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Wednesday, 28 August 2019
Wednesday, 28 August 2019 14:27

US retaliates, imposes visa hike on Nigerians

The United States Embassy in Nigeria has announced an increase in the price of visa for Nigerians with effect from Thursday in retaliation for the increased cost of obtaining Nigerian visa by its citizens.

With the announcement, Nigerians applying for tourism, student and business visas will not only pay the N59,200 fee but will have to pay an extra $110 (N40, 700) after the visa has been issued o them bringing the total cost to N99,900.

However, applicants who are denied visas would not need to pay the extra N40,700.

Applicants seeking the L1 Visa (work permit) will pay an extra N112, 100 if given visas while those applying for H4 Visa (dependency/spousal) will pay an extra N66,600.

The US Embassy adopts the rate of N370/$1 for Nigerians which is higher than both the official rate and the black market rate.

According to a statement from the US Embassy, “effective worldwide on August 29, Nigerian citizens will be required to pay a visa issuance fee, or reciprocity fee, for all approved applications for non-immigrant visas in B, F, H1B, I, L, and R visa classifications.”

It said the reciprocity fee would be charged in addition to the non-immigrant visa application fee, also known as the MRV fee, which all applicants pay at the time of application, adding that Nigerian citizens whose applications for a non-immigrant visa were denied would not be charged the new reciprocity fee.

The US said both reciprocity and MRV fees were non-refundable, and their amounts vary based on visa classification.

The statement said the US law required US visa fees and validity periods to be based on the treatment afforded to US citizens by foreign governments, insofar as possible, saying that visa issuance fees were implemented under the principle of reciprocity: when a foreign government imposed additional visa fees on US citizens, the United States would 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 non-immigrant visa application is approved.

“The total cost for a US 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 US government has engaged the Nigerian government to request that the Nigerian government change the fees charged to US citizens for certain visa categories. After 18 months of review and consultations, the government of Nigeria has not changed its fee structure for U.S. citizen visa applicants, requiring the US Department of State to enact new reciprocity fees in accordance with our visa laws,” the statement said.

It explained that the reciprocity fee would be required for all Nigerian citizens worldwide, regardless of where they were applying for a non-immigrant visa to the United States.

The US Government said the reciprocity fee was required for each visa that was issued, which meant both adults and minors whose visa applications were approved would be charged the reciprocity fee.

“The fee can only be paid at the US Embassy or the US Consulate General. The reciprocity fee cannot be paid at banks or any other location,” it said.

Published in Travel & Tourism
Doctors in a Beijing hospital said on Tuesday that they successfully conducted a remote robotic surgery on a patient more than 136 km away using 5G wireless technology.
According to China Telecom’s Tianjin branch, the orthopedic surgery was conducted on a 36-year-old female patient in north China’s Tianjin Municipality and lasted about four hours.
The surgery, enabled by a 5G Internet connection, was conducted at Tianjin First Central Hospital and transmitted via a live feed to an expert team at Beijing Jishuitan Hospital.
Meanwhile, an orthopedic expert of the Beijing hospital had already conducted the preoperative planning before a surgery robot operated according to the orders.
The Head of orthopedics at Tianjin First Central Hospital, Jiang Wenxue, said 5G technology guarantees clarity and continuity of transmitted videos and photos, as well as the stability, reliability and safety of the operation.
“With the network, we can perform surgery regardless of the distance, China is adopting the 5G network to meet the public demand in sectors such as transportation, entertainment and health care.
“As of July, Beijing had already constructed more than 7,800 5G base stations,“ Wenxue said.
Published in World

African footballers – like other players from developing countries – invariably earn sums of money far greater than their contemporaries back home.

On average, some African players in the elite leagues can earn between €15,000 and €100,000 or more as salaries. Those in leagues one, two and three can also earn around €10,000–50,000, €5000–20,000 and €2000–10,000. A few high-profile players earn more than €150,000 per month in prestigious European clubs.

