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Immigration to issue passports in 774 LGAs, says Aregbesola - PUNCH

APRIL 06, 2021

BY  Olufemi Olaniyi, Ibadan

The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has promised that applicants will soon begin to get Nigerian passports within 24 hours.

The minister also in a statement on Sunday said passports would be issued in each of the 774 local government areas in the country to reduce the problem of getting it.

The former governor of Osun State said this at the newly inaugurated Maitama Passport Express Centre.

He explained that the Nigeria Immigration Service Passport Express Centre, Maitama Abuja was established in partnership with the private sector to make passport Issuance more convenient and quick.

Aregbesola stated that the opening of the centre, which signified the inauguration of the Passport Issuance decentralisation policy of the administration, was the first of many more to be established in every local government area in Nigeria and designed to offer specialized services to Nigerians.

Aregbesola said, “MPEC is in response to the yearnings of the general public for the Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Immigration Service to devise additional ways that the passport Issuance process can be less stressful and more efficient. It is the future. The goal is to have a facility like this in every local government in the country.

“Every Nigerian has the right to a Nigerian passport and it is our responsibility to put it in the hands of anyone desirous of it within the shortest possible time, without stress. The passport should be available in maximum of 72 hours of a successful application. Where there are issues, the applicant must be notified within 48 hours.

“The commencement of the operations of this world-class facility will not only offer Nigerians services of convenience and pleasure by taking away the hitherto stress in the conventional passport offices, it will also afford Nigerians the opportunity of getting their passports within 24 hours, at the high premium service and 72 hours at the ordinary premium service, albeit with added value and a little bit of extra cost.”

The Comptroller-General of the NIS, Mr Muhammad Babandede, said the inauguration of the express centre was a step towards solving the problems associated with passport administration.

Babandede also said the MPEC was established to provide expedite and guaranteed service for applicants willing to pay a premium for prompt and convenient service.

“The centre will be non-judgmental and has provision for large comfortable VIP lounge, refreshment, queue management system and other necessary facilities to ensure comfort and speedy delivery of quality service.

“This centre will have a dedicated National Identity Number (NIN), registration unit and cater to the complete passport issuance process from enrolment to production for only fresh and re-issue passport applications.

“Other categories of passport applications including change of data, replacement of damaged, lost/stolen passport and others shall continue to be processed at the service headquarters and other approved passport issuing authorities,” he added.

The NIS boss said line with its statutory mandate, NIS last week posted out the entire staff of Amana Passport Office for negligence and complexity in passport administration.

He added that many of its officers were dismissed, deranked and some are facing disciplinary procedures for corrupt practices and loss of passport booklets.

Managing Director, IRIS Smart Technologies Limited, Olayinka Fisher who conducted a tour of the centre’s facilities stated that the company has not taken over the job of Immigration, but will be providing all the facilities, quality ambience and other premium value added service to fast track the passport issuance process.

FG decentralises issuance of international passports - THE NATION

APRIL 06, 2021

By Blessing Olaifa, Abuja

The Federal Government has commenced decentralisation of international passports in the 774 local government areas.

The process started with inauguration of Passports Express Centre at Maitama District, Abuja.

International passports, according to the Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola, will now be available within 24 hours nationwide under the new Maitama Passport Express Centre (MPEC).

Aregbesola said: “MPEC is in response to the yearnings of the general public for the Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Immigration Service to devise additional ways that the Passport Issuance process can be less stressful and more efficient.

“It is the future. The goal is to have a facility like this in every local government in the country.

“Every Nigerian has the right to a Nigerian passport and it is our responsibility to put it in the hands of anyone desirous of it within the shortest possible time, without stress.

“The passport should be available in maximum of 72 hours of a successful application. Where there are issues, the applicant must be notified within 48 hours.”

According to him, commencement of the operations of the facility would not only offer Nigerians services of convenience and pleasure but take away stress noticeable in the conventional passport offices.

The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, said the inauguration of the Express Centre was a step towards solving the problems associated with passport administration.

