Showing posts with label immigration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label immigration. Show all posts

Monday, March 18, 2024

Video - Nigeria opens its air and land borders with Niger

Nigeria has decided to reopen its air and land borders with its neighbor, Niger. This decision also involves lifting other sanctions imposed after the military takeover in Niger last year.


Monday, February 26, 2024

Students from Nigeria who fled war in Ukraine are being told to leave Europe

Olabisi* was out to get groceries during her post-graduate clinical rotations at the Ivano-Frankivsk National Medical University in western Ukraine on the morning of 24 February 2022 when she heard loud bangs. Then came breaking news alerts: Russia was invading Ukraine. She rushed home to pack a few belongings.

“In the course of moving, I lost my certificates and even my passport,” she said.

She headed towards the border between Ukraine and Romania with hundreds of thousands of others. Thankfully, with her Ukrainian ID card, she was allowed passage. From Romania, she travelled by train to the Netherlands, along with other students whose lives had just been uprooted.

Olabisi chose the Netherlands because – like a number of western European countries – it had announced plans to take in people displaced from the Ukraine war, and she had heard it was cheaper and more welcoming than others.

In 2022, the European Union activated a rule called a Temporary Protection Directive, granting those fleeing war a stay for up to two years – until March 4, 2024. In mid 2023, the Netherlands decided that non-Ukrainian citizens or “third world nationals with temporary residence” must leave a year earlier than previously announced. They – most of them students – brought a collective case against the Dutch government insisting that they be allowed to stay the allotted time. The Council of State, the Netherlands’ highest administrative court, agreed.

But now time is running out for Olabisi and those like her. Roughly 2,200 people from different nationalities are said to be affected. (Students interviewed for this story say they prefer their luck in Europe over the option of returning to Nigeria, where they consider the academic system sub-par and prone to interruptions.)

Olabisi is one of an estimated 4,000 Nigerian students who had been studying in Ukraine before the war. The eastern European country had attracted African students, particularly medical students, partly due to the relatively low costs of studying and partly as a product of student exchange programmes dating back to the former Soviet Union’s investment in African countries.

Olabisi and other students say that, to make matters worse, the Nigerian government has not adequately intervened via its embassies to help them.

They say Nigeria has left them in limbo, just as it did with the 1,625 Nigerian students in Ukraine who were finally evacuated to Nigeria in July 2022, four and a half months after the war broke out.

Nigerian diplomats missing in action, in Europe?

The Nigerian mission in the Netherlands disputes this. Eniola Ajayi, Nigeria’s ambassador to The Hague, told openDemocracy: “All the reprieve that students got in the Netherlands was due to my efforts… I have helped them as much as is possible within my capacity. This is the truth.”

The embassy claimed the mission housed some “families at the Guest Chalet of [Ajayi’s] Residence until they were able to get alternative accommodation” and cash assistance was given to others. The embassy also mentioned the case of a depressed student who was sent back to Nigeria for medical treatment.

The mission said it had given Nigerian nationals ample notice of the Dutch government’s intentions. To stay beyond the March 2024 deadline, the Dutch government has advised students to either seek asylum if they could prove their lives would be at risk back home, or accept an independent offer of 5,000 euros to return there.

Olabisi does not qualify for asylum as her life is not at risk in Nigeria but she doesn’t want to return to the country she left since she was 17. Now 30, she cannot imagine rebuilding her life again, especially as Nigeria experiences a steep economic decline.

Nigerian government, still missing in action

While the Nigerian government backs the return of students who are currently abroad, there is no safety net for those who do so, the students claim.

Wasiu Sidiq, 21, was studying at Lviv National Medical University when the war broke out and he was evacuated. When he returned to Nigeria, he attempted to continue his studies remotely – but stopped when the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria said it would not recognise medical certificates issued for online study.

The government claimed it was providing an option for the evacuated students to continue their education in Nigerian universities instead. The Foreign Affairs Ministry published a call-out on its website asking concerned students to register towards being placed locally – but the website link never worked and no students could register.

Sidiq, frustrated, decided to return to Europe, where he headed for Lisbon and is currently working in customer services for 890 euros a month. He tried to start uni there, but does not speak Portuguese and so has been unable to.

“If I don’t go to work, I cannot eat or pay my rent,” he said. “So I don’t have the time to go to the language class. All of us are just doing that.”

Sidiq claims students have tried to contact the Nigerian embassy in Lisbon for assistance with resettlement and negotiations on residence permits.

“They have not responded to us at all,” he said. “The embassy is not working. I have to leave Portugal to go and renew my passport.”

openDemocracy approached the Nigerian embassy in Lisbon for comment. A consular assistant insisted the embassy could only respond in person, in a physical meeting. Written questions and requests for a virtual meeting were ignored. Repeated requests were also made to Aminu Tanko, head of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora and the Abuja office of the Nigerian in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM). The latter promised a response that did not come.

Consular failures, according to John Osuntokun, a professor and former Nigerian ambassador to Germany, are largely due to lack of priority.

“It is a large country and there are so many issues waiting for attention and this situation is going to be the least important to them,” he said. “My advice to them will be to come home.”

Osuntokun said standard practice is for complaints from Nigeria’s foreign missions to be relayed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for advice.

Asked if the ministry had received any such requests from the embassy, the foreign ministry spokesperson told openDemocracy: “The ministry has not received any such complaints.”

Two years into the war and with fate hanging in the balance, experts believe there is little the embassies can offer now. “Consular services are not services that provide long-term solutions; they are supposed to provide immediate help and assistance,” said Matthew Ayibakuro, a governance adviser at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in Nigeria.

* Name has been changed.

Ope Adetayo, openDemocracy

Related story: Video - Fourth Batch of Nigerian Evacuees Arrives Nigeria

Video - Nigeria's medical council bans certificates issued from Ukrainian universities

Nigerians blocked from volunteering to support Ukraine’s fight against Russia

Monday, February 19, 2024

Nigerian students are no longer interested in studying in the UK, new report finds

Nigerian students are increasingly turning away from pursuing their undergraduate studies in the United Kingdom. Official statistics released last week reveal that the number of applicants from Nigeria has declined by a staggering 46 per cent, more than any other country in the period under review.

According to reports, the notable decrease in applications from Nigerian students is believed to be closely associated with the weakening of the naira and the visa restrictions preventing them from bringing along dependents or close family members to the UK. The report highlighted that Nigerian students had the highest number of dependents brought in by international students as of September 2023.

The Economic Times of India also reported a mirroring trend observed among Indian students who are increasingly losing interest in pursuing their undergraduate studies in the United Kingdom. The report noted that Indian student applications fell by 4 per cent compared to the previous year, amounting to 8,770 applications.

In comparison, Nigerian applications witnessed a sharp decline of 46 per cent, totalling 1,590 applications, more than any other country.

Data from the UK Universities and College Admissions Service (UCAS) on undergraduate student applicants for the 2024-25 academic year also revealed a 1% decline in UK applicants from a year earlier. However, the overall number of applicants remains well above pre-pandemic levels.

"While today's data shows a decline in applications from mature students, which will be more keenly felt in some subjects such as nursing, we know that these applicants are more likely to apply later in the cycle," Dr. Jo Saxton, Chief Executive at UCAS, said.

"For any students who missed the deadline or are still undecided on their next steps into higher education, they can still apply until June 30, and afterwards directly to Clearing, and plenty of choices still remain. There is a wealth of support, guidance, and tips on the UCAS website to help anyone make informed choices about their futures," she added.

In December 2023, the Rishi Sunak-led government announced a review of the Graduate Route visa, allowing graduates to stay and gain work experience in the UK for at least two years after completing their degree. According to experts, potential changes to the UK's visa policy may reduce the appeal of UK universities to overseas students.

