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US Govt Moves to Enforce Visa Restriction on Nigerians Undermining Democracy

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By Eric Elezuo

The Mr Joe Biden-led government of the United States of America, has announced its readiness to implement visa restrictions on individuals found to be undermining democracy in Nigeria as the February 25 Presidential election draws closer.

The announcement was made via a press statement obtained from the website of the official website of the Government of the United States of America through the Department of State, and signed by the Secretary of State,  Anthony J. Blinken.

The statement said the measure was necessary because America is committed to supporting and advancing democracy in Nigeria and around the world.

It further clarified that the restrictions are specific to certain individuals and not directed to Nigerian people and government.

The statement in full:

We are committed to supporting and advancing democracy in Nigeria and around the world.  Today, I am announcing visa restrictions on specific individuals in Nigeria for undermining the democratic process in a recent Nigerian election.

Under Section 212(a)(3)C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, these individuals will be found ineligible for visas to the United States under a policy to restrict visas of those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Nigeria.  Certain family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.  Additional persons who undermine the democratic process in Nigeria—including in the lead-up to, during, and following Nigeria’s 2023 elections—may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy.

The visa restrictions announced today are specific to certain individuals and are not directed at the Nigerian people or the Government of Nigeria.  The decision to impose visa restrictions reflects the commitment of the United States to support Nigerian aspirations to combat corruption and strengthen democracy and the rule of law.

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World

Earthquakes in Turkey, Syria Claims Hundreds of Lives

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A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria early on Monday, killing hundreds of people as they slept, levelling buildings, and sending tremors that were felt as far away as the Island of Cyprus and Egypt.

One of the largest to strike Turkey in at least a century wiped out entire sections of major cities in a region filled with millions of people who have fled the civil war in Syria and other conflicts.

The head of Syria’s National Earthquake Centre, Raed Ahmed, told pro-government radio that this was “historically, the biggest earthquake recorded in the history of the centre”.

At least 245 people died in government-controlled parts of Syria, as well as the northern areas held by pro-Turkish factions, according to the health ministry and a local hospital.

At least 284 people died in Turkey, Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Monday, adding that more than 2,300 people had been injured and that search and rescue work was continuing in several major cities.

The rescue was being hampered by a winter blizzard that covered major roads in ice and snow.

Television images showed shocked people in Turkey standing in the snow in their pyjamas, watching rescuers dig through the debris of damaged homes.

– Election test for Erdogan –

The quake struck at 04:17 am local time (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 17.9 kilometres (11 miles) near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, which is home to around two million people, the US Geological Survey said.

Turkey’s AFAD emergencies service centre put the first quake’s magnitude at 7.4, adding that it was followed by more than 40 aftershocks.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will be under intense pressure to oversee an effective response to the disaster heading to a tightly-contested May 14 election, conveyed his sympathies and urged national unity.

“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,” the Turkish leader tweeted.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Washington was “profoundly concerned”.

“We stand ready to provide any and all needed assistance,” Sullivan said.

The earthquake struck a restive, predominantly Kurdish area of Turkey near Syria, a country gripped by more than a decade of violence that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.

– ‘People under rubble’ –

Images on Turkish television showed rescuers digging through the rubble of levelled buildings in the city of Kahramanmaras and neighbouring Gaziantep, where entire sections of cities were destroyed.

A fire lit up the night sky in one image from Kahramanmaras, although its origin remained unclear.

Buildings also crumbled in the cities of Adiyaman, Malatya and Diyarbakir, where AFP reporters saw panicked people rush out on the street.

Kahramanmaras Governor Omer Faruk Coskun said it was too early to estimate the death toll because so many buildings were destroyed.

“It is not possible to give the number of dead and injured at the moment because so many buildings have been destroyed,” Coskun said. “The damage is serious.”

A famous mosque dating back to the 13th century partially collapsed in the province of Maltaya, where a 14-story building with 28 apartments also collapsed.

In other cities, anguished rescuers struggled to reach survivors trapped under the debris.

“We hear voices here — and over there, too,” one rescuer was overheard as saying on NTV television in front of a flattened building in the city of Diyarbakir.

“There may be 200 people under the rubble.”

– Dam warning –

The Syrian health ministry reported damage across the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartus, where Russia is leasing a naval facility.

AFP correspondents in northern Syria said terrified residents ran out of their homes after the ground shook.

Even before the tragedy, buildings in Aleppo, Syria’s pre-war commercial hub, often collapsed due to the dilapidated infrastructure after more than a decade of war as well as little oversight to ensure safety of new construction projects, some built illegally.

Naci Gorur, an earthquake expert with Turkey’s Academy of Sciences, urged local officials to immediately check the region’s dams for cracks to avert potentially catastrophic flooding.

Turkey is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.

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Africa

South Africa: Gunmen Attack Birthday Party, Kill Host, Eight Others

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Gunmen opened fire on a group of people celebrating a birthday at the weekend in a township in South Africa, killing eight and wounding three others, police said on Monday.

The birthday celebrant was among those gunned down in the mass shooting in the southern port city of Gqeberha, formerly Port Elizabeth.

“The owner of the house was celebrating his birthday when two unknown gunmen entered the yard” on Sunday evening “and started shooting at the guests,” police said in a statement.

The gunmen “randomly shot at guests,” police said, adding “eight people died while three others are still fighting for their lives in hospital. The homeowner is among the deceased”.

The motive of the attack is yet unknown.

Nomthetheleli Mene, the provincial police chief for the Eastern Cape province, condemned the killings as “a blatant disregard for human life”.

An investigation has been launched into the attack and police said a manhunt for the perpetrators was underway.

Shootings are common in South Africa, which has one of the world’s highest murder rates, fuelled by gang violence and alcohol.

South Africa last year saw string of shootings that killed nearly two dozen at separate bars in working class suburbs in Johannesburg and in the eastern city of Pietermaritzburg.

Police Minister Bheki Cele, the national police commissioner Fannie Masemola, and crime experts were scheduled to visit the scene of the attack later Monday morning.

AFP

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World

72-Year-Old Shooter Kills 10, Self During Lunar New Year festival in US

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No fewer than 10 people were killed by a 72-year-old at a dance club, in Monterey Park, Los Angeles, California in the United States on Saturday.

The septuagenarian gunman, identified as Huu Can Tran, however, killed himself on Sunday as the police approached him after he had carried out a Lunar New Year massacre.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said the shooter used a high-capacity magazine pistol to shoot up a ballroom dance venue popular with older patrons about 11km east of downtown Los Angeles.

Reuters reported that 10 people were also wounded but the investigators did not yet know a motive, although gun violence is frequent in the United States.

Luna did not identify any of the victims but said the five men and five women appeared to be in their 50s, 60s and beyond.

The sheriff said the pistol Tran used appeared to be illegal in California, where state laws ban any magazine holding more than 10 rounds.

“We want to know, we want to know how something this awful can happen,” Luna said.

After police say Tran carried out the shooting in Monterey Park at about 10 pm US time, he was confronted by bystanders at a second dance club in the neighbouring city of Alhambra about 20 minutes later, Luna said.

“I can tell you that the suspect walked in there, probably with the intent to kill more people, and two brave community members decided they were going to jump into action and disarm him,” Luna said.

Of the 10 people injured, seven remained hospitalised Sunday night, with at least one person in critical condition.

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