Minister pledges issuance of passport within 24-hours - THE GUARDIAN

APRIL 06, 2021

Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola, has assured Nigerians of obtaining their international passports within 24-hour following the commissioning of the newly built Maitama Passport Express Centre (MPEC).

The centre, located in Abuja, was established in partnership with the private sector.

Aregbesola said it marked the beginning of the decentralisation of the issuance of passport and hinted that more of such centres would be built across the country to speed up issuance of the document.

“MPEC is in response to the yearnings of the general public for the Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Immigration Service to devise additional ways that the passport issuance process can be less stressful and more efficient. The goal is to have a facility like this in every local government in the country.

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“Every Nigerian has the right to a Nigerian passport and it is our responsibility to put it in the hands of anyone desirous of it within the shortest possible time, without stress. The passport should be available in maximum of 72 hours after a successful application. Where there are issues, the applicant must be notified within 48 hours.”

The minister added: “The commencement of the operations of this world-class facility will not only offer Nigerians services of convenience and pleasure by taking away the hitherto stress in the conventional passport offices, it will also afford Nigerians the opportunity of getting their passports within 24 hours at the high premium service and 72 hours at the ordinary premium service, albeit with added value and a little bit of extra cost.

The Comptroller-General of NIS, Mr Muhammad Babandede, said the inauguration of the express centre was a step towards solving the problems associated with passport administration.

“The Maitama Passport Express Centre (MPEC) is therefore, established to provide expedite and guaranteed service for applicants willing to pay a premium for prompt and convenient service.

“The centre will be non-judgmental and has provision for large comfortable VIP lounge, refreshment, queue management system and other necessary facilities to ensure comfort and speedy delivery of quality service. “This centre will have a dedicated National Identity Number (NIN), registration unit and cater to the complete passport issuance process from enrolment to production for only fresh and re-issue passport applications.”

“Other categories of passport applications including change of data, replacement of damaged, lost/stolen passport and others shall continue to be processed at the Service Headquarters and other approved passport issuing authorities,” he said.

According to him, many of NIS officers had been dismissed, de-ranked and some were facing other disciplinary procedures for corrupt practices and loss of passport booklets.

Canada is facing a 'very serious' third wave of COVID-19 pandemic: PM Trudeau - REUTERS

APRIL 06, 2021

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s hospitalizations are surging, intensive care beds are filling up, and COVID-19 variants are spreading as a third wave of the pandemic sweeps across much of the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.

“Around the world, countries are facing a very serious third wave of this pandemic,” Trudeau said at a news conference. “And right now, so is Canada.”

Reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren

A definitive digest of African architecture - DW

APRIL 06, 2021

An ambitious seven-volume encyclopedia captures the wealth of architectural wonders in 49 sub-Saharan African countries.

    

White mosque with wooden slats pointing out from sides and people walking into the building on a sunny day.

The wooden struts protruding from the facade of the Bobo Dioulasso mosque in Burkina Faso double up as scaffolding when required

The mirage-like Grand Mosque of Djenne in Mali could have very well have inspired Antonio Gaudi's renowned Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona. In Burkina Faso, the iconic Grand Mosque of Bobo-Dioulasso features conical towers dotted with wooden struts resemble spears from afar but which double up as scaffolding for repair works whenever necessary. 

These are but two of the numerous impressive buildings that first captivated Berlin-based architect and publisher Phillip Meuser. It was during his work trips to West Africa that Meuser discovered the richness and originality of sub-Saharan African architecture, which until then hardly got mention in specialist literature. 

Open field with orange-beige rectangular building in the background, with hut-like constructions on top.

Maison du Peuple in Qouagadogou

This sparked the idea for an exercise in superlatives: a 3,400 page, seven-volume sub-Saharan architectural encyclopedia with contributions from nearly 350 local and international authors covering the history and beauty of 850 significant buildings in 49 countries in Africa. 