As a result, there’s a great deal of pressure on players to show that they are spending some of what they earn back home. Some authors have asserted that these professional footballers spend their earnings on conspicuous consumption, such as high-end imported goods.

To get to grips with this perception I examined the effects of African migrant players’ “giving back” behaviour. I did this by analysing the various socioeconomic projects that they invest in in the communities they come from.

As part of my study I interviewed former and current professional footballers in Europe to understand the rationale behind how they used their earnings and what investments they made in society.

I found that some players invested in valuable projects like hospitals, schools, education, oil and gas businesses as well as football academies. This reflected what they termed as “giving back to the society”.

My findings suggest that players who make investment contributions are demonstrating their social and cultural ties with families, relatives, friends, teammates and the communities where they might have started their football careers.

The research

I developed a database of 1084 African professional players who are playing or had played in 30 different European leagues and other parts of the world.

Most were from West Africa (58.3%), followed by North Africa (17.9%), Central Africa (17.34%), Southern Africa (4.7%) and East Africa (1.8%).

The overseas leagues covered 44 African players for the 2012/2013 season.

Five countries each from Southern and East Africa did not have professional players. This means that at the time of the research, they did not have any players plying their trade outside of their territories. These countries were Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Seychelles, Sudan, Eritrea, Tanzania, Djibouti and South Sudan.

The interviews I conducted included speaking to former and current African professional players who have played in Europe and other parts of the world. Among them were Abedi Pele Ayew (Ghana), Emmanuel Eboue (Ivory Coast), Marcel Desailly (Ghana), Mike Alozie (Nigeria) Bouna Coundoul (Senegal), Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon), Reuben Ayarna (Ghana), Victor Wanyama (Kenya), Stephen Appiah and Asamoah Gyan (Ghana), and Chivuta Noah (Zambia). I interviewed 30 former and current African professional players that covered a period over five years – 2013 to 2018.

The questions I asked were aimed at understanding how players used their resources from football, including money, and the rationale behind their decisions.

Where players came from

Most of the players I spoke to set out to pursue opportunities abroad because they had limited opportunities at home to support their professional aspirations and expectations. Nearly all came from financially deprived areas. This meant that they had to mobilise resources to support their careers at a formative stage.

This involved strategising to overcome the challenges with the contributions from significant others in the communities to become successful professionally abroad.

The study showed that players were able to mobilise resources from their families, friends, relatives, team mates and club officials. They had also been able to mobilise other kinds of support such as documentation, money, sport kits and gear. In addition, they had built social relations and networks via the societal support and contributions to help them achieve their professional status abroad.

Eventually, when players became professional abroad and were being rewarded financially, some remitted in various ways to the country they came from. All of them remitted money which, according to the players, can be termed as an African culture.

Time to pay back

Players’ investment behaviour was classified according to the type of projects they got involved in within the communities. This led to an appreciation of how and why they choose to do certain projects based on the support and resources they might have received from their communities.

Players took very different investment initiatives. Some were purely economic; others had a more social dimension. Contributions from the players could be categorised into private investments, social enterprise investments and economic investments.

Contributions and assistance that constituted a form of “giving back” did not necessarily connote gifts and counter-gifts. Instead, they served as a potential complement to support the efforts of local and regional growth.

When deciding how to give back, the players considered those who had significantly contributed to their professional football careers. These included their families and extended families. Other factors that played a role were inter-generational obligations and non-familial actors.

