The United Kingdom has said that all asylum and human rights claims from Nigerian nationals are considered on their individual merits in accordance with its international obligations.
The British government states that it has a proud history of providing protection to those who need it, in accordance with its international obligations under the Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights.
The British High Commission stated this on Wednesday, in response to inquiries on the Federal Government’s allegations that the UK’s asylum offer for persecuted members of the Indigenous People of Biafra and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra undermined Nigeria’s security
The UK Visas and Immigration had released new guidelines to its decision makers on how to consider and grant asylum applications to IPOB members whose founder, Nnamdi Kanu, is operating from London.
Nnamdi Kanu, who holds both Nigerian and British passports, fled Nigeria in 2018 after troops invaded his country home while he was facing trial on treasonable felony charges for criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organization.
In the guidelines titled, ‘Country Policy and Information Note Nigeria: Biafran secessionist groups,’ released in March, the UKVI, a division of the Home Office, directed its decision makers to consider if a person “who actively and openly supports IPOB is likely to be at risk of arrest and detention, and ill-treatment which is likely to amount to persecution.’’
It further said the UK must also consider if the arrest and prosecution of IPOB members for clamoring for the break-up of the country were acts of prosecution, not persecution.
“Those fleeing prosecution or punishment for a criminal offence are not normally refugees. Prosecution may, however, amount to persecution if it involves victimization in its application by the authorities,’’ the 56-page document noted.
But the Federal Government frowned on the UK immigration guidelines, describing them as support for terrorism.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who said that the decision was disrespectful, noted that it amounted to sabotaging the fight against terrorism and generally undermining Nigeria’s security.
According to an enquiry sent through PUNCH to the high commission stated, “Following the release of the Country Policy and Information Note Nigeria: Biafran secessionist groups, in March by the UKVI, the Nigerian Government has declared this as an act of sabotage. It also accused the UK of supporting terrorism. What’s the reaction of the high commission to these weighty allegations?”
Responding to the allegations by the Federal Government, the British High Commission in an apparent rebuff, said the UK had a proud history of providing protection to those who needed it.
The emailed statement read,” The UK has a proud history of providing protection to those who need it, in accordance with our international obligations under the Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights.
“Our country policy and information notes are published on the gov.uk website. They are kept under constant review and updated periodically – an update to the Biafra separatist note is expected shortly. We publish them since our decisions can be appealed in the immigration courts, which are public, so it is clearer and fairer for all involved (applicants, their lawyers, judges, stakeholders such as the UNHCR) to know what our position and evidence base is.
“All asylum and human rights claims from Nigerian nationals are carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with our international obligations.”
Meanwhile, prominent Igbo groups under the auspices of World Igbo Youth Congress and South-East Women Professionals, have supported the UK’s offer of asylum for persecuted IPOB and MASSOB members.
The President-General, World Igbo Youth Congress, Chief Alex Okemiri and the President, South-East Women Professionals, Dr. Helen Ogbonnaya, stated this in separate telephone interviews with Punch, in Abakaliki, on Wednesday.
Okemiri stated “Most youths are revolting against the faulty foundation of Nigeria. The Federal Government should address the issues that brought up these agitations, especially through respecting the principles of federal character, which has been abused.
“The declaration of the UK Visa for IPOB and MASSOB members has contradicted the falsehoods being presented by the Federal Government of Nigeria to the international community, about Biafra agitators.
“World Igbo Youth Congress urges IPOB and MASSOB members to take the opportunity offered by UK Embassy to save their lives; they should flee from persecution and continue the peaceful, but non violent agitations.
“The UK Visa and Immigration’s procedure had ended the wrong motion labelled wrongly against these secessionist groups, as terrorist organizations.”
Corroborating the WIYC, the President of SWP, Ogbonnaya, said the asylum granted to the groups’ members was a practical step at showing that persecution against self-determination was sheer violation of human rights in Nigeria.
Ogbonnaya said, “We, the South-East Women Professionals describe the asylum to IPOB and MASSOB by the UK government, as practical steps to ensure that the persecution meted out towards self-determination is a gross violation of human rights.
“The Federal Government should deploy carrot and stick policy of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to end the secessionist agitation in the South-East.
“South-East Women Professionals call on Buhari’s government to embrace dialogue with Biafra agitators.”
Okonjo-Iweala announces four WTO deputy DGs
Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Tuesday, announced the appointment of Angela Ellard of the United States, Anabel González of Costa Rica, Ambassador Jean-Marie Paugam of France and Ambassador Xiangchen Zhang of China as her four Deputy Directors-General.
