Friday, July 12, 2013

Miss Nigeria visits Tourism Village Abuja

Miss Nigeria @ Tourism Village

Reigning Miss Nigeria, Miss Ezinne Akudo recently paid a courtesy visit to Director General (DG) of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs. Sally Mbanefo.
NTDC DG, Mrs. Mbanefo, presenting a souvenir to Miss Nigeria, Ezinne Akudo, during the latter’s visit to Tourism Village, Abuja.
Mrs. Mbanefo (2ndright), Miss Akudo (2nd left) with Miss Celestine Queen (1stright) and Miss Sadiq Olive, 1st and 2nd runners-up respectively during the beauty queens’ visit to Tourism Village, Abuja.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Want to tour West Africa?

Want to tour West Africa?

You might need to go for weight-lifting lesson, learn some French and always pack enough coins to avoid starving


Melange: A popular dish at one of a dozen of restaurants in the neighbourhood of Chambre du Commerce, Cotonou, Benin Republic. Interestingly, at 1,500fCFA, this serving costs barely $3.
On the surface, it would seem that with some money, you should easily get served in any eatery; but, for an Anglophone sojourner in French-speaking West Africa things could assume peculiar twists of their own.

You do need money to buy food, but; in some parts of West Africa, having money is simply not enough. Yes, having money in your pocket is no guarantee you’ll always get food for the tummy in some parts of this world.

Shockingly, too; in the countries in question, the more money you have, the less likely you would be to find anyone to sell food to you! Welcome to Francophone West Africa, where change (monnaie) is a biting challenge.

And, it has been for decades. Former colonial rulers, France, bequeathed the name of the French currency, Francs, to Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger Republic, Senegal and Togo.

However, to distinguish the African equivalent from the French Francs, the common currency across Francophone West Africa is Francs CFA. Issued by Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (Central Bank of West Africa), this currency is usually denoted by FCFA or just F, and simply pronounced as say-fah.

Small, but powerful: 50, 100, 200 & 500 fCFA coins.
In any case, CFA Francs comes in notes and coins. The notes feature 500, 1,000; 2,000; 5,000 and 10,000 units; while the coins are of 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 250 and 500 denominations. Whereas the 500 coin as well as the 2,000; 5,000 and 10,000 FCFA notes are never in short supply; all the other denominations are perpetually scarce.

As a result, the more money you have, the less likely your chances of being able to buy anything at all! At the current exchange rate, where 10,000F commands barely US$20 (N3,200) this means that 100F amounts to roughly 20 US-cents or a paltry N32.

Evidently, whereas say-fah coins are not really worth much in dollar or euro terms; the coins are nonetheless so powerful as to make the difference between going hungry and being able to buy something to eat. Now, dearth of coins or change is not the only thing to consider for the tourist hoping to buy something to eat in Frech-speaking West African nations.

Even when you have monnaie in abundance, there’s another matter to contend with. You sometimes wonder, if it might not be a good idea to advise any tourist coming this way to engage in weight-lifting exercises before setting out here.

The reason: There are hidden charges for anything you buy. Apart from cash exchanging hands, your payment (or punishment?) includes helping the hawker to drop her mobile shop from her head. And, the transaction does not end, until you’ve helped to lift the warehouse back on the woman’s head again. Exactement!

Moreover, for those that do not speak French, language can also be a problem. There is no doubt that Francophone travellers without comprehension of the Queen’s tongue also run into similar challenges, when they visit Anglophone countries in the sub-region.

Coming from Anglophone Nigeria, the tourist is familiar with Coke. Yes, Coca-cola is a universal brand. But, to French-speakers, Coke sounds Latin; somewhat strange. If you want a Coke, say Coca. And, Viola! You get served.

With the oatmeal called Quaker, the English speaker is worse off. Mention Quaker and the attendant is confused and could open the refrigerator and pull out a bottle of Coke for you.

Yes, this was my experience! So, if you want Quaker; you learn to say Kwark-eh! You’re order is understood. D’accord! If you want custard, this comes across as Koo-star! In Francophone West Africa, Lipton (pronounced Lip-TONN) seems the generic name for tea (the in French), while coffee is Kafe (like Car-fay).

