Thursday, December 12, 2019

President Buhari promises Africans visas on arrival

Nigeria says it will give all African travellers visas on arrival from January, dropping the requirement that they apply in advance.

President Muhammadu Buhari said it showed Nigeria's commitment to "free movement of Africans within Africa".

The announcement comes five months after Nigeria signed a deal aimed at promoting free trade on the continent.

But Mr Buhari's critics accuse him of being a protectionist, undermining the vision of pan-African unity.

He has kept Nigeria's land borders with all its neighbours closed since August, making it impossible for businesses to do cross-border trade by road.

Mr Buhari has rejected pressure to lift the blockade, saying it was aimed at ending the smuggling of goods into Nigeria and to make the nation self-sufficient, especially in the production of food.

The borders were shut despite the fact that Nigeria is part of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), a 15-nation regional bloc which allows visa-free travel among its estimated 350 million citizens.

Mr Buhari gave no indication of when the blockade will be lifted when he announced the government's latest policy on visas for African passport-holders.

Nigeria is seen as an African superpower, with the biggest economy and population.

So what will change?

Currently, applicants for visa to Nigeria often need to make a request in their country of origin, and it will be issued when they arrive in the West African state, BBC Nigeria correspondent Mayeni Jones says.

This would change in the New Year, when citizens of all African states would be able to board a plane to Nigeria and get a visa on arrival, she adds.

What are other African countries doing?

Research released by the African Development Bank (ADB) last month shows that Africans need visas to travel to just under half (49%) of other African countries. They could get visas on arrival in just over a quarter (26%) of states and did not need visas in a quarter (25%) of countries.

This is a slight improvement from 2018, when the figures stood at 51%, 24% and 25% respectively.

Out of Africa's 54 countries, the five with the best "visa openness" policies were Seychelles, Benin, Senegal, Rwanda and Ghana.

The five worst countries in 2019 were Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Sudan, Eritrea and South Sudan.

Ethiopia was also listed as one of the worst performers in 2018, but it has since announced a visa-on-arrival policy for Africans, dropping the requirement that they get one in advance.

Nigeria was ranked at number 30, one down from 2018. It fared better than Africa's other economic powerhouse, South Africa, which received a score of 36 in 2019, compared with 34 in the previous year.

Kenya - the biggest economy in East Africa - was ranked at number 13, down from the nine ranking it got in 2018.

The African Union (AU) is pushing for a single passport for all African nationals so that they can travel across the continent without requiring visas.

It unveiled an AU passport in 2016, issuing it to heads of state and diplomats. However, no country has as yet given it to ordinary citizens.

Is there pressure to make travel easier?

Yes. Last year, Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote, complained that he needed 38 visas to travel within the continent on his Nigerian passport.

Many European nationals, meanwhile, can enter most Africans countries visa-free.

In fact, African nations agreed at a meeting of the AU in 2013 to scrap visa requirements for all African citizens by 2018.

The fact that this has not yet happened signals the extent to which African states are affected by political and economic rivalries - or the fear that their countries would attract many migrants who would take jobs from locals.

South Africa, for instance, plans to create a new Border Management Authority in 2020 in a bid to curb the entry of undocumented migrants - a pledge the governing African National Congress (ANC) made to voters in the general election earlier this year, amid a spate of attacks on nationals of other African countries.

And the Rwanda-Uganda border has been shut since March after Rwanda's President Paul Kagame accused his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni of trying to destabilise his government.

Mr Museveni denied the allegation and various diplomatic efforts to reo-open the border have failed, just as efforts to get Nigeria to reopen its border with its neighbours have not succeeded.

This is despite the fact that all the countries are signatories to the African Continental Free Trade Area, an AU plan adopted in 2018 to turn Africa into the world's largest free trade area.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Anthony Joshua considering Nigeria as future bout venue

Anthony Joshua has expressed his desire to defend his heavyweight titles in Nigeria after reclaiming his world champion status in his rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr.

Since his victory over Ruiz, offers have flooded in for the Briton to stage future fights in numerous locations across the globe. Africa is amongst those to show interest in hosting Joshua, and the 30-year-old is keen to connect with his roots in Nigeria.

A fight in his parents’ home country would be the first world championship heavyweight fight outside of South Africa since Muhammad Ali and George Foreman participated in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in Zaire.

“People were telling me I should go back [to Nigeria] for ages,” Joshua told reporters. “It was crazy because they don’t have 24-hour electricity but they still know me and support me.”

AJ told Pulse FM earlier in the year that he is “massively into Nigerian culture” which showed as he opted for the song ‘Water Get No Enemy’ by Nigerian legend Fela Kuti during his ring-walk on Saturday.

The comments should come with a pinch of salt, however. A day after his latest win Joshua was singing the praises of London and its fanbase, with Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium mooted as a potential destination.

A return to London will likely be the next location for a match, but a visit to Nigeria to defend his titles is a firm ambition for Joshua.

“I went to the ghettos of the ghettos where it’s not all about egos and beef, it’s about people who are hungry to survive,” he reflected on his visit across the Mediterranean. “It was one of the best things I’ve done. Africa’s rooting for me for sure, so I would definitely love to fight out there.”

Joshua has two upcoming boxing commitments for 2020 – an International Boxing Federation (IBF) clash against Kubrat Pulev and a later World Boxing Organisation (WBO) fight which is likely to be against Oleksandr Usyk.

After working hard to snatch his titles back from Mexican underdog Ruiz, Joshua will need to defend his status from the Bulgarian and Ukrainian heavyweights.

“The plan is to maintain the belts, so we will have to have conversations this week with the IBF and the WBO to see who goes first,” AJ’s promoter Eddie Hearn told The Telegraph.

