Nigeria-UAE Travel Face-Off - Who Blinks First? - DAILY TRUST
By Mohammad Qaddam Sidq Isa
It all started when the United Arab Emirates (UAE) alleged that some Nigerian travellers to Dubai or passing through it in transit were presenting fake COVID-19 test results.
Following the gradual resumption of regular international flights after the COVID-19-triggered disruption, a negative COVID-19 test result was made compulsory for international travels among other preventive measures aimed at containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Whether or not the UAE authorities had alerted their Nigerian counterparts over the fake COVID-19 test results, they unilaterally introduced an additional rapid test to all UAE-bound travellers from Nigeria before boarding and recognised its result regardless of any COVID-19 test result a traveller would present.
Also, to ensure full control over the enforcement of the measure, and taking advantage of the Emirates monopoly of the Nigeria-Dubai direct flight route, the UAE banned all non-direct flights from Nigeria to Dubai thereby expanding the monopoly in the absence of any Nigerian competitor. Other airlines e.g. Egyptair and Ethiopian Airlines, which have to transit Cairo and Addis Ababa respectively before flying into Dubai were thus effectively excluded.
With thousands of Nigerians travelling to Dubai or transiting it to catch connecting flights to their respective destinations in Europe, Australasia, the wider Asia and the Americas, the Nigeria-Dubai flight route is one of the lucrative routes for the Emirates.
Anyway, the Nigerian authorities kicked against the UAE's unilateral measures. The UAE reacted by suspending all flights from Nigeria until, initially, the 28th February 2021, and banned travellers "who have been to or connected through Nigeria in the last 14 days" from visiting the UAE.
Though talks ensued between the two parties, they couldn't resolve the issue as the face-off escalated with the UAE extending the ban to March 10 initially then to the 20th. However, when it appeared that the UAE authorities may not lift the suspension a few days to the date, the Nigerian authorities reacted by banning the Emirates passenger operations in Nigeria, which prompted the UAE's indefinite suspension of all flights from Nigeria. This is regardless of its implications on the Emirates struggle to recover from the huge losses it, like other airlines, has incurred as a result of the international flight disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, as things stand, Nigeria is equally incurring significant revenue losses, because the Nigeria-Dubai route and the Emirates are among the highest revenue-fetching sources for the government and other stakeholders in the aviation industry.
Meanwhile, many people with various interests to pursue in the UAE have been rendered stranded. Interestingly, some folks desperate to travel to Dubai from Nigeria go to the extent of smuggling themselves into Ghana to avoid having their passports stamped with the Nigerian "exist" stamp. While in Ghana, they pay some unscrupulous individuals who somehow get their passports stamped with backdated forged Nigerian "exist" and Ghanaian "entry" stamps to indicate that they left Nigeria more than 14 days ago and are therefore eligible to travel to Dubai.
Anyway, though Nigeria as a sovereign country has the right to reject the UAE's unilateral introduction of the additional rapid COVID-19 test on UAE-bound travellers from Nigeria, it should look at the UAE's allegation of the fake negative COVID-19 test results.
After all, to be fair, it's an open secret that since the introduction of a negative COVID-19 test result as a requirement for international travels, the "business" of arranging forged negative test results has thrived in Abuja and Lagos. International travellers who either don't want to experience the "stress" of going for the test, or are COVID-19 positive, or simply feel too important to be tested, part with a fortune to get laboratory-issued and genuine-looking forged negative COVID-19 test results. And with the connivance of some unscrupulous government personnel at Abuja and Lagos airports, they get cleared to travel.
However, the UAE's unilateral introduction of an additional quick test on all Dubai-bound travellers from Nigeria has effectively ended that "business" at least on the Nigeria-Dubai route, which, of course, angered the beneficiaries.
Now, the longer this face-off persists, the more it undermines the struggles of the aviation industry in both countries to recover from the unprecedented losses over the last year due to the COVID-19 lockdown and travel restrictions.
Its persistence may even affect diplomatic relations between Abuja and Abu Dhabi in a time when the former needs the latter's maximum cooperation in tackling the activities of some subversive Nigerian syndicates with their foreign collaborators engaged in facilitating Boko Haram financing, money-laundering and other financial crimes, through Dubai.
It's, therefore, in the interest of both countries to resolve this face-off through reciprocal compromise. The Nigerian government should stop feigning ignorance or denying the fact that fake negative COVID-19 results are being issued to willing outbound travellers from Nigeria, for a fortune. It should simply stop that practice and make the process of obtaining the result too transparent to be manipulated.
However, the UAE shouldn't have unilaterally introduced the controversial additional quick COVID-19 test in Nigeria in the first place; it should have done that in coordination with relevant Nigerian authorities.