Homage to West Africa's architectural diversity 

"The biggest challenge with this book project was striking a balance. We are based in Europe and perceive the region from Europe. We couldn't visit every place. We had to rely on many experts to support us," Meuser told DW in an interview. In his introductory essay, the architect first analyses the basic forms of African architecture. Traditionally, the architecture in sub-Saharan Africa is based on archaic building forms meant to protect against the weather, cold, and wild animals. A typical feature, for example, is large, overhanging roofs that protect against heavy rain. And clay is often used in West African architecture, especially in regions with minimal rainfall.

From straw huts to modernism

The general assumption in Europe is that the clay, straw or round hut remains the basic form of building in Africa. However, during the colonial period, European colonial powers like France or Great Britain erected numerous administrative buildings, where many metropolises resembled western-style cities. Classicist buildings, Gothic churches and rural dwellings mostly mirrored European building culture.

Outside view of train station in Dakar, with low-rise building and colonial statue in front.

A clash of cultures: the train station in Dakar, Senegal reflects colonial times

From the 1960s onwards, Tropical Modernism developed in the wake of independence, expressing the climatic conditions in forms of architectural openness that were oriented towards the design asceticism of post-war modernism in Europe.

Besides this historical dimension, the focus is on the near future, particularly marked by ecological issues and immigration to the metropolises. The urban population of some African metropolises are projected to almost double in the next 30 years, with more than 400 million people expected to flock to the cities. 

Nevertheless, the cityscape of metropolises such as Lagos, Bamako or Luanda tends to be flat, with hardly any high-rises. "Cities in sub-Saharan Africa are mostly a collection of many neighborhoods, of villages. I don't want to describe this in a judgmental way: it is a community of houses that have not grown upwards, but have remained in the area," explains Meuser.

Cookie-cutter architecture or prestige projects?

An old bank building wih arched designs on the facade, a palm tree to the left, and women walking across the streets balancing packs on their heads.

A modern touch: a former bank building in Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau

China's involvement in African architecture in recent decades is also striking. Besides numerous sports arenas, entire cities, railway lines and airports have been built by Chinese construction companies. Many of these buildings could very well be standing in either China or North Korea, their architecture seemingly out of place here. This not entirely altruistic infrastructure support is compensated with raw material deliveries and mining rights. Meuser, however, views this as a new form of colonialism.

He cites the large-scale, Chinese built housing project in Kilamba, a satellite town located 30 km (17 miles) south of Luanda in Angola. "Aerial photos show that it is a cookie-cutter city with individual neighborhoods only distinguished by the different colors on their facades. Some of the houses are ten storeys high. A completely foreign city typology." For a country like Angola, such a large-scale project for 500,000 people is a welcome prestige project that signals economic attractiveness and is meant to invite investors. The only thing African about this property, though, is its geographical location, not its inspiration.

Yellow and white buildings from afar.

Nova Cide de Kilamba, designed by Chinese firms, in the Kilamba district of Luanda, Angola

 

Eco-cube: sustainable market building in Addis Ababa 

Huge white building with holes in the sides, cars going by on streets in front, and a blue sky.

The Lideta Mercato shopping center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, designed by Xavier Vialta, looks like a chunk of Swiss cheese.

There are nevertheless impressive building projects that combine local traditions with sustainable concepts. Located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Lideta Mercato is a roofed market conceptualized by Spanish architect Xavier Vilalta. The white building's facade is punctuated with square openings, inspired by the geometrical prints of Ethiopian women's traditional dresses. Like the maw of a giant whale, the fascinating entrance leads into an intricate labyrinth of stairs. Large solar panels on the roof and a rainwater harvesting system make this an ecologically ambitious self-sustaining building. 

Mixing tradition and innovation

The majority of sub-Saharan building projects, however, focus more on fundamental issues. Architect Francis Kere, who hails from Burkina Faso, attracted a lot of attention with his opera village project in Laongo. The building and cultural project initiated by German theatre director, Christoph Schlingensief, is still considered a model for the African architectural scene. It combines proven building concepts such as permeable facades and protruding roof structures that allow for natural ventilation. What is also remarkable about this project is the basic idea of involving village residents in the basic building processes.

