By Morenike Taire
EMIRATES is almost always in the news, and that is not a new thing. An ultra luxury brand from the very beginning, Emirates is also known to have a large heart and a liking for Africa, with operations in 15 African countries.
In Nigeria, Emirates can be said to be single handedly responsible for a new class of Nigerian women.
On October 25, 1985, Emirates flew its first routes out of Dubai with just two aircraft-a leased Boeing 737 and Airbus 300 B4.
Though wholly owned by the government of Dubai, the airline has not been run down like airlines such as Nigeria Airways, but has made a profit on their international operations every year since its third year.
In these days of sob stories from most international airline operations, Emirates has dared and succeeded where much older others have goofed.
Before Emirates, the Nigerian woman was hardest hit, as women always are, by the slide of the economy, which began most noticeably with the decimation of the naira of the Babangida administration. Jobs were hard to come by, even for the skilled. For the unskilled, in the dark days of military rule, it was a hopeless situation.
The reputation of Lagos as being a market town got a further boost in this period, and so did womenâ€™s independence. Here, suddenly, were women with the education of her global, post-modern contemporaries- aware, determined and ready to take the world.
Their fathers were educated; their mothers determined that their daughters do not become second class citizens as they were. They had the right skills, but the most challenging of environments.Â Then was born the Nigerian merchant class, consisting mainly of women.
These women have become international citizens, in tune with happenings and trends in the world of commerce and the idiosyncrasies of trade and currency in different capitals of the world.
They are not just traders who have mastered retail without the financial outlay of building gags of shops. They are financially independent females whose time is flexible, and who have time for their families.
For the role Emirates has played in enhancing the lives of these women alone, this writer is sympathetic to the airlineâ€™s dilemma at being pressured and held as scapegoat for the extradition of former Delta State governor, James Ibori .
One of the good things, if any, about the defective Nigerian federal structure is that skirmishes in the worldâ€™s economy in the last five years have hardly affected Nigeria. At first, it was believed that this was due to â€œoil moneyâ€ washing over the nation as a result of peak oil prices in the international markets, but this can only partly be the case, since countries that export far more oil are not exactly smiling.
Economists have attributed Nigeriaâ€™s economic aloofness to the fact that oil and the revenues derived from it have little impact on the larger economy. More than 80 per cent of Nigerians operate outside the formal sector of the economy.
Their activities are neither acknowledged nor taxed, even by fiat measures, and they are happy enough that way. Of this informal sector, there are more women than men. Nigeriaâ€™s real economy is outside the purview of government or international regulation.
Any activity that formalises or/and boosts this informal sector must do so to the benefit of the economy as a whole. Boosting informal activity will make the Nigerian economy as a whole more immune to shocks from outside. This is bound to be an advantage in a more global economy.
Formalizing these sectors, on the other hand, will enable government move closer to an era when taxes will be more important than oil money.
Views on this matter vary and are wide. There are those who do not believe Dubai should be allowed to get away with keeping Nigeriaâ€™s loot while at the same time biting the proverbial finger that feeds them.
This school believes that we should fight Dubai with whatever we have, and a diplomatic row of the sort proposed by Nigeria is very much in order.
On the whole, Nigerians are skeptical about the use that recovered stolen funds will be put into. Funds have been recovered in the past that have not been accounted for, and there is every tendency that this will always be the case, unless something concrete is done about transparency and the way budgets are written. That is a bad excuse for not hankering after the rule ofÂ law, but whoâ€™s blaming who?
EFCC and the Nigerian government will get much further in their quest if they use some emotional blackmail and remind Dubai that there could be cause to return the favour some day. A remote possibility, but existent.