By Victor Oluwole, Business Insider Africa

Related story: Frustrated Nigerians 'flee' abroad in punishing pre-election brain drain

Monday, January 29, 2024

Top Visa-Free Countries that Nigerians Can Travel To

If you're a Nigerian with a strong case of wanderlust, there's a world of destinations where your passport is your golden ticket to adventure.

Let's dive into some of the most enchanting destinations that do not require travellers to go through the hassle of getting a visa.

Top Visa-Free Countries


Barbados, an island country in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies, embodies the very essence of Caribbean charm and beauty. This destination is a treasure trove for Nigerian travellers seeking a perfect blend of sun-kissed beaches and culturally rich experiences.

Picture yourself on Crane Beach, where the sand is tinged with a delightful pink hue, and the crystal-clear waters beckon you for a refreshing swim. But this beach is not just about relaxation; it's also a gateway to various exhilarating water sports.

History enthusiasts will find delight in UNESCO-listed Bridgetown and its historic Garrison, providing a fascinating glimpse into the colonial past. Meanwhile, the St. Nicholas Abbey plantation house and rum distillery serve as a testament to Barbados' deep ties to sugarcane and rum production.

And let's not forget the culinary adventure that awaits. From the national dish, Cou-Cou and Flying Fish, to street-side delicacies like fishcakes and pudding and souse, Bajan cuisine offers flavours that are as diverse as they are tantalising.

Some famous personalities from Barbados include singer Rihanna, cricketer Sir Garfield Sobers and NFL player Ramon Harewood of the Baltimore Ravens.

Cape Verde

Cape Verde, an archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa, beckons Nigerian travellers with its unique blend of African, Brazilian, and Portuguese cultures. The islands themselves offer a kaleidoscope of experiences, from the lunar-like landscapes of Sal to the lush, rugged terrains of Santo Antão.

Sal's Santa Maria Beach, with its powdery white sands and turquoise waters, is a haven for water sports enthusiasts. Meanwhile, the cultural town of Mindelo on São Vicente is renowned for its vibrant music scene, particularly the morna music, often likened to the blues. Cape Verde's rich history comes alive in Cidade Velha, a UNESCO World Heritage site on Santiago Island, providing invaluable insights into the country's colonial past.

Don't miss the chance to savour Cachupa, Cape Verde's national dish, a slow-cooked stew of corn, beans, and fish or meat.

Cook Islands

The Cook Islands, a paradisiacal destination in the South Pacific, offer a serene escape for Nigerians seeking a harmonious blend of adventure and tranquillity. Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands, is embraced by a stunning lagoon, inviting snorkelling and scuba diving enthusiasts to explore vibrant coral reefs.

Aitutaki, another gem in the archipelago, is renowned for its breathtaking lagoon and uninhabited islets, perfect for a romantic getaway or a day of exploration. However, these islands are not just about picturesque beaches. The lush trails of the Takitumu Conservation Area provide eco-tourism enthusiasts with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich flora and fauna.

The Cook Islands' culture, deeply rooted in Maori traditions, adds an extra layer of fascination. From spirited drum dances to intricate craftwork, the islands' cultural heritage is vibrant and engaging. Be sure to partake in the traditional umu feast, where food is cooked in an earth oven, offering a unique culinary experience that combines communal spirit with delicious flavours.


Kiribati, a sovereign state in Micronesia in the central Pacific Ocean, offers a unique destination for Nigerian travellers seeking off-the-beaten-path adventures. The country's 33 atolls, straddling the equator and the International Date Line, boast pristine beaches and an abundance of marine life, making it an ideal spot for fishing, diving, and snorkelling.

Tarawa, the capital, offers historical insights into World War II battles, with relics and memorials dotting the landscape. For those seeking tranquillity, the outer islands like Abaiang and Tabuaeran offer untouched beauty and an opportunity to experience the traditional I-Kiribati way of life.


Montserrat, a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean, is known as the 'Emerald Isle of the Caribbean,' offering a unique blend of natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. The Soufrière Hills Volcano is a major attraction, with the Montserrat Volcano Observatory providing a safe vantage point for viewing the still-active volcano.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Kitts and Nevis, the twin-island nation in the Caribbean, is a captivating destination for Nigerian travellers looking for a rich blend of history, nature, and culture. Saint Kitts boasts breathtaking scenery, including the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a well-preserved fortress and a UNESCO World Heritage site offering panoramic views of the surrounding islands.

Nevis, the smaller of the two islands, charms visitors with its laid-back atmosphere and natural hot springs, a testament to the island’s volcanic origins. For beach enthusiasts, the powdery sands of Frigate Bay and the tranquil Oualie Beach offer idyllic settings for relaxation and water activities.


Vanuatu, an archipelago nation in the South Pacific, is a hidden gem for Nigerian travellers seeking a unique blend of adventure, culture, and natural beauty. The islands offer a range of experiences, from the adrenaline-pumping land diving on Pentecost Island, known as the origin of bungee jumping, to the serene blue holes of Espiritu Santo, perfect for swimming and snorkelling.

Tanna Island's Mount Yasur, an accessible active volcano, provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the raw power of nature.

Top Visa-on-Arrival Countries: Explore Further

While Nigerians can travel to the above countries without a visa, there are some countries that offer a visa on arrival – a convenient facility that gets you a visa after entering the respective country by providing valid documents.


Imagine a place where overwater bungalows are your home, and the ocean is your backyard. That's the Maldives for you! This island nation, located in the Indian Ocean, is renowned for its luxurious resorts, coral reefs, and crystal-clear waters. As a Nigerian traveller, you'll be captivated by the allure of the Maldives.

The Maldives boasts an enchanting underwater world with some of the best snorkelling and diving spots on the planet. Dive into the depths of the ocean and swim alongside exotic marine life, including colourful corals, manta rays, and even whale sharks.

Maldives offers a visa valid for 30 days.


Mauritius, located in the Indian Ocean, is a paradise for nature lovers and culture enthusiasts alike. Its diverse landscapes range from pristine beaches and lush forests to dramatic volcanic craters.

One of the most iconic natural attractions is Chamarel's Seven Colored Earths, a geological wonder where sand dunes of seven different colours create a breathtaking sight. For a dose of adventure, hike to the summit of Le Morne Brabant, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and enjoy panoramic views of the island.

A Mauritius travel visa for Nigerians is valid for 14 days.


Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, is a haven for beach enthusiasts and nature admirers. It's known for its white sandy beaches, granite boulders, and lush tropical forests.

Anse Source d'Argent on La Digue Island is often cited as one of the world's most beautiful beaches, with its unique rock formations and shallow turquoise waters. Nature lovers can explore the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve on Praslin Island, home to the rare coco de mer palm and the black parrot.

Nigerian travellers can explore Seychelles without a visa for 90 days.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Nigeria to begin passport application automation on January 8, 2024

The minister revealed this during an inspection of facilities of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) alongside the Comptroller General (CG) of the Service, Wura-Ola Adepoju.

Nigerians will now have the convenience of applying and completing their passport application online, eliminating the need for in-person interactions.

The minister had previously announced in December that the Federal Government was actively working towards the complete automation of the passport application system in the country.

During that announcement, the minister stated that the automated application system was "99% done," and it would encompass processes such as uploading passport photos and supporting documents.

What the minister said:

“We are good to go live. We are starting the training and on January 8, the solution will be live and direct for Nigerians to have a good feel, a sweet experience based on the Renewed Hope of Mr President,"

“We have been able to reduce human contact in passport acquisition to the minimum.”

He stressed that this initiative would enhance the country's security architecture by enabling swift detection of fake passport applications and reducing bureaucratic bottlenecks.

As part of this effort, he revealed the deployment of document verification officers across all local government areas in the country. These officers will play a crucial role in meticulously scrutinizing passport applications, ensuring a more secure and reliable application process.

The minister had earlier cleared the backlog of over 200,000 passports awaiting processing within Nigeria.

