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New Visa Policy, Good But…

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The Federal Government, recently launched in Abuja a new visa policy to propel Nigeria to attain a globally competitive economy, with a view to improving the country’s business environment and boost tourism.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who performed the launch, in company of the Minister of Interior, Mr. Raaf Aregbesola; and the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mr. Mohammed Babandede, said the document sought to complement the Federal Government’s efforts towards protecting Nigeria’s national identity as well as the defence of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
As it were, under the policy, Africans willing to visit the country without visa can now obtain visas on arrival at four entry ports excluding the land borders.
The new visa policy broadens the scope of visa obtainment in Nigeria from the hitherto existing six categories to 79.
The policy, according to the President, was aimed at attracting innovation as well as specialized skills and knowledge to complement what is locally available, and propel Nigeria to attain a globally competitive economy, improved business environment and by so doing, boosts the country’s tourism potentials.
It said the new policy also provides the platform to achieve what he described as African integration without compromising national security.
The visa on arrival policy could only be obtained in four international airports; namely; the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport; Murtala Mohammed International Airport; Aminu Kano International Airport; and Port Harcourt International Airport.
Briefing journalists after the launch, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said the new policy comprises special offers to Nigerians in Diaspora with dual citizenships, as this entails that they will now be able to make use of the passports of their adopted countries to visit Nigeria without the need for short stay visas.
According to the minister, although there were three initial visa classifications, which include short visit, temporary and permanent visa categories, they were later increased to six classifications and have now been raised to 79 to address every aspect of human needs from entry to exit.
The minister further explained that the process has been digitalised in a way that the involvement of human elements in the process is drastically reduced as applications and payments will be made online, adding that the visa categories were expanded to 79 groups because Nigeria wants to be detailed with enhanced security in such a way that if anyone beats security watch at one point, he would be caught at the other end.
According to him, the 79 categories cover various spheres of activities which include visa to boost the economy, visa for education for students, visa for religious tourism, medical tourism visa, journalist visa, among others.
On measures to curtail the abuse of the new visa policy through the land borders, he said even though in line with the ECOWAS treaty, there is free movement among member states, any West African citizen entering through the land borders must possess the usual valid travel documents, adding, however, that such arrangement is only applicable for people paying a short visit to the country.
The Tide notes that several Nigerians and organisations have reacted to the launch of the new visa policy by the Federal Government with some applauding it and others picking holes in it.
For instance, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) believes that the revised version unveiled by the Federal Government would aid economic integration, facilitate trade and investment in the country and creates jobs but cautions that individuals should be subjected to rigorous processes and screening before departure from the affected countries.
The Tide believes that as lofty and well-intended the new visa policy may be, it is a very ambitious project, because the country is not yet ripe and mature for it now. We say so because the Federal Government has not yet put measures on ground to make it work effectively.
It is unfortunate that the policy is coming on stream at a time the country is ranked third in the Global Terrorism Report Index. The fear that the policy may further compound the country’s deplorable security situation is not unfounded. This is because it has the capacity of making the country an all-comers’ affair and a place where criminals fleeing other countries may have a safe haven.
Again, it is not out of place to think that the notorious ‘Nigerian factor’ syndrome may also creep in to make nonsense of the new visa policy. This is because today, we do not have a reliable data base on the accurate number of foreign nationals in our midst. There is also nothing in place to regulate the movement of such persons in the country.
This is even made more worrisome by the sheer fact that there are no accurate statistics to show the correct population of the country. The figures we have at our disposal are based on conjectures. The Federal Government must first and foremost start addressing these anomalies.
It is unfortunate that the current leaders of the country dwell on the issue of attracting foreign direct investments into the country without making commensurate efforts to actually make the country very attractive for investors by taking more pragmatic steps to develop the country’s infrastructure: roads, power, schools, water, hospitals, among others. Whereas these things are taken for granted in other places, here, they do not seem to work.
There is, therefore, the urgent need to create a conducive environment in the country for not only businesses to thrive but also to make Nigeria a great country for the citizens, where hunger, poverty, disease and insecurity which have today seemingly buffeted them on every side, will be a thing of the past.
We strongly believe that it is only in this way that the new visa policy of the government will make meaning. In this way, it would be able to achieve its objectives.

