PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI’S OFFICIAL VISIT TO UAE:THE MAJOR TAKEAWAYS. By Garba Shehu

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari spent the
first three days of this week visiting the United
Arab Emirates, UAE, the first by a Nigerian
leader since the establishment of diplomatic
relations between the two states in the early
80s.
The high-level visit to the world’s second
largest Arab economy marked an indication of
the strengthening of relations between this
country and Middle-East after many years this
being in the back burner.
As part of his visit, President Buhari held talks
with the effective head of the government, His
Highness Sheikh Muhammad Bin Zayad Al-
Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and
Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the UAE armed
forces. Apart from the bilateral talks at which
critical issues such as trade, investment,
security, war against corruption and energy
were discussed, the President participated in
the World Future Energy Summit, itself
dominated by climate change and energy
issues. The visit was also packed with a wide
range of business meetings with business
leaders in the UAE to attract investments
leading to jobs creation and the larger goal of
economic development in Nigeria.
On Tuesday before his departure home, the
President addressed a group of African
Ambassadors, had a session with Nigerian
professionals before meeting a larger group
made up of members of the Nigerian
Community in the UAE.
At the meeting with the Nigerians in that
country, President gave a resounding off-the –
cuff speech in which he addressed the major
issues of security, trade, war against
corruption, challenges in foreign exchange
transfers as part of the larger issues affecting
the economy and as to be expected,
employment and opportunities for diasporas
back at home.
When he ended his speech, the highly
impacted audience members rose to their feet
to give him a standing ovation.
The high point of the President’s visit was the
signing of a wide range of agreements. These
agreements are the first by the Buhari
administration since it came into office and
are on the threshold of the major policies of
government, namely security, economy and
corruption.
It is noteworthy that in the nearly-thirty years
of the existing relations between Nigeria and
the UAE, only three Memoranda of
Understanding, MOUs were signed at various
times in the past. This was the first time an
agreement was signed and it is historically
important that there were six of such
agreements put on the table from the start.
Four of these are agreements on Mutual Legal
Assistance, MLA and the balance of two,
relating to trade and investment.
The one that immediately caught public
attention is the agreement on criminal matters
to facilitate ” the widest measure of Mutual
Legal Assistance” to improve the effectiveness
of both countries in the investigation and
prosecution of crime, and the confiscation of
criminal proceeds.
Under this agreement, proceeds of crime were
defined to include “any assets derived or
realized, directly and indirectly, by any person
as a result of criminal conduct or the value of
any asset, “asset” itself defined as ” money
and all kinds of moveable or immovable or
tangible or intangible property, and include
any interest on such property.”
With this milestone agreement, it is expected
that stolen assets such as the ones by a
high-profile banker who was jailed by the
EFCC a few years ago, estimated in billions of
Naira in real estate and shares held in Dubai
may be returned to Nigeria. Now, there is a
legal basis to ask for the return of such
assets.
The second MLA on criminal matters, which is
equally expected to bolster President
Muhammadu Buhari’s war against corruption
is the agreement on extradition between the
two states.
By this, each of the states has agreed to
“extradite to the other,” upon request and
subject to the provisions of the agreement
“any person who is found in the territory of the
Requested Party(say UAE) and is wanted in
the Requesting Party (say Nigeria) for any
prosecution or trial or execution of a sentence
in respect of an extraditable offense committed
within the jurisdiction of the Requesting
Party.”
The agreement defines extraditable offenses as
those that are punishable under the laws of
both countries by a term of imprisonment of
not less than two years “or by a more severe
penalty.”
The third MLA is to facilitate the rehabilitation
and reintegration of sentenced persons into
society through giving them the opportunity to
serve their sentence in their own countries.
The last of the four Mutual Legal Agreements
deals with civil and commercial matters.
By this, each of the two states shall grant
each other support in the service of summons
and other judicial documents or processes;
taking of evidence and in the execution of
decrees, settlements and arbitral awards.
It is important to note that this agreement will
apply to any civil or commercial matter before
or after the signing of this agreement.
The two other agreements are for the
reciprocal promotion and protection of
investments and for the avoidance of double
taxation. These ones were drawn to intensify
economic cooperation between Nigeria and
the UAE and to create conditions conducive to
investments by nationals and companies of
both countries.
These last two agreements are critical to the
success of the economic side of the visit.
The Crown Prince and some of the business
leaders the President met had shown an
effusive determination to place investments in
Nigeria. However, by their investment
tradition, the UAE does not invest in a country
with which they don’t have a protection
agreement. This is what was just signed.
With an eye on UAE’s outsized Sovereign
Wealth Fund, officially put at USD 800 billion
(but unofficially at over three trillion Dollars),
Nigerian officials are eager to start work on
the expansion of economic cooperation
between the two states.
On the security front, President Buhari and the
Crown Prince discussed a range of regional
and global issues. The UAE has agreed to
assist Nigeria in the war against Boko Haram
terrorism and in the rehabilitation of the
damaged, North-East subregion of the
country. They are sending an assessment
team of the Emirates Red Crescent to the
affected areas to find out precisely what is
most needed for that country’s intervention.
A two-man, high-level committee was set up
by the two countries to coordinate the
incoming support for the North-East. The
contact person for Nigeria is General
Babagana Munguno, the National Security
Adviser. His UAE counterpart is the Group CEO
of the conglomerate Mubadalah. The two
would be meeting every three months to
review progress in this effort.
While both countries left off to further
scrutinize the signed agreements in case there
are areas to be amended, there is also the
indication that a number of other agreements
are in the pipeline to strengthen security and
economic cooperation between the two. The
country which parades two of the world’s most
successful airlines, the Emirates and Etihad is
interested in assisting Nigeria restart a
national airline.
Another of these upcoming agreements will
lead to the opening of the UAE market for
Nigerian exports. The one being worked on
security cooperation is to bind the ministries
of interior to information sharing to fight
corruption and terrorism.
The two leaders also emphasized their
cooperation on climate change and energy
issues. By this, it is expected that the UAE will
key into the President’s plan to boost access
to electricity by tapping into the abundant
renewable energy resources available to this
country. The UAE has built a whole city that
relies on solar energy that is reportedly
carbon-free. Climate change is a major topic
of concern to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Another line of discussion between the two
states will feature plans on the regeneration of
the Lake Chad, to reduce poverty in the region
and cut African emigration to Europe.
In the assessment of officials on both sides,
the visit scored big on issues of security,
environment, trade and investment and the
war against corruption.
The President was accompanied on the
delegation by the NSA and the ministers of
Finance, Justice, Foreign Affairs, Trade and
Investment, Environment, State Minister
Petroleum and that of Works, Power and
Housing.

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