Travel News

FAAN suspends workers as car confronts landing plane on Lagos runway - PUNCH

DECEMBER 17, 2021

BY  Oyetunji Abioye

A major air mishap was averted on Wednesday as a Max Air jet, which landed on runway 18L of the Lagos airport, almost rammed into a malfunctioning car that was being tested on the runway.

Investigations by The PUNCH revealed that a Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria’s Civil Department van had developed a fault, and officials were forced to invite an auto technician from outside the airport to fix it.

Unconfirmed sources told the newspaper that the FAAN workers resorted to fetching a technician from the city because the agency’s department meant to cater to such a situation probably lacked the applicable personnel.

Findings revealed that after fixing the vehicle, the auto technician decided to carry out a test drive on the runway.

But the FAAN officials who were meant to stay with him while he was fixing the car were said to be nowhere to be found.

It was learnt that the auto technician had called the FAAN officials who invited him to the airport but there was no response. He consequently decided to test-drive the vehicle and headed straight on runway 18L.

Multiple airport officials later confirmed that while the auto technician was test-driving the car on runway 18L, a Max Air plane arriving from Abuja with passengers on board suddenly landed and faced the moving car.

The pilot of the speeding plane was forced to rapidly halt the speeding aircraft’s roll-on process, as he struggled to avoid a collision with the car.

The pilot immediately put a radio call through to the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency’s air traffic control officials on duty at the control tower who also alerted Aviation Security and airfield officials of FAAN on duty.

The officials immediately rushed to the runway to arrest the auto technician.

A top official of FAAN, who spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, confirmed the development.

The official identified the auto technician as Opeyemi Soyombo but blamed the agency officials for negligence.

The official said, “Mr Opeyemi Soyombo was apprehended on our airside because of an incursion into the runway. Unfortunately, he shouldn’t have, because all our drivers receive training in airside driving. So, it was negligence on the part of our colleagues to have left someone that has no business on the airside at all.

“The mechanic is not to blame. He doesn’t know the rules. He was just hired to go and repair a vehicle. As far as I’m concerned, the mechanic is not to blame. It is my colleagues that are to blame for leaving someone that has no business being on the airside on the airside. The MD has said they should all be given query for doing that. We are very grateful that we were able to avert what could have been an incident.”

The General Manager, Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, confirmed the development.

In a statement, titled ‘Runway incident: FAAN suspends airfield staff, commence investigation,’ the agency said the affected staff members had been suspended.

It said, “Following an averted near-incident involving a Max Air aircraft from Abuja, which landed on Runway 18L, and a maintenance vehicle belonging to the Civil Department of the authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has suspended the airfield officer on duty at the time of the incident.

“The authority has also commenced full-scale investigation into the incident, with a view to preventing future re-occurrence of such incident.”

FAAN had been involved in some major runway and airside incursion incidents in the past.

There was pandemonium at the airside of the Lagos airport on December 27, 2019 as an unidentified man found his way into the airside mysteriously and mounted a moving Air Peace plane.

The man was later arrested by security operatives who were notified by the pilot of a private jet coming behind the Air Peace plane.

The incident happened barely six months after a man found his way into the Lagos airport and climbed a Port Harcourt-bound Azman Airlines plane.

The man, believed to be mentally ill, was later identified as Usman Adamu from the Republic of Niger.

The Police said the Nigerien could not speak or understand English Language.

The authorities said then that investigation was still ongoing to ascertain how Adamu gained access to the restricted area at the airport.

According to a video clip by one of the Port Harcourt-bound passengers, Adamu was seen entering the fuselage of the aircraft with hand luggage and also climbing one of its wings.

He was later apprehended by Aviation Security Personnel of FAAN and taken to its detention facility before the case was transferred to the Police for further investigation.

Following the development, FAAN placed on indefinite suspension the Aviation Security Unit heads who were on duty when the incident occurred.

Yakubu had in a statement then said the agency viewed the breach as a serious security concern.

She said FAAN had begun an investigation to ascertain the remote and immediate causes of the incident to forestall future occurrences.

FAAN has yet to release reports of the cases.

Omicron: Canada lifts ban on travel from Nigeria, says ‘measure has served its purpose’ - THE CABLE

DECEMBER 18, 2021

The Canadian government has lifted the ban imposed on travel from 10 African countries — including Nigeria.

Jean-Yves Duclos, minister of health in Canada, announced the decision at a media briefing on Friday.

The development comes almost three weeks after the Canadian government banned 10 African countries — including Nigeria — over concerns relating to the Omicron COVID variant.