In a bid to address concerns raised by Nigerians living abroad regarding the slow pace of passport renewal and collection procedures, the Nigerian Government had unveiled plans to establish passport front offices in key cities across the United Kingdom.

This initiative, set to launch in February 2024, would streamline and expedite the passport renewal and collection processes for the Nigerian diaspora, particularly in cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, and Cardiff (Wales).

By Adekunle Agbetiloye, Business Insider

Related stories: Nigerian passport ranks as one of the worst passports to have in the world

Passport Issuance: Nigeria immigration introduces tracking system

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Nigeria leads as fastest-growing student population in Canada

Nigerians have emerged as Canada's fastest-growing international student population in the first half of 2023. This is according to a recently released report on Nigerian study permit trends in Canada, highlighting growing visa numbers and which provinces Nigerians are studying in.

The report published by ApplyBoard revealed that Nigerian student mobility to Canada is increasing at a momentous rate. According to the report, the Canadian government issued just over 3,000 student visas to Nigerian nationals in 2019. By 2021, that number had doubled, and in 2022, it doubled again. Now, amid record numbers of international students coming to study in Canada, Nigerians have become the country's fastest-growing student population.

Growing Canadian Student Visa Numbers for Nigerian Students

Key findings from the article reveal Nigerians submitted more than 43,000 study permit applications across the first six months of 2023 and appear likely to become Canada's second-largest cohort of inbound students this year.








Out of the 43,000 applications, nearly 18,000 Canadian study permits were issued to Nigerians across the first six months of 2023, more than for any other country of origin but India. Insufficient finances were cited as a refusal reason in 74% of study permit refusals for Nigerians in 2021 and 2022.










Nearly 18,000 Nigerian students came to Canada to study in the first half of 2023. This was more inbound students than any other country excep India.

The report also noted that the study permit approval rates for Nigerians continued to rise across the first six months of 2023, to just under 40% - more than double what approval rates were in 2020.

Another interesting insight from the report showed that Nigerian students are more evenly distributed across Canada than average. Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick, each accounted for more than 5% of study permits issued to Nigerians from January to June 2023.

Eight of 10 provinces saw more Nigerian students issued study permits in the first half of 2023 than in the previous year.











Across these four regions, Ontario and BC accounted for around 63% of study permits issued to Nigerians in the first six months of 2023.

While Ontario and BC were the top destinations, Nigerian students are far less centralised in those two provinces than average. Nova Scotia's growth is particularly notable, with more than twice as many study permits issued as in full-year 2022. That was the third most behind Ontario and British Columbia.

Given the increasing centralisation of international students at Ontario colleges, the report concludes that the Nigerian student population is an important corridor to maintain the long-term health of Canada's international education sector.

By Victor Oluwole, Business Insider Africa

Related stories: Nigerian immigration to Canada is booming

Nigeria, Canada to strengthen trade investments

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Video - Four stowaways from Nigeria survive 14 days on ship’s rudder before rescue in Brazil

On their 10th day at sea, four Nigerian stowaways crossing the Atlantic in a tiny space above the rudder of a cargo ship ran out of food and drink.

They survived another four days, according to their account, by drinking the seawater crashing just metres below them, before being rescued by the Brazilian federal police in the southeastern port of Vitoria.

Their remarkable, death-defying journey across some 5,600km (3,500 miles) of ocean underlines the risks some migrants are prepared to take for a shot at a better life.

“It was a terrible experience for me,” said 38-year-old Thankgod Opemipo Matthew Yeye, one of the four Nigerians, in an interview at a Sao Paulo church shelter. “On board, it is not easy. I was shaking, so scared. But I’m here.”

Their relief at being rescued soon gave way to surprise.

The four men said they had hoped to reach Europe and were shocked to learn they had in fact landed on the other side of the Atlantic, in Brazil. Two of the men have since been returned to Nigeria upon their request, while Yeye and Roman Ebimene Friday, a 35-year-old from Bayelsa state, has applied for asylum in Brazil.

“I pray the government of Brazil will have pity on me,” said Friday, who had already attempted to flee Nigeria by ship once before but was arrested by authorities there.

Both men said economic hardship, political instability and crime had left them with little option but to abandon their native Nigeria. Africa’s most populous country has longstanding issues of violence and poverty, and kidnappings are endemic.

Yeye, a Pentecostal minister from Lagos State, said his peanut and palm oil farm was destroyed by floods this year, leaving him and his family homeless. He hopes they can now join him in Brazil.

Friday said his journey to Brazil began on June 27, when a fisherman friend rowed him up to the stern of the Liberian-flagged Ken Wave, docked in Lagos, and left him by the rudder.

To his surprise, he found three men already there, waiting for the ship to depart. Friday said he was terrified. He had never met his new shipmates and feared they could toss him into the sea at any moment.

Once the ship was moving, Friday said the four men made every effort not to be discovered by the ship’s crew, who they also worried might offer them a watery grave.

“Maybe if they catch you they will throw you in the water,” he said. “So we taught ourselves never to make a noise.”

Spending two weeks within spitting distance of the Atlantic Ocean was perilous.

To prevent themselves from falling into the water, Friday said the men rigged up a net around the rudder and tied themselves to it with a rope. When he looked down, he said, he could see “big fish like whales and sharks”. Due to the cramped conditions and the noise of the engine, sleep was rare and risky. “I was very happy when we got rescued,” he said.

Father Paolo Parise, a priest at the Sao Paulo shelter, said he had come across other cases of stowaways, but never one so dangerous. Their journey paid testament to the lengths people go in search of a new start, he said. “People do unimaginable and deeply dangerous things.”


Related story: 3 Stowaways Travel from Nigeria to Canary Islands on Ship's rudder for 11 days

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Peter Obi supports the Japa movement

Labour Party’s Presidential candidate in the February 25 presidential poll, Mr Peter Obi has endorsed Nigerians fleeing the country for greener pastures abroad, “JAPA”, saying it will benefit Nigeria’s fortunes in the future.

The former Anambra governor who gained massive support from Nigerians, especially on Social media in the just concluded electioneering campaign for being “a prudent and incorrupt politician”, stated that today’s brain drain will be Nigeria’s brain gain tomorrow.

Ex-governor Obi, in a series of tweets, Thursday, supported Bill Gate’s opinion on the migration wave hitting Nigeria, noting in the tweet that “Nigerians leaving the country will be critical in the building of the New Nigeria”.

“I read and agree with Bill Gates’s recent comment on the ‘japa syndrome, where, according to reports, he stated that the recent surge of Nigerian professionals leaving the country for greener pastures is good and healthy for our country.”

Obi noted that “I have always preached and maintained this same position that ‘Our brain drain today will be our brain gain tomorrow’.”

“Nigerians leaving the country may look like a loss today, but when we start doing the right things and taking the governance of our nation more seriously, the knowledge and resources from them will be critical in the building of the New Nigeria, as it happened in China, India, Ireland and other developing countries,” Peter Obi noted.

Peter Obi’s comments are coming on the heels of a clarification by the British Envoy to Nigeria on the UK visa policy believed to be targeted at Nigerian students who depart the country in droves with their families.

By Idowu Bankole, Vanguard

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

2,998 nurses leave Nigeria for UK

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has deplored poaching of professionals by rich nations such as the United Kingdom (UK) from poor countries, saying the development was becoming “out of control.”

The submission comes as Nigeria lost 2,998 trained nurses in 2021-2022 to British National Health Service (NHS).

ICN’s Chief Executive, Howard Catton, told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC): “My sense is that the situation currently is out of control.

“We have intense recruitment taking place mainly driven by six or seven high-income countries but with recruitment from countries which are some of the weakest and most vulnerable which can ill-afford to lose their nurses.”

According to a report first published by Daily Mail UK, the ICN said six or seven high-income countries are driving “intense recruitment” from places that “can ill-afford to lose their nurses.”

