British expats flying home to Spain are stopped from boarding BA flight from Heathrow to Madrid after airline staff claimed their ID documents are no longer valid after Brexit - MAIL ONLINE
- Nine passengers were not allowed to board on the flight to Madrid on Saturday
- British journalist and photographer Max Duncan reported the incident on Twitter
- The Embassy replied to his tweet saying 'This should not be happening'
By ALIKI KRATEROU and JAMES ROBINSON FOR MAILONLINE
A group of British expats living in Spain were stopped from boarding a flight to Madrid after airline staff informed them their residency papers were no longer valid following Brexit.
Nine passengers were prevented from boarding the Iberia/BA flight from London Heathrow to Madrid on Saturday night.
Staff reportedly blocked them from boarding and told them their pre-Brexit ID documents had become invalid.
The incident took place on January 2 - just a day after Britain's new trade deal with the EU came into force.
It also took place despite though both the Spanish and British governments agreeing specific documents - called the Foreign National Identification (NIE) document and the new Foreign ID Card (TIE) - would remain valid after Brexit.
Among those caught in the disruption was Madrid-based British journalist and photographer Max Duncan, who reported the incident on Twitter.
The UK's embassy for Spain replied to Duncan's tweet saying: 'This should not be happening, the Spanish authorities have reconfirmed again this evening that the green residency document will be valid for travel to return to Spain as stated in our travel advice.'
Mr Duncan also recorded a video interview with a distressed couple that wasn't allowed on the flight.
Nine British passengers were barred from boarding on a Iberia/ BA flight to Madrid on Saturday night
The incident took place on January 2, even though both the Spanish and British governments have agreed the Foreign National Identification (NIE) document and the new Foreign ID Card (TIE) remain valid
A couple said they 'were gutted' after airline staff told them they weren't allowed on the flight
Another couple was told the green NIE card was invalid following Brexit on January 1
The form British expats living in Spain have to fill out in order to make sure they can return to Spain
From work to pensions, passports and pets, what Britain's new Brexit deal with the EU means for you
By John Stevens, Deputy Political Editor for the Daily Mail
UK citizens no longer have an automatic right to live and work in the EU. The ability to do so depends on each country's immigration rules. Professional qualifications may no longer be recognised. Citizens of the UK and Ireland can continue to live, work and move freely between the two countries.
Existing EU burgundy passports remain valid but UK travellers will not be able to use fast track e-gates at EU airports or Eurostar. Britons visiting most EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, should have at least six months left on their passport when travelling. It should also be less than ten years old on the day of travel.
Visits to EU countries will be limited to no more than 90 days in any 180. From January 2022, Britons will have to pay a visa-waiver for EU travel â€“ approximately Â£6 per head. These will last for three years.
UK travellers will not be able to use fast track e-gates at EU airports or Eurostar. Pictured: Passengers from London arrive at Eurostar terminal in in Paris, France, December 23
There will be a tax-free limit of Â£390 on goods brought back from the EU. For drink and cigarettes, the limits are 42 litres of beer; 18 litres of wine; nine litres of sparkling wine; four litres of spirits; and 200 cigarettes.
Most can continue to drive in the EU without the need to get an International Driving Permit. Those with an older paper licence may need one. Drivers taking their own car to the continent will need a 'green card' from their insurer. There may be a fee.
The EHIC â€“ European Health Insurance Card â€“ scheme is to end although cards remain valid until their expiry dates. The Government says it will bring in a similar global health insurance card.
The EHIC â€“ European Health Insurance Card â€“ scheme is to end
UK will no longer participate in the Erasmus scheme, which allows students to study at European institutions for a year during their degree. A global 'Turing Scheme' will replace it from September 2021.
The EU pet passport scheme is ending and owners will need to get an animal health certificate instead. The cost is likely to be around Â£100, with a new one for each trip.
Sending goods to the EU will require a customs declaration, available from the Post Office. Britons receiving goods from the EU may have to pay duty, VAT and handling fees.
Retiring to the EU
A visa and proof of financial independence will now be needed. The UK state pension will still be paid.
Its citizens may escape some rules as the province is considered part of the European Union in certain circumstances.
Nigerians should not be criticized for relocating to Canada â€“ Buhariâ€™s aide - DAILY POST
A media aide to President Buhari, Tolu Ogunlesi, has advised those interested in relocating out of the country to do so and not put their lives on hold in Nigeria
Ogunlesi was reacting to the current exodus of young Nigerians to Canada in search of better lives.