However, some form of bread eaten in these parts is most likely to leave that classic lasting impression. For Ghanaians, Nigerians, Gambians, Liberians and Sierra Leoneans; Le Pain, the popular loaf across French-speaking West Africa couldn’t have been more aptly named. Pronounced Pain, for the uninitiated; Le pain is the classic pain in the mouth.

Fresh out of the oven, le pain is a bundle of crumbs. Painfully, Le pain litters one’s dress, the floor, table and everywhere as you attempt to eat. After barely 24 hours out of the boulangerie (bakery), le pain becomes tough, rubber-like; and you begin to wonder, if you were eating bread or attempting to chew-away at some pneumatic tyre.

But, one must give it to bakery operators across Francophone West Africa because their environment and surroundings trump most of what you’re likely to see in the English-speaking parts.

Nigeria hosts world youths in Abuja, 7-12 Aug

Some of you have expressed concern about security measures. I should emphasize that there were no security problems at all, when Abuja served as host city in 2008. I am confident that Nigeria will, once again, be an excellent host - SAGEGlobal CEO, Curt DeBerg

Nigeria is billed to host almost 300 youngsters from 22 countries of the world from 7 August to the 12th. Participating countries include the United States, Canada, Russia, China, Ukraine and Ghana.

Sage Team UCISS members proudly displaying one of their textile design products.
The youth are converging on the federal capital, Abuja, to take part in a global contest dubbed SAGE World Cup tournament. An annual youth contest launched 11 years ago, this year’s SAGE World Cup tournament, will take place at Sheraton Abuja Hotel, according to SAGE Africa Continental Coordinator, Mr. Agwu Amogu.

In a letter to Amogu, CEO of SAGEGlobal, Curt DeBerg; thanked him “and his entire SAGE Nigeria staff for agreeing to host this year’s event”. mauricearchibongtravels gathered that accommodation and feeding will be provided by the organisers for 13 participants per country, this translates into at least 286 people.

The figure is bound to be higher based on expectations that the visitors will include international media, observers and tourists that may not necessarilly travel as part of the official national contingent. Speaking further on the forthcoming youth world contest and what to expect, Amogu enthused: “We are about to the raise the bar again for future SAGE World Cups”.

Currently operating in all continents, Sage is an acronym from the abreviation for Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship and its members are Millenium Development Goal (MDG) Youth Ambassadors.

SAGE Nigeria team works to create a dynamic network of young pro-active social entrepreneurs, whose activities aim at the attainment of the millenium development goals. Described as a “non-profit Transnational Social Movement Organisation (TSMO) initiated at the California State University Chico, USA”; SAGE aims “to create the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders”.

It is hoped that innovations and social enterprise by this crop of leaders’ will address the major needs of the world community. Interestingly, a few participating countries had earlier expressed concern over security, given the situation in certain parts of Nigeria, these days.

However, SAGEGlobal CEO DeBerg, had helped to alley such fears; thus: “Some of you have expressed concern about security measures. I should emphasize that there were no security problems at all, when Abuja served as our host city in 2008. I am confident that Nigeria will, once again, be an excellent host”.

A statement jointly signed by Mr. Amogu and Mr. Wale Fasanya, Director, Strategic Planning, Policy and Coordination, SMEDAN (Small and Medium Entreprises Development Agency of Nigeria); reveals several important bodies are involved in this world youth competition project. The ministries/agencies include Federal Ministry of Youth Development, Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development; and, Federal Capital Territory Administration.

Students from two schools, University of Calabar International Secondary School (UCISS) and Jikwoyi Junior Secondary School, Abuja; will represent Nigeria at the forthcoming competition. The latter, Sage Team JSS Jikwoyi, qualified to represent Nigeria after winning first prize in the Social Enterprise Business (SEB) category at this year’s National Competition held in Makurdi, Benue State.

The President of the victorious Craft House, Sage Team UCISS is Kwamina Obo, who was elected African Regional Director, Children League of Nations. During telephone conversations with mauricearchibongtravels, an obviously elated Miss Obo, who is also Face of Sage, recalled that her team came third in the same SRB category at the 2012 Sage National Competition.

