United Arab Emirates Photo: Telema

Nation Branding: Nigerians bearing the brunt of negative perception in UAE

*The Government of United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken some ‘drastic measures’, including suspension of the issuance of work permits to Nigerians over crimes committed by a few fellow citizens resident in the Asian country

*I’m incredibly confused. I feel heartbroken, I feel frustrated…. It’s an overwhelming feeling, relates a concerned Nigerian in the foreign land

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

It is all about nation branding, the concept which aims to measure, build and manage the reputation of countries of the world.

Some scholars have defined it as “the application of corporate marketing concepts and techniques to countries, in the interests of enhancing their reputation in international relations.”

Often-labelled wrongly and penalised for crimes committed by a few fellow countrymen, Nigerian professionals and businessmen and women in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are becoming more concerned about the country’s negative perception by the Asian country in recent times.

ConsumerConnect gathered that as the crimes perpetrated by a few Nigerians increase in the Asian country, the UAE Government also has taken some ‘drastic measures’, including suspension of the issuance of work permits to Nigerians.

The mounting and disturbing socio-economic challenge has triggered serious concerns from legitimate Nigerian businessmen and women, and other professionals working in the UAE.

Nigerian flag with Coat of Arms

Those affected by the bad reputation have said that they are being labelled wrongly, and accordingly punished for crimes committed by a few Nigerians resident in the country.

Report quoted certain Olabisi Akinbinu, an educator and one of the many law-abiding residents affected by the suspension feels about the issue, as describing the situation in the UAE as “heartbroken”.

Akinbinu said the moves by the UAE Government, taken as precautionary measures against the increase in crimes linked to Nigerians, simply amount to pushing people like her to ‘square one’ in terms of seeking out improved opportunities.

She said: “I’m incredibly confused. I feel heartbroken, I feel frustrated…. It’s an overwhelming feeling.”

The Abu Dhabi-based filmmaker admits she is distressed over the situation, which she describes as tiring.

The Nigerian woman stated: “Living in a country like this and you’re continuing to thrive, you’re pushing forward, regardless of all the limitations of being Nigerian.

“You keep trying. You keep doing your best and then these things happen and it just takes you back to square one.”

As regards the apparent factors contributing to the worsening image of the country in the UAE, illegal stay, gang violence, robbery, and prostitution are some crimes Nigerians have been jailed for in the UAE in recent times, report said.

A few weeks ago, viral videos showed the aftermath of a cultist-related altercation in the country.

Subsequently, in Abu Dhabi, security operatives are said to be on a manhunt for the perpetrator, as unconfirmed reports say a Nigerian purportedly committed a murder during the exchange.

UAE Government suspends Direct Employment Visa for Nigerians

Meanwhile, as part of the manifestations of the comparatively poor perception of Nigeria in the region, the United Arab Emirates Government also has suspended Direct Employment Visa for Nigerians until further notice, following the reported increasing rate of crimes involving Nigerians in the Middle-East country.

Photo: DubaiOFW

ConsumerConnect reports the country’s work permit usually allows the holder to enter the UAE for employment, and it is valid for two months from the date of issue.

After this process, the employee can sponsor his family members and bring them into the Asian country.

What some members of Diaspora Organisation say

Amid the development, the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation in the UAE said only a few Nigerians had been committing crimes in the Asian country.

Fernando Chikwado, Administrator of the organisation, explained that “it is basically on a class of people and this class of people, they (police) have their record, and these are the people they are targeting, not everybody.

“So our only little concern is because they are giving us a bad image, nothing more.”

Officials of the Nigerian Embassy in Abu Dhabi as well noted that they are aware of the situation and have written the UAE Government, a group of Nigerian professionals also has launched an online campaign to speak against crime and promote a positive image for Nigeria and Nigerians resident in the UAE.

Similar credible sources were said to have disclosed that the UAE Police were searching for more Nigerian nationals and conducting raids and arrests to get them jailed, adding that this is the norm especially in Abu Dhabi recently, report said.

Sources stated: “We all are shouting that our country is bad, and that our government is not rising to our needs, which is true, but our reputation abroad is also fast declining due to our character.

“Two weeks ago, some Nigerians killed one another for selfish reasons at Sharjah, and another one just happened here in Abu Dhabi, when some guys went to an Arab man’s house, killed him, his wife, and took away a huge amount of money from them.

“The UAE Government is now tracking every Nigerian in Abu Dhabi and they have also banned every Direct Employment Visa from Nigeria until further notice.”

Another Nigerian also told Sahara Reporters that “for like one week, this city (Abu Dhabi) has been hot. They (the police) are just arresting anyone on sight now.

“There was a cult incident where Nigerian cult members hacked one another in an area in Abu Dhabi here. It is not easy….

“They have put restrictions on visas for Nigerians. For now, no work permit for Nigerians in UAE generally. The crisis started from Sharjah and last week, in Abu Dhabi.”

In January 2021, report had indicated that the UAE arrested and detained, without prosecution, many Nigerians in a series of sting operations targeted at irregular migrants in the country.

At the time, the UAE security operatives reportedly raided the homes of many African migrants, most of whom are Nigerians, living in towns, including Al Qouz, Abu Hail, Sharjah, Al Barsha, and Deira.

According to a victim, about 80 percent of the persons arrested are legal residents, while the remaining 20 are those with either visit visas or visa-related issues.

Hon. (Mrs.) Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairperson of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), was quoted to have said that the affected persons would have to liaise with the mission in UAE for more information.

A different victim of the indiscriminate arrests of several African migrants in UAE corroborated the government’s explanation, but explained that some people had stayed back because their travel documents were withheld by their employers.

Thus as crime rates surge in among Nigerians in the UAE, report said in February this year, a 33-year-old Indian man, in Dubai, was robbed of his Rs 55,30,806 by a gang of four Nigerian women after being lured into a fake massage parlour through a dating app.

The case was heard at the Dubai Court of First Instance.

Subsequently, the three accused Nigerian women were arrested from Sharjah after intensive investigations, while a fourth woman was still at large, Dubai Police sources said.

The three Nigerian defendants were later charged with robbery, issuing threats, keeping the victim forcefully confined inside an apartment, and prostitution.

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