New York, U.S. – April 16, 2019: The Trump Administration is reportedly planning a crackdown on several countries whose nationals overstay their visas in the United States.
The Wall Street Journal newspaper citing Administration officials say as part of a toughened immigration policy, the Trump Administration is moving to limit the number of visa offered to nationals from Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Chad and Eritrea. The Administration may also offer shorter visa stays.
The Wall Street Journal quotes an official White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley as saying the Trump Administration is considering prioritizing the plan “to reduce overstay rates for visas and the visa waiver program—and it’s well known that the administration is working to ensure faithful implementation of immigration welfare rules to protect American taxpayers.”
The countries are said to be “on notice” unless there is a change in number of their nationals who overstay their visas.
If implemented, the curb in issuance of visas to nationals to the African countries named means it will become harder to obtain such visas. Globally, countries are already seeing denial of visas from U.S. Consular offices for travel to the United States. A popular destination of nationals of the African countries named is the United States where large populations reside as permanent residents or have become U.S. citizens.
Abuja, Nigeria – February 26, 2019: Nigeria’s incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party has been declared the winner of the February 23 Presidential election.
The country’s Independent National Electoral Commission announced the final results on Tuesday, February 26, 2019.
The main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of Presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, is already rejecting the officials results and is calling the vote count to be stopped following unconfirmed allegations of electoral irregularities across Nigeria during polling over the weekend.
The vote margin was a little under four million with Buhari’s All Progressives Congress taking 19 of 36 States. The BBC reports that turn out was the lowest in 20 years with only a 35% turnout of registered voters.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that a little over a year ago, 91 suspected cases of Lassa Fever were reported in the small West Africa state of Liberia.
Terming the prevalence of the disease as “endemic” in the country, the WHO says the cases were reported in six sub-political sub-divisions of Liberia including Grand Kru, Lofa, Margibi, Nimba Grand Bassa and Bong Counties between January, 2017 and January, 2018.
Lassa Fever is also endemic in Guinea and Nigeria.
Citing a recent fatality due to the disease, WHO says, “On 9 January 2018, a patient from Guinea with fever, neck pain, body pain and vomiting was admitted to a hospital in Ganta in Nimba County, Liberia. The patient was treated with Ribavirin until her death on 11 January 2018. The patient first experienced symptoms on 29 December 2017. Prior to hospitalization in Liberia, she sought medical care at a health facility in Diécké in N’Zérékore Region, Guinea where she was treated for typhoid and malaria. On 10 January 2018, a specimen was collected and tested positive for Lassa fever by a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) at the National Reference Laboratory in Liberia. On 11 January, a safe and dignified burial was conducted for the patient in Ganta.”
In its risk assessment, the Geneva based UN agency dedicated to international public health defined Lassa Fever as, “…an acute viral haemorrhagic fever illness that is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces. Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur. Overall, the case fatality rate is approximately 1%; however, it can be 15% or more among patients hospitalized with severe symptoms. Early treatment and rehydration improves the chance of survival. Lassa fever causes outbreaks almost every year in different parts of Liberia and West Africa…”
More cases of the haemorrhagic and potentially deadly disease were reported in January of this year, the WHO says.
28 contacts including 16 from the regional Ganta Hospital and 12 family members were identified. From the northern neighbor Guinea, 28 contacts, including 22 health care workers, were identified. And as of January 18, 2018, “two of the patient’s contacts in Liberia were symptomatic, but both tested negative for Lassa fever,” according to the WHO.
More follow ups are being made with the contacts identified. Meantime, Liberia and Guinea have triggered a public health responses:
In Liberia, the Nimba County Surveillance Officer was responsible for coordinating the response to this event.
A rapid response team was deployed to Ganta, Liberia and an investigation mission took place in Diécké, Guinea. A cross-border epidemiological investigation also took place.
In Guinea, an in-depth investigation has been conducted by an epidemiologist, infectious disease doctor and laboratory technicians.
Surveillance has been enhanced at the district and county levels. Contact tracing and active case finding has been conducted in both countries.
A total of 27 blood samples from 24 contacts and three febrile patients in Diecké Primary Healthcare Center, Guinea were collected.
Infection control measures were reinforced in Diécké’s public and private health care facilities.
Infographics on Lassa fever have been made available in Diécké public and private health care facilities and at points of entry.
Community engagement and sensitization activities have taken place in Nimba County, Liberia and Diécké, Guinea to increase awareness about the risks and prevention of Lassa fever.
According to the WHO, due to potential cross-border disease transmission, the WHO country offices of Liberia and Guinea have been collaborating to share information with each other about this event. The WHO has described the pathogen as an “urgent threat”.