Remodeling slums to future livable spaces

Floating, A-shaped building on water, with man on boat to the right, with long pole in his hands.

The Makoko Floating School anchored in the Lagos Lagoon, Nigeria in February, 2016

In addition to building sustainable houses implementing simple structures, the redesigning of megacities like Lagos, which are dominated by huge slums, is a central theme of sub-Saharan architecture. A striking example is a project involving raft-like buildings in Lagos Bay. Nigerian architect, Kunle Adeyemi  conceptualized the Makoko Floating School, a failed but nonetheless groundbreaking school construction project.  The triangular floating structure is made of recycled material and has its own sewage system. With such structures, the Makoko district could be transformed from a slum into an ecologically sustainable, livable neighborhood. This is still a dream of the future, but an important trend of current and vital architecture on the sub-Saharan map.

Philipp Meuser, Adil Dalbai (eds.): Sub-Saharan Africa: Architectural Guide. Seven volumes, 3,412 pages, Dom Publishers, Berlin.

Adapted from the German by Brenda Haas.

Arik Air Healthy Before AMCON's Takeover - Okon - THISDAY

APRIL 06, 2021

By Chinedu Eze

Former owners of Nigeria's major carrier, Arik Air, have taken issue with Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) over the circumstances that led to the takeover of the airline on February 9, 2017.

The Vice-Chairman of the former management of the airline, Senator Anietie Okon, told THISDAY in an exclusive interview that the airline was in full operation with 69 scheduled flights on the day it was taken over.

He was reacting to the claim by AMCON that the airline's services were disrupted due to paucity of operational funds when it was put under receivership.

Okon said as at the takeover period, Arik Air had about 3,200 Nigerian staff, adding that the airline under AMCON now has fewer than 600 personnel as labour crisis brews occasionally due to the inability of the new managers to pay workers regularly.

"Arik was in full operation at the time AMCON forcefully took over the airline. In fact, on the day AMCON invaded the Arik head office in Lagos with two lorry-loads of mobile policemen; there were 15 serviceable aircraft and four aircraft on minor maintenance.

"On that day, the Lagos-London flight departed; the airline operated about 69 flights due to the harmattan haze, which disrupted flight operations. Normally the company operated well over 100 flights daily. AMCON continued operating the airline's typical schedule for roughly two weeks before shutting down long-haul services," Okon added.

He stated that the company, like others in Nigeria then, had difficulties in accessing foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to meet its operational needs for spare parts and other foreign obligations.

He said the then management of the airline approached the CBN to plead for assistance to access forex without success.

"It should also be noted that by the time AMCON took over Arik Air, there were 15 serviceable and four under minor maintenance aircraft, but from what we know, only four are now in service as of today. You know I am the vice-chairman of the airline; it is unfortunate that some of us put money into these things to help the country at that level in terms of aviation, but what we have got in return is that we have been on the receiving end of one intrigue after another. We have been restrained on the issue hoping that AMCON and government will see logic and act in fairness," Okon said.

Okon said it was surprising that AMCON had to wet-lease aircraft from Mongolia because of its inability or unwillingness to maintain the fleet it inherited from the former management of the airline, adding that Arik was effectively servicing its loans by the time it was taken over by AMCON.

He said: "Where are the spare parts valued at over $120 million that was in Arik maintenance stores when AMCON took over the airline?

"It is most untrue that creditors were closing in on the airline when AMCON took it over. The airline had exited (paid up) the facility of approximately $650 million it took from the US Exim Bank between 2007 and 2009 and paid up approximately $200 million from Export Development of Canada (EDC) for the first set of aircraft (3XCRJ 900 and 2XQ400) it provided facilities for. EDC second set of aircraft, two new Q400 and CRJ 1000 were being paid for as we agreed on terms and conditions when AMCON took over.

"Payment terms and conditions were being met as required by the financier. Furthermore, Arik was meeting her obligation with Afriexim Bank for two Boeing B737- 800."

Okon also explained why the airline became indebted to the local banks.