Relevant authorities in both countries should address the issue bilaterally to resolve this unnecessarily persistent travel face-off.
Holidays for the rich: airlines criticise Britain's travel restart plan - REUTERS
LONDON (Reuters) -Airlines slammed Britain’s plans for restarting international travel, saying that expensive testing requirements for trips to low-risk countries would mean that only wealthy people could take holidays abroad.
Under government proposals, airlines and passengers will not find out until early May whether international travel resumes from May 17, a plan which fell short of industry hopes for clarity.
Airlines and travel companies are desperate for a bumper summer after a year of restrictions. Without a high level of unrestricted travel, some could be left struggling to survive or needing fresh funds.
The government has proposed a traffic light system, with countries falling into red, amber or green categories based on COVID-19 risks. Green countries will require a PCR test which costs about 100 pounds ($135) for travellers once they arrive back in the UK.
“This does not represent a reopening of travel as promised by ministers,” said Airlines UK, an industry body which represents British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair, Virgin Atlantic and others.
“It is a further setback for an industry on its knees.”
EasyJet, Britain’s biggest airline by passenger numbers, singled out the PCR testing requirement, the cost of which it says is higher than some of its fares, and called on the government to re-assess its plan.
“This risks reversing the clock and making flying only for the wealthy,” said easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren.
Britons have embraced the era of low cost travel over the last 20 years and are among Europe’s highest spending tourists. In 2019, more than six in ten Britons took a foreign holiday.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps said that the government wanted to make testing for travel cheaper and suggested that in time, the PCR test could be changed for a more affordable lateral flow test.
“We are committed as a government to work to drive those costs down, and also in time of course review potentially the type of test,” he told the BBC.
The framework for travel will be reviewed at the end of June, July and again in October, the government has said.
“I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t book some holidays now,” Shapps said. “It’s the first time I’ve been able to say that for many months.”
Case numbers in Britain have dropped dramatically since a January peak under a strict lockdown which has banned holidays, but a government priority is to avoid undermining the success of its vaccination programme by importing vaccine-resistant variants from overseas.
Under the traffic light system, restrictions such as hotel quarantine, home quarantine and compulsory COVID tests will apply differently depending on which category of country a passenger arrives from.
There will be a “green watchlist” identifying countries most at risk of moving from green to amber, although the government said it would not hesitate to change a country’s category should data show risk had increased.
A digital travel certification system would also be part of the plan but the proposals gave few details beyond saying that Britain wanted to play a leading role in developing standards.
($1 = 0.7310 pounds)
Nigeria exempted from UK’s list of high-risk countries for money laundering - THE CABLE
The UK has exempted Nigeria from its list of high-risk countries for money laundering.
The list, comprising 21 countries, was released as part of post-Brexit developments.
Until the end of the Brexit transition period, the list of high-risk countries was determined by the EU under the 4th Anti Money Laundering Directive.
From January 1, 2021, the UK has had its own standalone list.
Since then, any amendments made by the European Union to its list do not have effect in the UK.
The EU had in March 2019 added Nigeria to countries on its “dirty money blacklist”.
The EU said the nations in this category pose a threat because of tax controls on terrorism financing and money laundering.
The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, however, announced that Nigeria was officially withdrawn from the list by the Council of Europe on March 5, 2019.
Ghana, Senegal, Iran and Morocco are among the countries listed in the UK’s Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) (High-Risk Countries) Regulations 2021 which took effect on March 26. Others include Syria, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.
“These Regulations amend the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 (S.I. 2017/692) (“the MLRs”) to insert as Schedule 3ZA a new UK list of high-risk third countries for the purposes of enhanced customer due diligence requirements,” an explanatory note attached to the regulation read.
“Regulation 2 substitutes for the definition of “high-risk third country” in regulation 33(3)(a) of the MLRs a definition which refers to the list of countries in this Schedule, rather than to the list in Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/1675 of 14th July 2016 supplementing Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council by identifying high-risk third countries with strategic deficiencies (“the CDR”). It also makes a consequential amendment to a further reference to the CDR. Regulation 3 revokes the CDR.”
BREAKING: Criminals planning attacks on airports - FG - THE NATION
By Alao Abiodun
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has raised the alarm over planned attacks on airports across the country.
FAAN said it received an alert from the ministry of aviation over the planned attacks.
In a memo sighted by The Nation, FAAN Deputy General Manager of Administration and Logistics, S.M. Mamman, explained the elements were considering carrying out attacks in Kaduna, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Kano, Abuja, and Lagos airports.