These investments into valuable social and economic initiatives in communities fulfilled two important functions. First, they enhanced local and regional developmental activities. Second, they helped safeguard the athletes’ post-playing career.The Conversation


Ernest Yeboah Acheampong, Lecturer, Health,Physical Education,Recreation and Sport (HPERS), University of Education

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Opinion & Analysis
Women’s rights campaigners in Bangladesh celebrated landmark legal victory on Tuesday, after the nation’s top court recently ruled that the word “virgin” must be removed from marriage certificates.
Under the current marriage laws in the Muslim-majority country in South Asia, a bride is required to state on her marriage certificate if she is a “kumari” — meaning virgin — a widow, or divorced.
The country’s High Court issued a brief verdict, ordering the government to remove the term and to replace it with “unmarried.”
The ruling is a victory for women’s rights groups who fought a five-year-long legal battle challenging the term virgin as “humiliating and discriminatory.”
“It’s a ruling that gives us the belief that we can fight and create more changes for women in the future,” Ainun Nahar Siddiqua, of Bangladesh Legal Aid And Services Trust (BLAST), told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Rules for grooms also set to change
The ruling also means changes for grooms as well. Unlike women, men previously did not have to disclose their status but will now also be required to state if they are unmarried, divorced or a widower.
“I have conducted many marriages in Dhaka and I have often been asked why men have the liberty to not disclose their status but women don’t,” Mohammad Ali Akbar Sarker, a Muslim marriage registrar from Dhaka, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“I always told them this wasn’t in my hands. I guess I won’t be asked that question anymore,” he added.
The term virgin had been used in official documents since marriage certificates were introduced in Bangladesh in the 1960s. Siddiqua and others argued in court that the term breaches the privacy of the woman getting married.
The court is due to publish its full verdict in October, with the changes to the certificates expected to come into force then.
Published in World
Trading on the Nigerian equities market swayed further down on Tuesday with a decline of 0.32 percent due to price depreciation on some highly capitalised stocks.
Specifically, the All-Share Index decreased by 89.08 points or 0.32 percent to close at 27,602.77 compared with 27,691.85 achieved on Monday.
Similarly, the market capitalisation which opened at N13.472 trillion shed N44 billion to close at N13.428 trillion.
The downturn was impacted by losses recorded in medium and large capitalised stocks, amongst which are; Seplat Petroleum Development Company (Seplat), Total Nigeria, Dangote Cement, Guaranty Trust Bank and International Breweries.
Analysts at Afrinvest Limited expected the bearish performance to continue as investor sentiment remains weak.
Analysts at APT Securities and Funds Limited said: “We are optimistic that positive sentiment will rally as the market is set for a rebound in anticipation of economic policies.”
Market breadth remained negative with 13 gainers compared with 23 losers.
Seplat for the second consecutive day led the losers’ chart by 9.82 percent to close at N397.70, per share.
Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals followed with a decline of 9.62 percent to close at 47k, while NPF Micro Finance Bank lost 9.52 percent to close at N1.14 per share.
Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) depreciated by 9.15 percent to close at N6.95, while Sovereign Trust Insurance and Trans Nationwide Express declined by 9.09 percent each to close at 20k and 70k, respectively, per share.
Conversely, PZ Cussons recorded the highest price gain of 5.93 percent to lead the gainers’ chart to close at N6.25.
Courteville Business Solutions came second with a gain of five percent to close at 21k per share.
Cement Company Northern Nigeria and Chams went up by 3.57 percent each to close at N14.50 and 29k, respectively, while Wema Bank appreciated by 3.45 percent to close at 60k per share.
Transcorp topped the activity chart with an exchange of 29.67 million shares valued at N31.70 million.
Guaranty Trust Bank trailed with 25.17 million shares worth N692.25 million, while Access Bank accounted for 19.20 million shares valued at N128.52 million.
MTN Nigeria sold 17.02 million shares worth N2.35 billion, while FBN Holdings traded 15.63 million shares valued at N78.05 million.
In all, total volume traded appreciated by 16.04 percent with a total of 183.65 million shares worth N4.50 billion traded in 3,558 deals.
This was in contrast with a turnover of 158.27 million shares valued at N2.3 billion exchanged in 3,595 deals on Monday.
Published in Business

Microplastics are now everywhere as scientists said they have found the plastic particles, many invisible to the human eye, in rain, drinking water and oceans worldwide, raising questions about their effects on human and animal health.