Omicron has been designated as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Aside from Nigeria, other countries affected by the Canada travel ban are Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

In a statement issued on November 30, the Canadian government had said the decision to ban the countries was to “reduce the risk of the importation and transmission of COVID-19 and its variants in Canada related to international travel”.

The ban had, however, elicited criticism with stakeholders insisting that other measures aside from locking out countries should be considered in the interest of maintaining a united front in the global fight against the COVID pandemic.

Speaking on the reversal of the ban on Friday, the Canadian health minister said the new development will take effect from December 18.

“With the evolving situation and overwhelming evidence of community transmission of Omicron in most countries around the world, we have taken the decision to lift the specific measures for travellers returning from the 10 countries initially listed,” he said.

“This will be in effect as of December 18, 11:59pm.

“While we recognise the controversial nature of such a prohibition, we believe it was a necessary measure to slow the arrival of Omicron in Canada and buy us some time.

“Given the current situation, this measure has served its purpose and is no longer needed.”

Canada lifts travel ban on Nigeria, nine others - PREMIUM TIMES

DECEMBER 18, 2021

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced the ban would be lifted effective December 18 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

By Chiamaka Okafor

The Canadian government has said it will, on December 18, lift the travel ban on 10 African countries including Nigeria.

Other countries include South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Malawi and Egypt.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced the ban would be lifted effective December 18 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

“While we recognize the controversial nature of such a prohibition, we believe it was a necessary measure to slow the arrival of Omicron in Canada,” Mr Duclos said at a news conference in Ottawa.

“Given the current situation, this measure has served its purpose and is no longer needed.”

Canada is also reimposing its requirement for Canadians taking short trips abroad to get a COVID-19 test before returning to Canada.

Mr. Duclos said the pre-entry testing requirement will take effect on December 21 and travellers must take the test in a country other than Canada.

Canada late November restricted travels from Nigeria and the nine other countries over the spread of the recently discovered Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

FG Tasked On Protecting Nigerians Abroad - DAILY TRUST

DECEMBER 18, 2021

By Taiwo Adeniyi

The federal government has been tasked on the need to protect Nigerians abroad as a means of ensuring sustainable national development.

Some Civil Society Organisations (CSO) made the call in a 10-point strategy recommended for the sustainability of migration programmes in Nigeria at the 2021 Civil Society Day (CSD) of the National Migration Dialogue with the theme: “Human Mobility in the Context of Sustainable National Development”, held in Abuja.

Presenting the recommendations of the CSOs at the end of the two-day event Friday, the Chair of the CSD, Osato Mary Igbinosun, said there was no question as to whether or not Nigerians could exercise their basic rights.

Igbinosun said, “To achieve this, protection of the rights of Nigerian nationals abroad, trust building among these countries are necessary. This can be achieved with improved consular activities.”

She, therefore, urged the government to also take ownership of migration activities by ensuring a deliberate action in allocating budget to relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government involved in migration.

The CSOs also urged the government to include the private sector in migration management and also increase collaboration between MDAs and CSOs.

In her opening remarks, the Commissioner for National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Hajiya Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim, attributed the effort of the government in addressing irregular migration and building on migration to the partnership between the Nigerian government and international partners including the European Union, International Organisation for Migration, the Swiss government, who were all present or represented at the event, and other development partners.

She said the dialogue would enable all stakeholders to assess and plan ahead of 2022 by coming up with ideas for strengthening migration management in Nigeria.

Awards were also presented to deserving international development partners and foreign governments for their efforts at managing migration in Nigeria.

The event was funded by the European Union with supports from other partners.

Covid passports threaten Nigeria's party plans - MSN

DECEMBER 18, 2021

New rules that require people to confirm their Covid status before attending large gatherings in Nigeria's biggest city are being largely ignored, reflecting a general indifference towards the pandemic, despite a recent surge in cases.

Afrobeats stars like Patoranking usually stage huge shows in Lagos during December© Getty Images Afrobeats stars like Patoranking usually stage huge shows in Lagos during December

While the UK added, and then removed, Nigeria to and from a travel red list over concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, life in the country carried on pretty much as normal.

Even some officials don't seem to be taking their own advice too seriously. Just 48 hours after announcing new Covid restrictions in Lagos, state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was at a state-sponsored cooking show with the winner of reality TV show Big Brother Naija.

Attendees and other government officials are now required to show they're fully vaccinated (currently two doses) or proof of a negative test taken in the past 48 hours to attend such gatherings but this did not happen.