The social media in recent past have been agog with the news of relocations and stories of Nigerians wishing them good luck as they bid farewell to the country.
While many wish they could leave, as they see Nigeria as a failed state, others condemn the current spate of relocation accusing the immigrants of running away rather than working to make Nigeria better.
Ogunlesi, reacting to the development said Nigerians should be encouraged to follow their hearts to move out of the country.
He urged the public not to criticize those wishing to remain in Nigeria to make it work.
Buhariâ€™s aide on his Twitter page wrote: â€œA good number of Nigerians moving to Canada are actually moving from the UK and US after years there—and not only from Nigeria.
â€œPeople should be encouraged to follow their heart and move or Stay. Movers need not diss Stayers (or Nigeria!)and Stayers need not diss Movers.â€
Ogunlesi also advised those who make it in Canada not to forget Nigeria and stay abreast of opportunities back home.
â€œIf you want to go to Canada, by all means, pursue it. The tragedy is in putting your life on hold in Nigeria because you want to go to Canada, & then ending up not being able to go to Canada. Because the truth is, not everyone who wants to go to Canada (or anywhere else) will be able to.
â€œThe reality is Canada doesnâ€™t have room for everyone who wants to go. Only a fraction will make it. But everyone who wishes to go should def try (legit of course—not trying to stroll across from US)
â€œBut what if youâ€™re one of those who wonâ€™t be able to go. Whatâ€™s the backup plan?
â€œAnd if youâ€™re one of the privileged fraction that makes it, please donâ€™t burn your Nigeria bridges. I know it can be exciting to finally be free of Naija and its wahala, hehe. But donâ€™t cut the ties. Keep in touch, keep an eye on the opportunities back home. Nobody knows tomorrow,â€ his tweet added.
Everything we know about the new health insurance card after Brexit transition - THE INDEPENDENT UK
BY Simon Calder
Since the EU referendum in 2016, there has been a great deal of uncertainty about whether the free healthcare on offer to British travellers to Europe will continue after the Brexit transition phase ends.
It was feared that reciprocal medical treatment would end for UK citizens â€“ a particular concern for older travellers, or those with pre-existing medical conditions, who have used the card as an alternative for travel insurance if they regard premiums as unaffordably high.
On Christmas Eve, the government revealed that there will, after all, be arrangements for British travellers to receive healthcare, and that a replacement for the much-used European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) is being developed: the UK Global Health Insurance Card (Ghic).
A brief history of the Ehic
British travellers have long benefited from free or very low-cost medical treatment in some other countries â€“ initially through reciprocal agreements and later, after the UK joined the then-EEC in 1973, with a Europe-wide agreement.
For decades the document for travellers was known as the E111, and was available from social-security offices.
In 2004, the European Union introduced the Ehic as a card demonstrating entitlement to medical care on the same basis as local people. It is available free to EU citizens, including (after Brexit) those living in the UK.
What exactly has changed since Brexit?
Perhaps oddly: British travellers have lost reciprocity with four non-EU members â€“ Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein â€“ but not with the EU27. The UK and European Union will continue to offer â€œbenefits in kindâ€ to a citizen from the other side if those benefits â€œbecome necessary on medical grounds during their stayâ€. In other words: need health care? Youâ€™ve got it.
Itâ€™s important not to equate entitlement with possession of a valid European Health Insurance Card. The Ehic is simply an easy way to demonstrate that you qualify for treatment.
Buried towards the end of the EU-UK Brexit deal â€“ on pages 1,143 and 1,243 if you would like to read further â€“ are sketchy details of a new UK-specific health insurance card â€“ noting it will be introduced at some point in the future.
The UK government has indicated that it will be called the â€œGlobal Health Insurance Card (Ghic)â€.
How do I get one?
Do not apply if you have a valid Ehic.
You can apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (Ghic) on the NHS portal previously used for Ehic applications or by calling on 0300 330 1350. The card is free. Do not use any third-party sites: they are likely to charge a fee.
The NHS is still issuing European Health Insurance Cards to EU citizens resident in the UK, British pensioners and their families resident abroad, and UK students spending time at EU educational establishments.
What do I if I have no valid card?
The EU says: â€œIf the need arises, you will still receive the treatment necessary to enable you to continue your holiday without having to return home for treatment.â€
If you have an existing Ehic, it will continue to be valid until its expiry date. If yours has run out, or you never had one, you are still entitled to care.
For treatment abroad, you are required to apply for a provisional replacement certificate (PRC). This is confirmation by the NHS that you are entitled to health care.
