Nigeria's new President Bola Tinubu has ordered the immediate resolution of a diplomatic spat with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the suspension of Nigerian visas in retaliation for Lagos's retention of funds owed to Emirates (EK, Dubai International), Vanguard News reports.

Speaking during a ceremony to receive foreign diplomats, including the new UAE ambassador to Nigeria, Salem Saeed Al-Shamsi, Tinubu said he was prepared to intervene personally to solve the impasse between the countries.

Tinubu told the ambassador that both nations should agree on core aviation and immigration issues: "We are a family with the UAE. We only live in separate rooms, but we are in the same house. We should look at the issues as a family problem and resolve it amicably. As you know, in every family, there are peculiarities. You can have an erring son or daughter, but we must work together. We need to agree on core aviation and immigration issues."

The UAE stopped issuing visas to Nigerians last year after Emirates suspended flights over its blocked funds in the West African country, resulting in unprofitability of the route.

Punch newspaper reported that Al-Shamsi had made a reconciliatory statement: "We are getting somewhere. These are small issues, all within a family, and they will be resolved," he was quoted.

Tinubu's call follows that of his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, who called for a resumption of Emirates' Nigerian operations in February this year and directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to make more foreign currency available to the Emirati flag carrier and other foreign airlines affected by the West African nation's stringent foreign currency export controls.

Emirates first suspended flights on September 1, 2022, but reinstated them ten days later after the Central Bank of Nigeria released USD265 million to international airlines to settle outstanding ticket sales. However, by November 2022, the UAE flag carrier suspended flights again, citing unsuccessful multiple negotiation attempts with the Nigerian authorities. The airline sought the repatriation of at least 80% of its remaining frozen funds and a guaranteed mechanism to avoid future remittance delays.

With USD812.2 million in foreign exchange withheld by June 2023, Nigeria topped the list of the five worst offenders listed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), followed by Bangladesh (USD214.1 million), Algeria (USD196.3 million), Pakistan (USD188.2 million), and Lebanon (USD141.2 million).