"It should be noted that these international financial institutions requested that the credit facilities extended to Arik should be guaranteed by Nigerian banks. Consequently, Arik made arrangements with various Nigerian banks to collect ticket sales and retain an agreed percentage for the service of these facilities. After deductions by the various banks, the net balance of the ticket sales collection was therefore made available for Arik operations and maintenance.

"This has been the modus operandi from inception in 2006 up until February 2011 when Union Bank informed Arik that due to a change of policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria, it would now require to reclassify guarantees, which were off-balance sheet assets to on-balance sheet facilities, meaning that guarantees were now being defined as full-fledged loans by the policy of the CBN. "Consequently, the guarantee provided by UBN for the purchase of two A340-500 aircraft from Airbus Industries had now gone above the single obligor limit by virtue of the new policy of CBN," Okon said.

According to him, by this change of policy by CBN, UBN was directed to transfer the guarantee as the local facility to AMCON even though the credit line was performing adequately.

"All attempts to get AMCON to discuss these issues and keep to the original agreement were resisted. The implication by consequence was that a foreign loan that was being serviced at a two per cent interest rate was now converted from US dollar to naira with a 24 per cent interest rate. You can now understand the predicament the airline was placed into and our journey into AMCON was not due to default but due to the CBN policy change between 2010 and 2011.

"The impact of this policy change as applied across the board without considering the international implications and putting all companies into the Nigerian lending envelope was not only wrong but devastating. It is unfortunate that those that led the banking regulatory sector at that time refused to comprehend the consequences for international borrowers and its effect on Nigerian companies. In fact, there was a sense of stubbornness, and this did not change with subsequent regulators. This is the major reason that the Foreign Direct Investment Index (FDI) has dramatically fallen and has affected the GDP and employment status of Nigeria," he added.

Okon said Arik was not being closed on by any banks and alleged that AMCON was deliberately orchestrating a situation with the banks for some time even though the banks were resisting.

"Of course, being a company directly under the banking regulator, the banks gave in when AMCON suggested a buyout and took over the so-called loans. I hope this answers the question as to how we ended up in AMCON. I have never seen an organisation desperate to buy performing loans with government money," he said.

Reacting to the allegation by AMCON that former management of Arik acquired Airbus A340-500, which had become obsolete by the time it arrived in Nigeria, Okon said: "What does he (Arik's receiver-manager) mean by obsolete? Is he an aviation expert? "This man is an accountant in the back rooms of AMCON, who has no knowledge of aviation. These aircraft were manufactured in 2009 and delivered directly to Arik. They were used on the long-haul routes and provided great service and comfort to our customers. These types of aircraft are being used extensively by other carriers in Nigeria. So when he said that these aircraft are obsolete I don't know what he is talking about or where he is getting his information from," he added.

Okon said AMCON's claim of giving Arik $150 million was incorrect and a deliberate attempt to malign the airline.

He stated: "AMCON also said it injected over N375 billion that is equivalent to approximately $1 billion. Now, one is short of words to describe the incredulity of this claim by AMCON. This should be a cause of concern for the public, the government and most of all, the CBN. What exactly were the funds used for? How many aircraft did they buy with that kind of money? How many of the existing aircraft did they repair or maintain? Why are most of the aircraft grounded and unserviceable? Who was paid this large sum of money by AMCON? Please let's not forget that we are talking about money collected from the government. Where did these funds come from? Where are the spare parts and tools valued over $120 million?"

He said AMCON on February 8, 2017, alleged in court that Arik owed approximately N136 billion in total and the agency moved in on February 9, "under the pretext that they needed to protect the creditors and the operation because of the airline's strategic importance."

"Today, four years later, these guys from AMCON are telling the country, that under their capable and caring hands, they have been able to destroy the airline operationally, destroyed its routes, and its certification, landing rights in the UK, USA, SA (South Africa), and UAE, and brazenly, added a further N240 billion on the so-called original debt. How can that be acceptable? "The truth is that they malign the owners and quietly give the impression that they are helping the nation. This is a scam! Will Nigerians accept this? I believe if anybody would accept this, I am very sure Mr. President will not accept this under his watch," he added.