“I am directed to convey an alert from the Ministry of Aviation regarding security threats by criminal elements against Airports in Nigeria and to request for the immediate enumeration of necessary countermeasures for the protection of Airports/facilities under your purview.
“Specifically, the Airports top on the list for which criminals are considering carrying out attacks include those in Kaduna, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Kano, Abuja, and Lagos amongst others. However, all airports are hereby alerted and requested to operate at a heightened threat level.
“The airport chiefs have been directed to “submit a list of existing and additional countermeasures to address the threats, along with their cost implications where applicable.
“Also, they are expected to urgently convene an emergency meeting of airport security committees “to review the status of airport security, jointly recommend appropriate measures and share responsibility for effective implementation”.
Federal Airports heighten security measures - THE NATION
By Babajide Komolafe
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) drastically reduced its liquidity mop up activities through treasury bills by 81 percent, year-on-year, y/y, to N793 billion in the first quarter of the year (Q1’21). The apex bank, among other things, controls money supply (liquidity) in the economy by issuing or purchasing secondary market treasury bills, also known as Open Market Operations (OMO) when it wants to reduce money supply, while it injects liquidity by purchasing OMO treasury bills.
Financial Vanguard analysis of OMO auctions conducted in Q1’21 shows a sharp decline in the amounts of bills issued and sold by the CBN compared to the same period of last year (Q1’2020).
The CBN reduced the amounts of OMO bills offered by 80 per cent, y/y, to N858 billion in Q1’21, from N4.26 trillion in Q1’2020. Similarly, the amount of bills sold fell by 81 per cent, y/y, to N793 billion in Q1’21 from N4.44 trillion in Q1’2020.
In the same vein, the amount of OMO TBs demanded by the banks and FPIs (public subscription) fell by 41 per cent, y/y, to N3.13 trillion in Q1’21 from N5.31 trillion in Q1’2020. Further analysis of OMO TBs sold in Q1’21 showed that the CBN offered N103 billion worth of 91-Days bills but sold N85 billion while the public subscription stood at N248.6 billion.
Meanwhile the apex bank raised yields (interest rate) on the OMO TBs apparently to increase the attractiveness of the bills to foreign portfolio investors, FPIs, and enhance foreign exchange inflow. Financial Vanguard analysis showed that average yield (stop rate) for OMO bills rose by 4.55 percentage points to 8.53 per cent at the end of March from 3.98 per cent at the end of December last year.
The CBN raised the stop rate for 91-Days OMO bills by 5.3 percentage points to 7.0 per cent in March from 1.61 per cent in December. It also raised the stop rate for 182-Days OMO bills by 4.05 percentage points to 8.5 per cent in March from 4.45 per cent in December. Similarly, the stop rate for 365-Days bills rose by 4.2 percentage points to 10.1 per cent in March from 5.9 per cent in December.
These were in sharp contrast to the downward trend recorded last year when average yield on OMO TBs crashed by 8.13 percentage points as the CBN slashed stop rate for 91-Days, 182-Days, 365-Days OMO bills respectively by 9.87 percentage points, 7.15 percentage points and 7.36 percentage points respectively from 11.48 per cent, 11.6 per cent and 13.26 per cent at the beginning of the year.
While citing this reversal in the yields on OMO TBs and other fixed income instruments as a factor behind the negative performance of the Nigeria Stock Exchange, NSE, in Q1’21, analysts at United Capital Plc, projected that the upward trend in yields on fixed income instruments will persist in Q2’21.
They said: “Like we noted, the bearish sentiment in the equity market has been stoked by fast-paced reversal in the yield environment. The peak of the reversal appears to be distant even though the pace of increase at recent auctions (Bonds & T-bills) seems to have slowed. We expect upward pressure on yields to garner pace later in Q2-2020 depending on the outcome of the May MPC meeting as well as data from economic recovery.”
Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/20...
Federal Airports heighten security measures - VANGUARD
By Lawani Mikairu
Federal government owned airports have increased their security measures following the invasion and adoption of some airport staff at Kaduna International Airport last month. Confirming the increased security measures being taken by the security chiefs at the various airports, the Director of
According to Odaudu, ” I am aware that the airports security chiefs have heighten security at the various airports following Kaduna Airport staff quarters invasion and adoption of airport staff.” ”
It is a normal precautionary security measures being taken by the airports authorities. Yes, there is need for increased security at the various airports,” he said.
There is a report that the federal airports security chiefs have received a memo signed by S.M. Mamman, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Deputy General Manager , Administration and Logistics , directing them to increase security as Kaduna, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Kano, Abuja and Lagos airports could be likely targets of attacks by bandits.
