Bid to end ‘discriminatory’ English test starts to pay off

Of note:

A campaign aimed at persuading foreign universities to end their demand that Nigerian students and others from English-speaking African countries sit English proficiency tests as part of admission requirements has started to pay off.

“At the last count, more than 14 universities in Canada, the United States and Australia have removed the discriminatory English proficiency test barrier for Nigerians and English-speaking Africans,” Ebenezar Wikina, the founder of Policy Shapers, a Nigerian youth-led advocacy platform that started the campaign, told University World News.

The campaign, dubbed #ReformIELTS, was born out of the anger and frustration experienced by many Nigerian students whose admissions to foreign universities were forfeited after they were unable to afford the costs of English proficiency tests.

The campaign is tagged #ReformIELTS because the International English Language Testing System or IELTS is said to be the most widely applicable English test for students seeking admission to universities in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

However, the campaign also targets foreign universities that require other tests such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Pearson Test of English (PTE) and Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Discriminatory practice

Policy Shapers launched the #ReformIELTS campaign in October 2021 against what it labelled the “discriminatory practice” of foreign universities that demand English proficiency proof from Nigerians.

For Wikina, a 2021 Mandela Washington Fellow, and other Nigerians who have joined the campaign, the argument is that, as a former colony of England, Nigeria’s lingua franca is English. It is the language of instruction from primary to tertiary levels of education in Nigeria.

“I applied for a fellowship that promotes social and economic equity at the London School of Economics [LSE] in 2021 and, despite having an excellent resume and over 12 years of experience working locally and internationally, I was still asked to submit an IELTS or TOEFL result just because I am from Nigeria,” said Wikina.

“I took it up with the LSE and had to forfeit the application … They cannot claim to be fighting for social equity but ask me to pay about US$200 (then NGN83,000) to take an English proficiency exam, whereas, someone from Jamaica, Guyana, Malta or New Zealand applying for the same programme wouldn’t have to take the test, even if they had lesser experience or qualifications than I do. It just doesn’t make any sense!”

In the aftermath of that experience, Policy Shapers launched a petition titled ‘Stop asking Nigerians to take IELTS’ on Change.org, a global non-profit petition website headquartered in California, USA.

As of 12 November, about 80,000 people had signed the petition.

A money-spinner

Many Nigerians who signed the petition have one thought in common: the English test is “exploitative” and a money-spinning venture for the UK and not necessarily a test of English proficiency.

In a report in January 2022, the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, a Nigerian investigative online news agency, estimated that, between 2016 and 2021, the UK government generated more than US$771 million from prospective Nigerian students and visa applicants who took the IELTS exam.

For context, the IELTS exam costs between NGN83,000 (just under US$200) and NGN89,000 and expires after two years, whereas the French language proficiency test, the DELF/DALF examination, which costs as little as NGN16,000 (about US$37) for Nigerians, is valid for life. Thus, the #ReformIELTS campaigners are asking why they need to prove they can speak and write in English every two years.

What’s more, Nigeria’s English proficiency band is ranked the third-highest in Africa, after South Africa and Kenya, and 29th in the world, according to the 2021 EF English Proficiency Index.

Based on the EF ranking, Nigeria’s level of English proficiency is higher than some of the countries exempted by the UK Home Office.

With all these arguments, Policy Shapers wrote a petition to the then UK home secretary Priti Patel, asking the UK government to include Nigeria in the Majority English Speaking Country, or MESC, list.

The UK government, however, rejected the application, saying it did not have enough evidence to claim that at least 51% of Nigeria’s population speaks English as a first language.

Wikina said Policy Shapers is still engaging the UK Home Office on the matter as well as Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for diplomatic support.

He added that Policy Shapers has been working behind the scenes engaging institutions like the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the Nursing and Midwifery Council in the UK, to waive English tests for Nigerians.

Furthermore, Wikina said Policy Shapers and other campaigners are now writing to individual foreign universities, urging them to end their requirement of proof of English proficiency from Nigerian students.

Progress on some fronts

One of the frontline campaigners, Dr Olumuyiwa Igbalajobi, has single-handedly written protest letters to over 100 universities so far in Canada, the US and other countries.

Igbalajobi, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of British Columbia, Canada, said he sees the request for the English test from applicants from English-speaking countries as “unnecessary and exploitative”.

Interestingly, the efforts have started paying off, with some universities in Canada and the US waiving the English test for applicants from English-speaking African countries.

“It all started with the prestigious University of Alberta waiving the test for Nigerians and, afterwards, six other universities [including Cornell University, US] changed their policies and waived the test for applicants from English-speaking African countries,” Igbalajobi told University World News.

According to Igbalajobi, “insincerity on the part of the UK Home Office led to the continuous non-recognition of Nigeria as an English-speaking country. More so, I see it from the angle of revenue generation rather than English proficiency, itself. You do not deny your former colony.”

Igbalajobi said he and other campaigners will not relent in engaging the UK government and others while imploring the Nigerian government and its representatives in the UK and other countries to keep the dialogue open.

The universities that have removed English proficiency requirements are the universities of Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Lethbridge and Athabasca University in Canada; Clemson, George Mason, DePaul, Nexford and Cornell universities as well as the universities of Oregon, Texas at Austin, Minnesota, New Orleans, Alabama and Wisconsin-Madison in the US.

