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Sierra Leone begins visa-free entry for Africans

Citizens of the African Union member states will enjoy visa-on-arrival but will be required to pay a $25 dollar fee

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Sierra Leone begins visa-free entry for Africans

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.

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West Africa News

Fire outbreak in Quranic school kills 26 pupils and 2 teachers in Liberia

President George Weah visited the site in Paynesville, on the outskirts of the capital Monrovia, and said the cause was still unknown

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Fire outbreak in Quranic school kills 26 pupils and 2 teachers in Liberia
Women react as they watch from a balcony how the bodies of pupils and a teacher, who were killed in an overnight fire at a Quranic school, are prepared to be taken to the burial site, in Monrovia, on September 18, 2019. - Dozens of children were killed on September 18 in a fire at a Koranic school near the Liberian capital Monrovia. At least 26 children and two teachers died in the blaze overnight, the president's office said, citing information from the emergency services. President Weah visited the site in Paynesville, on the outskirts of the capital, and said the cause was still unknown. (Photo by Carielle DOE / AFP)

A huge fire at a Liberian Quranic school killed at least 26 pupils and two teachers on Wednesday when flames engulfed their dormitory, in one of the worst disasters of its kind in the country.

The boys were sleeping at the school when the overnight fire began, said police spokesman Moses Carter, adding that an electrical fault could have caused the blaze.

President George Weah visited the site in Paynesville, on the outskirts of the capital Monrovia, and said the cause was still unknown.

“We are here to encourage parents of the victims to have strength, because it is painful to lose your kids in this manner,” Weah told reporters at the scene.

The president’s office said 26 pupils between the ages of 10 and 20 died along with two teachers. The police spokesman said 27 students had been killed.

On Wednesday evening, the president of neighbouring Guinea, Alpha Conde, said several of his country’s nationals died in the blaze.

In a statement, he expressed “great emotion” over the deaths and gave his “deepest condolences to the Liberian people and the Guinean community in Liberia” adding that he was following the investigation closely.  

“We extend our sympathy to the bereaved families. We don’t know the cause of the fire yet, but we will encourage our investigators to find how it happened,” he added.

Fire outbreak in Quranic school kills 26 pupils and 2 teachers in Liberia
Liberian President George Weah (2R) stands among other men to pay his respects in front of the bodies of pupils and a teacher who were killed in an overnight fire at a Koranic school, in Monrovia, on September 18, 2019. (Photo by Carielle DOE / AFP)

Rescuers in white masks and surgical gloves carried the children’s bodies in bags from the burnt-out building as crowds of people and relatives pressed together outside. 

“Our team is investigating the cause of the fire,” the police spokesman said. “It may be electrical,” he added, while refusing to rule out the possibility that the fire was a criminal act.

The children were asleep –

“I was sleeping when I heard noise outside. My wife opened the back door and we saw smoke coming from the front. We came out and saw fire at the back,” said local resident Zazay Ballah, who said they had helped in the rescue efforts.

“We went for water, trying to put it out… When the firefighters came, the fire was already going down.” 

The victims were buried swiftly in a collective ceremony, in the Muslim tradition.

In an earlier tweet, Weah offered condolences to the families of those affected.

“My prayers go out to the families of the children that died last night in Paynesville City as a result of a deadly fire that engulfed their school building,” he wrote.

“This is a tough time for the families of the victims and all of Liberia.”

The Liberian authorities are all too familiar with deadly fires, often caused by malfunctioning generators, though “not on this scale,” the presidential spokesman said.

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Culture & Tourism

Ake festival 2019: A festival of arts and books

The preservation of African culture gave birth to the Aké Arts and Book Festival

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Ake Festival 2019 partners News Central
A panel session with speakers discussing at the Ake Festival

What happens when two Afro-optimist giants and pioneers of African cultural advancement form a partnership to host the biggest cultural and artsy event on the continent?

You guessed right. An invitation to an authentic African experience. From October 24-27, the 7th edition of the Aké Arts and Book Festival will take place in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital. News Central will, this time, bring you all the action live from the venue.

Themed “Black Bodies: Grey Matter”, this year’s edition will feature book chats, readings, panel discussions, art exhibitions, films, music, theatre and many more creative expressions through black bodies that genuinely tell the African story.

The Ake Festival –  News Central Story

In the royal town of Ake, Ogun State, South-Western Nigeria, the birthplace of Professor Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, a passion for the preservation of African culture gave birth to the Aké Arts and Book Festival.

For 6 years, the festival, founded in 2013 by renowned Nigerian writer, Lola Shoneyin has converged Africa’s brightest and most artistically creative minds to engage in pro-African discourse.

And this year, News Central hopes to infuse the “Africa. First.” narrative, an important piece in the Ake Festival puzzle for a successful celebration of Africa in all of her uniqueness.

What does Africa. First. mean for Ake Festival?

In a recent interview, Lola Shoneyin revealed her delight in partnering with News Central, a frontier media platform that puts Africa and Africans in the driver’s seat of our stories.

“I love Africa. First…and I love it because it really resonates with me.”

Lola Shoneyin

Africa. First. is a movement by Africans and for Africa! It seeks to put the conversation on African culture and power back on the front burner.  The African culture is vibrantly expressive, uniquely diverse, progressively modern and enviably embodied in Black Bodies and Grey Matter.

Our boldness and power are sourced from the blood of great inventors, mighty rulers and pioneers of civilisations that courses through our veins. African power is rooted in this transfer and it is our responsibility to protect and prolong it.

News Central is proud to pioneer this movement and shared vision to promote the African culture and power at events such as the Aké Fest, using our balanced and Afro-optimist media platform in making these stories accessible to Africans.

As our Director of Content and Programmes, Becky Muikia puts it:

“We give them a voice on a pan-African scale.”

