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Gunmen Storm Military Base, Kill 12 Soldiers, Injure 8 Others

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Gunmen killed 12 soldiers, Wednesday, in a pre-dawn raid on a military base in southeastern Niger’s Diffa region, a regular target of Boko Haram jihadists, the country’s defense ministry said.

Another eight soldiers were wounded in the attack on the Blabrine military unit, said the ministry statement read out on state radio, adding that this was a provisional toll.

The attack was “very probably” carried out by Boko Haram, the statement added.

This was the latest in a string of increasingly brazen attacks near the West African country’s border with Nigeria, where the radical Islamist insurgency has claimed hundreds of lives.

The attack was launched at around 3:00 am (0200 GMT), a municipal source told AFP earlier on condition of anonymity.

A senior official in Diffa added that military equipment had been torched in the attack.

Diffa, which borders the birthplace of Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, has been hit by repeated cross-border attacks by the Nigerian jihadist group since 2015. (AFP)

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#EndSARS: UK Lawmakers Slam Buhari Regime; Demand Visa Ban, Freezing Of Assets, Other Sanctions On Nigerian Officials

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Members of the United Kingdom Parliament on Monday took turns to lambast the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for the attack and intimidation of protesters who took part in the #EndSARS demonstrations.

They demanded sanctions on government officials and security agents such as a visa ban, freezing of assets, and stopping the funding and training for the Nigeria Police Force.

The debate was a sequel to a petition started by Silas Ojo which had garnered over 200,000 signatures.

The debate by members of the Petitions Committee, which took place at the Westminster Hall, kicked off with Theresa Villiers, a member of the British Conservative Party who served as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2019 to 2020.

The Member of Parliament for Chipping Barnet constituency said, “I believe the petitioners have a credible case for the imposition of individualized sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes.”

She said the UK Government must explain the role of the government in training security agents who end up abusing the rights of Nigerian citizens.

Also speaking, the MP for Edmonton, Kate Osamor, described as undemocratic, the claim by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, that the killings at the Lekki toll plaza were fake news.

Osamor stated, “The Nigerian government says that it has disbanded SARS but the corruption and brutality of the security forces continues. The Nigerian government’s violence against its own citizens appears only to be intensifying.

“The Nigerian government needs to stop freezing bank accounts of key protesters; it needs to stop illegal detentions of key protesters. The Minister of Information for the Federal Government went on record to state that the CNN reporting of the massacre is fake news. This is an undemocratic conduct.”

Osamor stated that the UK government continued to sell weapons and provide training to SARS personnel despite the fact that Amnesty International and other rights groups had accused the now-disbanded unit of extra-judicial killings.

Member of Parliament for West Ham, Lyn Brown, said it was unfortunate that the Federal Government went ahead to not only accuse protesters of sponsoring terrorism and freeze their accounts but also blamed them for the increase in food prices.

Responding on behalf of the UK government, the MP for Aldridge-Brownhills, Wendy Morton, who is also the Minister at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, said the reports of intimidation of #EndSARS protesters were worrying.

Morton stated that the UK government was communicating with the President’s Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, and Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

“It is a long-standing practice not to speculate on future sanctions as it could reduce the impact of the designations,” Morton said.

“We are aware that some protesters have reported facing intimidation and the British High Commissioner in Abuja continues to raise our concerns about intimidation of civil society groups and peaceful protesters with the Nigerian government,” the minister said.

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Nigerian Travellers To Pay $15,000 Visa Bond As Trump Introduces New Policy

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Nigerian visitors to the United States (US) may have to pay up to $15,000 in bonds according to a new temporary policy issued to discourage nationals of some countries with higher visa overstay rates.

The President Donald Trump administration introduced the visa bond pilot programme on Monday for B-1 visas (for business travellers) and B-2 visas (for tourists) and it is expected to run for six months — December 24 to June 24, 2021.

The rule will see US consular officers ask travellers from affected countries to pay a refundable bond of $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000. About 15 African countries are said to be on the list.

The visa bond pilot programme by the US Department of State is said to target mostly African countries with high visa overstay — the visitors are believed to have entered the country legally on a student, tourist, work visas and then stay past their visa expiration date.

“The purpose of the pilot program is to assess the operational feasibility of posting, processing and discharging visa bonds, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to help assess the burden on government agencies and identify any practical challenges related to visa bonds,” the policy document read.

“The pilot program is designed to apply to nationals of specified countries with high overstay rates to serve as a diplomatic tool to encourage foreign governments to take all appropriate actions to ensure their nationals timely depart the United States after making temporary visits.

“The Pilot Program will run for six months. During that period, consular officers may require nonimmigrant visa applicants falling within the scope of the Pilot Program to post a bond in the amount of $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000 as a condition of visa issuance.

“The amount of the bond, should a bond be appropriate, will be determined by the consular officer based on the circumstances of the visa applicant.”

According to data from the DHS, almost 30,000 Nigerians overstayed their B1/B2 visas in 2018, ranking as the 5th country with the most visa overstays in the US. This makes Nigeria the African country with the most visa overstays.

In January, the United States had imposed an immigrant visa ban on Nigeria as a result of the country’s failure to comply with its established identity-management and information-sharing criteria.

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Nigerians Should Be Proud We Are Importing Fuel From Niger Republic —– Timipre Sylva

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Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, says Nigerians should be proud that the Federal Government is set to resume the importation of petroleum products from neighbouring Niger Republic.

Sylva said contrary to comments by critics of the government, the plan by the Federal Government to resume fuel importation from its West African brother should not be seen as ‘an embarrassment’ but rather as a means of encouraging intra-regional trade.

Recall that we had reported that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources announced last Thursday in a statement that the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding for petroleum products transportation and storage.

According to the statement, Niger Republic’s Soraz Refinery in Zinder, some 260km from the Nigerian border, has an installed refining capacity of 20,000 barrels per day.

The move by the Federal Government attracted steaming criticisms with many knocking the government over its inability to keep the country’s refineries running.

But reacting on Monday evening while featuring on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme, the minister said Nigeria is a big market that needs excess fuel products processed in other countries.

Sylva said, “I don’t see that as an embarrassment at all. As a country, Nigeria is a big market, we need products, even if all our refineries were functioning, we will still need extra products.

“Niger Republic produces oil and they are landlocked as a country. They have a refinery that produces in excess of what they require as a country and they offered to sell to us in Nigeria because this is a bigger market.

“In the spirit of regional cooperation, regional trade development, we decided to buy from them. I don’t see anything wrong with that. If your neighbour is producing something that is required in your country and you buy from him, why is that a big problem?

“So, we agreed with Niger to buy the excess of what they don’t require in Niger because this is a big market.”

“Nigerians should be proud that we are doing that to encourage sub-regional trade because we have been talking about sub-regional trade for a long time and this is how it should be between neighbouring countries. Niger should import from us what we have and we should be able to import from Niger what they have. Let us encourage intra-regional trade and this is one good example of trading within West Africa,” he added.

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