Okon said when AMCON forcibly moved into Arik Air, the company had 3,350 staff, out of which 3,280 were Nigerians and the rest were expatriates.

"All of these staff members were highly trained, many by Arik, or trained by Arik abroad. Our FOCC (Flight Operation Control Centre) was fully licensed by the FAA (US Federal Aviation Administration). Our maintenance was done by EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) and JAA (Joint Aviation Authorities) of Europe, and also by the NCAA (Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority). We assisted Nigeria in getting the initial Category I certification, for flights to the USA.

"However, AMCON which came out to save jobs and the airline today have fewer than 600 staff. Most are unpaid for months, are not doing any tangible training and are not repairing any of the aircraft even though there is high demand," Okon said.

Okon said the self-serving statements by AMCON were meant to defend its incapacity to manage the airline.

"AMCON is taking some aircraft from Arik to start Nigerian Eagle. These aircraft belong to Arik and are supposed to be used to generate revenue for Arik to reduce its alleged debts. The aircraft has been working for AMCON for the past four years and the loan has not been defrayed but rather has grown exponentially. AMCON keeps on bandying figures. It is clear that setting up another airline is only a wasteful adventure that will neither resolve the Arik issue nor make the new airline viable. "That is all we can say about the outrageous and irresponsible statements of AMCON in respect of the situation with Arik.

"Mention one unit of industrial investment or private investment prior to AMCON's takeover in which they have managed successfully to return the company or stated industry to prove AMCON's ability to manage businesses," he added.

California plans to lift most Covid restrictions June 15, keep mask mandate - CNBC

APRIL 06, 2021

BY  Amanda Macias


California Gov. Gavin Newsom visits a mobile COVID-19 vaccination center on March 10, 2021 in South Gate, California. California Gov. Gavin Newsom visits a mobile COVID-19 vaccination center on March 10, 2021 in South Gate, California. Mario Tama | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday that the state will reopen its economy by June 15 provided that coronavirus vaccine and hospitalization cases remain stable.

“With more than 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it is time to turn the page on our tier system and begin looking to fully reopen California’s economy,” Newsom said in a statement.

“We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic. We will need to remain vigilant and continue the practices that got us here – wearing masks and getting vaccinated – but the light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter,” he added.

Newsom’s announcement comes as California is set to surpass more than 20 million vaccine doses administered.

The latest revelation comes as federal health officials warn that Americans should still continue to adhere to public health measures as warmer summer months approach.

“You might remember a little bit more than a year ago when we were looking for the summer to rescue us from surges. It was, in fact, the opposite,” White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday during a White House coronavirus briefing.

“We saw some substantial surges in the summer. I don’t think we should even think about relying on the weather to bail us out of anything we’re in right now,” he added.

Fauci also said Monday that Americans should continue to get both doses of the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines, despite a recent study that suggests only one dose may be enough.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

UK PM Johnson says want to make travel testing regime easy as possible - REUTERS

APRIL 06, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday said he wanted a testing regime for international travel to be easy and cheap, hinting that rapid tests could be used after criticism from the airline industry that current requirements were onerous.

The boss of easyJet Johan Lundgren has criticised some of the government’s plans to restart travel, questioning the role of testing.

Asked about Lundgren’s comments and asked if rapid lateral tests could replace PCR tests in the requirements for travellers, Johnson said: “I do think we want to make things as easy as we possibly can ... The boss of EasyJet is right to focus on this issue, we’re going to see what we can do to make things as flexible and as affordable as possible.”

“I do want to see international travel start up again. We have to be realistic... we can’t do it immediately. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve given up on May 17.”

Reporting by Alistair Smout and Michael Holden

Heathrow boss: UK is ‘too cautious’ on international travel - THE GUARDIAN

APRIL 06, 2021

by  Joanna Partridge

The chief executive of Heathrow airport has accused the government of being “too cautious” over international travel, which could result in the loss of the important summer season for travel companies.

