The visa restriction imposed on Nigerians below 40 years, by the authorities of the United Arab Emirate (UAE) has put businessmen from Nigeria on edge.
While it is still early to determine the long-term effect of the restriction, it is sending a shockwave through many businesses that rely on Dubai’s supplies.
Many of the affected businessmen interviewed by Daily Trust Saturday said that because of the action of the UAE government, they were contemplating diverting their businesses to China.
It is said that the restriction was as a result of various alleged cult clashes, crimes and other anti-social behaviours of many Nigerians in Dubai.
A video from one of the incidents in Sharjah on July 19, 2022, showed young men with machetes causing havoc in a neighbourhood at night.
The young men were yelling in an apartment’s parking lot, breaking window glasses of a car, chasing one another and destroying other properties.
Days after the video went viral, the Dubai police announced that they had arrested the suspected hooligans, and warned that the country would not tolerate a breakdown of law and order.
Shortly after the announcement, the UAE government immediately tightened visa regulation for Nigerians travelling into their country.
The visa portal was updated, and there are three new compulsory requirements for Nigerians for all visa applicants. These requirements are to be scanned and uploaded in the visa portal as provided to enable the applicant complete and a submit visa application online.
The three updated requirements are hotel reservation/place of stay in UAE, six-month bank statement and a return flight ticket.
While the UAE government did not state any specific reason for the new requirements, travel experts said the decision was to reduce the influx of persons with criminal intent into the country.
Daily Trust Saturday gathered that the new rule is already causing uneasy calm as many travellers scramble to meet the new requirements.
‘We are diverting businesses to China’
One of the affected businessmen who spoke with Daily Trust Saturday in Abuja on the condition of anonymity said, “These new visa rules have reduced the number of businessmen travelling to Dubai because most of us cannot meet requirements.
“I was in Dubai for the last three weeks. I had to use family visa to access the country, but now, you would not be allowed into the country until they see your family physically and confirm that you followed all the regulations.
“Most of the businessmen going to Dubai are between 30 and 35 years old. My passport is reading 35 years old, but I started going to Dubai for business 10 years back. Since then, I have been importing baby wears nonstop, but I started experiencing shortage of supply from the day Dubai imposed these restrictions.
“A visa we usually got within 24 hours now takes us not less than three weeks, and I have to use family visa, which means another cost of travelling with my wife. At the end of the whole thing you would run at a loss.
“To tell you the truth, I am no longer interested in doing business in Dubai. China is going to open soon and I will divert my business there. Many of us have already made this decision.”
Some use Niger Republic passport
Also, Muhammad Isuhu, who imports fabrics from Dubai to Katsina, said he and his friends were above 40 years but they had been facing visa delay despite providing their statements of account.
He said that to avoid the restrictions, some Nigerian businessmen would now go to Niger Republic to secure visa and travel without difficulty.
“I was advised to cross to Niger Republic and get their passport but I refused because I cannot travel abroad with another country’s passport; my conscience would not allow me to do that. What if something bad happens?
“It happened to one of our friends in China. When he had a minor issue with the Chinese authorities and the Niger Republic Embassy was contacted, they denied his citizenship and asked the authorities to hand him over to them for acquiring their passport illegally,” he said.
He added that in so many ways, the regulations would affect businesses in Nigeria, especially during the ember months.
“From this September, flight tickets and prices of goods in Dubai will start skyrocketing because businessmen rushing to Dubai for less expensive goods have been blocked.
“Hotels, goods and transportation during the ember months will be very expensive because people around the world go there for vacations and tourism.
“Also, internally, we face challenges of supply in terms of machines, raw materials, or finished products are blocked, and you cannot buy things judging by a picture on internet. For instance, for me selling textile materials, if they send me a picture with good designs and colour, how can I feel the texture? There’s no software or technology to make you feel that texture.
“As I am talking to you now, my shoe factory has signed a contract to supply 50,000 pairs of local shoes but the restriction is delaying me. It is actually affecting business interests in Nigeria,” he added.
Abubakar Nasir Sadauki, a Kano-born businessman who presently resides in Dubai, said Nigerians were battling discrimination and difficulty in getting entry visas for those who want to enter the country.
He said this started some months back when the said Nigerians allegedly hit some residents’ vehicles with machetes.
“Since that incident happened, all Nigerians here have been battling a lot of restrictions. They now deny Nigerians visas.
“Now, they have refused to employ Nigerians and they don’t grant us visas. And they have put some very difficult conditions to applicants.
“Some of the conditions include submission of one’s bank statements and some important documents to make sure that one is really a businessman and must be 40 years and above.
“Even after meeting these conditions, one could spend like 10 days before getting it, unlike before that it hardly took more than two days.
“For those of us that are still inside, it is only those that were able to renew their visas before the incident that are still here. We are in a very difficult time here,” he explained.