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Editorial

As 2023 Campaigns Begin…

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The 2023 presidential election campaign to give Nigerians full access to the election season officially got
underway on Wednesday, September 28, 2022. But practically all the gladiators had campaigned deftly in the media for voter sensitivity. During the ‘sensitisation’ phase, presidential candidates in particular inundated Nigerians with expectations for the times ahead.
While campaigns are merely contests of ideas and questions, campaign managers appear fully prepared to inflict buckshot bruises on one another. As such, it may be crucial for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remind all contenders and their parties of their obligation to campaign decently, heeding the code of conduct for the elections. They have to work with security agents to ensure there are no violent outings.
This has become necessary because politicians are desperate to obtain votes for themselves and may not take an issue-based approach to campaigning. This is going to hurt the people of Nigeria and the development of our democracy. These politicians are seeking to employ a variety of unknown tactics to launch varying degrees of smear campaigns against their opponents.
Regrettably, the protagonists of the negative campaigns are mostly the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the Labour Party (LP). Name-calling, verbal abuse, accusations and counter-allegations, as well as the posting of contentious video and audio messages, especially on social media, must be outlawed.
In a way, the essence of political campaigns is to help voters make the right choices from a broad range of options. This time, Nigerians deserve more than the usual allotment and purchases of musicians, comedians, and dancers to entertain the crowds for political rallies. Those aspiring to lead need to understand that when campaigns are vicious and chaotic, the results do not serve the public good.
Therefore, it is of utmost significance to ensure that the rules and regulations governing the campaign season are binding on all involved and that all key stakeholders compete on a level playing field. Candidates should elaborate on matters pertaining to ordinary Nigerians. They should tell us how they will deal with the challenges of the nation. Key issues such as the economy, security and corruption should feature prominently in the 2023 polling campaigns.
There is no doubt that Nigerians are looking for a firm commitment from political parties and their nominees to address the challenges they face. The problems we encounter in this country are well known. Unlike in the past, we would rather not see candidates give superficial explanations of issues or romanticise concerns about them. We think that the quality of campaigns is a precondition to the quality of governance when a winner emerges in the end.
Accordingly, political parties must look at the largely underfunded health sector, as well as virtually every sector of the economy and society. They must specify how they will raise funds and, possibly, new ideas to invest in the sectors. Will they ask for special assistance or budget funds to improve infrastructure? What are their short, medium and long-term health plans? Beyond universal health coverage, what are the means and logistics to achieve this dream?
Education, as the cornerstone of societal development requirements, should also be considered urgently. The electorate must ask itself how the candidates intend to expand access to all levels of education while enriching the quality and content of the curricula. What strategic priorities do they have for the industry? Will they build new institutions, particularly universities and polytechnics, or will they build capacity within existing institutions? Which is the lowest or most expensive to implement? What are their plans in terms of recruiting people into the educational institutions?
A major challenge facing the Nigerian economy is high unemployment and low electricity supply in the industrial sector. For decades, successive governments have made futile efforts to counter the threat. There is no question that insufficient power leads to unemployment. So, if high unemployment is to be brought down, the candidates must tell Nigerians how they would improve power generation and ensure that the industrial sector gets a higher preference in terms of energy supply.
And how will the candidates respond to the perennial strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that have virtually crippled tertiary education in the country? Again, insecurity has been a major obstacle to domestic and foreign investments. Nigerians want to hear from those eager to lead how they will resolve this dire threat. Political parties and their power-seeking candidates must adequately scrutinise these obstacles if the country is to witness positive developments.
The main problem of Nigeria’s growth and progress is poor governance, largely because those responsible for piloting the affairs of the country are not serving the well-being of the people. Hence, the pertinent question voters should ask is who among the candidates can govern the nation more efficiently before exercising their right to vote in February and March next year.
The general expectation since gaining independence is that an independent Nigeria will provide and expand equal opportunities for the economic, social and cultural advancement of its people, but a critical analysis of the Development Index points out that these expected benefits have been greatly undermined by successive Nigerian leaders. During campaigns, Nigerians must repeatedly demand clear direction on how to proceed in this regard.
Each election is a referendum, and 2023 will be a defining moment, not because of what some politicians say. It will be a referendum on whether Nigerians are truly ready to make the necessary sacrifice to get the kind of leaders they aspire to; leaders who guarantee a better future not only for themselves but for their children and posterity. Or will they choose to continue the widespread shame and sham? Of course, 2023 will tell.

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Editorial

Hurray, Nigeria Is 62!