To get one, you, or a companion or family member, need to call NHS Overseas Healthcare Services on +44 191 218 1999 during working hours (Monday to Friday, 8am-6pm).
You must have your National Insurance number and the name of the hospital or other medical facility that is currently treating you. The certificate will then be emailed (or, quaintly, faxed) to the clinicians.
What treatment is covered?
All emergency care, including issues arising from pregnancy â€“ but not if you have gone abroad specifically to give birth.
In addition, pre-arranged medical treatment for specific conditions â€“ notably kidney dialysis, oxygen therapy and chemotherapy â€“ is covered, as before.
Note that only the â€œEU27â€ are covered â€“ ie not Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, which are members of the Schengen Area but not the European Union.
Does the agreement cover medical repatriation?
No. It is solely for easier access to medical treatment. There is no provision for taking you home free of charge if you fall seriously ill or suffer a serious accident. Only travel insurance will cover that.
One additional benefit of the decision to continue reciprocal health care is that travel insurance premiums are unlikely to rise significantly.
Is Ghic an alternative to travel insurance?
Travel insurance offers far more benefits besides local health care, including cover for cancellations, loss or theft and, in extreme cases, medical evacuation. The government warns: â€œEhic and Ghic do not replace travel insurance.â€
Abta, the travel association, goes even further, warning: â€œTaking out travel insurance is crucial when you book your holiday, whether itâ€™s a domestic break or overseas.â€
But older travellers, particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions, might rationally decide not to insure for journeys to locations covered by the Ghic â€“ if they are prepared to self-insure for other risks. Note that medical repatriation by air usually costs tens of thousands of pounds.
Will Ghic be truly global?
Almost certainly not. The idea that taxpayers should bankroll health care for well-to-do British citizens enjoying holidays in far-flung locations such as the Maldives or Hawaii is, frankly, ludicrous.
Its â€œglobalâ€ nature may initially to be limited to existing reciprocal agreements: basically Australia, New Zealand, Gibraltar, the non-EU nations of the former Yugoslavia, a scattering of UK territories in the Caribbean, plus the remote Atlantic possessions of the Falklands and plucky St Helena.
1,375 migrants arrested during border closure â€“ FG - NAN
The Nigerian government said on Monday that no fewer than 1,375 irregular migrants were arrested while the border drill code-named, â€Exercise Swift Response, â€ lasted.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the border drill was held between August 20, 2019, and December 17, 2020.
Speaking at a new year media briefing in Lagos on Monday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the border drill was a huge success.
The minister said the seizures so far during the period included 157,511 â€“ 50kg bags of parboiled foreign rice, 10,447 bags of NPK fertiliser used for making explosives and 18,630 jerry cans of vegetable oil.
The total monetary value of the seized items, according to him, is about N12.362 billion.
NAN recalls that â€œExercise Swift Responseâ€ was launched as part of efforts to secure the land and maritime borders in the South-South, South-West, North-Central and North-West Zones from smuggling and irregular migration.
The exercise, coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), was meant to boost the national economy and strengthen border security.
Officials of the Nigeria Customs Service, the Nigerian Immigration Service, the armed forces of Nigeria as well as the Nigeria Police Force and other security and intelligence agencies were involved in the exercise.
Following a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 16, 2020, four land borders were reopened, including those in Seme, Illela, Maigatari and Mfun.
The minister said the exercise had saved resources and enhanced national security.
He said: â€œThe importation of drugs and proliferation of small arms, which usually fuel violent extremism and terrorism in the country, have been significantly curtailed.
â€œFor instance, 95 per cent of illicit drugs and weapons that are being used for acts of terrorism and kidnapping in the country comes in through our porous borders.
â€œHowever, since the border drill started, this importation has been drastically reduced.â€
Mr Mohammed also said the agricultural sector had received a boost from the drill, with rice production now nearing the level of self-sufficiency for the country while poultry production was at a high level.
He commended security operatives for displaying a high level of professionalism and unflinching commitment to the national assignment.
Sturgeon orders Scots to stay at home as new variant advances - REUTERS
By Kate Holton, Guy Faulconbridge
LONDON (Reuters) - Scotland on Monday imposed the most stringent COVID-19 lockdown since last March and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would shortly impose tougher curbs in England to contain a rapidly spreading outbreak of a new variant of the coronavirus.
The United Kingdom has the worldâ€™s sixth-highest official coronavirus death toll - 75,024 - and the number of new infections is soaring across the country.