Similarly, another businessman in Kano, Abdullahi Suyudi, said he used to travel almost on a monthly basis but has not been able to get into the country since the restriction started.
Suyudi, who buys mobile phone accessories from the UAE, said they would have to opt for other countries to keep their businesses flourishing.
“I hardly spent one month without travelling to Dubai, but now, it is almost impossible. We have to either buy directly without going there, or alternatively, buy from other countries, especially China.
“We prefer Dubai products is because they are better and of higher quality than those from other countries.
“This situation has adversely affected our businesses, and by extension, Nigeria’s economy. We do not deserve a general punishment by the atrocity committed by few people among us, who are probably not even businessmen,” Suyudi added.
He appealed to the Nigerian authorities to address the diplomatic row in the interest of the country’s economy.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that Dubai is one of the most frequently visited countries for business and tourism by Nigerians. About 200,000 Nigerians visit the country annually, either for business or tourism.
According to analysts, before now, many Nigerians travelled to Dubai with very relaxed requirements until some Nigerians began to abuse the privilege.
Most of the analysts said the new development was good as it would prevent fraudulent people from tarnishing the image of Nigeria in the Arab country.
The director of research and strategy, Zenith Travels, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, said the UAE could impose any requirement it deemed necessary in the interest of her country and citizens.
He said, “Every country has the right to introduce some consular requirements to protect their citizens by ensuring that only eligible tourists, visitors or businessmen come into their country.
“The UAE has been very relaxed with their visa. It is the most relaxed in Middle East countries. Unfortunately, we have not behaved well. We have abused it. At a time, they stopped single ladies from coming, except they are 40 and above.
“I have no objection to it. It is their country. They need to do what they need to do to safeguard other tourists, apart from Nigerians and ensure that their country is protected.”
Restriction due to abuse of visa process – Travel agents
Speaking to Daily Trust Saturday, the president of NANTA, Mrs Susan Akporiaye, blamed Nigerians for the new requirements, saying the UAE authorities must have changed its entry rules due to abuse of the visa process.
She said although travel agents were not happy with the development, everybody must learn to live by it.
“They must have their reason. It is a diplomatic thing and there is nothing anybody can do about it. We don’t know why they did that. Maybe they are not comfortable with what many Nigerians are doing. Maybe they did it due to an increase in crimes by Nigerians.
“Before then, we learnt that there was a situation where a policeman was killed. I don’t think it is just that one incident. Maybe it is a compilation of different incidents that have been going on. And probably from their investigation (I have not confirmed that), it seems to always be the Nigerian community perpetrating it, according to them. We have not confirmed this. Everything is according to them. They have not officially released any report to the Nigerian police to say that this is the percentage of Nigerians committing crimes.
“But it is a diplomatic thing. Every country has a right to do whatever they want to do, and we cannot question them. Are we happy about it? We are not, but there is nothing we can do about it. It is their country, so they determine how people come into it.
“It is sad, but it is a lesson to us too that when people give us easy access, we should not abuse it. If you abuse the easy access it will be taken away from you and you cannot fault them. You cannot go to another man’s house and determine how he should operate.
“It is a lesson for all of us. And enough of even going to another man’s country. Why don’t we all sit down here and see how to make things better for ourselves? Running away to other people’s country and doing business or for holidays are two different things. I am not saying people should not travel to do business, neither am I saying people should not travel for holidays because if it is just business and holidays, we won’t be where we are now. If it is business you will come back and if it is a holidays you will come back. And there’s absolutely no reason the UAE would change their rules,” she said.
Mrs Akporiaye advised Nigerians visiting Dubai to do the right thing to avoid a situation where the UAE would further tighten the requirements. She said that for those with legitimate businesses to carry out in Dubai, submitting their bank statements for six months should not be a problem.
She said, “The problem is that those who go in the name of business and holidays don’t come back. And it is not only in the UAE but every other country.
“So, there’s really nothing much to say than to just respect their decision. It is not going to be easy but everybody has to adjust. And for those that have legitimate things to go and do, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
The spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mrs Francisca K. Omayuli, also advised Nigerians to be guided by the new regime.
“The attention of the Federal Government of Nigeria has been drawn to a video on the social media, purportedly showing stranded Nigerians who arrived at the airport in Dubai, on August 29, 2022 but were denied entry into the country despite having valid visas.
“The Nigerian Mission in Dubai has clarified that most of the supposedly stranded Nigerians were issued with family visas, only to arrive Dubai without any family member. Consequently, they were denied entry and advised to return to their country and apply for the appropriate visas. However, those persons allowed entry into the country have their family members in the UAE.
“While those who claimed their family members were on another flight were told to wait at the airport pending their arrival,” Omayuli explained.