Although the presence of plastic particles in the world’s oceans is well-documented, recent research shows that plastic fibres also are being found thousands of miles inland.

Plastic microfibres were inadvertently found by scientists measuring nitrogen levels in acid rain in the mountains of Colorado.

Tiny pieces of plastic showed up in 90 percent of rain samples taken from the foothills outside Denver and Boulder, and from remote sites in Rocky Mountain National Park, a 2019 study by the United States Geological Service said.

The fibres, only visible with a microscope, appeared to have come from plastic fabrics and were blue, red, silver, purple, green and yellow. Small plastic beads and shards also were observed with magnification.

“It is raining plastic,” concluded researcher Greg Wetherbee from the Denver-based USGS Hydrologic Networks Branch. Finding plastic fibres on top of 10,300-foot mountain peaks shows that “plastic is ubiquitous and not just an urban condition,” Wetherbee said.

European researchers this year found microplastics and tiny plastic fibres in pristine regions of remote French Pyrenees mountain regions. Researchers said the microplastics were carried by wind. They estimated that France is “blanketed by 2,000 tons of plastic particles” every year.

“Plastic litter is an increasing global issue and one of the key environmental challenges we face on a global scale,” researcher Steve Allen, from Britain’s University of Strathclyde, said in a press release.

The smallest microfibres and plastics are tiny enough to slip through most filters and even enter the bloodstreams of organisms that ingest them.An Australian study showed that people are consuming about 2,000 pieces of microplastic a week, or 21 grams a month — about the weight of a credit card.

Microplastic fibres were also found in Arctic snowfields, new research from the Alfred Wegener Institute and the Swiss WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF reported this month.

Microplastics, defined as pieces of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters, are created from the disintegration of plastic trash or are fabricated for industries, such as microbeads in cosmetics or plastic beads used in abrasive blast cleaning.

Microfibres are plastic filaments released from acrylics, polyester or nylon fabrics and rinsed out of washing machines by the thousands per article of clothing.

Plastic is useful, cheap and can improve human life by keeping food airtight, keep medical supplies sterile or reduce the costs of objects and textiles. But the inability of plastic to biodegrade has caused a worldwide plastic glut, environmental agencies say.

The smallest microfibres and plastics are tiny enough to slip through most filters and even enter the bloodstreams of organisms that ingest them. An Australian study showed that people are consuming about 2,000 pieces of microplastic a week, or 21 grams a month — about the weight of a credit card.

“No Plastic in Nature: Assessing Plastic Ingestion from Nature to People,” published in June by the World Wildlife Federation based on research by Thava Palanisami at University of Newcastle, Australia, showed that the most plastic is consumed through water, both bottled and tap.

Twice as much plastic is ingested through water in the United States and India as in Europe or Indonesia. Almost all U.S. tap water contains about 5 plastic microfibres per cup, the Australian study showed.

Other high sources of plastic consumed by humans were found in shellfish, beer and salt.

The majority of of the world’s virgin plastic has been created from petrochemicals since 2000, the study said.

It’s unclear how microplastics affect human health, but a study published last year by scientists from Johns Hopkins University and University of Toronto shows ingested tiny plastic particles appear to cause reproductive disruption in shellfish and lead to smaller, less-healthy offspring.

In vitro studies on animals show microplastics are toxic to lung cells, liver and brain cells, and plastic fibres “seem to produce mild inflammation of the respiratory tract,” the Australian study said.

Microplastics washed out in laundry and found in rain runoff make their way to the ocean, where other plastic trash also is ground into particles by wave motion.

Some descends to the ocean floor, but other plastic floats in areas like the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a 600,000-square-mile island of floating plastic twice the size of Texas. A 2015 study cited by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year.