Source: Bid to end ‘discriminatory’ English test starts to pay off

The contract of Nigerian citizenship and diaspora voting

Of note, Nigerian debate over diaspora/expatriate voting, with relevance to Canada given the large number of Nigerian immigrants (among the top 5 in recent years):

In civilized democracies around the world, the constitutional architecture of public offices rightly prioritises the office of the president, prime minister, governor, mayor, member of parliament etc. Now, none of those offices would exist but for those who put them there and, therefore, to whom they are ultimately accountable: citizens.

The hypothesis therein is that the office of the citizen or, the citizen, is, upon the singular criterion of the power to hire and fire; more important that of the president, prime minister, mayor, governor, member of parliament or national assembly member! That is because all those office holders can be impeached for criminality, wrongful acts or omissions or a combination thereof by citizens, through their elected representatives. More importantly, sovereignty belongs to the people (citizens) of Nigeria from whom government derives all its powers and authority by virtue of section 14 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended, (“the Constitution”). What would be the point of any government without citizens anyway?

Who then is a citizen? The Constitution specifies 3 categories of citizenship; first, by birth; second, by registration, and third, by naturalisation. Citizenship, by virtue of section 25 (1) (a), (b) and (c), encompasses; every person born in Nigeria before independence, 1st October 1960, either of whose parents or any of whose grandparents belongs to, or belonged to, an indigenous Nigeria community. It includes every person born in Nigeria post-independence, either of whose parents, or grandparents, or any of whose grandparents is a Nigerian citizen; and every person born outside Nigeria either of whose parents is a Nigerian citizen.

Subject to the provisions of section 26 therein and strict residency requirements, a person, whether single, or married to Nigerian citizen, may be registered as a Nigerian citizen if such a person is of good character, establishes a clear intention to be domiciled in Nigeria, takes the statutory oath of allegiance to the country. Section 27 of the Constitution also establishes the modus operandi of citizenship by naturalisation upon similar foundations as that of registration.

Thus, a de facto social contract is established by the Constitution between citizens and government in that the “security and welfare of the people shall be primary purpose of government”, and the “participation by the people (citizens) in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution” Section 14 (1) (a), and (b) therein, establishes that on the one hand; and, the fact that the people must abide by the laws of the land and, when abroad, obey the laws of those countries, on the other hand. That social contract in turn entitles, upon compliance with the relevant laws, people to the fundamental rights embedded in sections 33 through 43 inclusive of the Constitution. These include the right to: life, dignity of the human person, personal liberty; private and family life; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of expression and the press; peaceful assembly and association; freedom of movement; freedom from discrimination; and the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. These rights are not inviolable and may lawfully be derogated pursuant to section 45 (1) (a) and (b) of the Constitution in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health.

Today, September 7, 2022, Nigerian citizens domiciled abroad that is, Nigerians in diaspora, are not legally allowed to vote in Nigerian elections from their countries of domicile. In other words, they have been, and are being, disenfranchised and discriminated against.

This is a clear and present violation of the explicit provisions of section 42 (1) (a) which establishes that “a citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person – be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria or of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject.”

The extant discrimination against Nigeria’s own citizens by the state, in violation of established constitutional provisions is perplexing and raises several pertinent questions.

One, is diaspora voting technology rocket science in the 21st Century? Alas, it is not! Afterall, if today’s smart encryption technology enables natural and unnatural persons to undertake secure financial transactions on a variety of portable devices, across continents and diverse time zones, why not electronic voting in diaspora?

Two, is there an absence of political will? Self-evidently! The International Institute for Democratic & Electoral Assistance (IDEA) affirms that Belgium, Canada, United Kingdom, USA are some of the western nations with a mature diaspora voting mechanism. IDEA also establishes that Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Kenya (as recently as 2022!), Morocco, Togo and South Africa et al have implemented diasporan voting into their electoral practices. The implication is that if the identified African countries, including a neighbouring state, can implement diaspora voting, there cannot be an objective rationale for discriminating against established Nigerian citizens who wish to exercise their rights to participate.

Three, is diasporan voting a back burner issue, which should not be prioritised? Again, the answer is no! Progressive nations consistently advance the security and welfare of their people (citizens), economic development, prudently manage public finances and, concurrently, discard outmoded practices and policies through innovative reforms. Put differently, citizens rightly expect performing governments to multi-task, and successfully deliver, on cross cutting themes impacting their lives whether its fiscal or monetary policy, national security, healthcare transformation, infrastructure development, education policy and electoral reform, the subject of this treatise.

Besides, the Nigerian Diaspora Commission estimates that there are approximately 17 million to 20 million Nigerians in diaspora who remit in excess of $ 25 billion annually to the Nigerian economy. If Nigerians in diaspora are good enough to remit billions to the home economy, which fuels economic growth in agriculture, education, healthcare, real estate, generates fiscal revenue for all tiers of government and, therefore, increasing GDP, upon what rational logic are they barred from participating in elections from their places of domicile?