Sage team UCISS emerged first prize winner in the Socially Responsible Business (SRB) category at Sage 2013 National contest. It is also worth pointing out that this same team also won the prizes for Best Costume Display, Best Cultural Troupe and Most Outstanding Team. The trio of Kwabena Obo, Mary-Brenda Akoda and Beshi Shiyam, who represented SAGE Team UCISS; made it all possible.
No wonder their Coordinator, Miss Kristy Oko, was crowned Best Sage Coordinator at Makurdi, during the 2013 National contest held in Makurdi on 5 and 6 July.  It could be recalled that UCISS SAGE members have severally made Nigeria proud in recent years.

Instances: Sage Team UCISS emerged top out of over 40 countries that participated in the 2012 Sage World Cup competition held in Ukraine. It was at that forum, Sage Team UCISS leader, Obo, was elected African Regional Director.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Arab’s ban on The Attack backfires

Arab’s ban on The Attack backfires
...Decades after Ayatollah Khomeini’s ’s fatwa shot Satanic verses’s popularity skywards


Photo from Jerusalem Film Festival web site.
Some boycott orders end up with quite the opposite effect. Yes, many a ban has; much to the irritation of those that decreed it, turned out counter-productive. And, so; countless viewers that might not have bothered to see The Attack are likely to throng the Jerusalem Cinematheque, venue of the annual Jerusalem Film Festival, this week because of this movie.

This year’s Jerusalem Film Festival (JFF) opened on 4 July and is billed to close on the 13th with The Attack showing on Thursday, 11 July. Launched in 1984, the Jerusalem Film Festival owes its origin to Lia van Leer, a former judge at the Cannes Film Festival.

The following quote from the jff website, gives an idea of what The Attack is about: “Dr. Amin Jaafari is a Palestinian doctor, an esteemed surgeon at a Tel Aviv hospital. Amin lives at a safe distance from the the daily reality of the Occupation experienced by most Palestinians.

“One day, the victims of a suicide bombing are brought to the hospital where he works, and our good doctor treats all those who don’t refuse to be treated by an Arab. (But) Late at night, after the end of a harrowing shift, he is summoned back to the hospital, this time to identify the bomber: his wife.

“Stricken with sorrow and guilt, Amin goes to Nablus to trace his wife’s final journey, to try to understand what could have led her to commit such a horrific act”. What a plot!

Curiosly, The Attack, a film by Lebanese-born director, Ziad Doueiri, is banned in the home country of this US-trained movie-maker. Although the picture was earlier granted permit for screening in Lebanon, that license was later revoked on the grounds that parts of the film was shot in Israel, using Israeli actors, in violation of a 1955 Lebanese Anti-Israel Boycott Law.

And, in May, this year the Arab League reportedly called for boycott of Doueiri’s movie in all of its 22-member countries. Nonetheless, The Attack has been drawing a staggering number of viewers everywhere it is shown because of its censorship by the Arab League.

Speaking on Talking Movies, a culture programme on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Doueiri told the presenter, Tom Brook: “The boycott is because I showed the protagonists on the same level as the antagonists. It’s ridiculous. I’m upset, I’m upset. There were many, many nights I would wake up in frustration and ask myself, ‘Why would you want to boycott a movie’”?

The movie director went on to provide the answer. He claimed his film, published by Cohen Media Group, was banned by the Arab League because he refused to demonise Israel. Also speaking on Tom Brook’s presentation, film critic with Slant Magazine, Tomas Hachard shares Doueiri’s view of the reason behind the Arab League’s call for boycott of The Attack.

According to Hachard, the film is neither pro-Palestinian nor pro-Israeli. He further added that, the balanced slant of Doueiri’s movie is a commendable essence of any good piece of art and it is a shame the boycott would deprive countless people the opportunity of watching a good movie.

However, Andrew Kadi of The Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, sees things differently. Although Kadi has refused to see the now controversial movie, he argued: “He (Doueiri) violated what both Lebanese people and Lebanese government were calling for, which is not to have relation with Israel”.

