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US Imposes New Visa Charges on Nigerians

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Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama (m), Minister of State, Amb Zubairu Dada, Permamanent Secretary, Amb Mustapha Suleiman
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The United States of America (USA) has announced that it is imposing a ‘reciprocity fee’ on Nigerians seeking to travel to the United States. The new fee will only apply to Nigerians whose visa request has been approved.

The announcement was made in a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Abuja on Tuesday. The new fee ranges from $80 to $110 (28, 8000 to N39, 600) depending on the type of visa being applied for.

“The reciprocity fee will be charged in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee, also known as the MRV fee, which all applicants pay at the time of application,” the embassy said.

The embassy added that the fee was being imposed to reciprocate a similar one by the Nigerian government on Americans seeking to travel to Nigeria.

“U.S. law requires U.S. visa fees and validity periods to be based on the treatment afforded to U.

S. citizens by foreign governments, insofar as possible.”

The U.S. is a major destination for thousands of Nigerians who travel annually for various reasons including education, leisure, and work.

Part of the statement read: “Effective worldwide on 29 August, Nigerian citizens will be required to pay a visa issuance fee, or reciprocity fee, for all approved applications for nonimmigrant visas in B, F, H1B, I, L, and R visa classifications. The reciprocity fee will be charged in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee, also known as the MRV fee, which all applicants pay at the time of application. Nigerian citizens whose applications for a nonimmigrant visa are denied will not be charged the new reciprocity fee. Both reciprocity and MRV fees are non-refundable, and their amounts vary based on visa classification.

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“U.S. law requires U.S. visa fees and validity periods to be based on the treatment afforded to U.S. citizens by foreign governments, insofar as possible. Visa issuance fees are implemented under the principle of reciprocity: when a foreign government imposes additional visa fees on U.S. citizens, the United States will impose reciprocal fees on citizens of that country for similar types of visas. Nationals of a number of countries worldwide are currently required to pay this type of fee after their nonimmigrant visa application is approved.

“The total cost for a U.S. citizen to obtain a visa to Nigeria is currently higher than the total cost for a Nigerian to obtain a comparable visa to the United States. The new reciprocity fee for Nigerian citizens is meant to eliminate that cost difference.

“Since early 2018, the U.S. government has engaged the Nigerian government to request that the Nigerian government change the fees charged to U.S. citizens for certain visa categories. After eighteen months of review and consultations, the government of Nigeria has not changed its fee structure for U.S. citizen visa applicants, requiring the U.S. Department of State to enact new reciprocity fees in accordance with our visa laws.”

“The reciprocity fee will be required for all Nigerian citizens worldwide, regardless of where they are applying for a nonimmigrant visa to the United States. The reciprocity fee is required for each visa that is issued, which means both adults and minors whose visa applications are approved will be charged the reciprocity fee. The fee can only be paid at the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. Consulate General. The reciprocity fee cannot be paid at banks or any other location.”

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INEC Creates Additional 14 CVR Centres in FCT

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has created 14 additional Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) centres in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to address upsurge in registrants turnout.

INEC said this in a statement by the FCT INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Mr Yahaya Bello on Tuesday in Abuja.

Bello said that the commission has also deployed 50 additional INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED) machines to the new registration centres in the territory.

He said that the creation of the centres was to accommodate the upsurge of intending registrants in the FCT.

“Due to the upsurge of Voter turnout in the ongoing CVR in FCT, the INEC Chairman , Prof. Mahmud Yakubu has graciously approved deployment to the following centers for ease of registration.

“The centres are:1 ,City Centre -Diplomatic Park, Area 1 , 2.

Gwarinpa G.S.S Life Camp ,3 . Wuse G.S.S Zone 3 ,4. Kabusa Primary School and Lugbe Primary School.

“ Others are : 5. Giwa – Gwagwa Primary School ,6. GUI – Gosa Primary School ,7 Karshi- Karshi Development Center ,8. Orozo – Orozo Primary School .

“The rest are : 9. Nyanya – G.S.S Nyanya ,10. Kubwa- L.E.A Primary School Kubwa, 11. Dutse-Aljaji – L.E.A Primary School Dutse, L.E.A Primary School, Dawaki L.E.A and Primary School, Mpape,” he said

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Bello said that the commission had deployed 50 IVED machines to the new centers.

He urged voters to take advantage of the new additional centers and encouraged prospective registrants to be civil as they participate in the registration. (NAN)

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Senate to Probe Tanko Mohammad’s Tenure Despite Resignation 

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By Jude Opara and Mathew Dadiya, Abuja

Despite his voluntary  resignation from his office as the Chief Justice of Nigerian (CJN) on Monday, the Senate on Tuesday said that it would still probe the Justice Tanko Muhammad.

This followed a motion on “Matter of Urgent Public Importance” moved by Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC-Ekiti).

The motion was tagged: “State of Affairs in the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Demand by Justices of the Court.

It could be recalled that the Senate had on June 22, mandated the  Committee to as a matter of urgency, wade into the crisis rocking the judiciary.