Becky Muikia

Africa, now is your time!

Promoting, amplifying and celebrating the African experience is at the heart of the Aké Festival and News Central partnership.

For four days, come witness a full blend of Afro cultural immersion and untold stories told by hundreds of writers, poets, dancers, artists, film-makers, and other creatives. Join us on this shared journey by registering to attend here Aké Festival.

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All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

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Feature News

Struggle continues: Nigeria’s Libya returnees experience tough reintegration

Edo State government has set up a support programme for the returnees which is rare in Nigeria

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Struggle continues: Nigeria's Libya returnees experience tough reintegration

Emerging from her ordeal, Gloria considers herself “privileged”. Last year, the 26-year-old left Nigeria with four other women, dreaming of a better life in Europe.

On a tortuous journey, three of the five friends died before reaching Libya, where the two survivors were stranded for almost a year. Now, only Gloria is back home in Nigeria.

She dreamed of being a fashion designer but now sews synthetic tracksuits in a shabby workshop in Benin City, southern Nigeria, for ₦15,000 a month.

“After transport, the money is almost finished”, she says.

Still, she adds quickly, she “thanks God for having a job”.

Her employment is part of a training programme, set up by the local government of southern Edo State — the departure point for most Nigerian migrants.

Gloria is one of nearly 14,000 young Nigerians to have returned from Libya since 2017 under a United Nations voluntary repatriation programme.

She and the other returnees quoted in this story asked not to be identified by their real names.

READ: Iddris Sandu, the 21-year-old expert behind Instagram, Snapchat and Uber

She is “not asking for too much”, just a roof over her head and to be able to eat, Gloria tells reporters.

Struggle continues: Nigeria's Libya returnees experience tough reintegration

But she blames herself for daring to dream that life could be better elsewhere and believing the smugglers’ promises that they would reach Europe within two weeks.

Broke and broken – 

In Libya, prospects of crossing the Mediterranean vanished, after a tightening of European Union immigration policies.

Many spend months, even years stranded in Libya, sold as slaves by their smugglers.

But once back home in Nigeria, life is even more difficult than before: saddled with debt, struggling to find work, broken by their treatment at the hands of the traffickers and by their failed dreams. 

Human Rights Watch highlighted the “continuing anguish” that returnees face. 

Many suffer long-term mental and physical health problems as well as social stigma on returning to Nigeria, a report released last month said.

Government-run centres tasked with looking after them are poorly funded and “unable to meet survivors’ multiple needs for long-term comprehensive assistance”, it added.

Edo State government has set up a support programme which is rare in Nigeria.

The state hosts some 4,800 of the nearly 14,000 returnees — mostly aged 17 to 35 and with no diploma or formal qualifications.

Under the scheme, they can travel for free to Benin City, Edo’s capital, stay two nights in a hotel, receive an hour of psychological support and the equivalent of a €100 allowance.

It barely moves the needle for those starting again but is enough to stoke envy in a country where state aid is scarce and 83 million people live in extreme poverty.

Stigma –

READ: Ethiopian youths “pimp out” jalopy Beetles to revive auto culture

Showing potential students around, Ukinebo Dare, of the Edo Innovates vocational training programme, says many youngsters grumble that returnees get “preferential treatment”.

In modern classrooms in Benin City, a few hundred students learn to “code”, do photography, start a small business and learn marketing in courses open to all.

Struggle continues: Nigeria's Libya returnees experience tough reintegration

“Classes are both for the youth and returnees, (be)cause we don’t want the stigma to affect them,” Dare said. 

“It’s a priority for us to give youth, who are potential migrants, opportunities in jobs they can be interested in.”

According to Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics, 55 per cent of the under-35s were unemployed at the end of last year.

Tike, now 28, had a low paying job before leaving Nigeria in February 2017 but since returning from Libya says his life is “more, more, more harder than before”.

Although he returned “physically” in December 2017 he says his “mindset was fully corrupted”.

“I got paranoid. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t sleep, always looking out if there is any danger,” he said, at the tiny flat he shares with his girlfriend, also back from Libya, and their four-month-old daughter.

Crime –

A few months after returning, and with no psychological support, Tike decided to train to be a butcher.

But, more than a year since he registered for help with reintegration programmes, including one run by the International Organization for Migration, he has not found a job and has no money to start his own business.

Struggle continues: Nigeria's Libya returnees experience tough reintegration

“We, the youth, we have no job. What we have is cultism (occult gangs),” Tike says.  

“People see it as a way of getting money, an excuse for getting into crime.”

Since last year, when Nigeria was still in its longest economic recession in decades, crime has increased in the state of Edo, according to official data.

“Returnees are seen as people who are coming to cause problems in the community,” laments Lilian Garuba, of the Special Force against Illegal Migration.

“They see them as failure, and not for what they are: victims.”

Debt spiral –

Peter, 24, was arrested a few days after his return. 

His mother had borrowed money from a neighbourhood lender to raise the €1,000 needed to pay his smuggler.

“As soon as he heard I was back, he came to see her. She couldn’t pay (the debt), so I was arrested by the police,” he told reporters, still shaking.

Financially crippled, his mother had to borrow more money from another lender to pay off her debts. 

READ: “Okada” Wars: How Nigeria’s Uber-style motorbikes are competing for Lagos routes

Peter’s last trip was already his second attempt. 

“When I first came back from Libya, I thought I was going to try another country. I tried, but in Morocco it was even worse and thank God I was able to return to Nigeria,” he said, three weeks after getting back. 

“Now I have nothing, nothing,” he said, his voice breaking. 

“All I think about is ‘kill yourself’, but what would I gain from it? I can’t do that to my mother.”

Copyright News Central

All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

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