The memo, according to the report, reads: “I am directed to convey an alert from the Ministry of Aviation regarding security threats by criminal elements against Airports in Nigeria and to request for the immediate enumeration of necessary countermeasures for the protection of Airports/Facilities under your purview.”
“Specifically, the Airports top on the list for which criminals are considering carrying out attacks include those in Kaduna, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Kano, Abuja, and Lagos amongst others. However, all airports are hereby alerted and requested to operate at a heightened threat level.” The report further said the airport chiefs have been directed to “submit a list of existing and additional countermeasures to address the threats, along with their cost implications where applicable”.
Also, an emergency meeting of airport security committees will be conveyed “to review the status of airport security, jointly recommend appropriate measures and share responsibility for effective implementation”.
Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/20...
FAAN sets rule on drivers picking passengers at airports - PUNCH
BY Segun Adewole
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has said that drivers are prohibited from picking up passengers at the frontage of airport terminals.
This is as the agency called for compliance with all laid down protocols on COVID-19 to ensure the safety of all airport users.
In a statement issued by the General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Henrietta Yakubu, FAAN said drivers can only approach the terminals when they want to drop off a departing passenger.
The statement partly read, “The Authority will like to emphasize that in line with government protocols, arriving passengers are to walk down to designated car parks to board their vehicles. No driver is permitted to pick up arriving passenger(s) at the frontage of the terminals.
“All drivers must park and wait inside the car parks while arriving passengers walk down to the car parks to board their vehicles.
“For departing passengers, drivers are only allowed to drop off passengers in front of the terminals. They are not permitted to wait for any reason after dropping their passengers, it is only a “Drop Off” zone.
“We will like to advise all our esteemed customers to strictly adhere to these rules, to ease facilitation and enhance the safety of all airport users.”
Air Canada signs C$5.9 billion government aid package, agrees to buy Airbus, Boeing jets - REUTERS
OTTAWA/MONTREAL (Reuters) -Air Canada, struggling with a collapse in traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reached a deal on Monday on a long-awaited aid package with the federal government that would allow it to access up to C$5.9 billion ($4.69 billion) in funds.
The agreement - the largest individual coronavirus-related loan that Ottawa has arranged with a company - was announced after the airline industry criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government for dawdling. The United States and France acted much more quickly to help major carriers.
Canada’s largest carrier, which last year cut over half its workforce, or 20,000 jobs, and other airlines have been negotiating with the government for months on a coronavirus aid package.
In February, Air Canada reported a net loss for 2020 of C$4.65 billion, compared with a 2019 profit of C$1.48 billion.
As part of the deal, Air Canada agreed to ban share buybacks and dividends, cap annual compensation for senior executives at C$1 million a year and preserve jobs at the current level, which is 14,859.
It will also proceed with planned purchases of 33 Airbus SE 220 airliners and 40 Boeing Co 737 MAX airliners.
Chris Murray, managing director, equity research at ATB Capital Markets, said the deal took into account the “specific needs of Air Canada in the short and medium term without being overly onerous.”
He added: “It gives them some flexibility in drawing down additional liquidity as needed.”
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government was still in negotiations with other airlines about possible aid.
Canada, the world’s second-largest nation by area, depends heavily on civil aviation to keep remote communities connected.
Opposition politicians fretted that further delays in announcing aid could result in permanent damage to the country.
Air Canada said it would resume services on nearly all of the routes it had suspended because of COVID-19.
‘SIGNIFICANT LAYER OF INSURANCE’
The deal removes a potential political challenge for the Liberals, who insiders say are set to trigger an election later this year.
The government has agreed to buy C$500 million worth of shares in the airline, at C$23.1793 each, or a 14.2% discount to Monday’s close, a roughly 6% stake.
“Maintaining a competitive airline sector and good jobs is crucially important,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters, adding the equity stake would allow taxpayers to benefit when the airline’s fortunes recovered.
The Canadian government previously approved similar loans for four other companies worth up to C$1.billion, including up to C$375 million to low-cost airline Sunwing Vacations Inc. The government has paid out C$73.47 billion under its wage subsidy program and C$46.11 billion in loans to hard-hit small businesses.
Michael Rousseau, Air Canada’s president and chief executive officer, said the liquidity “provides a significant layer of insurance for Air Canada.”
Jerry Dias, head of the Unifor private-sector union, described the announcement as “a good deal for everybody.”
Unifor represents more than 16,000 members working in the air transportation sector.
But the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents roughly 10,000 Air Canada flight attendants, said the package protected the jobs of current workers rather than the 7,500 members of its union who had been let go by the carrier.
