Sierra Leone has become the latest African country to announce a new visa policy offering visa on arrival for all African nationals and other selected citizens from across the world.
A statement from the Internal Affairs Ministry through the Immigration Service says the new regime will with immediate effect grant visa-free entry for countries in the sub-regional bloc, ECOWAS.
Citizens within the Economic Community of West African States will benefit from the bloc’s visa-free protocol, “while all other countries with which Sierra Leone has a visa-free arrangement will continue to enjoy visa-free access,” the statement adds.
Citizens of the African Union member states will enjoy visa-on-arrival but will be required to pay a $25 dollar fee.
Government said the move is part of efforts to promote tourism and attract foreign direct investment. All stakeholders – embassies, airline operators, partners and governments have been duly informed, the statement added.
The Information Minister, Mohamed Rahman Swaray, was quoted by a local portal as saying:
“This is an indication that the new direction is poised to take the country to another level and our latest step in making the country attractive to tourists and foreign investors”.
Other countries set to benefit will be required to pay a $80 visa fee on arrival. They are amongst others: United States, United Kingdom, European Union member states and those in BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman (the Gulf Cooperation Council nations) as well as citizens of Iran, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore, Israel, Japan, South Korea are listed among others.
In Africa, most regional blocs allow easy entry of citizens across their borders. A very effective measure is in East Africa between Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Ethiopia in 2018 also announced a visa-free and visa on arrival regime for all Africans. Rwanda has a global measure in that regard. Mauritius has, however, topped the African Development Bank’s visa openness index. At the bottom have been Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea.
Nigeria’s dark secret haunts new generation, 50years after Biafra war
Biafran flags, an iconic red, black and green with a rising golden sun, still make appearances on the front of buildings in Enugu state as hardline separatists continue to demand independence.
It’s fifty years since Nigeria ended its civil war that left about two million people dead after the old eastern region or Biafra tried to secede from the rest of the West African country.
Diekoye Oyeyinka, 33, has been billed as one of the most promising Nigerian writers of his generation.
He went to some of the finest schools in his West African homeland but says that like the majority of his classmates he “didn’t know about Biafra until I was 14”.
When he did begin to find out about the brutal civil war that nearly tore Nigeria apart, it was not in the classroom.
Instead it was a schoolmate in his dormitory who showed him a separatist leaflet demanding Nigeria’s southeast break away from the rest of the country.
Before then Oyeyinka had known nothing about how leaders from the Igbo ethnic group declared the independent state of Biafra in 1967.
He knew nothing of the conflict that resulted and the 30 months of fighting and famine estimated to have cost over a million lives before the secessionists surrendered 50 years ago in January 1970.
“We’ve had a very brutal history, the older generation went through a lot of trauma,” Oyeyinka told AFP.
“We just sweep it under the carpet, pretending nothing happened. But without knowing our history we will repeat the same mistakes. Our history is a succession of deja-vu.”
It was to try to break this cycle of ignorance that Oyeyinka wrote the novel Stillborn – a historic epic about Nigeria from the days of British colonial rule in 1950 to 2010.
In it the civil war is the pivotal event.
– ‘Our history, our conflict’ -Unlike other famed Nigerian writers such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, with her novel Half Of A Yellow Sun, or Chinua Achebe’s memoir There Was A Country, Oyeyinka is one of the few non-Igbo writers to have dwelt on the conflict.
“An Igbo friend got angry at me and said ‘You can’t write about us, it’s our conflict’,” he recounted.
But Oyeyinka insists that all Nigerians need to be made aware of what happened.
“We need to address these traumas ourselves, as a country, otherwise we are a tinder box ready to explode.”
While in the rest of Africa’s most populous nation many know little about the history of Biafra, in the former capital of the self-proclaimed state at Enugu the memory of those years lives on.
Biafran flags — an iconic red, black and green with a rising golden sun — make appearances on the front of buildings and hardline separatists still demand independence.
The security forces — deployed heavily in the region — are quick to stamp out any clamour for a new Biafra.
At the end of the war in 1970, Nigeria’s war leader Yukubu Gowon famously declared there would be “no victor, no vanquished” as he sought to reunite his shattered country.
The leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, went into exile for 13 years before being pardoned. He returned to Nigerian politics but was detained for 10 months in prison.
Leading Nigerian intellectual Pat Utomi says that many Igbos — the country’s third biggest ethnic group after the Hausa and the Yoruba — still feel marginalised.
One key event was when current President Muhammadu Buhari — then a military chief — seized power in 1983, and stopped the only Igbo aspirant to get close to leading Nigeria since the war from becoming head of state.
“In the early 1980’s, people had forgotten about the war, but this succession of poor leadership brought bitterness among the new generations,” Utomi said.
– ‘More divided’ -Nowadays any incident — from the closure of the only airport in the southeast last year to the sacking of Igbo shops by customs officials in economic hub Lagos — can cause grievances to flare.
“It’s important to deal with history, to write it down. In Nigeria, we try to cover it up,” Utomi said.