This was contained in a statement titled, ‘DG Okonjo-Iweala announces her four Deputy Directors-General’.
“I am very pleased to announce the appointment of four new Deputy Directors-General at the WTO. It is the first time in the history of our Organisation that half of the DDGs are women. This underscores my commitment to strengthening our Organisation with talented leaders whilst at the same time achieving gender balance in senior positions. I look forward to welcoming them to the WTO,” said Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian Finance Minister, who broke the 26-year record of the global institution to emerge the first African and female DG.
Ellard, international expert on trade and international economic policy, has a distinguished career of service working at the US Congress as Majority and Minority Chief Trade Counsel and Staff Director.
González, a renowned global expert on trade, investment and economic development, served as Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica; as Director-General for International Trade Negotiations; as Director-General of the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency; and as Special Ambassador and Chief negotiator of the US-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement.
Also, Paugam has held senior management positions in the French Government on trade, most recently as Permanent Representative of France to the WTO. He has also held a number of senior positions in the French Ministry of Economy and Finance, including as a member of the Executive Committee of the French Treasury.
Zhang currently serves as Vice Minister in the Ministry of Commerce of China. He has long and extensive experience on WTO issues, international negotiations, and policy research. Ambassador Zhang served until recently as China’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and previously as Deputy Permanent Representative.
COVID-19 resurgence, threat to oil demand recovery – OPEC
The resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic in many countries is posing a threat to economic and oil demand recovery, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries has said.
It disclosed this at the 16th OPEC and non-OPEC ministerial meeting of the Declaration of Cooperation, which took place via teleconference on Tuesday.
In a document on some of the deliberations at the meeting, the organisation stated that participants highlighted the continuing recovery in the global economy, supported by unprecedented levels of monetary and fiscal support.
They noted that the recovery was expected to pick up in the second half of the year, but observed that the resurgence of COVID-19 across the globe could hamper economic and oil demand recovery.
OPEC said, “The ministerial meeting emphasised, however, that COVID-19 cases are rising in a number of countries, despite the ongoing vaccination campaigns, and that the resurgence could hamper the economic and oil demand recovery.”
The meeting also emphasised the ongoing positive contributions of the Declaration of Cooperation in supporting a rebalancing of the global oil market.
This, according to the organisation, was in line with the historic decisions taken at the 10th (Extraordinary) OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting on April 12, 2020 to adjust downwards overall crude oil production, and subsequent decisions.
The meeting further reviewed the monthly report prepared by the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, including the crude oil production data for March 2021.
Participants welcomed the positive performance of the participating countries, as they noted that overall conformity to the production adjustments was 115 per cent in March 2021, reinforcing the trend of high conformity by the nations.
OPEC said the meeting expressed its appreciation to the participating countries that performed beyond expectation in March 2021, with total over-conformed volumes of 1.23 million barrels per day.
It, however, noted that some participating countries had yet to achieve the minimum expectation of 100 per cent conformity and to compensate for overproduced volumes.
Close international airports, increase COVID-19 testing, experts tell FG
In a bid to avert the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have advised the Federal Government to close international airports for two weeks and increase COVID-19 testing capacities.
The President, President Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, in a statement on Tuesday said, the low-level transmission in the country was largely due to the lockdowns going on in Europe and some countries.
He said, “There is the urgent need to enforce the use of PTF regulations of social distancing, washing of hands, the use of hand sanitisers and the wearing of facemasks.
“In view of the current trends regarding the third wave, The Academy of Medicine Specialties and our Rapid-Response initiative group of the Academy of Medicine Specialties feel that we should close our international airports to all flights for at least two weeks. This third wave is affecting not only India but France, Germany and Italy. The Federal Government should be proactive.
“Nigeria cannot afford to have a third wave. Only a small percentage of the population have been vaccinated. Furthermore, all the theories speculated for our immunity such as heat, sun, and other endemic immunities also applies to India,” he said.
Also, a medical virologist at Adeleke University, Dr Oladipo Kolawole, in an interview with our correspondent said, Nigerians should be warned to adhere strictly to the non-pharmaceutical measures to prevent COVID-19.
“Everyone needs to be careful to avoid something like the third wave of Spanish influenza between 1918/19. However, testing has reduced, so we may not accurately picture what is going on. More COVID-19 tests should be carried out to understand the epidemiological trend to know the circulating variants in the country. International travels should be well monitored and coordinated, putting in mind countries affected by the third wave as it demands,” he said.
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