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Airlines, agents to begin sale of tickets in dollar - PUNCH

APRIL 14, 2022

BY  Henry Falaye

Some of the foreign airlines flying into Nigeria will on April 19 begin the sale of their tickets in dollar amid the worsening shortage of foreign exchange in the country.

The development came as foreign carriers’ unremitted ticket sale proceeds in Nigeria reportedly hit $283m (about N116.87bn) recently.

It was learnt on Wednesday that international airlines on APG Interline Electronic Ticketing Agreements GP code 275 would start issuing tickets in dollars, effective April 19, 2022.

According to the group, the development follows the difficulty in repatriating airlines’ funds stuck in Nigeria and other countries, coupled with foreign exchange fluctuations.

In a travel advisory to its trade partners, titled, “APG IET: Restrictions of Sales in US Dollars”, APG said, “Dear travel partners, warm greetings from APG. This is to bring to your notice that with effect from April 19, 2022, GP would only accept issuing of tickets in US dollars and not naira.

“This is mainly due to repatriation issues and the forex situation in the country. This would most likely be a temporary measure till the forex situation improves. Our sincere apologies for any inconveniences this may cause to you and your business. Thank you for understanding.”

Notable carriers on the APG IET platforms include South African Airways, South African Airways, Fly Dubai, Kenya Airways, Middle East Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Rwanda Air, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines, French Bee, Egypt Air, ASKY, Air Seychelles, Air Algerie, and Air Namibia.

Others are Air Panama, Air Burkina, Avianca, Bangkok Airways, Cabo Verde Airlines, Fiji Airways, Hong Kong Airlines, and Malaysian Air amongst others.

Some of the carriers which fly directly into Nigeria are South Africa Airways, Turkish Airlines, Asky Airlines, Egypt Air, Royal Air Maroc, Middle East Airlines, Rwanda Air and Kenya Airways.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had recently asked the Federal Government to facilitate the repatriation of ticket sales proceeds trapped in Nigeria.

 He said, “Aviation business suffers from issues of foreign exchange by local and foreign airlines and their inability to repatriate blocked funds. Nigeria currently holds $283mn worth of foreign airlines fund in the country. I humbly ask for the support of the Central Bank of Nigeria through the directives of President Muhammadu Buhari, to aid access of both local and foreign airlines to foreign exchange.”

The Director-General, International Air Transport Association, the global trade body representing over 230 international airlines, Willie Walsh, had recently said the blockade of airline revenues contravenes international conventions and could slow the recovery of travel and tourism in affected markets as the airline industry struggles to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

“Blocked airlines funds are pretty high in Africa. I think it is about $601m in Africa across 17 countries. It is very much a case of Africa as a continent probably having the most blocked funds around the world,” Walsh said.

The latest development may worsen the challenges faced by Nigerian travelers who may have to source forex from the parallel market to purchase their tickets.

Boat capsizes in Nigeria, kills 29 - REUTERS

APRIL 14, 2022

BAUCHI, Nigeria, April 13 (Reuters) - At least 29 people died when a boat capsized in Nigeria's Sokoto state in the northwest of the country, residents and the state governor said on Wednesday.

The boat was carrying 35 people, mostly women, across a dam in Shagari local government area when it sank. Divers managed to rescue six people, governor Aminu Tambuwal said.

Burials had been conducted for the dead in the largely Muslim state.

Reporting by Ardo Hazzad in Bauchi and Tife Owolabi in Yenagoa, writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe, Editing by Himani Sarkar

Britain to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing - REUTERS

APRIL 14, 2022

LONDON, April 14 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will seek to move on from the uproar caused by his COVID-19 lockdown fine by announcing a plan to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda to be processed as a possible solution to the problem of cross-Channel migration.

Johnson will set out the initiative in a speech on Thursday in Kent, south-east England, where thousands of migrants landed on Channel beaches in small boats last year, as he targets illegal immigration, which is a concern for many in his party.

Britain's interior minister Priti Patel has travelled to Rwanda, where she will outline the plan to set up a holding centre, which The Times newspaper reported would cost an initial 120 million pounds ($158 million).

A government minister said the plan was focused on single young men. "This is about male economic migrants in the main," Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart told Sky News. "There is a different set of issues with women and children."

Last year, more than 28,000 migrants and refugees made the crossing from mainland Europe to Britain. The arrival of migrants on rickety boats has been a source of tension between France and Britain, especially after 27 migrants drowned when their dinghy deflated in November. read more

Johnson will announce plans to tackle people smuggling-gangs and increase British operations in the Channel, his office said. He will say the plan represents a commitment to voters who backed the Brexit campaign he led.