As Johnson mulled tougher measures for England, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the new variant accounted for nearly half of new cases in Scotland and is 70% more transmissible.
Scots, she said, would be legally required to stay at home for January from midnight. Schools will close for all but the children of essential workers.
â€œI am more concerned about the situation that we face now than I have been at any time since March,â€ Sturgeon told the Scottish parliament.
â€œAs a result of this new variant, (the virus) has just learned to run much faster, and has most definitely picked up pace in the past couple of weeks,â€ Sturgeon said.
Visiting a hospital to see the first people receive the vaccine made by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, Johnson said the country faced â€œtough, toughâ€ weeks to come.
â€œIf you look at the numbers, thereâ€™s no question that weâ€™re going to have to take tougher measures and weâ€™ll be announcing those in due course,â€ Johnson said. â€œWeâ€™ve got the virus really surging.â€
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland implement their own COVID-19 responses though they are trying to coordinate more across the United Kingdom.
England is currently divided into four tiers of restrictions, depending on the prevalence of the virus, with the vast majority of the country in Tiers 3 and 4 where social mixing is restricted and restaurants and pubs are closed.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier that the rules in Tier 3 were clearly not working.
With England moving back towards the strict lockdown of the first wave in March, Johnson was also asked if schools would have to close once again and return to online learning.
He said that would remain a last resort for primary schools given the social and educational damage that can be done to isolated children.
But he indicated they may need to rethink a plan to reopen secondary schools for pupils aged between 11 and 18.
â€œIt looks as though secondary schools probably play more of a role in the spread of the epidemic than primary schools, so weâ€™ll have to look very hard at what we do with secondary schools later in the month,â€ he said.
The government has spent the year trying to balance the need to shut down the country to contain the virus without hammering the economy.
The first national coronavirus lockdown in May last year prompted a 25% drop in economic output - unprecedented in modern records - leaving Britainâ€™s economy harder hit by the pandemic than most others.
While the economy recovered partially in the third quarter, renewed lockdown measures threaten to cause a double-dip recession at the start of 2021.
Reporting by Kate Holton and Guy Faulconbridge, Andy Bruce; Editing by Sarah Young and Hugh Lawson
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
England goes into new lockdown as COVID-19 variant rampages - REUTERS
By William Schomberg, Elizabeth Piper
LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday ordered England into a new national lockdown to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases that threatens to overwhelm parts of the health system before a vaccine programme reaches a critical mass.
The announcement came just hours after the government hailed Britainâ€™s success in becoming the first country to begin rolling out the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca against COVID-19.
Johnson said a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom and now present in many other countries was spreading at great speed and immediate action was needed to slow it down.
â€œAs I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than any time since the start of the pandemic,â€ Johnson said in a televised address to the country.
â€œWith most of the country already under extreme measures, itâ€™s clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control,â€ he said.
â€œWe must therefore go into a national lockdown, which is tough enough to contain this variant. That means the government is once again instructing you to stay at home.â€Non-essential shops and hospitality would have to remain closed, while primary and secondary schools would close from Tuesday for all pupils except vulnerable children and those whose parents are key workers.
Johnson said the disruption meant it would not be possible for all exams to go ahead this summer -- the second academic year in a row in which the pandemic has played havoc with pupilsâ€™ education and future plans.
Johnson said that if the vaccine rollout went as planned and the number of deaths responded to the lockdown measures as expected, it should be possible to start moving out of lockdown by the middle of February.
However, he urged caution about the timetable and appealed to everyone to comply with the rules.
Britainâ€™s economy suffered a historic crash of nearly 20% in the April-June period of 2020 as swathes of business were shuttered by the first lockdown.
The new measures, which allow companies such as construction firms to remain open, could cost about 10% of economic output for as long as they last, said Julian Jessop, a fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think-tank.
NEW VACCINE LAUNCHED
As Britain grapples with the worldâ€™s sixth highest death toll and cases hit a new high, the countryâ€™s chief medical officers said the spread of COVID-19 risked overwhelming parts of the health system within 21 days.
The surge in cases has been driven by the new variant of COVID-19, officials say, and while they acknowledge that the pandemic is spreading more quickly than expected, they say there is also light at the end of the tunnel - vaccinations.
Johnsonâ€™s government earlier touted a scientific â€œtriumphâ€ as Britain became the first country in the world to start inoculating people with shots of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Dialysis patient Brian Pinker, 82, received the first vaccination outside of a trial.