To put this into some global perspective, the right to vote was routinely denied African- Americans and women in swathes of America, British and South African history. So, although the American Declaration of Independence was adopted on 4th July 1776, and the U.S. Constitution ratified on June 21, 1788, it took the abolition of slavery in 1865, through the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1866, for citizenship to be granted to all persons “born or naturalized in the United States, including former slaves and established “equal protection of the laws” for all citizens.

Whilst the 15th Amendment in 1870 enunciated that voting rights could not be “denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, colour or previous condition of servitude”, women only received the right to vote in the mid-19th Century with the adoption of the 19th Amendment; which impeded voter discrimination on the grounds of gender.

In the United Kingdom, women were only accorded full voting rights via the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928. This statute gave women equal voting rights as men irrespective of their age and property-owning status. And, after decades of apartheid in South Africa, free and fair multiparty elections were administered for the first time in 1994, which produced “Madiba” Nelson Mandela as the first indigenous President of that country.

The above abridged historical detour is necessary in order to afford legislators and policy makers a broader and deeper understanding of, and the rationale for, the robust quest for electoral reform manifested, in part, in the extant advocacy for diaspora voting rights. After all, it took centuries for African Americans, all South Africans and women, around the world to gain the right to vote. It would be perverse to turn a blind eye to this pressing issue which, arguendo, will reinforce greater participation by a wider critical mass and, by deduction, reduce perennial voter apathy. The inescapable corollary is democratic credence and not democratic deficiency.

Paradoxically, the Electoral Act 2022 is silent on the question of diaspora voting. Section 9, Part III, of the latter statute, on the National Register of Voters and Voter Registration, does not expressly define a voter. It only makes reference at section 9 (1) (a) and (b) to persons: “entitled to vote in any Federal State, Local Government or Federal Capital Territory Area Council election” and “with a disability status disaggregated by type of disability.” A reasonable inductive interpretation to this provision is that “persons” therein assumes the same meaning as Nigerian citizens with the 1999 Constitution (supra), who have attained majority and suffer no legal impediments to participation in elections.

Synthesising the foregoing, it is recommended that: (1) legislators, irrespective of ideological leanings, seize the political will and enact the necessary reforms to place diaspora voting on the statute book without further delay; (2) amendments be made to the Electoral Act and expressly define a “voter” for drafting precision; (3) because the legal impediments to diaspora voting either wittingly, or unwittingly, creates two categories of citizens. That is, those within Nigerian borders and those domiciled abroad; that dichotomy constitutes an affront to the rule of law and the equality of persons. There cannot be two categories of citizens within the 1999 Constitution. Therefore, the lacuna created by the electoral disenfranchisement of Nigerians in diaspora should be tackled urgently.

Paraphrasing Hilary Clinton above, morality dictates that the integrity of the voting process will be enhanced, not diminished, with diasporan voting.

Ojumu Esq is the Principal Partner, Balliol Myers LP, a firm of legal practitioners based in Lagos, Nigeria.

Source: The contract of Nigerian citizenship and diaspora voting

Canada urged to investigate decline in Nigerian study permit approvals

Predictable:

A group of academics of Nigerian descent are calling on the Immigration Minister to investigate the declining number of study permit approvals for applicants from Nigeria, arguing that the English proficiency test is discriminatory and that racism within the department is affecting applications.

Twenty-seven professors, scholars, academics, researchers and graduate students from universities across Canada signed a letter sent to Sean Fraser this week, pointing out that English is the primary language of instruction at all levels of formal education in Nigeria and that institutions of higher education in Canada exempt applicants from Nigeria from English-language tests. Meanwhile, they wrote, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) requires applicants to take an expensive test to expedite their applications.

The letter says Canadian university admission committees are better positioned to assess an applicant’s language proficiency, so when that determination is made, the visa office should not require the test, even to expedite the application. It also points out that the English test is no way necessary to expedite the processing of study permits.

“In fact, we believe that the requirement exudes stereotype and racism to the extent that it makes Nigerian study permit applicants feel that their English language skills, which they have acquired during their education in Nigeria, are inferior,” the letter says.

The letter references a report, the “IRCC Anti-Racism Employee Focus Groups,” that specifically mentions the stereotyping of Nigerians. The report says that inside IRCC there are “widespread internal references to certain African nations as ‘the dirty 30’” and to “Nigerians as particularly corrupt or untrustworthy.”

Jeffrey MacDonald, an IRCC spokesperson, said language testing is generally not a requirement for a study permit, but some visa offices may require them, even from applicants from English-speaking countries. He said Nigeria has not been singled out.

Mr. MacDonald said there is zero tolerance for racism or discrimination of any kind at IRCC. “True and lasting change begins with acknowledging the difficult reality that racism exists all around us, including in the public service. We have an obligation to our employees, and to all Canadians, to do better – and we will,” he said.

“We welcome the feedback from the professors and thank them for their insights.”

Gideon Christian, the president of the African Scholars Initiative, an assistant law professor at the University of Calgary and a signatory to the letter, said the English proficiency test is a significant financial barrier and has racist implications because it sends the message that Nigerian students’ English is inferior.

“The Nigerian community, here in Canada and in Nigeria, have always had that strong belief the IRCC treatment of the application is biased, racist and discriminatory – this is kind of the feeling you have based on experience,” he said, adding that it was corroborated by the IRCC report.