India and the Philippines account for the lion’s share of recruits for the period under review. But a fifth came from ‘red listed’ countries, where the NHS is banned from actively poaching nurses. They were Nigeria, Ghana, Nepal and Pakistan.

The data, from the UK’s Nursing and Midwifery Council, cover the period before Britain struck a special deal with Nepal to allow the NHS to recruit nurses from the country.

Ghana is one of the worst hit, with hospitals warning that their workforce had been slashed as staff rushed to fill NHS posts they found on social media.

Statistics from NHS England, which have 112,000 vacancies, suggest that approximately two-thirds of the increase in staff hired since 2019 were trained abroad.

Latest NHS, England data show that the service is recruiting more nurses abroad than ever before, with 44,000 joining the organisation since 2019, compared to the 22,000UK-trained attendants.

Most recruits were from India, the Philippines, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Ghana.
IN a related development, The British government has committed £2 million to strengthen Nigeria’s health workforce.

British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr. Richard Montgomery, who disclosed this in a statement yesterday, noted that the Nigerian health system, like many countries in the global south, has been beset with challenges in having a resilient infrastructure that is able to provide quality health services, promote health and prevent diseases.

He submitted that a well-skilled, motivated and adequate health workforce is critical to ending preventable deaths and building resilience against global threats.

The envoy said the UK International Development funding aligns with the Nigerian health workforce strategic plan geared at assisting the country to upskill its workers and improve health outcomes in the long run.

World Health Organisation’s (WHO) two-year HRH project aims to support government at national and sub-national levels, as well as regulatory bodies, professional associations and other key stakeholders to develop transformative strategies for scaling up the quantity and quality of health workers, including competency-based curricula development and reviews.

Montgomery said the UK provided the multi-million Pound to support healthcare staff recruitment and retention in three African countries, namely Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana to enhance resilience against global health challenges

Consequently, WHO has commended UK’s Department of Health and Social Care for a fresh funding commitment to help Nigeria develop its health staff in the pursuit of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

The global health body noted that the £2 million grant would assist Nigeria in optimising performance, quality and impact of its health workforce through evidence-informed policies and strategies over a two-year period.

It would help to align investment in HRH with the current and future needs of the population and health systems; strengthen the capacity of institutions, including regulatory bodies, for effective public policy stewardship, leadership and governance, optimise health workers’ retention, equitable distribution and performance, and strengthen the management of health workforce data for monitoring and accountability. The project would also implement interventions in Nigeria.

The project is to draw on the technical capacity of WHO to strengthen health systems, including experience of implementing similar projects with appreciable results in the past. Implementation at sub-national levels with a focus on six states of Cross River, Enugu, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano and Lagos will build on the presence and technical support being provided to state governments through the 37 WHO sub-national offices in Nigeria.

WHO Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, said that the strength of every health system reflects the capacity and adequacy of its health workforce necessary to deliver quality services to address population health needs.

For a resilient and effective health system, he said Nigeria must have adequate numbers of health workers, who are fit for purpose, motivated to perform, and equitably distributed across sub-national levels to enhance equity in access to their services by the population in need.

By Chukwuma Muanya and Nkechi Onyedika Ugoeze, Reuters

Related stories: Over 10,000 doctors left Nigeria for UK in last 7 yrs

How Nigeria can stop doctors’ brain drain – NMA chairman


Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Election-related visa restrictions imposed on citizens of Nigeria

The United States has imposed entry restrictions on more Nigerians for undermining the democratic process during the African nation's 2023 election cycle, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.

"These individuals have been involved in intimidation of voters through threats and physical violence, the manipulation of vote results, and other activity that undermines Nigeria’s democratic process," Blinken said in a statement.

Additional details were not provided.

The action is the latest in a series of visa restrictions imposed on Nigerian individuals in recent years.

Nigeria's election tribunal this month was to begin hearing opposition petitions challenging president-elect Bola Tinubu's victory in the disputed February presidential vote, court records showed.

Tinubu, from the ruling All Progressives Congress party, defeated his closest rivals Atiku Abubakar of the People's Democratic Party and the Labour Party's Peter Obi, who have alleged fraud and have launched a court challenge.

Atiku and Obi want the tribunal to invalidate Tinubu's victory, arguing that the vote was fraught with irregularities, among other criticisms. Tinubu, who is set to be sworn in on May 29, says he won fairly and wants the petitions dismissed.

There have been numerous legal challenges to the outcome of previous Nigerian presidential elections but none has succeeded.

By Doina Chiacu, Reuters

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

2 Stowaways from Nigeria on Ship's rudder to be deported from Spain

Two of three stowaways who were rescued in Spain's Canary Islands after enduring 11 days on the rudder of a fuel tanker from Nigeria have been returned to the ship with the aim of deporting them.

The third person, who suffered hypothermia and dehydration during the voyage, has not yet been released from hospital on Gran Canaria, a local government spokesperson said. Under Spanish law, any stowaway who does not seek asylum must be returned by the operator of the ship to the port where the journey originated, a police spokesman told Reuters.

In a photograph on Twitter by the Spanish coast guard on Monday, the three stowaways are shown hunkered on the rudder under the hull, just above the waterline of the Alithini II.

The 183-metre ship, sailing under a Maltese flag, arrived in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria after setting out from Lagos in Nigeria on Nov. 17 and navigating up the West African coast, according to Marine Traffic.

The ship's captain confirmed to the Red Cross that it had sailed from Nigeria 11 days earlier.

A Canary Islands police spokesperson said it was up to the ship's operator to take care of the stowaways, provide them with temporary accommodation and return them to their origin as soon as possible.

The migrants should, at the least, have been informed of their right to ask for political asylum and should have been questioned before being returned to the ship, said Helena Maleno, director of the migration non-governmental organisation, Walking Borders. "The conditions of the journey are already an indication that something very serious may be behind it because the photos are incredible. We have never seen conditions like this where they have arrived alive," Maleno said.

She added: "These people have to be in a state of shock. They need a couple of days to recover and from there they can explain what they were running from to have made that decision."

Alithini II, owned by Gardenia Shiptrade SA, is managed by Athens-based Astra Ship Management, according to public shipping database Equasis.

Astra Ship Management did not respond to multiple calls from Reuters seeking comment. The Spanish government's representative on the Canary Islands didn't immediately respond to a query on whether the migrants should have been informed of their rights.

The coast guard said the migrants were rescued by a coast guard vessel at about 7 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) on Monday.

The stowaways were treated for moderate dehydration and hypothermia, the Canary Islands emergency services and the Red Cross said. The third migrant, who was in a more serious state, had to be taken to a different hospital on the island.

The Spanish-owned Canary Islands are a popular but dangerous gateway for African migrants attempting to reach Europe. Since 2014, 2,976 migrants have died or are missing after attempting to cross from Africa to the archipelago by sea, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Reuters, by Emma Pinedo

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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

3 Stowaways Travel from Nigeria to Canary Islands on Ship's rudder for 11 days










Three stowaways travelling for 11 days on a ship’s rudder were rescued by the Spanish coastguard and hospitalised in the Canary Islands, Spanish authorities have said.

The large ship had departed from Lagos, Nigeria on November 17, according to ship-tracking website Marine Traffic, and the men were rescued on Monday.

Found on the Alithini II oil tanker at the Las Palmas port, the men appeared to have symptoms of dehydration and hypothermia and were transferred to hospitals on the island for medical attention, Spain’s Salvamento Marítimo said.

Throughout the journey, at least three migrants and refugees had been hanging onto the narrow metallic rudder, with their feet dangling just a few feet above the Atlantic Ocean.

In a photograph Spain’s coastguard distributed on Twitter on Monday, the three men are seen perched on the rudder of the oil tanker.

The coastguard said they rescued the stowaways after the tanker had docked.