($1=1.2567 Canadian dollars)
Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler and Peter Cooney
Ethiopian Airlines to restart flight operations to Enugu, Kano soon - BUSINESSDAY
BY Ifeoma Okeke
Ethiopian Airlines has announced its planned return to Enugu and Kano airports once the new terminals are officially declared open for operations.
With the completion of the new airport terminals and further improvements in Covid19 situation in Nigeria, the federal government has announced a phased reopening of Kano, Enugu and Port Harcourt airports for international flights
Last week, Ethiopian Airlines operated a special flight to Malam Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano as part of the gradual process of reopening the airport.
Ethiopian Airlines is the only international airline that operates to Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu since it was gazetted as an International airport. It is also one of the airlines that operate into the Kano airport.
Ethiopian has been operating into Nigeria since 1960 and has stayed with Nigeria during good and difficult times. When the Abuja airport was closed for repairs, it was the only international airline that flew to the alternative airport in Kaduna.
In a statement, the airline said it was eager to provide its passengers with its traditional world-class service in the most technically advanced aircraft.
“Ethiopian is the first airline to bring the B787 Dreamliner to all the four airports in Nigeria. It was also the first to bring the Airbus A350 to Nigeria.
“Before the Covid19 lockdown Ethiopian airlines operated to four airports in Nigeria. Since the gradual reopening of the airspace in Nigeria, only Lagos and Abuja airports were allowed for international flights,” the airline stated.
Vaccine passports are spreading across the world. Here's how they could work in the US - BUSINESS INSIDER
Vaccine passports are set to become a part of daily life across much of the world.
Restaurants, gyms, sports stadiums, and other venues could require digital documents as proof a person has been vaccinated.
Israel has already rolled out a vaccine passport scheme and other countries are close behind.
Here's how the schemes work.
Vaccine passports are set to become a part of everyday life right across the world as governments race to vaccinate their populations against the coronavirus.
Countries including Israel, the United Kingdom, and much of Europe have either already rolled out a vaccine passport scheme or are actively working on one.
While the US government says it won't introduce federally mandated vaccine passports, it does look increasingly likely that many restaurants, gyms, sports stadiums, and other venues will require such a document to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and they may also be required for international travel.
So what might a vaccine passport system look like in the United States?
One model the US government and businesses could look to is Israel, which has led the world both in terms of vaccinating its population and in introducing a vaccine passport scheme.
Here's what their scheme can tell us about how vaccine passport systems might work in the US.
How do vaccine passports work?
Israel started issuing so-called "green passes" on February 21 to people who had received the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Under the scheme, designed to ease the country out of lockdown, Israelis issued their ID or passport number, date of birth, and approval for their health care provider to verify that the person had received their vaccine.
In return, they were issued with a "green pass." The pass can be displayed on a mobile phone as a QR code or as a printed physical document.
Who is eligible for a passport?
Every adult who has been received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccination, or who has recovered from the coronavirus. Children younger than 16 years old who have recovered from the coronavirus can be added to their parent's passport.
Where does a the pass allow you to enter?
Anyone is allowed to enter a museum or art gallery. Those with a green pass can enter venues including:
- Gyms and studios - Swimming pools - Restaurants and cafes - Hotels - Stadiums and other sporting venues - Theaters - Cinemas
What does a vaccine passport mean for travel?
Israel's government has been tight-lipped about when it will start to significantly ease current travel restrictions, which prevent citizens from traveling abroad on holiday. However, it has signed an agreement with Cyprus and Greece, two EU members, to pilot a scheme that allows vaccinated people to travel freely between the three countries, Arab News reported. It will be piloted this summer.
Has Israel's roll-out of vaccine passports gone well?
"In the shopping mall no one is really checking on [vaccine passports] but in restaurants and bars it's working," said Tal Schneider, a political correspondent at The Times of Israel in an interview with CGTN Europe.
Schneider said the public reaction to passports had been positive, where people felt it had "added" to their freedom.
"You've seen people outdoors everywhere and indoors everywhere," she said. "It's made a lot of people feel easy to participate," she said.
Counterfeit vaccine passports could be a problem
There are major privacy issues with Israel's vaccine passport program, however.
The QR codes which the green pass scheme relies on are easily counterfeited and a black market for forged passports has reportedly emerged already on Telegram, the encrypted chat app.
Another issue is that the scheme relies on a centralized database, the Telegraph reported. That means everyone's personal information is kept in one place, creating a potential goldmine for hackers.
However, a spokesman for Israel's health ministry said the early versions of Israel's green passes had been developed quickly and new versions would be more secure.
"We are looking into implementing a secure barcode that will be internationally accepted," a spokesperson for the Health Ministry told Israeli broadcaster Channel 12 in March.