Trump Administration To Limit Visas To Several African Countries

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.

US State Department
US State Department

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.

By Our Correspondent in New York

West African Journal Magazine

Nigeria: Buhari Re-elected To 2nd Term

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.

Map of Nigeria
Map of Nigeria

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.

West African Journal Magazine

Former Nigeria President Endorses Opposition Candidate

Nigeria’s former ruler Olusegun Obasanjo on Thursday backed his ex deputy to beat incumbent Muhammadu Buhari in elections next year, in a cautious endorsement after a years-long feud.

Atiku Abubakar, who is referred to across Nigeria by his first name, was Obasanjo’s deputy from the return of civilian rule in 1999 until 2007.

Former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar
Former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar

Their relationship soured over Obasanjo’s bid to change the constitution to allow him to seek a third term of office, and Abubakar’s desire to replace him as head of state.

But in an apparent rapprochement, the AFP reports that ageing pair met in Obasanjo’s home town of Abeokuta, in southwest Nigeria, less than a week after Abubakar won the nomination to run against Buhari for the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).    mp;amp;lt;a href=”https://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/jump?iu=0&sz=1&c=234″ target=”_blank”><img src=”https://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/ad?iu=0&sz=1&c=234″ border=”0″ alt=””></a>

“You have the capacity to perform better than the incumbent,” Obasanjo told Abubakar, describing him as “president-to-be”.

“You surely understand the economy better, you have business experience, which can make your administration business-friendly and boost the economy and provide jobs.”

Towards the end of Obasanjo’s time as president, the pair traded accusations and counter-accusations, supported by documents purportedly showing massive corruption on both sides.

But on Thursday, Obasanjo said the pair had “reviewed what went wrong” and he had accepted Abubakar’s “remorse” and his request for “forgiveness”.

“I forgive and I sincerely advise you to learn from the past and do what is right and it will be well with you,” he added.

Former President Obasanjo Confirms He Has Forgiven Former VP Atiku-Abubakar
Former President Obasanjo Confirms He Has Forgiven Former VP Atiku-Abubakar

Obasanjo, 81, is a former military ruler like Buhari but the pair have not been on good terms and in January this year he said the president should not stand for a second term.

Before the last election in 2015, Obasanjo also fell out with the then-president Goodluck Jonathan and famously ripped up his PDP membership card.

He claimed Jonathan was trying to stay in power “by hook or by crook”, questioned his fitness to govern and said he was surrounded by corrupt cronies and “greedy hangers-on”.

Abubakar’s victory in the PDP presidential primary on Sunday comes at the fourth time of asking.

But questions about the 71-year-old’s business interests and repeat allegations of corruption – which he has denied – could potentially harm his ambitions in a country fed up with graft.

Source: AFP

Lassa Fever Disease Kills 1 In Northern Liberia

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.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map 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.

Anatomy of Lassa Fever Virus
Anatomy of Lassa Fever Virus

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.

Lassa Feveral Poster
CDC Lassa Fever Poster

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.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

 

Nigeria: UK Court Deals A Blow To Oil Spill Victims And Corporate Accountability

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.

Shell_logoAccording 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.

Map of Nigeria
Map of Nigeria

“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.”

Background

Shell Protests - NigeriaThe 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.

Amnesty International

Nigeria, Cameroon Vow To Keep Bilateral Security Arrangements

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.

Map of Nigeria and Cameroon
Map of Nigeria and Cameroon

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.

Channel Africa

Nigeria’s President Warns Togo About Political Instability

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.

Map of TogoThe 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 President Faure-Gnassingbe
Togo President Faure-Gnassingbe

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.

Attack On Humanitarian Convoy North-East Nigeria Leaves 4 Civilians Dead – UN Aid Official

18 December 2017 – At least four civilians are reported to have been killed when an aid convoy transporting food supplies was ambushed by armed individuals in Nigeria’s strife-torn north-east region, the top United Nations humanitarian official in the country said.

Nigeria
Nigeria

The UN News Center says the attack took place along the Dikwa-Gamboru road in Borno state, and also resulted in the destruction of basic aid items initially destined to alleviate the suffering of thousands of conflict-affected women, children and men.