“It’s our understanding that the IBF mandatory comes first, which is Pulev, so realistically it is Pulev and then Usyk in that order, with Dereck Chisora fighting Usyk in February or March and then AJ fighting the winner.”

Joshua added: “I can’t get too caught up in the moment and have to stay focused on the task at hand, which is not staying undefeated any more, but staying champion for as long as possible.”

Yahoo Sports

Nigerian students wrongly deported to Bosnia plead to be sent home

 Two Nigerian student table tennis players are begging authorities in Sarajevo to return them to their home country after they were wrongly deported to Bosnia by Croatian police, who mistook them for undocumented migrants.

In an interview with the Guardian, Abia Uchenna Alexandro and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu said they were victims of injustice and that the only reason they were forcibly taken to Bosnia is that they are black.

“We hold the truth and we have evidence of it,” said Chinedu via telephone from an immigration centre in east Sarajevo where the pair are detained. Uchenna and Chinedu, students at the Federal University of Technology Owerri in Nigeria, arrived in Croatia with a regular visa on 12 November, on their way to participate in the fifth World InterUniversities Championships, held this year in Pula.

The pair, both 18, left Pula for the Croatian capital, Zagreb, after the tournament and were supposed to fly to Lagos on 18 November. “The night before our departure, on the 17th, we checked out from the hostel and went for a walk in Zagreb,” said Chinedu. “Suddenly … we were stopped by the police who asked us for our identification documents. We tried to explain that our passports were in the hostel and that we had a regular visa, but they paid no attention to what we were saying.”

The officers allegedly mistook them for undocumented immigrants, put them in a van and transferred them to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina where, that day, Croatian authorities had gathered together a group of migrants who were intercepted as they were attempting to cross the country.

“There were men from Pakistan at the border,” said Chinedu. “They had been caught by the Croatians while attempting to cross the border from Bosnia. Police eventually ordered us to move through the woods. I refused and begged them one more time to check our status, but they wouldn’t listen. They kicked me in the back and told me they would shoot me if I didn’t move.”

Uchenna and Chinedu were eventually deported to Bosnia and ended up in a camp in Velika Kladuša, where thousands of migrants live in cramped tents without water or heating, and with temperatures as low as -2C.

The plight of the two students has made the news around the world and sparked a row between Croatia and Bosnia. Last weekend they were transferred to an immigration centre in east Sarajevo.

“Those people are victims of illegal acts on the Croatian side,” Dragan Mektić, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s minister of security, told al-Jazeera. “It is obvious that Croatian police forcibly displaced them.”

Police in Croatia denied any wrongdoing and raised doubts over the table tennis players’ intentions, suggesting they were lying. According to the police, another Nigerian who participated in the championship had attempted to cross the border with Slovenia from Croatia a few days before.

“Police officers have already witnessed cases of individuals who make an attempt, even abusing their participation in sports competitions in Croatia, to remain in the country or continue their journey illegally to other European countries,” Croatian police said.

“This is not true,” said Chinedu. “We were legal in Croatia. And our visa was valid until the 3 December. If we wanted to seek asylum, we could have asked for it because we had visas.”

The interior ministry in Zagreb said the men were stopped by police on 18 November, the day they were due to depart, and not the day before as the Nigerians claimed. However, the police’s version of events does not explain why the officers sent the students to Bosnia, knowing they had entered the country on a flight to Zagreb and not from Bosnia and knowing that they had a valid visa until 3 December.

In the meantime, authorities in Sarajevo are working on the case. The presence of the Nigerians in Bosnia – even if instigated by Croatian police – is technically illegal, given that their visa was valid only in Croatia, and which has now has expired.

“The case of two students from Nigeria is being handled by the ministry of security of Bosnia and Herzegovina as it is an internal issue involving illegal entrance to Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the minister counsellor for the foreign affairs of Bosnia wrote in an email to the Guardian.

Dragan Mektić said: “Respecting legal procedures, we now have to take them back to Croatia. It is obvious that they have Croatian visas, that they are in Bosnia-Herzegovina illegally.”

The Nigerians said they were willing to go back to Croatia, but only on one condition: “If they take us back to Croatia, we want to have UN escorts with us. We will not go to Croatia without a UN representative. We are scared of the Croatian police after what they did to us.”

“We want to go back to Nigeria,” said Chinedu. “Please, help us, send us home immediately.”

The Guardian

Related story: Croatia 'wrongly deports' two Nigerian table tennis players to Bosnia

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Video - Nigerian mothers juggle caring for kids with full time jobs

Nursing mothers in Nigeria are having a hard time caring for their kids and running their full time jobs. While some have a good family support system to help them with childcare, others oftentimes have to rely on daycare centres. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam brings us a report on the daily struggles of nursing mothers in the West African nation.

Nigeria plans to contract Russian firm in reviving steel company

The Nigerian government is expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) with a Russian firm for the resuscitation of the multi-billion U.S. dollars Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill in Kogi State in January 2020.

Olamilekan Adegbite, Nigeria's Minister of Mines and Steel, who disclosed this on Monday, said the government meant to bring back on stream the steel rolling mill which was down since the late Nigerian President Shehu Shagari regime.

The minister spoke during his facility tour of the National Steel Raw Material Exploration Agency on Monday in Kaduna State.

While addressing the management staff of the agency, the minister said once the Russian contractors to handle the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill were identified, the MoU would be signed and work would commence earnestly.

Adegbite said funds for the resuscitation of the steel mill is already in place, adding that a committee has been set up to kick-start the project.

The minister, however, directed the head of the National Steel Raw Material Agency, Umar Hassan to nominate two persons to be part of the committee, saying that the agency was critical to the Ajaokuta project.

Hassan said the agency saddled with the responsibility of mining and exploration in the country, was constrained by inadequate skills, inadequate project vehicles, modeling software as well as dilapidated offices.