Although the trend of the disease in Liberia has remained stable in the last year, the WHO says prevention methods are key and recommends the promotion of “hygienic conditions” such as preventing rodents like mice, rats, gerbils, Guinea Pigs, hamsters and squirrels from entering homes.
“In health care settings, staff should consistently implement standard infection prevention and control measures when caring for patients to prevent nosocomial infections. Travellers from areas where Lassa fever is endemic can export the disease to other countries, although this rarely occurs. The diagnosis of Lassa fever should be considered in febrile patients returning from West Africa, especially if they have been in rural areas or hospitals in countries where Lassa fever is endemic. Health care workers seeing a patient suspected to have Lassa fever should immediately contact local and national experts for guidance and to arrange for laboratory testing,” the WHO advises.
In another West African country, 73 persons have died from a Lassa Fever outbreak. Health authorities in Nigeria have disclosed that the disease has ticked up by 50% in a week.
The Lassa Fever virus was first identified by scientists in 1969.
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in West African were devastated n 2014 by another deadly pathogen Ebola. The already fragile and relatively non-existent health systems of these West African countries were laid bare at the height of the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States reports that out of laboratory confirmed Ebola cases of 15,227 in the sub-region, the disease killed about 11,310 with the bulk of the fatality in Liberia – 4,810 persons.
Amnesty International (AI) says, responding to a Court of Appeals judgment that two Niger Delta communities cannot have their case against oil giant Shell heard in the UK because the parent company cannot be held liable for the actions of its Nigerian subsidiary.
According to a statement quoting Joe Westby, Amnesty International’s Campaigner on Business and Human Rights, “With this ruling the court has struck a blow not only to the Ogale and Bille communities, who live everyday with the devastating consequences of Shell oil spills, but with victims of corporate human rights abuses all over the world. This ruling sets a dangerous precedent and will make it more difficult to hold UK companies to account.
“The idea that powerful multinationals are not responsible for the conduct of their subsidiaries overseas has allowed Shell to evade accountability for a raft of shocking human rights abuses spanning decades. This is a textbook example of the almost insurmountable obstacles to justice faced by people who take on powerful multinationals.
“Internal Shell documents show that the company’s headquarters have known full well for decades about the massive oil pollution caused by their operations in Nigeria, and have chosen not to stop it. If Shell cannot be held to account for such well-documented abuses, what hope is there of bringing other companies to justice?
“The communities will now be taking their fight for justice to the Supreme Court – this could be their last chance to see their environment restored.”
The Ogale and Bille communities brought two separate legal claims against both Royal Dutch Shell plc (RDS) and its 100% owned Nigerian subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) in 2016.
Today’s decision rejected the communities’ appeal against a January 2017 ruling that RDS could not be held liable for the actions of SPDC. In a split decision, a panel of three judges ruled that the claim could not proceed.
Nigeria and Cameroon have expressed desire to keep the status quo of their bilateral security arrangements at the borders and not to allow the use of each other’s territory to launch any act of destabilisation.
The online news portal Channel Africa quotes Nigeria’s National Security Adviser as saying, all foreigners living in Nigeria should observe the laws of their host to promote good neighbourliness and a peaceful stay in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday warned about the dangers of political unrest as he met the new envoy from Togo, where there has been a wave of anti-government protests.
The Daily Mail reports that Buhari did not specifically mention Togo as he received the newly appointed ambassador, Lene Dimban, at the presidential villa in the capital, Abuja.
But according to his office, the president said “peaceful transitions” in Africa were now non-negotiable, because political crises had a drastic effect on the economy and people.
The West African bloc ECOWAS was working “to prevent political transitions from snowballing into crisis so that citizens in the region can focus their energies and resources rather than trying to survive political upheavals”, he was quoted as saying.
Buhari became president in 2015 in a peaceful handover of power after becoming the first opposition candidate in Nigerian history to defeat a sitting president.
Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe has faced an almost weekly round of anti-government protests since late August last year, calling for political change and for his resignation.
A coalition of 14 opposition parties wants the introduction of a two-term limit for presidents, in line with the majority of countries in the region.
Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005 and is now in his third term of office, after taking over as president from his father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who himself ruled Togo for 38 years.
The opposition wants the limit on presidential mandates to be retroactive, to prevent Gnassingbe standing for re-election in 2020 and 2025.
Mediators from Ghana and Guinea have announced that talks will take place between the two sides in Togo’s capital, Lome, on February 15.
But neither the government nor the opposition has fully confirmed its attendance.