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BIG STORY

UAE Unveils First Multi-Entry 5-Year Tourist Visas

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The UAE unveiled its first multi-entry five-year tourist visa during the first Cabinet meeting of the year.

On Monday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai said the visa would allow tourists multiple entries into the country over five years.

It is not clear if there will be a visa application fee and no other details have yet been released.

At present, tourists can visit the UAE with a multiple entry visa for up to 90 days from the date of entry.

Sheikh Mohammed said the visa, which will be introduced within the next four months, aims to establish the UAE as a “major global tourism destination” and part of wider plans to prepare the country for the next 50 years of development.

The Emirates currently welcomes about 21 million visitors each year, he said.

“The year 2020 will be different because it is the year of preparation for the next 50, the year in which we design the future of the Emirates,” he added on Twitter.

Dubai did not hit its target to attract 20 million visitors by 2020 despite a strong performance in boosting the number of Chinese, Omani and Filipino visitors recently.

The most recent figures showed it was on course for about 16 million, having hit 12 million in the first nine months, after recording a fall in Indian, British and Russian visitors.

During the Cabinet meeting, the country’s ministers reviewed last year’s achievements and approved the new tourist visa.

Sheikh Mohammed said the visa would be available to all nationalities.

The move is expected to provide a boost to the tourism industry and make it easier for residents to bring relatives to the country for visits.

Nitin Chivilkar, an Abu Dhabi resident from Raigad in India, said he hoped the new visa would mean his friends and family could visit him more often.

Chivilkar, an assistant chief engineer at Nation Towers, said: “I live with my wife and we have a resident’s visa but this is good news for my family and friends who come to visit from India.

“I have been here for 10 years, and this is a big step forward. My sisters and friends usually have to reapply for a three-month maximum visiting visa every time they want to come and stay.

“It is easy to get and can be done within six days for about Dh300 but if this is a multi-entry visa for five years it is pretty good news for them.”

Emirati Bader Lardhi said the new visas would mean a boost in business for his adventure company Wake Up Adventures that so far catered primarily to European visitors to the UAE.

Lardhi said: “This will make it easier for Arab nationals and people from countries in Asia who have their families here but could not visit as easily as European tourists.”

“It will help us move into untapped markets because it will open up other activities they can take up when they visit family.

“Basically the UAE is becoming more welcoming in general with the special visas that have been announced like the 10-year visas. This five-year multiple entries will definitely help tourism and other industries too.”

The announcement was also welcomed by Christopher Inciong, who has lived in the UAE for 11 years and can now easily bring his parents to visit from the Philippines.

He said they had yet to visit him because of the short-term validity of the tourist visas making their journey less cost-effective.

“I will definitely get my parents to visit now. This makes it more realistic for them to come and enjoy the UAE,” said Mr Inciong, who works in marketing at an automotive company.

“The requirements before were not easy because it depended on your position at work and your financials.”

Inciong’s in-laws visit the UAE once a year and he said the new visa will likely encourage them to come to the country more often.

“This will be very great for families with kids. Before you had to plan and choose the best time of year but since the new visa is for an extended period, you have the luxury of getting grandparents here as much as they want. They can spend time with their grandkids and children on special occasions, birthdays, Christmas.”

It will be a boon for middle-income families, residents said.

“This will give a sense of security to families who live here because they don’t have to go through the visa application process every year,” said Davinder Singh, who works with an energy company.

His siblings visited the UAE twice over the past three years and would visit more frequently if given the opportunity.

“Indians love to travel and the best part is that Dubai is so close and it’s easy to get a visa,” he said.

“This just makes it more attractive for people from India. It will be helpful for people from the Gulf and from South East Asia. There have been so many entertainment hubs created and with more visitors, these attractions will also do well.”

Long-term multi-entry visas are the latest major change to the UAE’s visa system.

The changes included five-year visas for the brightest graduates and 10-year visas for business owners with significant assets in the country.

Existing system
At present, visitors from some countries can secure a 30-day visa on arrival at the airport plus a 10-day grace period. This includes travellers from Britain, Ireland, Australia, China and Hong Kong, among others.

Others including European citizens from the Schengen Area can secure a 90-day visa. This includes many of the EU members, Russia, South Korea and Argentina and Brazil, among others.

Other nationalities require paid-for visas, costing, for example, $10 for 48-hours or $30 for 96-hours and $90 for 30 days.

This includes Pakistan, India and the Philippines and others.

BIG STORY

FG, LASG Release Traffic Plans, Alternative Routes Ahead Third Mainland Bridge Closure

Peter Okunoren

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Barely three weeks to the six months closure of Third Mainland Bridge for repair works, the Federal and Lagos State Governments have released traffic management plans and alternative routes to ensure seamless execution of the project.

They said that the decision to embark on a repair of the bridge, one of the longest in the continent, scheduled to commence July 24th and ends January 24th, 2021, was reached to save millions of commuters that use the infrastructure daily.

Announcing the traffic plans on Tuesday at a press briefing in Alausa, Ikeja, Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Olukayode Popoola, Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederick Oladehinde, and Special Adviser to the state Governor, on Works and Infrastructure, Aramide Adeyoye, stressed that routine work was needed for longevity of the bridge.

Popoola disclosed that the bridge would be partially closed and there would be a diversion of traffic while repairs would be done in two phases to prevent untold hardship on residents in Lagos.

