The lingering Nigeria–Dubai Trade Centre crisis seems to have taken an ugly dimension as Nigeria’s Minister of State for Works, Amb. Bashir Yuguda, the man believed to be the mastermind of the crisis which has led to a steady decline in trade volume between Nigeria and the UAE, is now engulfed in allegations of criminal intimidation and threat to life.
In a petition dated 3rd May 2014 and addressed to the Inspector General of Police, IGP, the Director of the Nigerian Trade Centre, Dubai, Alh. Mohammed Aliyu Baiwa, had drawn the attention of the Nigeria Police to an alleged threat of his life and criminal intimidation by Amb. Yuguda.
The three-page petition titled: “Criminal Complaint Against Ambassador Bashir Yuguda of the Federal Ministry of Works, Federal Ministry of Works Headquarters, Abuja for Malicious Allegations, Defamation of Character, Criminal Intimidation and Threat to Life,” was received by the office of the IGP on May 15, 2014, and passed same day to the office of the Deputy Inspector General of Police, DIG, Criminal Investigation Department, which was duly received.
Alh. Aliyu Baiwa had in Paragraph 2 of the petition which was obtained by Factfinders Online, alleged that Amb’ Yuguda has been defaming his character and reputation since 2009, by making scandalous, malicious and criminal allegations against him, in addition to intimidating and threatening statements against him over the same period.
He therefore stated in paragraph 3: “I must say that this conduct and attitude towards me has caused me lots of pain both in my private and public life and, as it has exposed me to severe odium and ridicule in the eyes of my peers, professional colleagues and associates. But now I feel I cannot contain the situation any longer, and my only recourse in the circumstance, is to make a formal complaint against the said Ambassador Bashir Yuguda to the appropriate authorities and the police, in order to clear my name and reputation, as well as to legally bring to an end the slanderous campaign of calumny which he has been waging against me with impunity.”
Factfinders Online reports that the volume of trade between Nigeria and Dubai has for some time been on a steady and steep decline. Data from the Dubai customs central statistics office indicates that the inflow of trade and investment between Nigeria and UAE has slowed down drastically. For instance, while flow of trade between UAE and Nigeria grew from $500 million to $1 billion in 2004 and about $3 billion in 2011 when the NTC was fully operational, it only managed $1billion in 2013. This is $2 billion lower than the $3 billion recorded in 2011. This, according to analysts, has been as a result of the failure of the Nigerian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, UAE, Ibrahim Awailu to transfer the Nigerian Trade Centre, NTC, in Dubai to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, MITI, as directed by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012.
According to the NTC boss, Nigeria is losing investors as the country no longer has a trade centre in the region like other countries. He however accused the Minister of State for Works, Bashir Yuguda as the architect behind the failure to transfer the NTC to the ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. His words: “When we started the NTC a few years ago, the volume of trade between Nigeria and the UAE moved from $500 million to $1billion annual. Before then, Nigeria had no embassy in the UAE. But when Yuguda was appointed ambassador, he wanted to change the NTC to his personal company and we refused. He opened an office and called it the Nigerian Trade Mission, NTM. They have collected money from government for this purpose and the office does not exist anywhere in Dubai.
“Since then, he has done everything to destroy me. He has called me a drug pusher, reported me to the authorities in the UAE. I was investigated and given a clean bill of health. They have held my passport for two year now and this is despite a presidential order that they allow the NTC operate independently under the trade ministry.”
The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment under the leadership of Mr. Olusegun Aganga had received approval to open new trade offices in Berlin, Germany and Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, with plans to also establish RTOs in Cairo, Egypt; Pretoria, South Africa; New Delhi, India; Dakar, Senegal; Brasilia, Brazil and Perth, Australia. Currently, Nigeria operates trade offices in Shanghai, China; Taipei, Taiwan; and Geneva, Switzerland that promote trade and investment in addition to their statutory role.
The NTC Dubai is a business development liaison office created to facilitate Nigeria’s international businesses, trade and product access into the UAE, the neighbouring Gulf states and the Asian continent markets. As part of its efforts to strengthen trade between Nigeria and the UAE, the Federal Government had approved the transfer of the NTC in Dubai to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. The NTC, initially under the Nigeria -UAE Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was renamed Nigeria Trade and Investment Promotion Centre, NTIPC. Under the arrangement, NTIPC was to be a Regional Trade Office, RTO, and serve as a liaison office for trade and investment in Dubai under MIT & I. This is just like other countries like the United States, India, China and Kenya have regional trade centres independent of their country’s embassies.
But as the crisis persists and Nigeria continues to lose huge sums it would have made from trade relations with the United Arab Emirate, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda has failed to either clear his name, or respond to the allegations.
And despite these huge allegations hanging around his head, the Zamfara State politician, according to impeccable sources from his home state, has continued to tell anyone who would care to listen that he has the backing of the First Lady and so cannot be shaken by any attempt by anyone to discredit him politically. “While we might not have anything personal against him, it is unfair how he has been dropping the name of the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan at all times, claiming he has been anointed by the powers that be in Abuja and so cannot be shaken by any political wind,” a politician from Zamfara State who would rather remain anonymous told Factfinders Online.
Ambassador Yuguda who is from Gusau in the Zamfara Central Senatorial District, according to political analysts, does not have a strong political structure in the state, but has continued to use his perceived closeness to the first Lady as a ticket for political power come 2015. “The worry is the impunity with which he does things and shoving it in people’s faces that he is untouchable,” the source quoted earlier added.
But with the fresh angle of threat to life that has been added to the many allegations against him, it is hoped that the police will swing into action to ensure that Nigerians who may not be fortunate enough to be close to the seat of power are not freely harassed and intimidated by those who continue to brandish presidential connections.
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