Nigeria’s billionaire Chairman of Geregu Power Plc. and Director, FBN Holdings Plc., Mr. Femi Otedola, has hailed President Bola Tinubu for resolving the dispute between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which had led to visa ban on Nigerians and withdrawal of both Etihad and Emirates airlines from flying in and out of Nigeria.
The resolution of the dispute followed Tinubu’s visit to the UAE president and subsequent negotiations, which led to the lifting of the visa ban and announcement of immediate resumption of air flights.
In a statement on Tuesday, Otedola hailed Tinubu for restoring the long standoff between the two countries.
Relations between Nigeria and UAE went sour under the Immediate past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Otedola expressed optimism that Nigeria would regain its pride of place in the comity of nations.
He stated, “We must all commend Mr President for his shrewd diplomacy to finally resolve this matter inherited from the last administration. Only a leader who understands the importance of business would appreciate the enormous opportunities to be derived from restoring business relations between both countries.”
Otedola also commended Tinubu for his bold economic policies aimed at repositioning the country.
He said, “It must be pointed out that his bold policies since assuming office are the hallmark of a true leader who is not afraid or shy to take actions as long as such actions are in the national interest. Without a doubt, the current hardship will ease once these policies begin to bear fruit. I firmly believe the right measures are being taken and we are headed in the right direction.”
Otedola promised to invest more of his wealth in Nigeria following the deft moves by Tinubu since he assumed office, which had helped in restoring confidence in the management of the national economy.
“Asiwaju Tinubu is working, Nigeria will work. I advise my fellow countrymen and women to be patient,” Otedola said.
He added, “With Asiwaju’s policies, Nigeria will fully recover in a few years. We are witnessing the storm before the calm. Now, the storm is blowing away. I am certain, very soon, we’ll begin to experience the inevitable calm and the progress that will naturally follow in a very short while.
Otedola stated further regarding the announcement of restoration of visa services and flights, “One of the understated benefits of this announcement is its potential ability to transform the stock exchange. Middle Eastern investors remain one of the most liquid across the globe and it has been a shame that outside of a few investments in Dangote Cement and Ecobank Transnational Incorporated, Nigeria has not been able to attract capital from those regions.”
Otedola pointed out that ordinary Nigerians, who had wanted to travel to UAE for business and leisure, would benefit from the resolution of the crisis. He said tourists from Nigeria now had wider choices to make, stressing the need to appreciate Tinubu for the quality of leadership and courage he has demonstrated since May 29, 2023.
He said, “Indeed, Asiwaju has demonstrated leadership and the difference in his style of leadership is like night and day. Tinubu is leading from the front and his economic diplomacy, which we pray he sustains, is going to drastically change the image of the country, unlock foreign investments into the country, and improve Nigeria’s perception internationally.
“We must all join hands to support this administration and we must all start seeing things beyond our differences. Nigeria badly needs foreign exchange and this move by the president will help improve forex inflows into the country. It is worthy of commendation.”
Tinubu and his UAE counterpart, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, met in Abu Dhabi on Monday, and sealed a historic agreement, which resulted in the cessation of the visa ban placed on Nigerian travellers.
Following the agreement also, both Etihad Airlines and Emirates Airlines were to immediately resume flight schedules into and out of Nigeria.
A statement by Tinuby’s spokesperson, Ajuri Ngelale, said following discussions between Tinubu and the UAE leader, there would be immediate restoration of flight activity through the two airlines and between the two countries. But, it did not involve any immediate payment by the Nigerian government.
Ngelale stated that in recognition of Tinubu’s economic development diplomacy drive and proposals presented by the president to his UAE counterpart, an agreed framework was established, which would involve several billions of United States dollars’ worth of new investments into the Nigerian economy across multiple sectors, including defence, agriculture and others, by the investment arms of the government of UAE.
Tinubu also successfully negotiated a joint new foreign exchange (forex) liquidity programme between the two governments, details of which would be announced in the coming weeks.
UAE had in October banned nationals of some 20 African countries, including Nigeria, from entering its city, Dubai.
Similarly, last December, Emirates Airlines suspended flight operations to Nigeria over its inability to repatriate blocked funds, which was then estimated at $85 million. The sour relations between both countries had earlier seen Emirates Airlines suspending its operations to Nigeria on December 13, 2021, in reaction to the Nigerian federal government’s withdrawal of its flight frequencies, except one, to Nigeria.
However, UAE was the first to reduce Air Peace request for three weekly flights to one, and had claimed it did not have enough slots for the airline.