The controller of works stated that the Oworonshoki bound carriageway would be the first to be shut to traffic during the first three months of the repair works.

Popoola said beginning July 24, the bridge would be closed between 12 am to 1 pm from the Lagos Island end of the bridge inward Oworoshonki, while motorists coming from Lagos Mainland to Island would be allowed to use the other side of the bridge.

He added between the hours of 1 pm and 12 am, the bridge would also be closed from Oworonshoki end inward Lagos Island while the other side of the bridge would be opened to motorists coming from Island to Mainland and that this would go on for an initial three months before a reversal.

“The last time this bridge was repaired was 2012 and that is eight years. The federal government wants to replace the bearings and the expansion joints. We know the partial closure will bring discomfort but this is the right thing to do. We do not want the bridge to collapse. The contract was awarded in 2018 but an order was placed for the components because they are not produced in Nigeria,” Popoola said.

On the alternative routes, Olukayode said motorists could use the Ido-Oyingbo route passing through the Carter bridge, Ijora through Western Avenue.

Other routes are Ozumba Mbadiwe through Ahmadu Bello Way, Bonny Camp to Zone Police Command to Eko Bridge, and Funsho Williams Avenue.

Oladehinde explained that the plans were drawn in consideration of traffic hours, saying, if you do not have to travel, I will advise you to stay at home so we can minimize traffic.

He also advised Lagosians to make use of the waterways, adding more public transport buses would be provided by the state government so as to discourage residents from traveling in their personal cars.

Adeyoye, however, assured motorists that the state government would embark on an aggressive repair of alternative routes to reduce travel time in the state.

“These repairs are long-awaited and we appreciate the federal government for doing this. As a state, we are going to make the alternative routes motorable. We have identified the areas where there gridlocks. We urge truck owners that are coming into Lagos to stay away if they do not have something important to do. This is also not a time for trucks to park on the roads,” she added.

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BIG STORY

JUST IN: Kwara Governor’s Chief Of Staff Dies Of COVID-19

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Aminu Adisa Logun, the Chief of Staff to Kwara Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, is dead.

He died on Tuesday of COVID-19 complications, only a few hours after the result of the test carried out on him returned positive.

He was 73.

A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Rafiu Ajakaye, confirmed the sad incident.

He said: “With total submission to the will of the Almighty Allah, we wish to announce the passing of the Chief of Staff to the Governor of Kwara State Aminu Adisa Logun (mni).

“Logun, an industrialist, a public intellectual, and an elder statesman, died Tuesday evening of complications from COVID-19. He died only a few hours after the test of his result returned positive.

“The entire government and the people of Kwara State have lost an outstanding public servant who diligently served the state at various times, including as Chief of Staff to the Governor from June 7, 2019, until he returned to his Lord.

“The Governor has declared seven-day mourning in honour of the late Chief of Staff.

“The Governor commiserates with the family of the late Chief of Staff and the entire Ilorin Emirate for this tragic development.

“We pray the Almighty Allah to grant him Al-Jannah Firdaus and give the family the fortitude to bear the huge loss.

“Details about his Janazah will be made public by the family and the government in due course.”

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BIG STORY

Senate Passes Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill

Peter Okunoren

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The Senate on Tuesday passed the bill on sexual harassment in tertiary institutions after reading it for the third time.

The bill titled: ‘A Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress Sexual Harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions and for matters concerned therewith, 2019’, was sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, and 106 other senators.

The passage of the bill followed the consideration of the report of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters – which was in charge of reviewing the bill and organising a public hearing on the legislation.

The bill was reintroduced in the Senate on October 9 and scaled second reading on November 6.

The bill, with 25 clauses, seeks to promote and protect ethical standards in tertiary institutions. It also seeks to protect students against sexual harassment as well as prevent sexual harassment of students by educators in tertiary institutions.

The bill also proposes up to 14 years jail term for offenders.

The bill was reintroduced to the Senate two days after a BBC documentary exposed two lecturers of the University of Lagos, and a lecturer of the University of Ghana for sexual harassment. The documentary sparked reactions from many Nigerians who described the issue as a norm in Nigerian universities.

During the public hearing, lecturers, students, academic bodies and civil organisations raised concerns and proposed amendments to the bill.

One of such was the chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Biodun Ogunyemi, who described the legislation as biased.

He said the bill will stigmatise lecturers in universities.

In his presentation, chairman of the committee, Bamidele Opeyemi, said sexual harassment has been made an offence by removing mutual consent as a defence in the prosecution of sexual harassment cases in tertiary educational institutions.

The bill, he said, seeks to maintain the relationship that exists between educators and students with the aim of making tertiary institutions conducive centres of learning.

“This bill seeks to tame the hydra-headed monster in the name of sexual harassment which has become a pandemic in our tertiary institutions.”

The Senate, thereafter, resolved into the Committee of the Whole to consider and pass the bill.

In his remark, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said the bill is an important and landmark legislation that the ninth Senate has passed.

“We have to protect our daughters, sisters, mothers from sexual predators. From the recommendations, we wanted a fair means of offence that somebody is accused of.

“We want tertiary institutions to be a safe and peaceful learning environment for everyone,” he said.

The bill will be transmitted to the House of Representatives for concurrence and then sent to the president for assent.

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