Since 2006, the U.S. NOAA has operated a Marine Debris Program to focus efforts on cleaning up plastic and so-called derelict man-made marine garbage like abandoned lobster and clam traps.

But the best strategy for removing microplastics from the ocean is preventing them in the first place by better use and recycling of plastics, the agency said.

Its advice: “Plastic has important uses, so stopping production isn’t realistic, but changing your habits so you’re not using unnecessary plastic is important.”

Published in Opinion & Analysis

US-based retailer Costco opened its first brick-and-mortar store on the Chinese mainland on Tuesday but was forced to close early due to “overcrowding”.

The store embraced surging customers on its first day, with customers spending up to two hours queuing to check out or waiting three hours to find a spot among the 1,200-space parking lot, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

The Costco opening in China comes at a time of rising tensions between the US and China over trade.

Costco’s flagship store in Shanghai announced on Wed it will set a limit of 2,000 people in the store in response to the overcrowding on the first day of its opening on Aug 27. 

Published in Business

Ghana is one of the few countries in Africa where more than 50% of the population is permanently resident in cities. This urban population is located primarily in two cities; the capital Accra, and Kumasi. Both Accra, and Kumasi are home to 2 million people.

In the face of rapid urbanisation, the existing infrastructure continues to be extensively overstretched. This includes markets, housing, water, sanitation, roads and power. To meet the growing demand for urban infrastructure and services, the central and city governments have implemented a number of urban regeneration projects.

These include market redevelopment, reconstruction of roads, bridges and interchanges, and redevelopment of drains. They have been designed to address pressing problems of urban infrastructural decay. But the projects have also had a negative impact on the socioeconomic activities of urban residents.

Ghana’s national urban policy states that city authorities must include citizens whenever urban development activities are being undertaken. The reality, however, is different. Participation of residents in the development process is limited. As a result, urban regeneration projects are often met with citizen resistance.

Previously, resistance mainly took the form of street demonstrations during the early phases of urban regeneration. But this yielded very little. Governments knew that if they survived the early resistance, subsequent phases would be free of contention.

Urban residents, however, have begun to devise new strategies to push through their concerns. A recent study I was involved in examined the redevelopment of the Central Market in Kumasi. Our findings demonstrate that things can be done differently.

Making their voices heard

The Central Market in Kumasi, and its adjoining Kejetia Lorry Terminal, were built in Ghana’s colonial era. Over the years, the market fell into a state of disrepair due to overcrowding. The inability of the market to accommodate new traders resulted in a spillover into the terminal and onto the streets.

In 2014, the local authority, the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, secured funding to redevelop the market. The aim was to expand the market infrastructure to provide trading spaces for existing traders and to admit new or street traders willing to secure space in the market.

Due to the size of the Central Market, the metropolitan assembly took the decision – unilaterally – to undertake the redevelopment in three phases. The first phase affected the lorry terminal while the subsequent phases involved the demolition of the Central Market.

This decision led to a drawn out confrontation between Kejetia trader activists and city authorities.

In our study we found that trader activists didn’t confine their collective action to the early phases of urban regeneration. Rather, they extended it to subsequent phases. They deployed multiple and simultaneous strategies of contention, subversion and self-governance to attract public attention and seek positive responses from city authorities.

They delivered a petition to the regional minister. They also picketed at the inauguration of a major amusement park in Kumasi, calling for the intervention of then President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama.

The activists also ran a full scale media campaign. They made regular appearances on radio and television to counter the claims of the city authorities. They also organised press conferences and exploited social media to publicise their concerns.

They also made unconventional demands that required the collaboration of state institutions. One was for a written agreement which stated the compensation they were entitled to. This was based on the intervention of the paramount chief of the Asante, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, and his Asanteman Traditional Council. The chief compelled city authorities to cooperate with Ghana’s Lands Commission to achieve this.