In deed, Kadi sees more grounds for boycott beside shooting of the film in Israel and working with Israeli actors, contrary to the 1955 Lebanese Anti-Israel Boycott Law. The use of a Jewish actor to play a Palestinian character hints at mischief on the part of the film-maker, Kadi intones.

Whatever the case, it must be pointed out, that in the Arab world, where killing to preserve family or clan honour is part of the culture, every Palestinian might have shunned the controversial role to avoid being stigmatised a traitor.

When confronted by Mr. Brook about, whether he couldn’t have been more prudent by avoiding conflict with Lebanese law and shooting his film outside Israel, Doueiri’s response was: “The film is about Palestinian and Israel. So, you go from Palestine to Israel for authenticity. Where’s the problem with that”?

Censorship has been known to backfire, enhancing popularity because many that would otherwise have not bothered to see the movie or read the book in question are driven by curiosity to know, whether the ban was justified or not.

The Satanic verses by Salman Rushdie, is perhaps the most telling example of this backlash against censorship. And, now almost 25 years after controversy failed to dim sale of Rushdie’s Satanic verses, the popularity of Doueiri’s movie seems poised to soar astronomically because of the Arab League’s call for its boycott.

The Arab boycott has sparked curiosity and boosted awareness as well as increased box-office earnings in countries where The Attack can be screened. But, as the film-maker told Mr. Brook, it’s not the kind of publicity he wanted for his movie.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Duke, Maku and Mbanefo at 2013 Ministerial Platform

Duke, Maku and Mbanefo at 2013 Ministerial Platform

The 2013 Ministerial Platform, whereupon the mid-term report on the progress and achievements of the President Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration, was propagated; took place at Radio House in Abuja recently.

Picture shows NTDC DG, Mrs. Sally Mbanefo; flanked by Information Minister, Labaran Maku (left) and Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke on the occasion.