â€œI am so pleased to be getting the COVID vaccine today and really proud that it is one that was invented in Oxford,â€ said the retired maintenance manager, just a few hundred metres from where the vaccine was developed.
But even with the vaccines being rolled out, the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths keep rising.
More than 75,000 people in the United Kingdom have died from COVID-19 within 28 days of a positive test since the start of the pandemic. A record 58,784 new cases of the coronavirus were reported on Monday.
Moving a few hours ahead of Johnson, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon imposed the most stringent lockdown for Scotland since last spring.
The devolved administration in Wales said all schools and colleges there should move to online learning until Jan. 18.
Additional reporting by Estelle Shirbon, Alistair Smout and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Gareth Jones
2021 Hajj: NAHCON, PTF To Work Out Guidelines For Pilgrims - LEADERSHIP
Amid the rising confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the second wave of pandemic, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has said that it will collaborate with Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and the Federal Ministry of Health to map out strategic guidelines on COVID-19 preventive measures to safeguard Nigerian pilgrims during the 2021 hajj operation.
The head, Public Affairs of NAHCON, Mrs Fatima Usara, disclosed this yesterday in a statement in Abuja.
While, enjoined all intending pilgrims and officials of State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards to continue to observe COVID-19 protocols in order to curtail the spread of the deadly pandemic, Usara assured Nigerian Muslims that as soon as the Saudi Arabia authority communicated new guidelines on the 2021 Hajj and Umrah, NAHCON would take appropriate actions in the interest of intending pilgrims.
The Commission urged dintending pilgrims, states and other Hajj and Umrah licensed operators to continue with normal preparations and registration for 2021 Hajj exercise, while exercising patience until clear directives by Saudi Arabian authorities.
â€œEven as we look forward with high hopes on the possibility of the larger Muslim community performing Hajj and Umrah in 2021, NAHCON will continue to await further directives from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in reverence to the Kingdomâ€™s divinely bestowed role as the custodians of the two holy mosques and its domain.â€
â€œThe Commission continues to commend and trust the Kingdom for its courage in taking difficult decisions in the interest of world Muslims even where the unfavorable effect of such decisions is borne by the Kingdom itself. NAHCON assures Nigerian Muslims that as soon as the Saudi Arabia authority communicates new guidelines on Hajj and Umrah, the Commission will not hesitate in taking the appropriate actions in the interest of Nigerian intending pilgrims.
â€œAt this juncture, NAHCON also wishes to remind all intending pilgrims for Hajj that registration for 2021 Hajj will continue on the normal platform on e-Hajj portals under state pilgrimsâ€™ boards/agencies/commissions, while those wishing to pay against 2022 and beyond are advised to utilize the Hajj Savings Scheme platform,â€ the statement read in part.
No Plan To Impose Fresh Lockdown, Lai Mohammed Assures Nigerians - LEADERSHIP
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, yesterday, assured Nigerians that the Federal Government has no plan to impose a fresh lockdown on Nigeria as the country battles the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mohammed, who spoke at a conference in Lagos, however, appealed to Nigerians to adhere to all protocols outlined by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
The minister said, â€œOn the issue of lockdown, I donâ€™t think there is any time when the Federal Government has said it is going to have a second lockdown. However, the Federal Government is very unhappy that Nigerians are not adhering to the basic Covid-19 protocols of wearing face masks, or practicising social distancing, of washing hands, of ensuring that they do gather in large numbers.
â€œIf we do not do these, the surge will continue and with the new strain of Covid-19 which is becoming much more difficult to handle than the old strain, the Federal Government will continue to insist and encourage Nigerians to please obey the Covid-19 protocols.
â€œThe Federal Government is aware of the economic and social implications of a second lockdown but we want to call on Nigerians to help us, help themselves and help the economy, by adhering strictly to the Covid-19 protocols.â€
The Federal Government had in March 2020 locked down the Federal Capital Territory as well as Lagos and Ogun States for over five weeks as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic. The lockdown had a tremendous effect on economic activities with the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry putting the loss at about N3bn in the period under review.
Many jobs were also lost as airlines, hotels, banks, amongst others cut their workforce due to the crushing effect of the lockdown.
Immigration confirms travel restrictions - THE NATION
By Blessing Olaifa, Abuja
The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has imposed six months travel restrictions on 100 passengers who violated the COVID 19 protocols.
Its spokesman, Sunday James, said on Monday in Abuja that the restrictions were in line with the Federal Governmentâ€™s directive on the passengers.