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Instead of grappling with the elevating issues of development, the country’s over 200 million population and more than 250 ethnic nationalities are smouldering with dissatisfaction about the present, and anxious about a precarious future. Now, the grand promise and hope of “unity in diversity” lie in bloody ruins, and separatist agitations have again taken a centre stage in national politics. If the years of military dictatorship are seen as “years eaten by locusts,” then the inhumane descent of Nigeria today can be said to be “more years eaten by the locusts.”
Every sector of our national life has been affected, from governance to the economy, security and national cohesion. Setbacks and deficits in each area of development define the country. Traumatised, abused and oppressed, young people have lost hope in the country. Just like in 1966, Nigeria is once again on the fast track to the point of no return. All Nigerians should be well-meaning enough to embark on conscientious sober reflection on the state of the nation.
Successive leaders have abandoned our founding fathers’ dream of Nigeria and replaced it with a motive for self-aggrandizement. The country is torn apart, the people are poor, life and property are insecure, and life is worthless. Now and then, we witness Nigerians loathe their country and spit out the worst abuse on their homeland. While the wealthy have acquired foreign citizenship for themselves and their families, others are working frantically to do so or emigrate from Nigeria.
This is Nigeria for the next generation of leaders: a disillusioned, morally weak, socially divided, religiously lost and economically stupefied country. This is not the way of a truly independent nation. To chart a path to progress, however, Nigeria needs people with big dreams, especially those who do not want to do things the usual way. To justify any independence claim, Nigerians must first determine the basis for their assertion to independence.
Nigeria’s problems are foundational. What we have is a corporate catastrophe. The country is a complicated, intricate, and flummoxing organism where wrongs rule and doing right is impossible. Do the different people who make up the nation see themselves as Nigerians in the first place? Or do they profess allegiance to their clan or tribe as their most basic identity? Nigerians require a sense of national pride and ethos that draws on all the values, spirits, and cultures of different peoples.
To this end, the political class and ruling elite must not place one part of the country above other parts or treat other parts as second-class citizens. Leadership is not racial domination or selfish power imbalances; rather, it is a tendency to truly carry out a mission for the common good. President Muhammadu Buhari should accept that under his leadership, Nigeria has witnessed its worst reversal ever. Leaders and followers must do their best to ensure that they aspire to a new and better Nigeria.
As she commemorates the 62nd anniversary of independence, Nigeria’s top priority should be leadership in Africa and the black world. The country is naturally given this leadership role, and she has indeed played a convincing role in her past activities on the African continent and abroad. Leaders should look to the exemplary and inspiring role this country can play 50 years from now. However, this will only happen if Nigeria shakes off the incompetence, and greed ingrained in its leadership.
What is there to celebrate is the tenacity of Nigerians in their decision to have their country despite a repeated siege by various outlaws. These Nigerians include farmers and locals trapped in terrorist and bandit enclaves, schoolchildren being hunted back and forth, disillusioned women and children in IDP camps, soldiers in trenches and police officers who sacrifice their lives, and lonely Nigerians who every day hope in God that this too will pass. It is these Nigerians who hold this country together and deserve the greatest courtesy.
Economically, Nigeria has fallen behind its peers. Diversification gave way to a single product model. Agriculture was once the backbone of the country and its defunct regions, contributing more than 60 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1960. Today, it is a paltry 22.13 per cent of nominal GDP by June 2021. The Central Bank of Nigeria says oil and gas contributed less than 1.0 per cent of GDP and 6.65 per cent of export earnings in 1961, but contributed 47.72 per cent of GDP and 98.72 per cent of export earnings in 2000.
Despite successive governments’ efforts to industrialise the country and achieve sustainable economic growth, stakeholders in the real sector believe that the economy is gradually declining. Industrialisation, seen as the only means to achieve economic growth and development, remains unfulfilled 62 years after the founding of the nation. The scarcity of industry, stunted growth in manufacturing, rising unemployment, and lack of food and investment, among others, remain a great challenge.
Infrastructure has failed to pace with the tremendous population growth assessed at 45.14 million by the United States Census Bureau in 1960, to the estimated 211 million in 2021. Roads, airports, ports, and power are inadequate, requiring $3 trillion to fix, says the African Development Bank. In human development, failure is writ large. Whereas the poverty level was 15 per cent at independence, it averaged 27.2 per cent from 1980 to 2010 and reached 69 per cent by 2011.
Nigerians must vote wisely in the next year’s general elections by choosing a good leader. They have to be astute in their voting and avoid elevating needless issues. Nigerians should never again elect nepotistic, tribalistic and religious fundamentalists into governance. We need to salvage and retrieve our country from imminent collapse and looming disaster. The election next year is yet another opportunity to vote candidates that can transform the country and eliminate the pains the citizens are currently going through.
The duty to save our nation is a moral responsibility. A great nation is built based on the character of its people. If Nigeria has to be great, everyone has to take responsibility; everyone has to commit to doing what is fitting. This is a fundamental moral obligation to the state. That is what true independence means.