Though extremely dangerous, it is not the first time stowaways have been found travelling on the rudder of commercial ships to the Canary Islands, which is located around 97km (60 miles) off the coast of Morocco.

In late 2020, Spanish authorities identified six others travelling from Nigeria on the rudders of two tankers.

One of those who arrived in 2020 was a 14-year-old boy who narrated his harrowing two-week journey to the Spanish daily El Pais.

He described how the stowaways had to take turns sleeping because there was enough space for only one person to lie down at a time; how there was a fight and he was nearly thrown off the rudder; how they got cold and wet and it would take hours to dry off; how his urine turned green after drinking seawater.

In a tweet, migration adviser to the Canary Islands, Txema Santana, warned that the most recent arrivals “won’t be the last” and that “stowaways don’t always have the same luck”.

The migration route from West Africa to Spain’s Canary Islands is one of the most dangerous in the world.

In September, Santana estimated that about 1,000 migrants and refugees had died or disappeared trying to reach the Spanish archipelago this year.

As of November 15, nearly 15,000 migrants and refugees have made it to the Canary Islands by sea this year, down 18 percent from the same time in 2021, according to Spain’s Interior Ministry. Most make the long journey from West Africa on small rafts, a growing number of which are inflatable.

Al Jazeera

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Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Mother loses appeal in custody case, Ontario court sends her three children to Nigeria

An Ontario appeal court has sent three children back to Nigeria and the custody of their father, rejecting their mother’s arguments that she could not get a fair shake in that country because of patriarchal attitudes and anti-gay prejudice.

The case of Olubukola Ajayi and Eyitope Ajayi is one of a growing number of disputes in Canada that set concerns about international child abduction against arguments about unfairness and discrimination in foreign jurisdictions.

Ms. Ajayi argued in court that she was justified in bringing their three young children to Canada without the father’s consent last November, because of discrimination, abuse (which Mr. Ajayi denies committing), patriarchal attitudes and the influence of her ex-husband’s family in Nigeria.

She asked the Ontario Superior Court to assume jurisdiction for the couple’s parenting issues and grant her sole decision-making authority over the children.

On the same day, Mr. Ajayi asked a Nigerian court to dissolve the marriage.

In Nigeria, homosexual acts may be punished with jail sentences. Mr. Ajayi made reference in a court document filed in Nigeria to Ms. Ajayi being linked to the LGBTQ community. That forced Ontario judges, in an initial ruling and an appeal, to grapple with how Nigeria’s legal system operates, and determine whether its courts would put the children first.

“I ran here just for a fair shot at protecting my rights as their mom,” Ms. Ajayi, who trained as a lawyer in Nigeria, said in an interview. Both she and her ex-husband are dual citizens of Canada and Nigeria, as are the children; Ms. Ajayi travelled to Canada to give birth to the children here.

But the courts here, she said, “did not understand how being a man in Nigeria gives all this extra privilege and power. I had never planned to alienate my children from their father and his family. But I knew that that’s what they wanted to do to me in Nigeria.”

Paul Riley, a lawyer for the father, said the decision showed that Ontario courts will stand up to child abduction.

“I think what the decision shows this week is that Canada is not going to embrace those who involve themselves in child abduction. You are not going to leave your country and then wrap yourselves in the warm embrace of the Ontario judicial system.”

Canada is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets out the legal rules for returning children to their home jurisdiction. But Nigeria is not a member of the convention, and Ontario law provides that the province’s courts may take jurisdiction in such a case where it is satisfied that the foreign country does not put children’s best interests first.

A two-woman, one-male panel of Ontario’s Divisional Court released a written ruling this week explaining why they had upheld Family Court Justice Tracy Engelking’s decision to reject jurisdiction in the case. Having taken the children without consent, Ms. Ajayi needed to show they would suffer serious harm if returned to Nigeria, Justice Elizabeth Sheard, Justice Katherine Swinton and Justice David Aston said.

The judges said they accepted Justice Engelking’s ruling from May that Ms. Ajayi had failed to do so. Justice Engelking found that Ms. Ajayi had only ever said she might be asexual, and that Mr. Ajayi himself had testified in Ontario that he supports gay rights. An expert in Nigerian law testified that none of this would be a factor in determining the children’s best interests in a Nigerian court.

Justice Engelking also ruled the children were not at risk of harm with their father, noting that Ms. Ajayi had left the two older children in their father’s care for an extended period when she came to Canada to give birth. As for the father’s family’s influence, Justice Engelking pointed out that Ms. Ajayi’s mother is a superior court judge in Nigeria.

The children are now back in Nigeria. Ms. Ajayi said she will not return to Nigeria but her lawyers will fight in that country for primary custody for her, “and to have them returned back to me.” If they do not succeed, they will ask for video call access and holidays with Ms. Ajayi in Ottawa.

Nicholas Bala, a professor specializing in family law at Queen’s University, said that more mobile societies have produced growing numbers of international family law disputes.

“In the absence of persuasive evidence of abuse or discrimination, it’s appropriate to send these cases back to the country of origin – which also has the effect of telling people that Canada is not going to become a haven for child abduction,” he said.

He said it is also a “question of balance.” In some countries, politics may wrongly enter family-law disputes. “I think the court was satisfied that Nigeria in 2022 is not one of those countries.”

Ms. Ajayi’s lawyer Valerie Akujobi said it’s a challenge when Canadian courts have to make determinations based in part on attitudes and sentiments in a foreign jurisdiction.

“The court does try to strike the right balance; in this case, we just felt that certain aspects had been perhaps lost in translation.”

By Sean Fine

The Globe and Mail

Monday, May 23, 2022

Passport Issuance: Nigeria immigration introduces tracking system

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) said it has introduced a tracking system for the monitoring of statuses of passport applications by applicants.

The acting comptroller general of NIS, Isah Idris, who disclosed this during a brief media interaction on Saturday evening, said the initiative is part of the agency’s efforts toward sustaining transparency and accountability in the passport issuance process.

Mr Idris said since the launch of the online appointment system by the agency, the allegations of corruption and harassment against his personnel have significantly reduced. This is even as he appealed to Nigerians to always stick to the rules and “stop inducing our officers.”

He said: “Like parcels sent through logistic companies or visa applications, we have introduced a tracking system so that people can stay in the comfort of their rooms and know the status of their passport applications.

“You don’t need to offer anyone any kobo. All that you need to do is to log into our website on, upload the required details and see an immediate response on the status of your passports.”

Significance of the initiative

According to Mr Idris, the new initiative is part of the efforts to phase out human interactions, saying the rowdiness and delay in the passport issuance would soon be a thing of the past.

He said the best method to address the inadequacies identified with the production process is the deployment of technology and pleaded with Nigerians to always apply for their passport before its expiration or “only when they need it.”

He added that other measures are being put in place to resolve all the challenges identified with passport application in Nigeria, saying the challenges currently being experienced are results of combined problems of the coronavirus disease, foreign exchange scarcity, national identity number validation, among others.

Other measures

The acting comptroller general said apart from the tracking system, the agency will also in the next four weeks introduce self-validation of applicants’ NIN available on its portal and that only when such is done will the applicant proceed to pay and book an appointment for capturing.

He said: “We must also note that passports confer on holders the integrity of a nation, therefore the integrity of producing such documents should also not be compromised. So we must verify the authenticity of applicants’ claims before we proceed for production.

“Also, most times, delays are usually caused by the NIN validation problems and what we want to do now will allow individual applicants to, first of all, verify and validate their NIN and only upload validated NIN before they can pay for passports. By doing that, we would have successfully tackled the issue of a delay from other partners which we don’t have control over.”

Alert system introduction

Meanwhile, Mr Idris also explained that the Service is working on the introduction of an alert system “so that holders of passports can be reminded when it is six months to the expiration of their passports.”

“Like the driver licences, NIS is planning to introduce an alert system as soon as passports have about six months to expire. This is how much we are trying to leverage on technology to ease the stress currently being experienced,” the acting CGI said.