Following prayers from the motion, the Senate resolved to mandate the committee to go ahead with its assignment in the bid to finding a lasting solution to the matter by interacting with relevant stakeholders.

This was aimed at addressing the complaints raised in the petition by the justices of the Supreme Court recently against Justice Mohammad as CJN .

The Senate further mandated the Committee to interface with the relevant stakeholders in the three arms of government as well as at the Bar and the Bench.

Bamidele while moving the motion in line with the Rules 41 and 51 of the Senate Standing Orders, noted that poor welfare of judicial officers would affect outcomes from the judiciary.  

“The sacred image of the judiciary, which is the epicentre of the temple of justice should be preserved by the Senate through appropriate legislative measures in order to safeguard this highly revered institution and prevent it from being ridiculed,” he said.

The lawmaker who expressed reservations over the former CJN’s resignation said the development will not prevent the committee from going ahead with its assignment in the quest to find a lasting solution to the issue concerning the judiciary.

“Even though Muhammad has stepped down as CJN, most of the issues raised by the justices of the Supreme Court and other stakeholders within the judiciary still remain and need to be addressed urgently to prevent an eventual shutdown of the Judiciary,” he said. 

Supporting the motion, Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, said that “this motion will show clearly that the Senate is not unaware of the role it is supposed to play.

“Of course, in playing that role, we also respect separation of powers. Our concern is that the judiciary as an arm of government deserves all the support it needs been the last hope as far as the rule of law is concerned.”

Similarly, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege said, “I am very embarrassed as a lawyer and also someone from the judicial family, seeing that petition on the social media and eventually on the mainstream media. I was taken aback because it has never happened, it is unprecedented. There is no reason why the judiciary should lack anything financially.”

In his remarks President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said, “I can see most of the emphasis is on funding. When we look into the issues, they go beyond funding. We should look at other areas whether there is need to improve on the structures or having issues that may not be about funding but funding is of course a major issue.” Lawan said.

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Fourteen  justices of the Supreme Court had leveled allegations of corruption against the former CJN, Muhammad.

NASS Moves to Amend Electoral Act, Hails Supreme Court Judgement

In reaction to what it believes are flaws of the Electoral Act 2022, the National Assembly is making arrangements to amend some sections of the legislation to strengthen its perceived  areas of weaknesses.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan revealed this on Tuesday at plenary, following a “Matter of Urgent National Importance,” brought before it by Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (PDP-Kebbi).

Lawan described the judgment by the Supreme Court on Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act as a landmark that has vindicated the National Assembly.

The Senate President added that further amendment of the Act would strengthen it ahead of the 2023 general elections.

“Let me say that this is one major landmark judgment by the Supreme Court, that the National Assembly had done its job and the court upheld it. The idea of what method of primaries should be adopted at the moment is entirely left for the political parties to decide.

“But as we implement the Electoral Act 2022, we are supposed to be very observant of the strengths and weaknesses of the law. This law is supposed to improve on the electoral processes and procedures in our country.

“So, it is for us to ensure that where there are weaknesses, we try to come up with measures, amendments to deal with the issues of weaknesses in the law. And, I’m sure it will come full circle when the 2023 elections are held. 

“I have no doubt in my mind that all of us in the National Assembly, not only in the Senate, but in the House as well, feel that we must do everything and everything possible to make this Electoral Act serve the purpose for which it was passed and assented to. Therefore, I believe that we should work tirelessly to take note of those areas that we feel are not strong enough – that are weak points in the law – with a view to strengthening them before we finally take our exit in 2023,” Lawan said.

In his submission, Abdulahi who recently dumped the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the PDP in relying on Order 42 of the Senate Standing Orders, lauded the 9th Assembly for resisting the pressure from the Executive to amend Section 84(12) of Electoral Act 2022.

He also praised the Supreme Court for being clear, decisive and unambiguous in upholding the  principles of separations of powers as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

“In my view, the Supreme Court verdict should be celebrated for the following reasons. It restored and anchors the power of making laws to the National Assembly, and establishes a principle that once the President accents to a Bill he/she can’t approbate and reprobate, i.e. he/she cannot go to the courts to amend/reject the Bill in part or in whole”, he said.

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Abdullahi emphasized the need to amend the Electoral Act to revert to the direct mode of primaries to be adopted by the political parties.

“One issue still remains outstanding, and that is amending the Act (after the 2023 elections) to revert to our earlier stance on direct primaries. Our recent nasty experience of the misuse of consensus and delegate system has vindicated our earlier position on the merit of direct primaries provided that a verifiable membership register of political parties kept simultaneously at the Ward level and with INEC with all the necessary safeguards against corruption and data manipulation, is put in place.

“As the political process towards 2023 unfolds, the National Assembly needs to be observant of the loopholes and weaknesses of the 2022 Electoral Act. So that a comprehensive assessment is undertaken to provide adequate grounds for making amendments to the Act before the end of the term of office of the ninth Assembly in May 2023”, he added.

