citizens stranded in the UAE.
Indeed, some Nigerians have been suspected to be engaged in criminal activities such as cybercrime. This has led to new visa rules including age restriction and a visa regime that focused on family.

Still, it can be said that the visa ban, in spite of its promise to stem tide of criminality, should not be pursued ahead of the apparent economic advantages, especially in times of unrestricted movement of citizens within the two countris.
Thus, an amicable and permanent diplomatic solution should be sought by the two countries to end the visa row. The UAE and Nigeria should be mindful of their mutually beneficial relationship.
After all, the aviation industry alone moves over 1,000 Dubai-bound passengers daily, making the Nigerian aviation market in that route crucial.
And because of the businesses engaged in by citizens of the the countries, there are many Nigerians who go about their legitimate businesses in Sharjah, Dubai and other parts of the UAE. It will be unfair of UAE to be insensitive to their situation.
An outright and blanket visa ban, for any reason, is going to be counterproductive for the two countries in the long run.
Again, the visa row between Nigeria and the UAE is a source of discomfort for Nigerian students in the UAE, a country where Nigeria has a vibrant and lawful student population.

Indeed, thousands of Nigerians go to the UAE annually for leisure, medical tourism, education and business. Dubai is also a huge property investment destination for rich Nigerians.

It is estimated that airlines operating between Nigeria and the UAE have lost billions of Naira since when the UAE government started to stop flights from Nigeria.
With an estimated population of between 50,000 and 100,000 Nigerians living in the UAE, many believe that the country’s new visa regime, which prohibits Nigerians from being provided with a work permit, violates international conventions.
Therefore, in the interest of the two countries, a lasting diplomatic solution should be pursued on the salient issues of immigration and airline operations.
Thankfully, the President has expressed the readiness of Nigeria to apply necessary sanctions through appropriate judicial process against anyone identified to have committed criminal acts in the UAE.

Crucially, also, the President called for the issue to be handled by the relevant security/intelligence agencies of the two countries and come up with lasting solutions to the problems associated with criminalities and illegalities.
In agreeing with the President, the suspension of the operations of the Emirates Airline in the country should be lifted.
The Emirates Airline had suspended its operations in Nigeria in 2022 in the wake of its inability to repatriate funds trapped in Nigeria.
To demonstrate the good faith of Nigeria to resolving the matter, it is important to commend President Buhari for telling his UAE counterpart that the issue of the Emirates Airline funds will soon be resolved.
Significantly, the President should be praised for directing the Central Bank of Nigeria to increase foreign exchange allocation to the airline.

Dr Muhammad Ali Pate, the incoming GAVI CEO

President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday congratulated Dr Muhammad Ali Pate after he has emerged as the Chief Executive Officer of the Gavi Vaccine Alliance.
A proven global health leader with experience at the national and international levels, Dr Pate will lead Gavi as it continues its work to support routine immunisation, outbreak response and COVID-19 vaccinations around the world.
Dr Muhammad Ali Pate, who was selected following a yearlong recruitment process personally overseen by the Chair of the Gavi Board, Professor José Manuel Barroso, will bring a wealth of experience to the role.

A medical doctor trained in both internal medicine and infectious diseases, with an MBA from Duke University in the United States, Dr Pate served as Nigeria’s minister of state for health between 2011 and 2013.

In this role, he led a flagship initiative to revive routine vaccinations and primary health care, chaired a presidential taskforce to eradicate polio and introduced new vaccines into the country.

While serving as Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population of the World Bank and Director of the Global Financing Facility at the World Bank between 2019 and 2021, he led the bank’s $18 billion COVID-19 global health response and represented the bank on various boards including those of Gavi, the Global Fund, CEPI and UNAIDS.

He is currently the Julio Frenk Professor of Public Health Leadership at Harvard Chan School of Public Health and has served on several health-focused boards and expert panels in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors during his career.

Dr Pate will assume his new role on August 3, 2023, replacing Dr Seth Berkley, who will step down after 12 years.
The President said he looks forward to working closely with Pate, a Nigerian, to strengthen the nation’s health system and on other global health issues.
The President described Dr Pate’s rise across racial and other barriers to become the first black/African to lead Gavi as a very important historical moment for Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
“Our hope is that Dr Pate will bring his knowledge, expertise and very rich experience in the administration of vaccines and immunisation in Nigeria and many parts of Africa to increase access to vaccines to further reduce the disturbing levels of child mortality on the continent and all over the world as his job requires,” he said. “Congratulations, Nigeria is proud of your achievements.”