SAGE: Body of bright youth determined to make a difference snubbed

SAGE: Body of bright youth determined to make a difference snubbed


They were to leave Calabar, capital of Cross River State on Wednesday, 3 July, 2013; for Makurdi in Benue State for a national competition but by 4 July, the youth were yet to depart. There was no money to fuel their school bus, we gathered.
Above and below, craftworks produced by SAGE UCISS members.
However, a source close to the office of the Principal, University of Calabar International Secondary School (UCISS), later called mauricearchibongtravels to say: “money has finally been released, so the students are likely to leave for Makurdi today (Thursday, 4 July)”.
For young ones going for a contest scheduled to hold on Thursday and Friday (4 and 5 July), it is not out of place to presume they would arrive mentally sapped and physically exhausted. Painfully, these kids, who are members of SAGE, have passed this way before.
Initiated at the California State University Chico, USA; SAGE is an acronym from the abreviation for Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship. Its members are Millenium Development Goal (MDG) Youth Ambassadors and they work to create a dynamic network of pro-active young social entrepreneurs taking actions for the pursuit of the attainment of the MDGs.
Described as a “non-profit Transnational Social Movement Organisation (TSMO), SAGE, which aims “to create the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders, whose innovations and social enterprise, address the major on-net needs of the global community; is currently operating in all continents”, according to one member that spoke to us on condition of anonymity.
It could be recalled that, UCISS SAGE members did Nigeria proud in Ukraine last year, when its leader was elected African Regional Director. Apart from that honour, UCISS also emerged top out of over 40 participating countries. Sadly, they returned unsung and uncelebrated. In fact, their request to meet with Cross River Governor Liyel Imoke, merely elicited a letter from a government official commending the kids for their brilliant outing. But, one must remember that Governor Imoke was ill at the time and receiving treatment abroad.
Whereas President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was hale and hearty, the students’ request to meet him also drew a blank. As one respondent put it: “The children’s letter never got near Mr. President’s desk, otherwise, Dr Goodluck Jonathan would have given them a place during this year’s Children’s Day observance”.
Whatever the case, Sage members are again going through the motion. They are expected to represent Nigeria in international youth festivals in Ghana and Ukraine this July and August; unfortunately, it is doubtful they will make either trip. “If getting money to go to Makurdi was a problem, you might as well take going to Ghana or Ukraine as a pipe-dream”, was the scoff of one observer.
Imagine teenagers teaching abandoned children and junior students in their school art and craftwork production like tie and dye, adire-making, slippers-making, handkerchief-making, and so on as well as giving relief materials to these children.
These long-suffering youths’ triumphs started in May, 2012; when the Craft House of SAGE Team UCISS represented Cross River State at the SAGE National Competition. The event, which took place inside Tinapa Lakeside Hotel, saw Sage Team UCISS, which comprises both senior and junior high school students, emerging third nationwide.
The President of The Craft House of Sage Team UCISS is Kwamina Obo, who was elected African Regional Director, Children League of Nations. The body’s Coordinator is Miss Kristy Oko. However, for fear of possible unpleasant backlash, neither was willing to speak with mauricearchibongtravels.
Among the body’s programme is helping to make future dreams come true for Nigerian youth by teaching them entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, which are sine qua non for successful and fruitful life. The students believe that owing to “Over-emphasis on standardised testing and university preparedness, secondary schools fail to inculcate some important job and career-training skills in their students”. And, this, among others, is what Sage has been working to address.
The youngsters strive to promote better understanding of entrepreneurship, community-service as well as communicating the MDGs through community-based projects. The participants are engaged in hand-on activities as they learn financial literacy skills, social entrepreneurship et cetera, while working on real-life projects. This ultimately creates new small businesses; social enterprises and community service project.
Sage’s reach-out programmes include Operation Feed the Young (OFY), which involves visiting select local primary and nursery schools and teaching pupils certain skills in arts and craft as well as advising them on how to be self-employed after their education; Project Comfort and Sunshine (PCS), bringing comfort and sunshine to prisoners, orphans and the aged at the prison, orphanage and old people’s home, where they donated customised bedcovers, raffia mats, provisions, bathroom-slippers, baby pampers, cloths and food stuff; and, among others, Save the Environment Project, which features planting of grass on bare soil within their school compound to reduce ozone-layer depletion.

Seme: Wild frontier gets even messier

Seme: Wild frontier gets even messier

…Our records prove that smugglers see hell here – CAC Seme Command


Comptroller Othman, CAC of Seme Area Command.
Seme Border, Nigeria’s extreme south-western frontier with Benin Republic is worse today than it ever was, mauricearchibongtravels authoritatively reveal. Are you thinking of leaving/entering Nigeria by road? Look to another border post to avoid losing your belongings or worse still, having some miscreant posing as security operative give you one across the lips.

Such is the belligerent conduct of many hirelings called Camp Boys, that they remind you of Chinua Achebe’s outsider weeping louder than the bereaved. It remains unclear, why Seme throws up over 12 checkpoints between the Nigerian end and the Beninese side – a distance of less than 300 metres. Despite the plethora of check-points along the Seme-Krake frontier posts, the commuter faces worse risks than those that use other borders.

Yes, this is Seme, where commuters are frequently robbed in broad daylight. In fact, the situation is now so bad that, travellers are fleeced by both touts and uniformed personnel. To make matters worse, the route is crater-infested, muddy and slippery as well as littered with pools of pungent water. In deed, a number of wayfarers have been tossed into pools of muddy water while an okada-rider struggled to get one from one side to the other.

At Seme, the sight of smugglers clad in military uniform or camouflage is commonplace. Whether these are true service personnel or impersonators, it is hard to say. But, what one can say, is that operatives of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) are urgently needed here, to ensure that terrorists donning military fatigues do not freight arms and ammunitions across the border with ease as many paramilitary officials wary of engaging soldiers or navy ratings, usually simply give way.

Evidently, genuine security operatives are hampered by circumstances beyond their control. Another classic example could be found in what we have severally called off-side location of Nigerian agencies’ control posts. Depressingly, too; numerous physically-challenged people were seen being wheeled along in improvised tricycles specially designed to convey as much contraband as possible.