Prof. Christian said most of the 27 signatories are university professors who came to Canada as international students.

“I definitely do not consider these individuals dirty,” he said. “They’re coming here, working hard. They contribute to the Canadian economy.

“They used that term because the colour of my skin is not as light as theirs. I think that is abhorrent and that is really something the Immigration Minister should look into.”

The letter concludes by requesting a meeting with Mr. Fraser.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canada-urged-to-investigate-decline-in-nigerian-study-permit-approvals/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Morning%20Update&utm_content=2021-12-2_7&utm_term=Morning%20Update:%20Air%20travellers%20to%20Canada%20will%20need%20to%20isolate%20because%20of%20Omicron%20fears&utm_campaign=newsletter&cu_id=%2BTx9qGuxCF9REU6kNldjGJtpVUGIVB3Y

Nigeria’s wealthy use Henley in Caribbean passports for cash plan

More on the citizenship-by-investment industry:

A year ago, the office of Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP) in the small Caribbean island nation  of St. Lucia had received no applications from any Africans in its nearly five years of operations.

But in the past few months, it has issued up to 60 passports to Nigerians and is reporting steady increases in applications from the country—still its sole African market.

That sharp rise reflects spiking demand among Nigeria’s wealthy private citizens who are increasingly tapping into “investment migration” programs offered by foreign countries. The programs allow foreign nationals to obtain fast-tracked citizenship and passports or permanent residency permits in exchange for specified amounts of cash investments. The payment for the passports can come in form of direct “contributions” to the development funds set up by the national governments or through investment in real estate projects which offer the promise of not just passports but also possible profits.

With around 40,000 passports believed to have been issued through investment migration programs globally, citizenship by investment is now estimated to be a $3 billion industry. It is often favored by high-net worth individuals from countries with “weak” passports often from countries in sub-Saharan Africa and some Middle Eastern countries.

“What you have is a community of wealthy individuals who cannot travel without visas.”

Henley & Partners, the world’s largest investment migration consultancy, has also set up shop in Africa’s largest economy after seeing a sharp rise in demand from the country over the past three years. The office in Lagos is only Henley & Partners’ third in Africa, in addition to offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg opened six years ago.

“The reason we opened in Nigeria is because we saw significant potential in the market with growth in private wealth without global mobility for high net worth individuals,” says Paddy Blewer, public relations director at Henley & Partners. “What you have is a community of wealthy individuals who cannot travel without visas.”

That reality is best captured by the weakness of Nigeria’s international passport. In fact, Nigerian passport holders can visit two fewer countries now than they could in 2010 without first obtaining a visa. The country also suffered the worst decline in passport power over the past decade, according to rankings on the annual Henley Passport Index.

But even paperwork-intensive visa application processes have also gotten more complicated for Nigerians. Under the Trump administration, for example, US visa application fees for Nigerian applicants have been increased, an interview waiver process  for visa renewals for frequent travelers has been indefinitely suspended while a ban has also been placed on issuing immigrant visas to Nigerians. The net effect of these restrictions resulted in Nigeria recording the largest global drop-off in visitors to the US last year.

In search of improved international mobility, investment migration programs by Caribbean nations offer wealthy Nigerians and other citizens a legal and established workaround that ticks two crucial boxes: price point and access.

For instance, St. Lucia’s lowest-priced program, a “contribution to the national economic fund,” costs $100,000 for individuals and $140,000 for a family of four, as well as $15,000 for each additional family member. “That pricing model has really resonated well with the Nigerian community,” says Nestor Alfred, chief executive of St. Lucia’s CIP office. “A lot of our Nigerian applications consist of families.”

Other Caribbean islands including Dominica as well as St. Kitts and Nevis also offer investment migration programs with minimum costs of $100,000 and $150,000 respectively, a lot less than similar European programs typically cost. The US program issues permanent residence permits in exchange for investment ranging from $500,000 to $1 million.

But in addition to relative affordability, passports of Caribbean island nations also rank much higher than Nigeria’s on a global scale. For instance, St. Lucia passport holders have visa-free and visa-on-arrival access to 145 countries—more than triple Nigeria’s figure. And for extra context, St. Lucia passport holders’ visa free access allows them into the entire European 26-country “Schengen” area, the UK, and Switzerland.

Taking it up

With Nigeria’s oil-dependent economy battered by the pandemic and set for its worst recession in three decades, there are few indications interest in investment migration from Nigeria will slow down.

Nigeria and South Africa dominate demand from Africa and currently account for 85% of Henley & Partners’ business on the continent, with Nigeria growing rapidly with an interest in Caribbean-based citizenship programs.

That momentum will likely remain fueled by Nigeria’s super-wealthy with the country’s population of people with a net worth of more than $30 million—currently at 724 people—forecast to grow by 13%in the next five years.

But as it turns out, interest in emigration is not restricted to Nigeria’s super-wealthy alone. Over the past three years, middle-class Nigerians have also increasingly emigrated through skill-based programs offering legal pathways to residency and citizenship in Canada and Australia. In the last five years alone, the number of Nigerian immigrants issued permanent resident permits in Canada has tripled.