There has been a more than 500% increase in Covid cases across Nigeria since last week, pushing authorities in Lagos to introduce new restrictions.

The measures are largely targeted at young revellers preparing for two weeks of wild parties across Lagos in what is known as "Detty December". It is a period when Nigeria's Afrobeats stars try to outdo each other with lavishly staged shows that attract thousands, while many neighbourhoods hold 24-hour street parties.

But the new guidelines are hardly being enforced, especially in the neighbourhood parties that attract hundreds, and authorities are concerned.

"Experience has shown that these events have the tendency to be super spreading events," the state commissioner of information Gbenga Omotosho said in a statement.

Mr Omotosho defended the governor's appearance at the food show, saying that the crowd grouped in clusters but admitted that he and others did not show proof of vaccination to attend.

'Malaria is a bigger problem'

Around eight million people have received a first dose of the Covid vaccine in Nigeria, and only half of that number have received two doses.

But this falls far short for a country of 200 million people where the vaccine rollout has been hampered by people's indifference, the unavailability of vaccines in some parts of the country and inadequate supply.

Nigeria has largely relied on donated vaccines which authorities have had a hard time convincing people to take, highlighted by plans to destroy one million Pfizer vaccines which arrived in the country with less than six weeks before they expired.

With the rising number of cases in Lagos, a city of more than 20 million people, it is hoped that the introduction of the Covid passports will force more people to get the jabs - especially Nigeria's young - many of whom have not been vaccinated.

A covid passport in Abuja has led to queues at vaccination centres in Nigeria's capital© Getty Images A covid passport in Abuja has led to queues at vaccination centres in Nigeria's capital

But most revellers are not pleased.

"Why always December?" asked 22-year-old Blessing Ibelema, who said she was looking forward to attending the concert of one of Nigeria's biggest stars, Burna Boy, at the end of the year.

She has not been vaccinated and doesn't intend to. Like many she says she does not understand "the fuss about coronavirus".

"If you give us a malaria vaccine you'd have people queuing up for miles waiting to get it," she said.

This comparison between malaria and Covid has become increasingly popular since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to the WHO, last year 200,000 people died from malaria in Nigeria, more than 80 times the number that died from Covid.

'Keg of gunpowder'

But Nigeria's leading virologist, Prof Oyewale Tomori, has warned of the dangers of using death as a marker for Covid and has compared the country's attitude towards the virus to "sitting on a keg of gunpowder".

Prof Tomori told the BBC that that it was dangerous to play down Covid, as many Nigerians are doing now, as it might trigger hypertension or other conditions later in life.

Currently, Nigeria has officially recorded about 3,000 deaths linked to coronavirus and while it is still hard to be sure how many people have had the virus because of a low rate of testing, the fact is that the country has been spared the catastrophic number of deaths witnessed elsewhere.

Hospitals have not been overrun and some of the isolation wards built in haste because of Covid have mostly remained empty.

Strict lockdown measures imposed last year and experience in dealing with other diseases like polio and Ebola have helped Nigeria in the fight against Covid.

Street parties such as this in Oworonshoki, a Lagos slum, are popular in December but few are following Covid guidelines© Getty Images Street parties such as this in Oworonshoki, a Lagos slum, are popular in December but few are following Covid guidelines

Social gatherings were limited, face masks were imposed, event centres were locked down and workers encouraged to work from home.

And like most other African countries, Nigeria's young population has helped it escape the worst of coronavirus. More than half of Nigerians are less than 30, and so less likely to become severely ill than older populations in some other parts of the world.

Many of these young people are not worried about Covid and consider the government guidelines a nuisance.

They rue the impact of Covid restrictions on the country's economy and the thousands of jobs that have been lost.

"My father lost his job last year in an IT firm in Lagos and has had to move to the village in the east," said Ms Ibelema.

No vaccine, no entry

Yet that is why some are taking the new directives seriously - the prospect of losing millions of naira for the second December in a row is one they can't stomach.

Bartender Mercy Ikwuelebgu has been vaccinated so she can continue to attend events. But some team members grumbled that they only got vaccinated as a last resort to keep their jobs.

Covid passports are new in Nigeria and Lagos will be hoping that its guidelines are as successful as a similar rule in the capital, Abuja, which made it compulsory for civil servants to be vaccinated under the "No vaccine, no entry" policy.

The number of those vaccinated in the capital since early December has tripled, said one official.

Nigeria has also started giving out booster shots as more cases linked to the Omicron variant are confirmed.

There are still no definitive answers about how severe an Omicron infection is, though evidence so far suggests milder symptoms and lower mortality than previous variants.