“Violence against convoys carrying humanitarian aid is unacceptable and can result in concerning limitations in our ability to provide life-saving relief to those who need it the most,” said Edward Kallon, the Humanitarian Coordination in Nigeria, in a news release issued Monday.

“We must ensure the safety of aid workers and aid convoys across the north-east of Nigeria, so people in need of assistance can access it in a timely manner and in sufficient quantity. Many lives are at risk,” he underscored.

The conflict in Nigeria’s north-east provoked by the Boko Haram terrorist group has triggered a deep humanitarian crisis. Since the start of the conflict in 2009, more than 20,000 people have been killed and thousands of women and girls abducted.

Borno along with Adamawa and Yobe are the worst affected with nearly seven million people in need of humanitarian assistance, more than 50 per cent of whom are children.

Since January 2017, despite major challenges, relief efforts by the UN as well as partners have managed to assist over five million conflict-affected people, reaching about five million with health care assistance, three million with food security interventions, 936,000 with nutritional support, and over 1.3 million with safe drinking water.

Owing to such humanitarian efforts, for the first time since the onset of the crisis, hunger has considerably declined in the region.

FAO Buildings
FAO

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the number of people facing acute hunger has halved since June-August – from 5.2 million to 2.6 million people.

However, there are fears that without sustained and timely assistance, the good work could quickly be undone, leaving more than 3.5 million people with acute hunger, as well as at the risk of famine, by August 2018, warned the UN food security agency.

 

Sierra Leone: President Re-Shuffles Security and Diplomatic Service

With just under 4 months before the holding of General and Presidential Elections, President Ernest Bai Koroma in Sierra Leone has effected some administrative changes at the National Army and Police and Diplomatic Missions in Liberia, Gambia and Nigeria.

Major General Brima Sesay
Sierra Leone Army Chief Major General Brima Sesay

In a rather surprising move, the head of the country’s Army, Lieutenant General John Milton was replaced  and appointed instead as the new Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria.

He is being replaced by  Major General Brima Sesay who was promoted last March to the rank of Major General by President Koroma.

A press statement from the Sierra Leone Presidency issued in Freetown on Wednesday also announced the replacement of the Police Inspector Francis Munu by his Deputy Richard Moigbe.

Sierra Leone Police Inspector General Richard Moigbe
Sierra Leone Police Inspector General Richard Moigbe

Mr. Munu now goes to neighboring Liberia as his country’s Ambassador.

Liberia_Guinea_Sierra_leone_map
Map of Sierra Leone

All of the new  Presidential appointees will have to obtain Parliamentary approval.

West African Journal Magazine

 

Amnesty International Statement On Ogoni Land Murder in Nigeria

Oil giant Shell has a case to answer for its role in human rights violations including murder, rape and torture committed by the Nigerian military government in the 1990s.

Shell_logo
Shell Logo

The victims were the Ogoni people, whose land has been devastated by pollution from Shell’s operations. When the Ogonis organized in peaceful protest, the Nigerian government unleashed a campaign of appalling violence against them.

Despite a raft of evidence linking Shell with the government’s actions, no company executive has ever been made to answer for its involvement.

The fact that Shell has never been held to account for this is an outrage, and one that sends a terrible message: if companies are rich and powerful enough, they can get away with anything.

So, for the first time, Amnesty International has brought together the available evidence to paint a damning picture of Shell’s role.

From 1990 onwards, Shell knew that its requests for the security forces to intervene in the Niger Delta were likely to result in human rights violations.

In 1990, Shell requested the assistance of a paramilitary police unit to deal with peaceful protesters at one of its facilities in Umuechem. The police attacked the village with guns and grenades, killing 80 people and torching 595 houses.

Despite this atrocity, Shell went back to the Nigerian government for help in dealing with community protests. A clear pattern began to emerge: over and over again, Shell asked the government to intervene, and these requests were soon followed by violence and death. For example:

A Shell memo shows that on 18 March 1993, Shell staff “pleaded” with the governor of Rivers State for a military guard while its contractors laid a pipeline.

On 30 April, the army responded to community protests against the new pipeline by shooting and wounding 11 villagers at Biara village.

Days later, on 4 May, Shell again asked the governor for “assistance”. That same day, troops opened fire on community protests at Nonwa village, killing one man.  Once again, a direct request from Shell led to human rights violations.

