Why UAE over-celebrated Nigeria’s 60th anniversary

October 2, 2020
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While Nigeria had a low-key 60th anniversary with pockets of protests and curfews in many states across the nation on October 1, some countries and world citizens have had reason to congratulate, with fanfares, the earth’s most populous black nation.

The United Arab Emirate took the celebration more seriously. It not only congratulated Nigeria, it also displayed a neon-bright green-white-green flag of Nigeria on Dubai’s 555-metre-tall Burj Khalifa hotel.

“Happy 60th Independence Day #Nigeria! Congratulations to the leadership, government and good people of Nigeria on this occasion,” Fahad Al Taffaq, UAE’s ambassador to Nigeria, tweeted October 1.

“Nigeria’s Flag was featured today on #BurjKhalifa to celebrate our growing relations.”

The UAE-Nigerian diplomatic relations have basically revolved around only bilateral trades, and cooperation in checking illicit financial outflow from Nigeria.

“As of 2018 the total volume of non-oil bilateral trade between the UAE and Nigeria stands at $1.5bn,” said Tafaqq last year during UAE’s anniversary.

With its seven emirates unified in 1971, the UAE, now 49 years since independence, have been the centre of excellence in business and social infrastructure, thereby attracting all sorts, including corrupt politically exposed people in Nigeria.

No fewer than 800 properties were traced to Nigerian PEPs or their family members, associates, and suspected proxies in a 2020 report by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

And following a pact President Muhammadu Buhari made with the UAE in 2016, the emirates are now working with Nigeria to recover these and other illicit wealth.

The two countries have also had their diplomatic spat. Which is why the UAE high-octane celebration of Nigeria’s independence seems more of a tact to restore diplomatic warmth than zero-sum international relations.

Recently, the UAE made visa application a lot more difficult for Nigerians travelling there. And Nigeria, by way of reciprocation, suspended Emirates Airlines operation Nigeria.

But both countries have made effort to restore cordiality. The airline suspension has been lifted as UAE also relaxes its visa application.

The Burj Khalifa glow on October 1 might, after al,l be a matter of UAE’s national interest.

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