One distinction however is that high net-worth individuals who have earned most of their wealth locally are typically simply looking to boost their mobility options rather than permanently relocate. “What we’re dealing with people whose businesses and largely their wealth is derived from Nigerian investment—they’re not going to leave permanently,” says Blewer. “This is about being able to go where they want at the drop of a hat. It’s not about leaving Lagos.”

Double-checking

For tourism-based economies in the Caribbeans, investment migration programs offer a significant alternative to receiving foreign direct investment. And as recent history shows, with the Covid-19 pandemic paralyzing global travel and tourism, the revenue diversification opportunities these programs offer can prove vital. Indeed, after Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica in 2017, the government sought to shore up tourism deficits by reducing some of its processing fees to make its investment migration programs more attractive and in turn, provide much-needed funds to rebuild and boost the local economy.

But Dominica has also been caught in the crosshairs of a corruption scandal involving its passports program. Last year, an Al Jazeera investigation showed high-powered officials involved in brokering transactions to sell diplomatic passports to foreign business people suspected of corrupt dealings. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria’s embattled former minister of petroleum who is wanted for alleged corrupt dealings while in office, was identified in the investigation as one of the recipients of a diplomatic passport under questionable circumstances.

The scrutiny from such scandals amplify why investment migration programs claim to place a premium on due diligence. Even though it’s not legally required to, Henley & Partners says it carries out client verification processes, covering sources of wealth, and criminal history.

“We’re not interested in persons involved in military, government officials, or politically exposed persons. Our interest is more in executives and young professionals,” Alfred tells Quartz Africa. As such, the increased applications from Nigeria being primarily from private business executives across sectors, including banking, is ideal for St. Lucia because “it’s easier for us to determine the source of funds,” Alfred says.

Source: Nigeria’s wealthy use Henley in Caribbean passports for cash plan

Donald Trump’s latest travel bans are cruel and senseless – and an opportunity for Justin Trudeau

Of the African countries included in the ban, immigration to Canada has increased for all of them 2015-19 (till November): Nigeria (4,090 to 11,175), Eritrea (2,210 to 6,555), Sudan (335 to 1,200) and Tanzania (150 to 200). So hard to see Kusmu’s case for “measures to directly increase immigration to Canada from those countries” given that it is already happening.

I am not sure about whether this would actually play a positive role in gaining African support for the Canadian Security Council bid, given that this is essentially a brain drain from Africa to Canada:

Understanding the news that came from the White House on Jan. 31 was an exercise in cognitive dissonance.

Earlier that day, President Donald Trump proclaimed February as National African-American History month. “Through bravery, perseverance, faith and resolve – often in the face of incredible prejudice and hardship – African-Americans have enhanced and advanced every aspect of American life,” he said.

But just a few hours later, his administration announced the latest round of travel bans, which will affect four African countries – Nigeria, Eritrea, Sudan and Tanzania – that contain nearly a quarter of the continent’s entire population (a continent he previously referred to as containing “shithole” countries). The various restrictions – the suspension of visas for people sponsored by family members and, for some, green card (i.e. diversity visa program) applications – go into effect on Feb. 22.

The Trump administration cites national-security concerns for those bans, including potential slips of aging identity-management systems and overall “elevated risk and threat environments”; past White House officials and current legislators have called the bans nonsensical and cruel. Indeed, those issues offer the government thin cover to arbitrarily target potential immigrants, most of whom are free to apply for a temporary visitor visa (which would theoretically nullify any security precautions) but are barred from the labour-intensive process of applying for an immigration visa that often requires years of intense vetting.

So if security seems like an unlikely motive for the administration’s latest move, what is? While there is some speculation it may be a play for diplomatic bargaining chips with those countries, the more probable motivator is Mr. Trump’s anti-immigration base as a presidential election looms. Unlike the 2017 Muslim ban, which garnered widespread condemnation and scrutiny, a craftier approach – targeting mostly African nations under the pretense of national security – has been adopted. (Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan were also included in this round of bans.)

What Mr. Trump and his supporters may not realize (or, more likely, care about) are the economic and moral consequences of this decision. Banning immigration from Nigeria, one of Africa’s fastest-growing and most dynamic economies, would essentially close America off to a demographic that has proven to be some of its most educated and, with it, direct access to what Newsweek named a growing global “economic superpower” – ironically, on the same day the bans were announced.

The graver implication is that this policy will bring ruin to the lives of the more than 12,000 potential immigrants expected to apply next year and the thousands more relatives and loved ones. The fact that families who are awaiting to permanently reunite with their aging parents or their distant partners on American soil will know that this is impossible, at least for now, is heart-wrenching. To make matters worse, Eritrea and Myanmar (where the Rohingya population is under threat of genocide) are experiencing outsize refugee crises, demonstrating yet again the cruelty of this measure.

Countries continue to erect walls against migrants, from the United States to Greece, which recently announced a (widely ridiculed) plan to create a floating barrier to block refugees on boats. Leaders continue to employ racist rhetoric; Mr. Trump, for instance, previously cited concerns that Nigerians visiting the U.S. would never “go back to their huts” in Africa. And this represents an opportunity for Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Canada will likely witness a large increase of immigration applications from the countries affected by Mr. Trump’s ban. As a country, we will be all the better for such waves, particularly since the infusion of new Canadians can help us offset the challenges that come with our increasingly aging population. And so Mr. Trudeau can counter Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and policies by announcing measures to directly increase immigration to Canada from those countries. If nothing else, it could serve as a last-minute rallying point to bolster his government’s campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, especially as he embarks on an outreach tour of Africa this month.

