By Garba Shehu
The visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) starting on Thursday by President Muhammadu Buhari signifies the importance attached to Nigeria’s ties with the prosperous Arab nation.
President Buhari will be meeting the new President of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to convey his condolences on the passing of the former president and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, His Highness, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The President will also be congratulating Sheik Mohammed on his emergence as the new ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE.
It must be said that Sheikh Mohammed’s emergence, much as it was expected following his brother’s death, his election by the Federal Supreme Council on 14 May 2022 came with a resounding vote of confidence by the rulers of the seven Emirates making up the UAE.
Although the constitution says that any of the seven Emirs could have been elected as President, it didn’t take their meeting five minutes to arrive at a unanimous decision in favour of the then Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
For the past few years, precisely with the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency in 2015, the long-standing commercial ties between Nigeria and UAE have transformed from, basically a relationship between friendly states, to one exploding fully to that of allies and in so short a period, forming one of the strong pillars of our strategic partnerships.
This it must be said, is owed primarily to the personal chemistry of the two leaders, Muhammadu Buhari and the then Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed, now ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE. The very high regards in which their government holds our President has led to the strengthening of institutional relationships and with that, a growing bond of ties between the leaders and the citizens.
With government-to-government relations at their optimal levels, this has led to better and more impactful government-to-business and business-to-business relationships.
To show how serious this is taken by the administration, the President followed up his participation at the last UAE Investment Summit with the setting up of a committee under Professor Ibrahim Gambari, the Chief of Staff, to follow up on all the lines of engagement.
Much earlier than this, relations between the two leaders had opened the door to the conclusion of discussions, and the signing of nine solid bilateral agreements and Memoranda of Understanding, MOUs.
Agreements and MOUs are the tokens in international relations that speak to the state of actual relations.
Before the coming of this administration, there hadn’t existed one signed agreement or MOU between the two states.
Barring any serious delays following the 40-day mourning period already declared, the UAE is expected to host the next round of the Nigeria-UAE Joint Commission, in June or July at which event eight more agreements, now being worked upon will hopefully be ready for signature.
Nigeria has very strong economic and defense ties with the UAE.
The countries, which are trying to strengthen their post-COVID recovery, are banking on strategic partnerships to further commercial ties.
UAE which is today a recognized financial and manufacturing hub and has shown, to our admiration, a remarkable willingness for energizing our industry to industry cooperation, which will help strengthen the post-COVID economic recovery in both countries.
Sheikh Mohammed is once credited with a statement, saying that “security in Nigeria means security for Africa. If there is no security in Nigeria, we cannot say there is security in Africa.”
Flowing from this, they have helped us to curb illicit financial flows to the Boko Haram terrorist organization. Also ongoing are military procurements and supply to the Nigerian Armed Forces of seriously needed hardware.
A few weeks ago, a brand new warship for the Nigerian Navy was commissioned in Dubai and has set sail to Nigeria. The Nigerian Army just procured 100 Mine Resistant Armoured Personal Carriers (MRAPS) from the UAE.
As the President interfaces with these leaders, it is expected that issues of regional and global importance would come up but I must restate that the main focus of this visit is to condole the government and the people of the UAE and to welcome the new Ruler and President.
Assuredly, this visit will boost the friendship between Nigeria and the UAE. An early engagement with new leadership in the UAE, within a few days of its fully coming on board, will be helpful to identify their priorities for the medium and long term.