Production domestication

He also spoke on the plan to domesticate the production of passports, saying efforts have reached an advanced stage towards achieving that.

Mr Idris said President Muhammadu Buhari has since issued a directive towards achieving that, and that the ongoing process will only continue pending the completion of the domestication project.

He thanked the minister of interior, Rauf Aregbesola, for his efforts towards achieving the target, and pledged his administration’s commitment to “the dream.”

“If we eventually do that, we would have opened more job opportunities for Nigerians, improve the national economy by stopping the capital flight, and also enhance the sanctity of our nation. But there is more to it than just the production. The integrity of the system matters a lot and we cannot afford to have a passport that would lose its integrity,” he added.

By Mojeed Alabi

Premium Times

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Why UAE refuses work permit applications from Nigerians

The on-going rift between the governments of Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken a new dimension as the Arab country has barred Nigerians from applying for work permits and placed visa restrictions on them.

An official at the Ministry of Labour (MOL) in the UAE confirmed that work permits were being regulated in view of precautionary and preventive measures for COVID-19.

The MOL governs all work-related issues and is responsible for issuing work permits (or labour cards) and imposing labour bans “on those who are entitled to one.”

However, the new regulation imposed by the ministry seems to target only Nigerian nationals. Director of the Nigerian in Diaspora Organisation (UAE) Fernando Judel told The ICIR that the restriction was an internal arrangement restricted only to the ministry, and Nigerians seeking to apply for work permit renewals were barred from doing so.

“We have been having that issue for about a week plus now, where some people would apply for this labour or work permit and it would get rejected. This is only for Nigerian nationality, although over the years, we have been having issues like that and the issue always comes when our people indulge in a profile crime.

“If you want to apply, you would see a display in the dialogue box that it is restricted to this nationality being Nigeria. So the person cannot even apply at all, let alone the ministry receiving the application and rejecting it,” Judel told this newspaper.

It was gathered that on June 15, some Nigerian cultists in Sharjah got into a bloody fight that left more than a dozen people dead, according to unofficial sources.

A footage circulated online showed a group of armed with machetes arriving at an apartment complex in Sharjah where they forcefully gained entry into an apartment and attacked its occupants.

Other videos showed the aftermath of the attack: mutilated bodies lying on the floor of a narrow bloodied hallway.

Further investigations revealed that the clash on June 15 coincided with the 58th anniversary of The Supreme Eiye Confraternity (SEC), also known as the National Association of Airlords, which was formed at University of Ibadan in 1963.

However, a member of the confraternity identified as Habakrier NA Airlord insisted that SEC was not a cult but a socio-cultural brotherhood that believed in the communion of minds and the traditional teachings of the ancient African oratorical practices.

“SEC is not a gang and as such does not engage in gang-related activities. We renounce any forms of violence perpetrated by individuals with nefarious intent within and outside the walls of the Nigerian Ivory Towers as proven by our strategic presence in the National Inter-Frat Council (NIFC) and the SEC initiative of ‘Stop the Confra Wars,’” he said.

But many do not believe his position, given the perceived violent nature of the group.

Another video has also emerged online of a medical practitioner clad in a personal protective clothing calling out some girls for allegedly killing a local after the cult clash and lamenting how the bad behavior of a few Nigerians was robbing off on the entire black population in the UAE.

“Once you’re a Nigerian, they will be running from you. Hushpuppi own dey. Woodberry own dey. Some Nigerians dey do cultism for Sharjah, that one still dey there. Now some girl go kill local. Now, whether you are a Nigerian or Cameroonian, they are just arresting everybody,” he said in pidgin, a local brand of English spoken mainly in west and central Africa.

He called on all Nigerians to assist the police in fishing out those engaged in nefarious activities so that the innocent and hardworking majority would not be made to pay for the sins of a few.


Visa restriction on Nigerians by UAE

Recent infamous activities of some Nigerians may not be unconnected to the recent rejection faced by Nigerians trying to renew their work permits in the UAE, even though the country’s labour ministry claims the measure was put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Judel said only a few persons who had applied for work permits were able to get them on concessionary grounds, adding that “another category of people that get visas is free-zone companies.” He explained that employees in free-zone companies were not affected by this regulation because free-zone companies dealt directly with the immigration department who issued them visas.

In addition, he said any Nigerian who had been issued labour or work permit from the ministry of labour by their employer could get their employment visas renewed with ease.


UAE and visa restrictions on Nigerians

However, Judel frowned at the UAE for arbitrarily restricting visas from Nigerians without an official communication.

“Once they indulge in that profile crimes, the UAE would restrict our visa, whether employment or tourist but over the years it has been happening. For the years back, there has been no official statement about our visa restrictions. When they know that they do not have any stand to justify the restriction, they would tag it anything,” he said.

Last July, the UAE imposed a restriction on Nigerian visas after two rival cult groups – The Neo-Black Movement of Africa (also known as BlackAxe) and The Aromate Group (also known as Barggas) -had a clash also in Sharjah, which resulted in casualties, including the number one leader of the Aromate Group.

The UAE at the time denied blacklisting Nigerians from getting visas into the country. The Embassy in Abuja cited precautionary measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus as the reason for the ‘temporary suspension’ of visas.

“At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE took a number of precautionary measures to combat the virus’ spread, including the temporary suspension on issuing UAE visas for all nationalities as of March 17, 2020,” the Embassy tweeted.

The restriction was eventually lifted in September after Nigeria agreed to allow the operation of Emirates Airlines in Nigeria, which had been suspended due to the pandemic, as disclosed by the Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika.

“UAE has written to state that they agree to issue visas to Nigerians. Consequently, decision has been reached to allow Emirates to fly into Nigeria. Commencement of the Visa issuance is condition precedent. Please bear with this unusual situation. Many thanks,” he said via Twitter.


Flight, COVID-19 and diplomatic row

Flights between Nigeria and the UAE have been suspended since March 17 of this year over disagreement relating to COVID-19 testing, which Sirika said was specific to Nigeria.

It is not immediately clear whether the restriction of visas for Nigerians is calculated to compel the Nigerian government to reconsider its position and accept the UAE’s COVID-19 protocol, which Sirika has described as discriminatory and not backed by science. This has worsened the diplomatic row between both countries.

Many Nigerians think the row could have been responsible for work permit denials.

A Nigerian resident in the UAE who did not want his name mentioned, said things were no longer the same in recent times as many Nigerians were becoming more frustrated with work permit restrictions and ‘ a fallacious labelling of a large number of Nigerians as criminals.’ He said some criminals from other parts of Africa also committed crimes while pretending to be Nigerians, saying that the authorities in the UAE were aware of that reality.



Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Video - Nigeria's Buhari says border closure failed to restrict illegal weapons

Last month, Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari surprised many when he said an 18-month border closure to restrict illegal weapons had failed. The land border had been shut since 2019 - but Buhari said illicit arms have continued to flow into the country - raising numerous conflicts. Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from Seme - a town on the border between Nigeria and Benin.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Nigerian Passport Nigeria Immigration suspends accepting new applications for passports

Nigeria will not accept new applications for international passports until old applications are attended to, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has said.

While addressing journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, the comptroller of NIS, Mohammad Babandede, said the agency would commence the accepting new applications from June 1.

Mr Babandede said the directive was given by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola.

“The process of receiving and processing all fresh passport applications nationwide is suspended till 1st June 2021, when the new passport regime would have taken effect,” he said.

“The suspension of receiving and processing of fresh passport applications is to allow for clearance of every passport application that was received before 17th of May 2021.”

He said all payment portals have been closed till June 1 and a task force will be sent to passport offices to clear the backlog.

Mr Babandede said deputy comptrollers have been deployed to all passport centres to monitor the process and ensure the directive is followed.

New applications will be granted in six weeks from the time of application, he said.