Welcome to Seme: It is not for nothing this frontier was dubbed Animal Kingdom. More than 20 years after such an unflatering epithet was foisted on this border, Seme still lives up to its billing, so to say. A few years ago, when redesign and reconstruction of Seme Border began, countless travellers heaved loud sighs of relief.

It was thought that within a short time, the madness that ruled these climes would be a thing of the past. Sadly, more than two years down the road, the project is far from complete and the loose situation is amply exploited by human traffickers, smugglers, drug couriers and other undesirable characters. Apparently, for those that must cross Seme frontier, things will definitely get worse before they get better.

Meanwhile, the Customs Area Controller (CAC) for Seme Border, Comptroller Othman Abdu Saleh has reiterated his warning to smugglers to keep off his precinct. During an exclusive chat with mauricearchibongtravels, this CAC declared: “Our goals at Seme Border are to suppress smuggling, facilitate legitimate trade, collection of revenue and accounting for same. It also include the general security duties for the well-being of the country. There is no doubt that the task before us is Herculean, but achievable through collaborative effort”.

Personnel of NCS Seme Area Command have truly remained on their toes. This could be gleaned from the 460 seizures recorded and 19 suspects apprehended between January and May this year. The DPV (Duty Paid Value) of the seized items were put at almost N245million. In the area of collection, the Comptroller Othman Saleh-led command has also not done badly, posting a N3.118 billion revenue generation within the same period.

A humble and candid person, Othman admitted that without the support and cooperation of royal fathers, various security agencies and stakeholders at the border, the successes recorded by his command might have been difficult to achieve.

Hear him: “The result has been reassuring and it is rewarding to note that the working synergy is yielding positive result”. Expressing appreciation to Comptroller General of Custom Abdullahi Dikko Inde, Othman added: “We have been well-motivated through the ongoing capacity-building initiatives of the comptroller general of customs. Logistical support had also been adequately provided for.

“These incentives have enabled us to carry out our assigned responsibility better than before. The manpower need of the Command had been further addressed through the recent deployment of newly recruited and trained vibrant young men and women to our command”.

Concluding, Othman remarked: “Without trying to sound immodest, I wish to state that we have made substantial progress since my assumption of duty here on September 3, 2012”.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Queen of Wawa is dead

Queen of Wawa is dead

…Fidau on 6 July

The Queen of Wawa, Hajiya Fatima Garba, is dead. The late Queen (Magajiya in Hausa language and Datsen Manga in the Bissan tongue), who reigned for 54 years, died on Sunday, 30 June, 2013 after a brief illness.

Hajiya Fatima Garba in 2011.
Although her exact age was not known, it is believed the late queen, who lived in Wawa’s Kibe Forandi quarters, was almost 100 years old at the time of her transition.

It is worth pointing out, that in this Bussanci-speaking community; the queen is usually not the king’s spouse. So, the departed queen was not the wife of the ruling monarch (Dodo) of Wawa, Mallam Mahmud Ahmed Aliyu; the 16th sovereign of this community, where Aski, the shaving of a prince’s head in public; is an inextricable part of a king’s enthronement.

A daughter of the 10th traditional ruler of Wawa, the late HajiyaFatima Garba was installed Magajiya in 1959, during the reign of Ahmed Aliyu. Mallam Ahmed Aliyu was Wawa’s 12th Dodo, and he ruled from 1946 to 1958.

Mallam Alhassan Aliyu, whose reign lasted from 1958 to 1960, had succeeded King Ahmed Aliyu; followed by the 14th King, Usman Tondi (1961-1989) as well as 15th King Ibrahim Ahmed Aliyu, who was turbaned in 1989.

Wawa, hitherto known as Gbere, stands near Kainji and New Bussa in Niger State, central Nigeria. Speaking with mauricearchibongtravels, the traditional ruler (Dodo) of Wawa, Mallam Mahmud Ahmed Aliyu; confirmed the queen’s passage.

TheDodo, who revealed that the late queen’s mortal remains were buried same day in line with Islamic injunctions, added that a prayer (fidau) for the soul of the deceased woman has been slated for Saturday, 6 July. That fidaufalls on the eighth day after the queen’s transition.