That, and the authorities seemingly flouting their own rules, make it even harder to convince young Nigerians to get vaccinated.

"If the government wants a card it will get a card, but rest assured I am not getting vaccinated to attend a party," said Ms Ibelema.

Bitcoin and ethereum plunge as investors cut down on risky bets - YAHOO FINANCE

DECEMBER 18, 2021

Bitcoin (BTC-USD) was down 4% to trade at $47,376 (£35,657). It was about 30% down from its all-time high of $69,000, which it hit last month, and struggling to cross a key level of $50,000.

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Harrods starts Boxing Day sale 10 days early amid Omicron Christmas sales fears - YAHOO FINANCE

DECEMBER 18, 2021

BY  Oscar Williams-Grut

Harrods is today kicking off its Boxing Day sale 10 days early as retailers rush to pull in as much cash as possible in the crucial festive period.

The high end department store’s decision to start discounting goods from today comes despite data showing retail sales boomed last month. Experts said momentum had already faded and many businesses now fear Christmas trading could be weaker than expected.

Retail sales grew by 1.4% in November, which was higher than expected thanks to a bumper Black Friday and early Christmas shopping.

That is likely to be the high water mark as Omicron fears keep people indoors, inflation squeezes incomes, and confidence sinks. GfK’s long-running monthly consumer confidence index, also published today, declined by one point to a balance of -15 in December.

The New West End Company said footfall in central London was 32% below pre-pandemic levels yesterday as shoppers stayed home.

Danni Hewson at AJ Bell said: “December’s already shaping up to be a very different story. Footfall is down dramatically and there will be some consumers deciding what they don’t have now they won’t be buying.”

Jacqui Baker, head of retail at RSM UK, said: “The unfolding situation around rising Omicron cases and extra restrictions will hit consumer confidence and sales in December. As Christmas parties get cancelled, partywear will remain on the rails so retailers may find themselves stockpiling this season’s product until next year – tying up money in stock as we head into the New Year.”

Jace Tyrrell, CEO of New West End Company, said this Saturday’s tube strike would likely add to retailers woes in central London.

He said: “The Government must act quickly to provide temporary financial support to leisure businesses across the UK, otherwise we run the risk of further viable businesses closing their doors in the coming months.”

NIMET Raises Air Travelers’ Awareness on Poor Visibility in Airspace as Christmas Approaches - THISDAY

DECEMBER 18, 2021

BY  James Emejo in Abuja 

The Executive Director, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr. Ezra Yakusak has stated that 36 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) exporters had been certified further to enhance the country’s non-oil exports.

He also said the council is currently working to address the frequent rejection of Nigerian exports especially by the European Union among others.

The Nigerian economy was largely driven by the non-oil sector, which accounted for 92.51per cent of GDP in the third quarter of the year (Q3 2021) according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The oil economy contributed 7.49 per cent to growth in the same period.

Addressing the beneficiaries at a brief ceremony in Abuja, Yakusak said the cardinal objective of the project was to encourage value addition against the export of raw agricultural produce. He pointed out that the certification would enable the SMEs compete favourably in the lucrative international markets while getting premium pricing for their products.

He said, “It will also facilitates SMEs access to certified niche non-oil export international markets and to compete favourably in the lucrative international markets while getting premium pricing for their products.

“You are all aware that penetrating international markets for processed and value-added products, particularly food items require additional voluntary certification to enable the products access overseas market.”

He, particularly noted that accessing global markets had become stricter due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, which requires tougher inspection regimes at border control points in importing countries. According to him, “Accessing global markets has become stricter due to the on-going pandemic, which requires tougher inspection regimes at Border Control Points (BCPs) in importing countries.

“These stricter and increasingly competitive requirements imply therefore, that exportable food items must strive to acquire additional non-mandatory certification(s) to enable it compete globally. “Non-mandatory certifications (e.g. ISO, HACCP, GMP, etc.,) are global certification, trusted by consumers and end-users of products and services, and are attained, based on the reputation of the certifying bodies.”

He also said the Export Expansion Facility (EEG) programme would be leveraged for the certification of more SME exporters in preparation for the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA). He added that the main objective was to encourage value addition against the export of raw agricultural produce.

Yakusak also said in the council’s efforts to curb the high rate of export rejection and to build the capacity of exporters, it had engaged a reputable certification expert, Top Certifier, based in Bangalore India, to provide certification awareness training to manufacturers and producers. He said, “The India based company guides companies and organisations certification for ISO, CE, FSMS and other international certifications and have successfully executed over 3,000 projects across 20 countries.