Mr Babandede decorated senior officers of the NIS who were recently promoted.

By Oge Udegbunam 

Premium Times

Friday, December 11, 2020

The wealthy Nigerians buying citizenship overseas

Dapo has spent too long at home in Lagos, Nigeria. Back in October, protests against the SARS police unit kept him from going to his office. “First, we were told to stay at home because of the coronavirus. Then this,” he says.

A wealthy Nigerian, Dapo, who is in his late 30s, does not want to make himself identifiable by giving his surname and age, lest it draw unwanted attention.

He has had a “backup plan” for getting out of Nigeria for some time, he says. “I have Maltese citizenship. I can leave for there any time.” With one small obstacle – a 14-day quarantine upon arrival – Dapo could be permanently in Malta any time he pleases. He is not planning to go imminently, but describes it as his “plan b’’.

Dapo is one of a rapidly growing number of Nigerians who have bought so-called “golden visas” or foreign citizenships-by-investment this year. In his case it was Malta, the Mediterranean island where citizenship can be acquired for a minimum investment of 800,000 euros ($947,180) through the Malta Citizenship by Investment Programme.

Not that he has any special love for Malta. A record 92 countries around the world now allow wealthy individuals to become residents or citizens in return for a fee, sometimes as low as $100,000 but often several million dollars. It is billed as a “win-win”: The country gets much-needed foreign investment and, in return, the new citizens have new passports that open up more of the world to travel or live in.

Golden visas are the lesser-reported side of the Nigerian migration story. Every year thousands of Nigerians make their way to Europe via perilous crossings over the Sahara and Mediterranean. Now their wealthier counterparts are also making their way to Europe but via a different route.

A record year for golden visas

Whether rich or poor, the reasons for leaving one’s home country are often the same. Fear of political uncertainty at home and hope for better opportunities elsewhere. But 2020 has been exceptional.

Like Dapo, Folajimi Kuti, 50, was watching the #EndSARS protests from his home in Lagos in October. “I have children, they’re teenagers, and they’re asking me questions like, ‘How did we get here?’” he says, referring to the violence that accompanied demonstrations against the controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Kuti says he has believed for some time that social unrest would boil over in Nigeria, because of issues of poverty and police brutality. “It had been clear for the past two or three years that something was going to happen. It’s happened now in 2020 but, frankly, we’ve been expecting this outburst for a while so it wasn’t a matter of ‘if’. It was a matter of ‘when’.”

Citizenship or residency abroad has become appealing, he adds. As a financial adviser to the wealthy, Kuti knows the process of applying for one having walked clients through it before. Most of his work involves advising Nigeria’s growing number of millionaires about investments and wealth planning. But now they are asking about foreign citizenships and Kuti himself is tempted by the idea. “Just knowing that if you need to go you certainly could and move without any restriction.”

The rush for golden visas among rich Nigerians started before October’s SARS protests. At London-based Henley & Partners, one of the world’s largest citizenship advisory firms, applications by Nigerians increased by 185 percent during the eight months to September 2020, making them the second-largest nationality to apply for such schemes after Indians.

More than 1,000 Nigerians have enquired about the citizenship of another country through Henley & Partners this year alone, which Paddy Blewer, head of marketing, says “is unheard of. We’ve never had this many people contacting us”.

Many, like Kuti, saw political problems ahead and wanted an escape plan. Others were focused on coronavirus: What if the pandemic overwhelms Nigeria?

“There is a lack of primary healthcare capacity that would be able to manage with either a second wave or whatever happens in, say, 2025,” says Blewer. “Let’s say there is COVID-21 still going on in 2025 that is of an order or magnitude worse. It’s, ‘Do I want to be based here and only based here, or do I want an alternative base of operations where I believe I will be safer and I will be able to run my global businesses’.

“And, I think, that’s what COVID has driven.”

It was in July, when the number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria escalated, that wealthy Nigerians started looking more seriously at citizenship abroad, experts say. “Those with medical conditions that could not fly out – a lot of them are buying passports just because if there is any problem they can fly out,” says Olusegun Paul Andrew, 56, a Nigerian entrepreneur and investor who spends much of the year in the Netherlands.

“Flying out” of Nigeria is hard and not just because of the coronavirus pandemic. Just 26 countries allow Nigerian passport holders visa-free entry, many of them part of West Africa’s ECOWAS arrangement. Both the United Kingdom and Europe’s Schengen zone require Nigerians to obtain visas ahead of travelling.

For the wealthy, this is too much hassle. “They don’t want to be queueing for visas for any EU country or whatever,” says Andrew. Instead, why not purchase the citizenship of a country with visa-free access to Europe?

To Europe, via the Caribbean

Bimpe, a wealthy Nigerian who also does not wish to give her full name, has three passports. One Nigerian, which she says she never uses, and two from Caribbean nations: St Kitts and Nevis; and Grenada.

The St Kitts and Nevis passport, which cost her $400,000 via a real estate investment programme, was useful when she travelled between London and New York on business as it allows for visa-free travel to the UK and Europe. But now that she has retired in Abuja, Bimpe, whose husband has passed away, wants her three adult sons to have the same opportunities to travel and live abroad.

“My kids were interested in visa-free travel. They are young graduates, wanting to explore the world. So that was the reason for my investment,” she explains.

Her investment to gain a Grenada passport for herself and her sons took the form of a $300,000 stake in the Six Senses La Sagesse hotel on the Caribbean island, which she bought in 2015 through a property development group called Range Developments. Like most countries offering their citizenship for sale, Grenada allows real estate investments to qualify for a passport.

Bimpe’s family has lived overseas before – spending nine years in the UK between 2006 and 2015. Of her three sons, she says: “One, for sure now, is never going to leave Nigeria. He loves it here. The second one lives in England. He’s been in England long enough to get British residency. My youngest – for him, living abroad is a very, very attractive option. He’s not very happy [in Nigeria]. He went to England very young – at age 12 – and he’s had a problem adjusting since. He’s been back in Nigeria five years and he’s still not settled.”

Now aged 26, Bimpe’s youngest son is looking at settling in the UK or in the US where, thanks to his Grenada citizenship, he qualifies for an E-2 visa, something not available to his fellow Nigerians since President Donald Trump’s ban on immigrant visa applications in February. Bimpe believes his career opportunities in acting – he studied Drama in the UK – are better abroad, and therefore considers the Grenada citizenship to be a worthwhile investment.

Neither Bimpe nor her sons have ever been to Grenada even though their investment allows them to stay on the Caribbean island, once known as The Spice Island. “I intend to go. I would like to go,” she says. “Just when I did [the investment], it was soon after my husband died and I wasn’t in the mood for travel and then I got my passport but there was no good reason for travel due to the pandemic.”

The Six Senses La Sagesse is being constructed by Range Developments, whose founder and managing director, Mohammed Asaria, says it is not unusual for investors never to visit. In fact, since there is no obligation for citizenship investors to visit Grenada, interest in the scheme has ballooned among Nigerians.

“We have between high single figures and low double-digit sales of hotel units on a monthly basis to Nigerians. The average investment is just under $300,000,” says Asaria. “It’s a big market for us. And it’s going to get bigger. There are 300 million people [in Nigeria].” Of these, more than 40,000 are millionaires and, therefore, potential customers for golden visas, according to the Knight Frank Wealth Report.

It is a similar story across the Caribbean. Arton Capital, a citizenship advisory group, says demand from Nigerian families for Antigua and Barbuda citizenship is up 15 percent this year compared with the last.

St Lucia has also seen a record number of Nigerians applying in 2020. “It’s more than it’s ever been over the past four years,” says Nestor Alfred, CEO of the St Lucia Citizenship-by-Investment Unit.

The citizenship market is not exclusive to the Caribbean, but these are the cheapest and they maintain that all-important visa-free access to Europe that their clients are hankering after.