As the project progressed, the trader activists modified their strategy from contention to subversion. Subversion took the form of quiet encroachment. Traders abandoned allocated stores in the temporary markets to secure trading spaces around the wall of the ongoing construction work. This action led to an intensification of street trading in the metropolis; an act that is considered illegal.

The outcome

The activism of the Kejetia traders achieved some positive results. The city authorities had initially indicated that the traders at Central market would be the first group to be allocated stores in the newly completed market. However, upon actual completion of the project, the Kejetia traders were the first to be allocated stores.

More so, due to the activism of the Kejetia traders, the Otumfuo and his Asanteman council have assumed oversightof the market project to ensure that justice is served to all displaced traders.

Our findings suggest that governments in West Africa should pay more attention to the recent waves of activism among urban residents.

In many West African countries there is legal, ideological, and policy support for collaborative governance of urban development. What is lacking is implementation by governments.

For example, in Ghana the government recently repealed an old law, the Local Government Act, 1993, Act 426 with a new Act that dedicates eight sections to participatory governance at the local level. But not much has changed since the passage of this new law.

We recommend that governments change their approach to governance by deepening collaborative delivery of urban infrastructure. This way of doing things is particularly important because it gives citizens the opportunity to participate in decision-making, seek accountability, and contribute resources to the delivery of urban infrastructure.The Conversation


Lewis Abedi Asante, Doctoral Researcher, Humboldt University of Berlin

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Economy
Wednesday, 28 August 2019 05:30

Equatorial Guinea makes new oil Discovery

Noble Energy makes oil discovery in Block I, located in Equatorial Guinea’s offshore sector; The well was drilled to a total depth of 4,417 meters and is expected to produce first oil in October 2019.

The Aseng 6P well was drilled to a total depth of 4,417 meters. Noble is currently in the process of completing the 400-meter horizontal section of the well and, using existing Aseng field infrastructure, is expected to produce oil from October 2019. The Aseng field consists of five subsea wells connected to a FPSO vessel. With a 40 percent interest, Noble Energy is operator. Other partners include Atlas Petroleum (29 percent), Glencore Exploration (25 percent) and Gunvor (6 percent).

As the country develops its gas resources, Minister Obiang Lima said earlier this year that it was also targeting a final agreement on its 2007 joint deal with Cameroon to develop gas condensate discoveries in Yoyo and Yolanda on their maritime border.

Published in Engineering

The US Export and Import Bank will notify Congress of a projected US$5 billion loan to support the export of goods and services for the development and construction of the liquefied natural gas project located in the Afungi peninsula in the Cabo Delgado province of northern Mozambique, according to a statement issued in Washington.

“The loan, if approved, will support US exports of goods and services for the engineering and construction of a liquefied natural gas plant and its facilities,” the statement said, pointing out that US exports are facing direct competition from financing provided by other foreign export credit agencies.

Funding of about US$5 billion, “can support the creation of 16,400 jobs during the plant’s five years of construction,” along with thousands of more jobs created in the country and US$600 million in revenue to US taxpayers, according to the same statement.

The development plan for the Rovuma Basin Area 1 block in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique’s northernmost province, is estimated to cost US$25 billion, and next to the factory, alongside two processing units, a wharf will be built to accommodate freight ships to transport liquefied natural gas mainly to Asian markets (China, Japan, India, Thailand and Indonesia), but also to European markets through Electricité de France (EDF), Shell and Centrica.

The Anadarko Petroleum Corporation group still operates the block through its wholly-owned subsidiary Anadarko Mozambique Área 1, Ltd, with 26.5%, where its partners were ENH Rovuma Área Um, a subsidiary of the Mozambican state-owned Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos (ENH), with 15%, Mitsui E&P Mozambique Area1 Ltd. (20%), ONGC Videsh Ltd. (10%), Beas Rovuma Energy Mozambique Limited (10%), BPRL Ventures Mozambique B.V. (10%), and PTTEP Mozambique Area 1 Limited (8.5%).



Published in World
  1. Opinions and Analysis


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