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Editorial

Ridding The World Of Nuclear Weapons

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After a high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament on September 26, 2013, the United Nations General
Assembly (UNGA) designated September 26 as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This Day provides an opportunity to highlight the need to eliminate nuclear weapons and the social and economic costs of perpetuating them.
The United Nations has commemorated the Day each year since 2014, providing an opportunity for governments and some civil society groups to discuss progress and priorities for nuclear disarmament. One of the oldest goals of the United Nations is achieving global nuclear disarmament. But today, around 13,080 nuclear weapons remain. Countries possessing such weapons have well-funded, long-term plans to modernise their nuclear arsenals.
In 1946, the General Assembly’s first resolution established that the Atomic Energy Commission had the mandate to make specific proposals for the control of nuclear energy and the elimination of not only atomic weapons but also all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction. UNGA endorsed the objective of general and complete disarmament in 1959. The first Special Session of the General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament, held in 1978, further recognised that nuclear disarmament should be the priority objective.
The United States, the former Soviet Union and the United Kingdom signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which limits the spread of military nuclear technology by the recognised nuclear-weapon States to non-nuclear nations wishing to build or acquire atomic weapons. The NPT is uniquely unequal and ineffective, as it obliges non-nuclear States to forgo the development of nuclear weapons while allowing the established nuclear States to keep theirs.
On July 7, 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted. This Treaty is significant because it is the first multilateral legally-binding instrument for nuclear disarmament and elimination to have been negotiated in 20 years. The treaty was subsequently adopted by a vote with 122 States in favour. While this is commendable on its own, the efficacy of the treaty is questionable because none of the current nuclear-armed States supports the treaty or has signed it.
As the world grapples with new security challenges, it is pertinent now more than ever for global leaders to uphold the rules and principles of international humanitarian law in ensuring that weapons with catastrophic humanitarian outcomes, such as nuclear weapons, are eliminated from the earth. The 2017 TPNW presents an opportunity to achieve that goal. Accordingly, we call on all States to fulfil their commitment to nuclear disarmament by becoming parties to the treaty.
The beginning point in any discussion about nuclear weapons should be their terrifying explosive yield. Historical records of the disastrous impacts of the detonation of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August and September 1945 reveal horrid facts about the devastation caused by weapons of much lesser effects than the ones harboured in the military arsenals of some nuclear weapons’ possessors today.
The devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki raised the consciousness of the international community about the dangers of nuclear weapons. The ensuing clamour to regulate nuclear weapons jump-started the development of an international legal framework to prevent the proliferation of deadly weapons. Regrettably, the nuclear weapons question is embroiled in the politics of power and dominance, causing nuclear-possessing States to drive deliberations on nuclear weapons with a focus on the control of proliferation rather than on total elimination.
The real focus of the major treaties on nuclear weapons is either to prevent proliferation or elimination of nuclear ammunition. However, it is sad that the nuclear-possessing States have wavered in their commitment to complete disarmament. The International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has engaged to name and shame States that are not a party to TPNW, but how effective that effort will be remains to be seen. Their refusal to adhere to the treaty undermines its effectiveness, and there has been little pressure on these States to change their minds.
It seems superfluous to point out that for the treaty to be successfully and comprehensively implemented, Nuclear Weapons States have to cooperate, be parties to it and proactively implement it, as a large part of it addresses them. The treaty has an embedded acknowledgement that it would have opposition, hence Article 12 enjoins each State party to encourage others to sign, ratify, approve or accede to it, with the motive of universal adherence of all nations, eventually.
Undoubtedly, any use of nuclear weapons in the war between States or indiscriminate attacks by non-State actors would create catastrophic situations for humankind and the natural environment. The possibilities of nuclear accidents also remain, and every day that nuclear weapons remain on earth, someone is suffering from health degradation as a result. As long as some countries continue to have nuclear weapons, others will feel entitled to them as well.
The Russia–Ukraine war has raised the spectre of a nuclear disaster. The recent Russia’s missile attack on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia atomic plant points to that. This should attract more severe global sanctions on Russia, as the act represents a dire threat to the world. It was the first time that a nation has attacked a fuelled and functioning nuclear power plant. The unprovoked attack could endanger the safety of entire Europe. Russia must be stopped from carrying out military activities around the site.
Every drop of energy exerted in fighting for a world free of nuclear weapons is crucial. World leaders and policy-makers, non-governmental activists; all have a role to play in their circle of influence, from the diligent ratification of the relevant treaties to a march to raise awareness and spread the word. The Chernobyl disaster in former Soviet Ukraine in 1986 stands as a lasting example of why it is vital to ensure all nuclear power plants are dismantled or at worst have the highest standards of safety and security.
With the looming threat of a new Cold War, it is expedient for all nations, particularly countries in possession of nuclear weapons, to consider the tragic humanitarian consequences of the use of these weapons on human health, the environment, and vital economic resources, among others. Everyone has a role to play in building a future without nuclear weapons. There is no alternative to eliminating these horrible projectiles and creating a sustainable global peace based on common security.

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