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Senate to broker peace in Nigeria UAE row, Reps races to stop deportations


The Senate has resolved to broker peace in the diplomatic row between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The decision was reached following a Point of Order by Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, during plenary.

Abaribe, who relied on Orders 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules, recalled that in December 2020, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Nigeria and the UAE to provide a platform for bilateral engagements.

Giving insight into circumstances surrounding the disagreement, the lawmaker said in February 2021, the Federal Government stopped the UAE national carrier, Emirates Airline, from subjecting Nigerian travellers to additional (COVID-19) rapid antigen tests, as against its stipulated negative PCR tests at the Lagos and Abuja airports before departure.

According to Abaribe, Emirates Airline, thereafter, shut down flights to and from Nigeria. He said after an interface between authorities of the aviation ministry and Emirates Airline, flights resumed but the Asian airline continued to conduct tests on passengers before departure from Nigeria, a development the Federal Government frowned on and consequently suspended the airline from flying to and from Nigeria.

Abaribe also raised concern over allegations that hundreds of Nigerians living legally in the UAE were losing their jobs on account of refusal by the authorities to renew their work permits.

Stressing that this “offends the letters of bilateral agreements, which both nations are signatory to”, He said: “There are speculations that refusal by the UAE to renew work permits for Nigerians is a calculated attempt to pressure the Nigerian government into accepting the conditions of service of its national airline that may have lost humongous revenue from the Nigeria route.

“If the Nigerian government does not urgently engage the authorities of the UAE, thousands of Nigerians living and working will lose their jobs and means of livelihood, hence the need for a quick interface with the authorities of the UAE.”

The upper chamber, therefore, mandated the Senate Committees on Foreign Affairs and Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to interface with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and National Intelligence Agency on best ways to resolve the crisis and report back to the Senate within two weeks.

Similarly, the House of Representatives expressed concern over planned deportation of Nigerians in the UAE, even as it urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant agencies to liaise with the Arab nation to resolve the issue.

At resumption of plenary, yesterday, Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, in a motion of urgent public importance, wondered why Ghana would be granted visa free entry into the UAE while Nigerians find it difficult to access the country even with genuine visas.

This came as the House of Representatives approved $16,230,077,718 and €1.020 billion for the 2018-2020 external borrowing plan as requested by President Muhammadu Buhari.

It also approved the grant component of $125 million under the 2018-2020 external borrowing (rolling) plan. This was sequel to the adoption of the recommendations of the Committee on Aids, Loans and Debt Management.

Of the $16.230 billion, the World Bank is to provide $3,529,300,000; China EXIM Bank, $5,078,441,252; Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, $3,902,267,260; China Development Bank, $2,893,693,930; European ECA/KFW/IPEX/AFC, $190,255,276; Standard Chartered Bank/Sinocure, $62,120,000 while Africa Development Bank (AFDB) is to provide $698,500,000.

Of the €1.020 billion, the French Development Agency (AFD) is to provide €345,000,000; European Investment Bank, €175,000,000, while the International Capital Market is to provide €500,000,000.

MEANWHILE, Senate has passed a bill that aims to provide legal framework for the administration of Nigeria’s territorial sea and offshore activities.

The bill, which scaled third reading, is for “an Act to Repeal the Exclusive Economic Zone Act 2004 and the Territorial Waters Act 2004, and Enact the Nigerian Maritime Zone Act to Provide for Maritime Zones in Nigeria”.

Passage of the bill, sponsored by Senator George Thompson Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East), followed the consideration of a report on it by the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.

Chairman of the Committee, Opeyemi Bamidele, in his presentation, said the bill seeks to streamline all national laws and efforts in line with global best practices in other jurisdictions and provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

He said the legislation passed by the chamber sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas should be carried out.

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