Tax incentives

“I’m rich but I’m not a Donald Trump. I wasn’t looking for a tax escape,” says Bimpe.

Investing in a foreign citizenship is not illegal for Nigerians, but the issue of wealthy citizens moving their assets overseas is a thorny one in Nigeria, where about $15bn is lost to tax evasion every year, according to the country’s Federal Inland Revenue Service. Much of that money finds its way to the Caribbean, as was highlighted in the leaked documents that formed part of the Panama Papers in 2016.

The tax benefits of an overseas citizenship are undoubtedly attractive. Citizens can become tax residents of countries like Dominica, where there is no wealth or inheritance tax, or Grenada which offers “corporate tax incentives”. In Europe, Malta has long been courting hedge funds with its light-touch regulations.

Being a citizen of a country with a more stable currency is also appealing to the wealthy. “Second citizenship helps with capital mobility. Pull up a graph of the Naira. If you look at the Naira for the last 10 years it’s been a horrible journey,” says Asaria. Better, therefore, in the minds of the wealthy, to own assets in euros or even East Caribbean dollars which are pegged to the US dollar.

“Businesses are struggling, inflation on the rise, insecurity, and a host of other issues. These issues have prompted an increase in citizenship or residency-by-investment from wealthy Nigerians in a bid to secure a better future for their families in developed countries,” says Evans Ahanaonu, a Lagos-based representative for High Net Worth Immigration, a citizenship advisory firm. Grenada and Turkey are popular for clients wanting quick access to Europe, he adds, while some go straight for the UK Innovator Visa which means setting up a business in the UK.

Given the number of applications processed by the citizenship advisory firms interviewed just for this article, a conservative estimate would put the amount invested by Nigerians into citizenship schemes at more than $1bn this year alone.

Where rich and poor migrants meet

The loss of wealth from Nigeria has severe implications for levels of employment in the country. With wealthy businesspeople investing their capital outside Nigeria rather than in it, there is less funding for local businesses or government projects which might otherwise generate employment. This, in turn is causing more poorer Nigerians to want to move overseas as well, in search of better work opportunities, a trend backed up by the findings of a 2018 survey by Afrobarometer, the data analysis group.

Just before the pandemic struck, Kingsley Aneoklloude, 35, was able to make his way to Europe, but via a very different route.

He was working as a mechanic in his village in Edo State, one of the country’s poorer provinces which have been untouched by oil wealth, where he earned 1,500 naira ($3.95) a week.

The salary was poor but the final straw was police brutality. Aneoklloude was briefly employed as a local election monitor during the 2015 presidential elections. He says he was pressured by representatives of a political party to manipulate ballot papers, but refused, after which he became afraid for his safety. “I left because they were chasing me. Honestly, they come and chase me,” he says.

First, he went to Kano State in the north of Nigeria. Then, in December 2019, Aneoklloude made the dangerous journey to Europe via Niger, then Libya, “where there was a heavy war in Tripoli”, before crossing the Mediterranean.

While adrift on the Mediterranean Sea, his small boat was rescued by Open Arms, an NGO which helps refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Their ship docked in Lampedusa, one of the Italian Pelagie Islands, where Aneoklloude’s asylum application for Germany was processed.

Now in Potsdam, Germany, he is waiting to hear the outcome of his application for new citizenship and a job. “I have a nine-month contract for work, but they need the immigration officer to sign the contract before I start,” he explains.

At 35, Aneoklloude is just a few years younger than Dapo. Both have witnessed police brutality from different angles, and both saw the Mediterranean as their way out.

But now, with Nigeria’s economy officially in another recession, more will likely follow. It is a dangerous spiral: The more wealth taken out of Nigeria, the fewer jobs available to its poorest.

By Ollie Williams

Al Jazeera

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Monday, December 7, 2020

U.S. removes visa reciprocity fees for Nigerians

The United States lowered the fee paid by Nigerian citizens to obtain a visa after it announced the removal of reciprocity fees for Nigerians more than a year after the West African country implemented a similar move.

“The U.S. Mission to Nigeria is pleased to announce the elimination of visa reciprocity fees, effective immediately. We thank @GovNigeria for its partnership in eliminating these reciprocity fees,” the U.S. Mission to Nigeria tweeted.

“Visa application fees remain at $160,” it added.

The fee, also known as the visa issuance fee, is charged in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee.

The US government had imposed the reciprocity fee in August last year after Nigeria failed to change its fee structure for US citizen visa applicants despite engagements on the same since early 2018.

However, shortly after that action, Nigeria lowered the fee paid by US citizens to obtain a visa in line with the government’s reciprocity policy following a recommendation by a committee.

The Nigerian government now required American citizens to pay $160 (currently just over 60,000 Nigerian Naira) down from $180 (about 68,500 Nigerian Naira).

Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the announcement as a “positive development”, adding that the removal of the fee came into effect from December 3.

It also clarified that the removal of the reciprocity fee did not mean that Nigerians applying for a visa to the U.S. would now not pay any visa fees.

By David Ochieng Mbewa


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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Nigerians are leading global asylum claims to Canada despite Covid-19’s travel restrictions

In February, data showed that, for the fifth year in a row, more Nigerians emigrated to Canada in 2019 than the year before.

Another marker of that exodus is that the number of Nigerians issued permanent residence (PR) permits by the Canadian government has tripled since 2015. In 2019 alone, 12,595 Nigerians were issued the permits.

But while those figures are based on people who moved to Canada through its skilled workers immigration program, Nigerians are also taking other paths to move to the North American country.

In fact, Nigeria is set to end 2020 with the highest number of finalized asylum claims (i.e claims that were either accepted, rejected, abandoned, or withdrawn) to Canada for the fourth straight year. Nigeria overtook China as the country with the highest claims back in 2016. Nigeria’s hold on the top spot is despite a major slowdown in asylum claim rates given global travel restrictions in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, Canada has seen a 71% drop in finalized asylum claims so far in 2020.
Canada’s “open doors”

While Canada’s skill-based immigration program offers immediate residency permits and a long-term pathway to citizenship, the country’s perceived openness to immigrants, particularly relative to the US in recent years, means it has also become subject to rising asylum claims as well. Canada recently announced plans to welcome an additional 1.2 million immigrants over the next three years.

Canada’s ongoing immigration drive to boost its labor force has added to the country’s appeal for middle-class Nigerians who are increasingly pursuing exit plans to leave Nigeria given the country’s ongoing economic travails. Indeed, for many Nigerians, moving to Canada is also predicated on opening up increased educational and life opportunities for their children, particularly given Nigeria’s precariously low human capital spending. In 2018, Nigeria overtook India as the country with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty.

With refugee protection claims typically based on allegations of persecution in a person’s home country, a range of factors have seen Nigerians jump to the front of the queue, including persecution based on religion and sexual orientation. With homosexuality still criminalized under Nigerian law, it has become an oft-cited reason for Nigerian asylum seekers in Canada: between 2013 to 2017, Nigerians made up about 25% of claims based on sexual orientation.

But the high rate of LGBT-related claims from Nigeria (60% of Nigerians seeking asylum in that period claimed to be bisexualcompared to an average of 12% for other nationals) has raised questions that some of the claims may be fabricated.

Political persecution is also emerging as a factor driving these claims as well, especially in the wake of high-profile protests against police brutality in Nigeria. As several reports and incidents suggest that the Nigerian government is cracking down on the recent EndSARS protest organizers, there has been a spike in local interest in Canada’s refugee protection programs—enough to force the country’s High Commission to Nigeria to clarify the proper channels for seeking these claims.

By Yomi Kazeem

Quartz Africa

Related stories: Nigerian immigration to Canada is booming

Trump is turning Canada into a haven for Nigerians

Canada working with U.S. in Nigeria to reduce issuing visas for asylum seeker

 Stressed out middle class Nigerians want out of Nigeria