The aviation industry is frustrated by the lack of detail from the government about the expected restart of foreign trips on 17 May using a traffic light system.

It is calling for passengers travelling to and from countries with a “green” status – allowing UK citizens to visit and return without quarantine – to be able to do so without the need for Covid-19 tests before they travel.

John Holland-Kaye, the boss of Heathrow airport, said: “There is a genuine risk that the government is too cautious and we don’t see any material travel until after summer, and that of course would be too late for many of those UK travel companies which rely upon the summer holiday. It is the only time they make money.”

The aviation sector is “calling for the government to give clarity about which countries we can fly to as soon as possible so we can start to get all of our facilities, planes and people ready and people can start to book tickets,” Holland-Kaye said.

He added: “We need some warning. If we only get the information about what is going to open up in the middle of May or later, it will start to get too late to get people on their holidays this summer.”

The chief executive of budget airline easyJet has also warned that it would be too expensive for many travellers if they are required to take two Covid tests, before departure and after arrival home from a trip, under the proposed traffic light system.

The tests could potentially cost up to £200 each, which Johan Lundgren warned could exceed the price of a standard easyJet ticket. “You wouldn’t open up international travel for everyone, but only those who can afford it,” Lundgren said in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “If you are ticking all of those boxes to become a green destination … [Multiple tests] don’t make sense to me and it would add to cost and complexities.”

Boris Johnson, questioned about Lundgren’s concerns in a Sky News interview on Tuesday, said his government would see what it could do to make testing of international travellers “as flexible and as affordable as possible”.

Johnson said he wanted to see international travel start up again but added that he had to be realistic, given that “a lot of the destinations we want to go to at the moment are suffering a new wave of Covid”.

“We can’t do it immediately,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that we’ve given up on 17 May [for resuming international travel].

“I know how impatient people are to book their holidays if they possibly can. But we just have to be prudent at this stage.’”

Aviation industry leaders believe the continued vaccination programme, combined with rapid Covid testing and digital apps to verify documents will enable the safe restart of international travel from the UK.

It is currently illegal to travel abroad for holidays, with foreign travel only allowed in specific circumstances. The government has said overseas travel will be permitted “subject to review” from 17 May, although it has not named countries which will appear on the green list.

Shai Weiss, the chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said he believed vaccinated passengers flying to amber destinations should also not face testing or quarantine.

The aviation industry has welcomed the government’s promise of widespread Covid testing, using rapid lateral flow tests, which have been trialled in schools and for lorry drivers.

“We can’t have a prohibitively expensive testing system, that puts businesses, people and families off travelling,” said Weiss.

BA’s chief executive, Sean Doyle, urged the government to work on bilateral agreements with countries such as the US and Israel which also have successful coronavirus vaccination programmes, “so we don’t waste the opportunity of having had an incredibly successful vaccine rollout”.

The use of Covid status certificates, for people to prove they have had either a vaccine, a recent negative Covid test or antibodies from a coronavirus infection within the last six months, remains under review in the UK.

Airlines have been trialling various systems for certifying documents which provide passengers’ Covid status, including the travel pass initiative from the International Air Transport Association.

Industry executives said a digital health pass would facilitate travel, but they emphasised that any introduction of health passports for travel would need to be decided bilaterally between Britain and overseas governments.

International flight resumes in Kano airport after one year - PUNCH

APRIL 07, 2021

BY  Tukur Muntari, Kano


 International flight operations resumed at the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport on Tuesday after over one year of its closure due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had in March said the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport would be reopened for international flights on April 5.

The Minister also said the Port Harcourt and Enugu airports would be reopened for international flights.

The Ethiopia Airlines plane with registration number: 5N- ATH landed at MAKIA on Tuesday at 1.30pm and departed with no fewer than 84 passengers at exactly 3pm.

The business community and lawmakers from Kano at the National Assembly had expressed concern over the continued closure of the airport which had impacted negatively on travel demands at the airport.

The Federal Government had at the beginning of the ban on international and domestic travels shut down airports across the country to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

The government had later reopened the Lagos and Abuja airports for international flights.

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