“We are more divided today than we’ve ever been before the civil war. We learnt nothing from it.”
In order to try to heal the rifts Utomi helped organise a “Never Again” conference aiming to bring together key cultural and political figures to discuss the lessons of the Biafra war half a century after it ended.
He is also a patron of the “Centre for Memories” in Enugu, a combination of a museum and library where visitors can come and “dig into history”.
– ‘History is essential’ -History itself has been absent from Nigerian schools.
The current government reintroduced it only from last term as an obligatory subject for pupils aged 10 to 13, after more than a decade off the curriculum.
“Teaching history is essential to build our identity as a country, and defend our patriotic values,” said Sonny Echono, permanent secretary at the education ministry.
But schools still remain woefully short of qualified history teachers and there is no unified narrative about the civil war which does not figure in the lessons.
“We need to teach the war in our schools,” said Egodi Uchendu, a history professor at University of Nsukka, in the former Biafra territory.
“Eastern Nigeria is completely different from how it was experienced in other parts of the country. We need to bring in the different angles to it.”
Chika Oduah, a Nigerian-American journalist, has crossed the country to collect hundreds of testimonies of the victims and combatants of the Biafra conflict which she publishes on her website Biafran War Memories.
She says that for many of those she interviewed it was the first time they had retold the horrors of the period.
“A 70-something former soldier… broke down crying, when he told me how he lost his brother during the war,” she said.
She herself only learnt at the age of 17 that her mother as a child spent two years in a camp for displaced people.
“Our parents wanted to move on, not look at the past,” Oduah insisted.
“But we need to talk about it, otherwise we won’t heal”.
Bus explosion in Nigeria leaves nine dead
The ill-fated bus was conveying 17 adults and two children before the incident.
At least nine people were killed and three others injured in a bus combustion accident along a busy highway in Ogun state, southwest Nigeria, the road police confirmed on Friday.
Sector commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Clement Oladele who confirmed the incident to Xinhua news agency said the Thursday evening accident involved a Toyota Hiace bus at Ijebu-Ife along the Sagamu-Benin highway.
He said the ill-fated bus was conveying 17 adults and two children before the incident.
The FRSC official said 10 other passengers were rescued with three of them sustaining serious injuries.
Preliminary investigation showed that the bus, heading toward Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub, was sufferering malfunction while conveying the passengers with some inflammable chemical products, Oladele added.
“The vehicle had to stop intermittently at several times to repair faulty fuel pump and fuel tank which they kept on managing by tying ropes to support the malfunctioned fuel tank,” he said.
While the driver managed the vehicle to Lagos, there was sudden spark and explosion, which engulfed the vehicle in fire while on motion, according to Oladele.
“After the fire was extinguished by the Nigeria Fire Service, a total of nine persons, consisting of seven adults and two children were confirmed dead,” he said.
Oladele advised motorists to adhere strictly with the road safety rules to prevent this type of avoidable incident.
Nigeria’s opposition demands resignation of Chief Justice Mohammed, wants Imo judgment reversed
Secondus called on the judiciary to be careful not to throw the country into chaos following its judgment on Tuesday that sacked Ihedioha as Governor of Imo State in the east of the country.
Nigeria’s largest opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has passed a vote of no confidence on the country’s Supreme Court and asked Chief Justice Tanko Mohammed to immediately resign for being a stooge of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
It also wants the judgment that sacked Emeka Ihedioha as Governor of Imo State in the east of the country to be reviewed and reversed.
“With the verdict, the Supreme Court executed a coup against the PDP and the people of Imo state as well as other Nigerians, and such must not be allowed to have a place in our democracy,” National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus said at a press briefing in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Thursday.
Secondus called on the judiciary to be careful not to throw the country into chaos following its judgment on Tuesday that sacked Ihedioha as Governor of Imo State.
The PDP therefore advises Justice Tanko not to allow himself to be used to push our nation to the path of anarchy and constitutional crisis as any further attempt to subvert justice in the pending petitions on Sokoto, Bauchi, Benue, Adamawa as well as Kano and Plateau states will be firmly and vehemently resisted.
“In other to avoid an imminent breakdown of law and order, the PDP demands that Justice Tanko Mohammed immediately steps down as CJN and chairman of the National Judicial Council as Nigerians have lost confidence in him and a Supreme Court under his leadership,” the opposition party chairman said.
The Supreme Court had on Tuesday sacked Ihedioha of the PDP as Imo state governor and announced the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate Hope Uzodinma as winner of the governorship election held in March 2019.
Uzodinma was then given a new certificate of return by the electoral commission, INEC and was sworn in late Wednesday.
The opposition party also demanded that Chief Justice Mohammed immediately recuse himself from the remaining governorship election cases before the Supreme Court to avoid him influencing other judges.
Secondus said “Justice Tanko must not head the panel to determine the remaining election petitions before the Supreme Court” which include Kano, Plateau, Benue, Bauchi and Adamawa states which are mostly states governed by the opposition party.
The Supreme Court and Chief Justice Mohammed were not immediately available for comments.
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