But perhaps, more poignantly, this move could serve as a much-needed act of atonement to Canadians of African descent, for whom the memories of Mr. Trudeau’s blackface scandal from the 2019 federal election campaign are still fresh. Just as Mr. Trump’s Black History Month actions were telling about his government’s approach, there might be few better ways for Mr. Trudeau to signal his support of Black History Month in Canada this year.

Source: Donald Trump’s latest travel bans are cruel and senseless – and an opportunity for Justin Trudeau: Petros Kusmu

U.S. Could Actually Use More Nigerian Immigrants

By way of comparison, there are about 52,000 persons of Nigerian ethnic ancestry in Canada (Census 2016), about 71 percent first generation. In the last 5 years (January 2015 to November 2019, about 37,000 new Nigerian permanent residents have been admitted (IRCC, open data). Average and median incomes are lower than the overall Canadian numbers. While participation levels are stronger, unemployment levels are higher. Like most recent immigrant groups, Nigerians are more highly educated than the Canadian average.

See article for the charts regarding Nigerians in the USA:

This column will not render a verdict on whether the White House decision last week to suspend immigration from Nigeria — the world’s seventh most-populous nation — and five other countries was mainly an expression of bigotry from an administration led by a man who once likened African nations to latrines, or if it was a legitimate reaction to security concerns. It will, however, tell you some things you might not know about Nigerian immigrants in the U.S.

To start, there’s a fair number of them (which is why I’m focusing on Nigeria and not Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Sudan or Tanzania, the other five countries hit by the new ban). An estimated 374,311 Nigerian-born people were living in the U.S. in 2018, which put the country in 27th place as a source of foreign-born Americans, behind Pakistan and ahead of Japan. These and a lot of the numbers to follow are based on the American Community Survey that the U.S. Census Bureau sends out to 3.5 million households every year, so they’re subject to margins of error (19,648 for the number cited above), plus the inevitable strengths and limitations of self-reported statistics.

For example, the Census Bureau says there were an estimated 462,708 people of Nigerian ancestry in the U.S. in the 2018, but that’s based on what people put on the survey, not the sort of genealogical investigation that would surely reveal that there are millions of Americans whose forebears were brought across the Atlantic against their will in past centuries from the region of West Africa that is now Nigeria. Still, for our purposes the census survey is probably better, in that it restricts the scope mostly to recent immigrants and their kids. The members of this group have more than doubled in number since 2007, and they are for the most part doing quite well.

Source: U.S. Could Actually Use More Nigerian Immigrants

Ripple effect on Canadian immigration likely from Trump’s new visa restrictions

We shall see but agree with Falconer that it could go either way:

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to slap visa restrictions on six new countries could affect immigration flows to Canada.

Past moves by his administration on immigration policy for Haiti and Iran saw asylum claims and student visa applications in Canada jump.

Trump is now targeting visas granted to citizens of Nigeria, Sudan and Eritrea, among the largest sources of refugee claims lodged by people crossing irregularly into Canada from the U.S.

Immigration policy researcher Robert Falconer says Trump’s move could have both positive and negative impacts on the Canadian immigration system.

He says the number of asylum seekers could rise, as people from those countries already in the U.S. realize they won’t be able to stay permanently and so follow others who’ve already come to seek refugee status here.

But on the other hand, he says Nigeria’s booming middle class could be the source of many new economic or student immigrants to Canada, now that the door to the U.S. is harder to get through.

Source: Ripple effect on Canadian immigration likely from Trump’s new visa restrictions

ICYMI: African Immigrants May Be Trump’s Next Target

Of note, with possible impact on future asylum seekers in Canada:
Last week, Politico reported that the Trump administration was considering adding seven new countries to its travel ban. A majority of them—Eritrea, Sudan, Tanzania, and Nigeria, which is by far the most populous of the seven—are in Africa. The rationalization appears to involve terrorism. In the “counterterrorism” section of a January 17 speech, Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, declared, “We’re establishing criteria that all foreign governments must satisfy to assist DHS in vetting foreign nationals seeking to enter our country … For a small number of countries that lack either the will or the capability to adhere to these criteria, travel restrictions may become necessary to mitigate threats.”Because the Supreme Court upheld Donald Trump’s travel ban in 2018 on national-security grounds, it’s not surprising that administration officials would cite that same rationale to expand the ban now. But the argument is weak. According to numbers crunched by the Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh when Trump first imposed the ban three years ago, not a single person born in Eritrea, Tanzania, Nigeria, or Sudan killed a single American in a terrorist attack on American soil from 1975 to 2016. (The same is true of Belarus and Myanmar, two of the other three countries Trump may add to the travel-ban roster. Two people from Kyrgyzstan, the final country, were implicated in deadly anti-American terrorism incidents during the period, according to Nowrasteh’s tally.)
A Wall Street Journal article on the potential travel-ban expansion suggests a different justification: Travelers from Eritrea, Sudan, and Nigeria are more likely than travelers from other countries to overstay their visas. But if that’s the case—as Tom Jawetz, an immigration expert at the Center for American Progress, explained to me—the answer is to train the U.S. consular officers who give out those visas to better determine who won’t return home, or to actually increase visas to meet legitimate demand. The answer is not to collectively punish the population of an entire country.But if the Trump administration’s real motivation is to decrease immigration from Africa, then collective punishment has a certain logic to it. For several years now, Trump has trained his nativist ire on Muslims and Latinos. The travel ban suggests he’s adding a new target, just in time for the 2020 elections: Africans.According to the Pew Research Center, the number of black immigrants in the United States has grown fivefold over the past 40 years. America’s immigrant population from sub-Saharan Africa more than doubled from 2000 to 2016 alone. Trump’s allies have noticed. In her book Adios America, which Trump publicly praised, and parroted, when he launched 2016 campaign, Ann Coulter claims, “There were almost no Nigerians in the United States until the 1970s. Today there are 380,000.” This is a problem, she declares, because “in Nigeria, every level of society is criminal.” When 500 Congolese and Angolan immigrants showed up at the Texas border last June, Tucker Carlson warned that, because of “population growth … on the continent of Africa,” African immigration “could become a torrent” that could “overwhelm our country, and change it completely and forever.”