Kalu Leads 22 Non-returning APC Senators in Protest to Buhari 

President Muhammadu Buhari has forestalled the impending exodus of senators of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) following their inability to get the party’s ticket to return to the National Assembly in 2023. 

Twenty-two of the aggrieved senators, who included Senator Smart Adeyemi were led by the Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu to the Aso Rock office of the President 

Buhari noted their concerns about the future of the ruling party but praised their effort to find a solution. 

The President assured them that as the leader of the party, one of his roles was to create the environment for members to ventilate their grievances. 

He assured them that he had noted their concerns over the outcomes of the party primaries, the threat to the party’s majority  in the National Assembly and  consequences losing the majority hold will have  on the party. 

While pointing out that there must be a winner and loser in every contest, Buhari revealed that he had been inaudated with complaints over the primaries, assuring that he would continue to address the challenges through the party machinery. 

He urged party members to exercise restrain,  promising that justice would be done. 

“I thank you for the decision to approach me with your concerns over the future of the party and for pursuing solutions approach to the challenges thrown up by the recent election-related activities particularly the primaries. 

“As the leader of the party one of my primary roles is to ensure that the our culture of internal democracy and dispute resolution is strengthened by creating the opportunity for members to ventilate their opinions, views and grievances at different levels. 

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“Notwithstanding the fact that we have accomplished 23 years of an uninterrupted democratic governance, our journey is still in a nascent stage and we continue to learn from our challenges and mistakes. 

“Similarly our party is still evolving in it’s culture and practice and it is my expectations and hope that we should attain a mature level in our internal conduct. 

“I have noted your grievances particularly as it concerns the just concluded processes. The cost to the nation, the threat to the majority of position held by our party in the legislative chambers and likely consequent causes to the electoral fortune’s of the party as we approach the General Elections. We must not allow these dire threat to come to pass. 

“I must acknowledge that in every contest there must be a level playing ground, just as there would be grievances at the end. That is the test of our democratic credentials, systems and practices. 

“I have since the conclusion of the process been inundated with various reports and complaints. In keeping with our ethos therefore, I shall continue to address the ensuing challenges and grievances through the party machinery while paying keen attention to the outcomes. 

“I must also remind you of the  primacy of justice in all our actions, if justice is denied its outcome is usually unpleasant, this is because you the members keep the party running. I should add that as part of the policy of using the party machinery for effective resolutions of conflict, the chairman and some members of the national working committee visited the National Assembly recently to dialogue with our legislators. 

“The leadership of the party is currently addressing the outcomes as part of the way forward. I am encouraging all the party functionaries to adhere to the truth and to be fair to all parties in any dispute. This is important because our strength and victory in the election lie in the unity of the party, in our ability to prevent or heal any injustice perceived. 

“I urge you and all party members to exercise restraint and continue to demonstrate commitment to the ideals while we continue to build and develop the party and the country. 

“Finally, Let me assure you that justice shall prevail, aggrieved members shall be assuaged in the interest of the party and the nation shall be protected,” the President said.

In his remarks, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Kalu, said at least 22 senators and members of the party were unhappy with the outcome of the primaries in their states, noting that they felt disenfranchised by the process. 

He said the legislators had made sacrifices for the growth of the party and democracy in the country and asked for the President’s kind intervention. 

“Mr President, in the Senate we have worked hard and consistently sold your programmes beyond party lines. Be assured always of our support,’’ he added. 

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Why I Didn’t Implement 2014 National Confab Report – Jonathan

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Goodluck Ebele Jonathan
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Former President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday stated that he could not implement the much-applauded recommendations of the 2014 National Conference because it came close to the general elections.

Jonathan who was represented by Senator Pius Ayim, spoke at the presentation of the book: “The National Conversation: Interests and Intrigues That Shaped The 2014 National Conference,” at Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja, written by two journalists, Akpandem James and Sam Akpe.

Nigerians have commended the recommendations of the conference, noting that their implementation would have resolved some of the nagging national issues.

 Jonathan further told his Abuja audience that he could not implement the recommendations before quitting office because the  support base of his party and government in the then National Assembly had vastly been eroded by the defection of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal and others to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC)   

He noted that the recommendations were expected to be submitted to the National Assembly for ratification and that the decision Tambuwal and some principal officers of the House of Reps to defect to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) also stalled the move.

Tambuwal had joined the APC which was at the time criticizing the confab as a political campaign tool. Political pundits had reasoned at the time that with the defections, it would difficult for Jonathan’s government and the ruling Peoples Democracy Party (PDP) to get a concurrence in both chambers of the National Assembly on the confab recommendations.

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To further frustrate frustrate President with regards to the confab recommendations, Tambuwal made a lengthy adjournment of the House after his defection with his colleagues leaving Jonathan stranded.

There were also other issues against the implementation of the Conference recommendations, Jonathan said. For instance, an ECOWAS protocol prohibits leaders of member countries from making any constitutional changes close to any general elections.

The confab report was submitted in August 2014, six months before the February 2015 election.

The former President noted that if the report had gone through the National Assembly, it would have resulted in changes in the Nigerian constitution.

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