Then, a memo from 11 May 1993 shows that Shell managers met senior government and security officials in Abuja “to mobilise support at top government levels”. The head of the security service assured Shell that the Ogoni situation “would be over soon”.

Two months later, the military incited and participated in a new wave of armed attacks on Ogonis.

Ogoni land protest
Ogoni land Protest

Despite these violations, it was Shell’s policy to provide security forces with logistical support.

A 1995 statement from Shell Nigeria’s then-chair Brian Anderson explained that it was company policy at the time to provide the Nigerian government with logistical support – including the use of its boats, buses and helicopters.

Sometimes Shell’s assistance directly facilitated human rights violations. For example, in October 1993 the company provided the army’s transport to Korokoro village, when troops opened fire on protesters.

Shell had no qualms about repeatedly offering logistical support to security forces it knew were committing human rights violations.

Shell even paid money to a military unit responsible for violence.

In December 1993, shortly after a military coup, Shell wrote to the new military administrator of Rivers State, highlighting the economic consequences of protests and naming communities, including in Ogoniland, where protests had occurred.

One month later, the military administrator created the new Internal Security Task Force (ISTF), under the command of Major Paul Okuntimo.

The ISTF began carrying out human rights violations almost immediately. On 21 February 1994, soldiers under Major Okuntimo’s command shot at thousands of people who were peacefully demonstrating outside Shell’s main compound.

Then, on 3 March 1994, Shell paid Major Okuntimo and 25 of his men an “honorarium”. An internal Shell memo explained that the payment was a “show of gratitude and motivation for a sustained favourable disposition towards [Shell] in future assignments”.

Shortly afterwards, the ISTF began a campaign of brutal raids in Ogoniland – killing, raping and torturing villagers.

Shell knew all about these human rights violations.

Major Okuntimo boasted of these raids on television, and they were widely reported. In July that year, the Dutch ambassador told Shell that the army had killed some 800 Ogonis.

Shell also had insider knowledge. Company executives met regularly with top government officials, and discussed the government strategy for dealing with the Ogoni protests.

Shell raised the Ogoni and Ken Saro-Wiwa as a “problem”.

Map of Nigeria
Map of Nigeria

The Ogoni crisis culminated in the executions of the “Ogoni Nine” by the Nigerian state. Among them was Ken Saro-Wiwa, a famous writer and leader of protests by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).

Evidence shows that, at the peak of the crackdown in Ogoniland, Shell provided encouragement and motivation to the military authorities to stop the MOSOP protests, and specifically named Ken Saro-Wiwa.

A memo describes how, at a meeting with President Sani Abacha on 30 April 1994, Brian Anderson raised “the problem of the Ogonis and Ken Saro-Wiwa”.

Anderson reported that he came away from the meeting with the sense that Abacha “will intervene with either the military or the police.”

Indeed, within a month Ken Saro-Wiwa and other MOSOP leaders had been arrested, unfairly accused of involvement in murder, and held without charge.

The men were tortured and ill-treated in detention, before being found guilty in a sham trial and executed on 10 November 1995. The detailed records show that Shell knew the trial would be unfair and Ken Saro-Wiwa found guilty; but there is no indication in the available evidence of Shell trying to persuade the Nigerian military government to follow a less violent path in Ogoniland.

Conclusion:

Shell’s conduct amounts to encouraging, and, at times, facilitating the horrific crimes and abuses committed by the Nigerian security forces in Ogoniland in the mid-1990s. The company, knowing that violence against local communities was almost certain to occur, asked for the security forces to deal with community protests. Shell provided logistical support to the army and police, repeatedly underlined to the Nigerian government how the country was financially dependent on oil, and even paid money to the security forces.

More Ogoni land Protestors in Nigeria
More Ogoni land Protestors in Nigeria

Shell has always strongly denied these allegations. But the evidence paints a shocking picture of a corporation putting its interests above all else. The key question is: if Shell had not acted as it did, and had not pushed the Nigerian military and government, would so many people have been beaten, tortured, raped and killed?

Amnesty International is calling on the authorities in Nigeria, and Shell’s home states, the Netherlands and the UK, to launch a criminal investigation into the company’s role in the human rights violations committed by the Nigerian security forces.

Amnesty International Statement