Trump himself, according to The New York Times, vented in a 2017 Oval Office meeting that on his watch the United States had admitted 40,000 Nigerians who would never “go back to their huts.” (Nigerian immigrants are actually twice as likely to have at least a bachelor’s degree as Americans as a whole.) During an immigration meeting in 2018, The Washington Post reported, Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and nations in Africa as “shithole countries.” Soon afterward, the White House unveiled a proposal to remake America’s immigration system. According to the Center for American Progress, it would have reduced immigration from sub-Saharan Africa by 46 percent, more than any other region of the world.

But while Trump’s animosity to African immigration isn’t new, it has never before taken center stage in his administration’s policies or his public rhetoric. Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign talking about Mexican rapists. He made building a wall on America’s southern border his campaign’s rallying cry. He responded to the December 2015 jihadist attack in San Bernardino, California, by demanding a ban on Muslim immigration. He made Central American immigrant “caravans” the heart of his get-out-the-vote strategy in 2018.

So Trump is diversifying his array of immigrant threats. Singling out African countries could spark a public battle with the Congressional Black Caucus, Somalian-American Representative Ilhan Omar, and African American celebrities—just the sort of foes who rouse Trump’s base. Expect presidential tweets and Tucker Carlson monologues about Nigerian email scammers and crime rates in Lagos. In Trump’s ceaseless battle to terrify Republicans with the specter of an America no longer controlled by white men, a new front may be opening up.

Source: African Immigrants May Be Trump’s Next Target

Abuses in Nigerian Islamic Schools Spark Regulation Demands

Pretty horrifying:

Nearly 1,000 people have been freed in the past month from Islamic schools in northern Nigeria where they reportedly experienced abuse.

In one such case, police sources said hundreds of men and boys had been freed from a school in Katsina, many of whom had been chained to walls, beaten and sexually abused.

The four raided schools, all in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria, have much in common.  All had managers who portrayed themselves as Islamic clerics teaching students how to be good Muslims.

All the facilities also operated as reform centers to discipline misbehaving children. And all were in poor communities, drawing little attention — until now.

Activists have sought regulation of private Islamic schools for years, but strong traditions have stood in the way.

One such tradition involves a concept among Nigerian Muslims called almajiri.

“Almajiris, according to Islam, means those who migrated to somewhere in search of Islamic knowledge,” said cultural historian Bukar Chabbal. “That is the original conception — one under a strict teacher who teaches them.”

Almajiris are usually boys. A parent will send a son to live with an Islamic scholar, known as a mallam, for many years in the hope that the child will receive a sound education in Islamic doctrine.

There are an estimated 10 million almajiris in Nigeria, often seen on the streets begging for food. According to their Islamic teachers, begging helps the students learn humility.

But Chabbal and others say parents are abusing the system, giving their children away to Islamic clerics because they can’t afford to raise them themselves.

Discipline

Sending unruly children to Islamic schools to be disciplined is another traditional practice.

Aliyu Mohammed Tonga, an activist for almajiri children, said that “as I can recall, when we were young, what our parents used to tell us is that someone has been taken to so-and-so person and has been corrected.”

Muslim groups in Nigeria are condemning the raided schools, saying the owners are not real clerics and the schools are not true almajiri schools.

Activists like Aliyu say regulation is necessary, to separate the good from the bad.

“Anybody can come in, even the criminal can come in in disguise and say, ‘I’m a mallam,’ and he can do what he can do, and that is what happened,” Aliyu said.

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed Nigerian police to find abusive so-called Islamic schools and disband them.

Source: Abuses in Nigerian Islamic Schools Spark Regulation Demands

Why the sartorial choices of Salafi clerics sparked a debate on morality in Nigeria | M&G

Another illustration of the harm that Saudi Arabia has caused in spreading Salafism:

The innocuous photos of two Nigerian Islamic clerics shopping and relaxing in London sparked a fierce debate on social media platforms in northern Nigeria in early December 2017. The photos were quite unremarkable. One showed the two men sitting on a park bench; another showed them in a clothing store wearing cowboy hats. In both, they were dressed in suits. And they were wearing gloves and scarves to protect themselves from London’s cold, wet weather.