He explained in a statement that the affected passengers have been notified and would be prevented accordingly from travelling outside the country.
James said: â€œIn line with the Federal Governmentâ€™s directives on temporary travel restrictions on 100 passengers due to non-compliance to the mandatory Day-7 post arrival Covid-19 PCR Test by all in-bound travellers, the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede has directed the relevant formations to ensure immediate compliance with the travel restriction order.
â€œThe 100 defaulting passengers have been restricted for a period of six (6) months, from January 1st 2021 to June 30th 2021. â€œAll the affected passengers have been notified and will be prevented from Passport re-issuance and travelling outside the country during this period.
â€œThe Nigeria Immigration Service hereby warns all affected passengers to comply to avoid breaching public health protocols and refusal of departure.â€
Airlines Get Govt's N4bn Bailout to Pay Workers
By Chinedu Eze
The federal government has started disbursing the N5 billion it had promised operators in the domestic arm of the country's aviation sector whose operations were ravaged by COVID-19 pandemic, THISDAY learnt yesterday.
In addition, the federal government and airline operators are now working together to ensure that the domestic carriers survive post COVID-19.
The first step to rescue the airlines THISDAY gathered was the release of N5 billion bailout to the airlines and other operators in the industry last weekend by government, while the airlines have kick-started several levels of cooperation, including interlining and code-share to ensure that they are able to sustain their operation.
Details of how the fund was disbursed revealed that the 31-member committee gave N4 billion to airlines.
Scheduled flight operators were given 70 per cent of the sum, while charter operators received 30 per cent.
The major objective of the bailout is for government to empower the airlines to be able pay salary to their personnel henceforth; so 70 per cent of the fund was for salary payment, while 30 per cent was for aircraft maintenance, THISDAY learnt.
In order to ensure that the funds are transparently distributed, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had to confirm the number of technical staff and number of aircraft in each airline and it was concluded that charter operators had a total of 2000 staff, while scheduled operators have 6, 428 staff.
The payroll of beneficiary airlines were also checked to ensure that they paid their staff February and March, 2020 salaries before the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
THISDAY also learnt that the 70 per cent earmarked for salary payment from the N4 billion given to the airline came up to N2.1 billion and prorated as over N300, 000 per staff, which was determined according to the staff strength of each airline.
For example, Air Peace technical staff is over 532 with over 2000 administrative and other personnel.
The remaining N1 billion was given to other operators in the industry, which include catering companies, fuel marketers, which got substantial part of the fund, while travel agents, ground handling firms and car hire services got the rest.
An inside source who was part of the sharing committee, told THISDAY that, "The federal government has a sharing modalities for the palliative and the committee, made up of top officials of aviation agencies, including NCAA, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) ensured that the money was transparently distributed."
"Priority was rightly given to scheduled airline operators because they are the ones that really move higher number of people from place to place," the official said.
The Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema while expressing gratitude to the federal government for giving the airlines bailout, told THISDAY that in order to safeguard the domestic operators there are key policy decisions government must have to make.
One of these key policies is the passage of Customs tariff waiver bill, which awaits President's assent, he said.
"This will help the airlines more than bailout because the airlines spend so much money paying waivers on aircraft and spares. Another is the removal of VAT. This will go a long way in stabilizing the industry. Government should also reinforce and sustain the ease of doing business policy, which will make clearing of aircraft and aircraft spares less cumbersome. This will positively impact on our bottom line," he added.
The Chairman of Air Peace also canvassed for the suspension of 25 per cent remittances by aviation agencies to the federal government coffers, saying that such payment seem to create the impression that agencies are profit making enterprises but they are actually cost recovery organisations, which according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) are not supposed to be profit oriented so that they would not add so much financial burden on the airlines through charges and taxes.
The CEO of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi who spoke in the same vein urged the federal government to stabilise the foreign exchange and adopt a standard for the airlines.
He said that government should adopt permanent waiver for Customs duty and should not be what is renewable on yearly basis and should also do the same with VAT.
On what the airlines are doing to sustain their operations and ensure they survive after the coronavirus devastation, Sanusi said the airlines are collaborating in different ways both in the technical area and in marketing and disclosed that Aero Contractors and Dana Air are about to sign passenger protection agreement, whereby any Dana Air passenger can fly Aero Contractors, if the former cancels its flight.
"There is a lot of collaboration going on among Nigerian carriers in the bid to revamp our operations. The Aero maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility has brought the airlines together. Now they share spares in order to cut the cost of operation and they are cooperating in many other ways," Sanusi said.