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Senate Wades Into Diplomatic Row Between Nigeria, UAE

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Wednesday, November 17th, 2021
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The Senate Tuesday resolved to intervene in the diplomatic row between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) following disagreements between both countries.

This is just as the Red Chamber passed a bill providing legal framework for the administration of the country’s territorial sea and offshore activities.

Senate’s decision to wade into the face-off between Nigeria and UAE was sequel to a point of order raised at plenary by Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe.

Abaribe, while relying on Orders 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules recalled that in December 2020, a memorandum of understanding was executed between Nigeria and the UAE to provide a platform for both countries to engage each other bilaterally.

Giving insight into the circumstances surrounding the disagreement between both countries, the lawmaker noted that in February 2021, the federal government of Nigeria stopped the UAE national carrier, emirates airline from subjecting Nigerian travellers to additional rapid antigen tests as against its stipulated negative PCR test at the Lagos and Abuja airports before departure.

According to Abaribe, Emirates airline then shut down flights to and from Nigeria owing to the disagreement between the airline and the aviation authorities on the propriety of subjecting passengers travelling from Nigeria to emergency COVID-19 protocols.

He, however, said after an interface between the authorities of the aviation ministry and Emirates airline, flights resumed but the Emirates airline continued to conduct tests for passengers before departure from Nigeria, a development the federal government frowned at and thus suspended the airline from flying to and from Nigeria.

Abaribe further expressed concern that, “there are allegations that hundreds of legal resident Nigeria living in UAE are losing their jobs on account of the refusal of the authorities to renew their work permit which offends the letters of bilateral agreements which both nations are signatory to.

“Worried that there are speculations that the refusal by the UAE authorities to renew work permit for Nigerians living in there is a Calculated attempt to pressure the Nigerian Government into accepting their conditions of service for their national airline that may have lost humongous revenue from the Nigeria route.

“Further worried that 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.”

Accordingly, the upper chamber in a resolution mandated the Senate Committees on Foreign Affairs, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 and national security and intelligence and Interior (Immigration Service), respectively, to interface with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on best ways of resolving this crisis and report back to the Senate within two weeks.

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

The bill which scaled third reading and tagged: “A Bill 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.” was sponsored by Senator George Thompson Sekibo.

The passage of the bill followed the consideration of a report on the bill presented by the Chairman of Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, who 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.

According to him, the legislation, sets out the legal framework, within which all activities in the oceans and seas should be carried out.

He noted that Nigeria has vast resources from the ocean, which include oil and gas, fish and fisheries resources, minerals, placer deposits, salt, renewable energy resources amongst others, hence the need for such legislation.

Bamidele stated that stakeholders at a public hearing on the bill, posited that the Territorial Sea, in addition to the Internal Waters, is a zone within which Nigeria enjoys sovereignty.

He, therefore, emphasized that the legal nature of the maritime zone is relevant and sacrosanct to the negotiation process of the establishment of maritime boundaries.

The ranking Senator noted that recent events with neighbouring states have brought to the fore, the seeming shortcomings of Nigeria’s policy on the ocean, which is not consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“These obvious shortcomings have made it imperative for us to review our maritime zone legislation, and the underlying policy to enable Nigeria to advance its argument for the ‘Extended Continental Shelf’ claim and effective management of the coastal and ocean environment”, he said.

Accordingly, the bill under Part VI provides for the prosecution of offences at the instance of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

In clause 18, it provides that where a person is found guilty of any offence committed in Artificial Island, Installation or Structure, he shall upon conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or a fine of N3 million naira or both.

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