The pictures caused a fierce online debate about piety, hypocrisy, morality, the sartorial prescriptions of Islam, and the tyranny of religious authorities in Muslim-majority northern Nigeria. The violent Islamist group, Boko Haram, is active in the region, which has become a hotbed of extremism.

So, why were these ordinary images so controversial? Why did they spark heated debates among educated northern Nigerian Muslim men and women?

The answer is simple. The two men are Salafi clerics, members of a clerical order that has come to wield outsized influence over Muslims in northern Nigeria. The clerics act as enforcers of an increasingly puritan Islamic order. They are uncompromising in defining what is moral and permissible and what is haram or sacreligious. They often equate Muslims’ engagements with modernity and Western ways of life with immorality and sinful innovation or bid’ah.

This leaves them open to charges of hypocrisy when they appear to make choices seen as contradicting their teachings. And this is what happened in London. The two clerics were wearing what in northern Nigeria is considered western dress. This touched off debates between two camps of young Muslims: those who resent the growing intrusion of the clerics into their lives and are eager to criticise their adventures in a Western city, and those who continue to look on the religious figures as revered exemplars of piety.

Wahhabism and the roots of Salafi Puritanism

The Islamic sect to which the two clerics belong heightened the controversy. Sheikh Kabiru Gombe and his mentor, Sheikh Bala Lau, are prominent clerics of the Izala sect, the most visible face of a growing community of Nigerian Salafism, a branch of Sunni Islam which holds to a strict, uncompromising doctrine.

Leaders of the sect are gaining popularity and displacing mainstream Sufi clerics in the region. They accuse traditional Sufi Muslims of hobnobbing with modernity and failing to practice Islam in its pure form. Sufis are vulnerable to these accusations because their creed focuses on individual mystical paths to God rather than on outward, political and authoritarian expressions of piety.

This difference has led to an increasingly intense contest between the two sides. The photographs of the two clerics catapulted the contest onto social media, blogs and web forums.

The personalities and profiles of the two clerics contributed to the intensity of the debates.

Sheikh Gombe is known in the region for his ultra-radical Salafi theological positions  and pronouncements. He has made his voice heard in local and foreignsettings, capturing the imagination of some young Muslims in northern Nigeria. He presents an argument that being a pure Muslim means eschewing association with Western modernity. He is against modern and Western institutions such as secular film making, mixed gender socialisation and goods such as Western clothes. All, he argues, can pollute the piety of Muslims.

In my ongoing research on the historical roots of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria I call the rise of this branch of Islam the Salafi Islamic wave. Tracing its roots, I have found that it began with the slow but well-funded arrival of Wahhabism in northern Nigeria in the 1980s and 1990s. Wahhabism is the puritan strain of Sunni Islam birthed in Saudi Arabia by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.

The Wahhabi-Salafi’s most dominant organisational umbrella was – and still is – the Izala sect, which was founded in 1978 in Jos, Nigeria, by followers of the late Sheikh Abubakar Gumi.

At the time Gumi was travelling throughout the Muslim world and spending time in Saudi Arabia as a member of both the Supreme Council of the Islamic University in Medina and the Legal Committee of the Muslim World League. He returned to Nigeria in 1986 and was recognised as the spiritual leader of the Izala anti-Sufi reform movement. The movement’s following expanded dramatically under him.

The Izala group set up schools and the best graduates were sent – on generous Saudi Arabian scholarships – to the University of Medina to study Islam under a Wahhabi curriculum with a tinge of ultra-radical Salafism. They returned in the 1990s and inaugurated a new Salafi era in northern Nigerian Islam.

In the 2000s, Medina-trained Salafi clerics, backed by Saudi money and patronage, succeeded in upstaging the old Izala clerical order through a mix of youthful charisma, theological novelty and populism. They began entrenching their strict moral code conforming, according to them, to the Islamic Sharia law.

Beyond photos and suits

Western culture and lifestyle dominate popular culture in Nigeria. For many young Muslims in northern Nigeria, Salafism’s prescriptions and prohibitions are suffocating, particularly for those who want a more pragmatic engagement with a Western lifestyle. Many believe they can pursue these lifestyle choices and still practice their religion.

But Salafi clerics and their followers see no acceptable compromise. They are increasingly making themselves custodians of public morality. They routinely condemn conduct that they associate with decadent, permissive western modernity. For example, they dictate what northern Nigerian Muslims can and can’t wear.

The debate around the two clerics was therefore not a trivial conversation about the dress and the recreational choices of two Salafi clerics. The photos were loaded with symbolism and contradictions. Participants in the online debate used the opportunity to criticise – or excuse – the perceived tyranny and hypocrisy of a powerful Salafi establishment. And to express personal anxieties and fears.

The debate about modernity, Islam, and morality has migrated to online platforms because the internet is relatively anonymous. This has given both sides greater freedom to express their views. The debate encapsulates the ongoing ideological struggle in northern Nigerian Islam between those who live and defend a modern lifestyle, and those suspicious of Western modernity and the unmediated influence of Western education and culture.

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