Jul 22 2012
From Marcel Mbamalu, Lusaka, Zambia
The event, which had, over the years, been hosted by South Africa, is for the first time being held in Zambia, another Southern Africa country.
But indications emerged that the country’s Embassy in Abuja reeled out unexpected visa requirements that made it difficult for some Nigerian delegates to attend the all-important yearly media fiesta.
No reason was given for the new measures, which seemingly did not take serious consideration of the need to expedite action on visa applications linked to the awards.
It was, however, gathered that the precarious security situation in Nigeria is forcing former “friends”, including Zambia to toughen their stance on visa entry requirements.
At least, two Nigerian journalists, including The Guardian’s contributor Tunde Akingbade, are nominated for the awards.
It was not clear, as at press time, whether or not a Nigerian Editor, who is also a member of the Panel of Judges made it to the event.
But three Nigerian journalists (who finally got single-entry visas), scheduled to cover the event, only arrived yesterday evening due to unexpected delays.
Conferences preceding the event had started days earlier.
But, aboard a Lusaka-bound Ethiopian Aircraft, ET 873, from Harare, the Zimbabwean Capital, the Zambian Foreign Affairs Minister yesterday told The Guardian that Nigeria should be in the priority list of his country. He expressed shock that Nigerians are now being subjected to stringent visa requirements by the Abuja office, saying that it “is in the interest of Zambia that more and more Nigerians visit the country, especially as trade between both countries are growing.”
Giving the assurance that he would order investigation into the “unnecessary delay”, Lubinda said, although he could not confirm whether, or not, Nigeria is on the Visa priority list, the new measure could be dangerous for his country, as Zambians could be handed down the same treatment by Nigeria.
According to him, trade between both countries is growing significantly, as Nigeria buys hides and skin from his country in exchange for cotton and fabrics.
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