Monday, April 16, 2007

Alexander Abutu Augustine, a founder member of the Nigerian Association of Science Journalists, may hold the record for the scariest, most frenetic visa race to attend the 5th World Conference of Science Journalists in Melbourne, Australia. (Seen here is Alexander Abutu Augustine with his German mentor, reporter Hanns "Hajo" Neubert, who is also at the conference.)
Triple A, as he's commonly known, was due to leave at 3 pm on Saturday April 14 from Nigeria's business capital, Lagos. He dutifully applied for a visa from the Australian High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa, which deals with many of the visa applications from the continent of Africa. Oddly enough, for a journalist, AAA sent off his passport on time.
Even early.
Then he waited. And waited. The Australian High Commission, it seems, has outsourced visa applications to a private company, which prefers to deal with courier companies rather than nervous reporters.
His Emirates flight to Dubai and on to Melbourne was due to depart at 3:55 on Saturday afternoon. Saturday morning dawned, and still, no visa. "I took a taxi around 7 am to the courier company's offices in Lagos and there I was delayed for another two hours while I stopped them from sending it to my office (News Agency of Nigeria) in Abuja," says AAA.
The story has a happy ending: around 9h15, the visa was found and taken out of the pile of parcels meant to go to Abuja and then given to AAA. But there's a twist in the tale: Nigeria is currently under curfew as hotly-contested elections for the pivotal post of state governor are underway. Which meant that legally speaking, AAA was not allowed out on the streets at all, visa or no visa. The streets were deserted. The normally bustling city of Lagos was in virtual lock-down.
What's a good journalist to do? Ask AAA. He went around the military roadblocks waving his press card because media are allowed to circumvent the curfew if they are reporting on the elections. And now he's in Melbourne, covering the 5th World Conference of Science Journalists. "It's an opportunity to interact with veteran science journalists and learn the tricks of the trade," he says, looking remarkably relaxed after his ordeal.

1 comment:

SciDev.Net team said...

Sad to say that Ashfaq Yusufzai, a science journalist from
Pakistan, was not granted a visa to attend the World Conference of Science Journalists. Ashfaq, based at the Peshawar city bureau for the Daily Dawn newspaper, also applied early to attend the conference in Melbourne, Australia. "I feel very sorry for not attending this great opportunity of learning. Looking forward to receiving the
conference's proceedings," he said, graciously wishing all the delegates "very good luck" despite his disappointment.
Anyone who wants to contact Ashfaq can do so on:
Telephone: +92 91 5279971-4
Fax: +92 91 5279976

Christina Scott