“In the vein, the council also collaborated with the German Cooperation International (GIZ) in implementing the Nigeria Competitiveness Project (NICOP) to support key value chains in Nigeria by promoting structural transformation and improving access to regional and international markets through certification in order to conform with pre-requisite international food safety standards in alignment with benchmarked global standard and global value addition.

The certifications under this collaboration include Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), ISO 22000:2018 and ISO 9000:2015.” Also, NEPC Director, Product Development, Mr. Williams Ezeagu, said the council adopted the ‘Go Global, Go For Certification’ to ensure that the SMEs compete favourably in the international markets. He explained that the initiative, including the NICOP programme had a total of 40 SME exporters that benefited from the certification projects including the 26 that will be awarded HACCP, Halal, USFDA and ISO 22000 certifications.

He said, “It will also facilitates SMEs access to certified niche non-oil export international markets and to compete favourably in the lucrative international markets while getting premium pricing for their products.”

UK house price boom ‘to end in 2022 amid cost of living squeeze’ - THE GUARDIAN IK

DECEMBER 18, 2021

Mortgage lender Halifax forecasts growth will be ‘broadly flat’ next year

The boom in UK house prices is likely to end next year as household finances become increasingly stretched, according to Halifax.

The mortgage lender said it expected the red-hot increases in average house prices over the last two years – 8% so far this year and 6% in 2020 – to end, with growth forecast to be “broadly flat” in 2022.

Related: UK housing market forecast for 2022? Busy, but less frenetic

The Bank of England raised interest rates on Thursday for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, from o.1% to 0.25%, and signalled further increases in the months ahead, potentially dampening appetite for spending as budgets come under strain.

“With the prospect that interest rates may rise further in 2022 to subdue rising inflation, and with government support measures phaser out, greater pressure on household budgets suggests house price growth will slow considerably,” said Russell Galley, the managing director of Halifax.

Halifax expects strong housing price levels to be maintained – the average UK house price is £272,992, almost £34,000 higher than at the start of the pandemic – but that growth in 2022 would be somewhere between flat and 2%.

“There is still a large degree of uncertainty around this forecast,” Galley said. “Particularly around the extent to which savings accrued during the pandemic continue to boost housing transactions and prices, and how lasting the recent shifts in housing preferences prove to be.”

With the pandemic-fuelled shift to flexible, remote and home working, homebuyers have rushed to buy larger properties in picturesque and rural locations outside urban centres.

Other factors fuelling homebuying were the government’s stamp duty holiday, which came to an end in England and Northern Ireland in September after finishing earlier in Scotland and Wales, and historically low interest rates.

“The UK housing market continues to defy expectations during 2021,” Galley said.

However, with soaring inflation and further rate rises expected in 2022, the cheap mortgage deals that have boosted the housing market in 2021 are likely to be more difficult to find.

“Nevertheless, interest rates will remain low by historic standards and property prices will continue to be supported by the limited supply of available properties,” Galley said. “However, it is prudent to highlight the potential for house prices to rise or fall by much greater margins next year, depending on how Covid-19 and its variants continue to impact the economic environment and the potential for any further policy interventions.”

SAA returns to Lagos-Johannesburg route - THE GUARDIAN

DECEMBER 18, 2021

By Wole Oyebade

South Africa Airways (SAA) has made a return to the Lagos-Johannesburg route after 18 months of temporary withdrawal.

South African Airways bounces back…returns to Lagos-Johannesburg route recently<br />

According to the operator, activities for a return had been on for months, defying the outbreak of the Omicron variant.

SAA Commercial Manager for Africa, Ohis Ehimiaghe, said South Africans, just like Nigerians, were pleased to be back to the Nigerian skies.

“Nigerians are excited to be part of the global economy as we usually say, and South Africa is also excited to be part of it as well. These are the two biggest powerhouses for Africa and it can only get better.

“With the visit of the South African President to Nigeria two weeks ago, the relationship between the two countries is improving and it is going to get better. We as South African Airways are part of the instrument to make investments and travels through visiting friends and families,” Ehimiaghe said.

The SAA chief further stated that they were not in doubt that the flight would operate amid the Omicron controversies and diplomatic stand-offs.

“You were well aware that the Omicron variant was discovered in South Africa. Kudos to the South African scientists. Science has told us so far that the symptoms are so mild, zero death has been recorded, and few people have been hospitalised. We were excited and we did not have any doubt that the flight was going to operate. There are absolutely no restrictions between Nigeria and South Africa. It is good for us. It can only get better.”


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