"Before Christmas 27 people drowned, and in the weeks ahead there may be many more losing their lives at sea, and whose bodies may never be recovered," Johnson will say.

"Around 600 came across the Channel yesterday. In just a few weeks this could again reach a thousand a day."

Johnson has faced renewed calls to resign after being fined by police on Tuesday for attending a gathering for his birthday in June 2020 when social mixing was all but banned under COVID-19 rules his government had introduced. read more


PARTY DISTRACTION

Opposition parties criticised the plan, which they said had been timed to distract from COVID rule-breaking.

Patel's Labour party counterpart, Yvette Cooper, said: "Priti Patel's Rwanda plan is extortionate as well as unworkable and unethical."

Cooper cited the cost of Australia's policy of holding asylum-seekers in offshore camps, saying Australia Refugee Council figures showed it had cost the equivalent of 1.7 million pounds per person.

In Thursday's speech, Johnson will accept that migrants are seeking a better life but say their dreams are being exploited by people-smugglers.

"So just as Brexit allowed us to take back control of legal immigration by replacing free movement with our points-based system, we are also taking back control of illegal immigration, with a long-term plan for asylum in this country," Johnson will say.

The head of a refugee advocacy group said the plan flew in the face of the principle of granting asylum seekers a fair hearing on British soil.

"I think it's rather extraordinary that the government is obsessing with control instead of focusing on competence and compassion," Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, told BBC radio.

The government has been struggling to come up with solutions as the number of Channel crossings has increased.

A previous idea for the British navy to turn the boats back was rejected by the military. It has also looked at housing asylum seekers on disused oil rigs, or in countries such as Moldova, Papua New Guinea and its remote overseas territories in the south Atlantic, according to newspaper reports.

Rwanda had been the front-runner for such a scheme, reports said, despite Britain previously raising concerns about human rights violations in the country as recently as last year.

($1 = 0.7614 pounds)


Reporting by Michael Holden, Paul Sandle and Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, Catherine Evans and Tomasz Janowski

Boris Johnson Reveals Plan to Send Asylum Seekers to Rwanda - BLOOMBERG

APRIL 14, 2022

BY  Joe Mayes and Alex MoralesBloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson revealed a controversial plan to send asylum seekers who cross the English Channel to Rwanda, a move the U.K. prime minister said will face significant legal hurdles as he tries to position his government on a flash-point political issue.

Migrants who come to Britain on small boats risk being sent to the African state, Johnson said in a speech on Thursday. The measure, which is a major shift in approach, is designed to deter people from making the dangerous crossing, he said. About 28,000 did so last year.

“This problem has bedeviled our country for too long and caused far too much human suffering and tragedy,” Johnson said. “This is the government that refuses to duck the difficult decisions.”

The plan is likely to spark a huge political row in the U.K., given the criticism faced by other countries with similar policies. There has already been a major backlash from opposition parties and human rights groups, while it’s not a given that Johnson can rely on the support of all of his Conservative lawmakers -- some of whom have spoken against the principle of offshore centers in the past.

Johnson appeared to relish the battle ahead, predicting a challenge in the courts he said would make it unlikely for the plan to go ahead immediately. He knows that will put pressure on the main opposition Labour Party ahead of local elections on May 5, while appealing to those Tory voters who backed Brexit on the grounds that it would boost control of immigration.

The next general election is due by 2024.

Criticism

Labour’s shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, called the plan “unworkable, unethical and extortionate.” The Refugee Council called it “cruel and nasty” and accused the government of treating refugees as “no more than human cargo to be shipped elsewhere.”

Johnson dismissed criticism that the policy lacks compassion, saying it’s worse to encourage a system where many asylum seekers are exploited by people smugglers and drown in the Channel. He also defended Rwanda, saying the country had improved in recent years and is one of the safest in the world.

Human Rights

Still, the U.K.’s own international ambassador for human rights, Rita French, as recently as July criticized Rwanda for failing to agree “to conduct transparent, credible and independent investigations into allegations of human rights violations including deaths in custody and torture.”

Johnson did not say what proportion of migrants would be sent to Rwanda -- though he said the agreement with the African nation is “uncapped” -- nor how much it would cost the U.K. government to resettle them.

Cabinet minister Simon Hart told Sky News earlier the agreement with Rwanda will cost about 120 million pounds ($158 million), and is focused on “male economic migrants in the main.”

Speaking in a joint press conference Thursday with British Home Secretary Priti Patel in the Rwandan capital Kigali, Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said his country has the capacity to receive the migrants from the U.K. and plans to invest in more “social infrastructure” to enable the plans, including education.

“We are giving them the chance to make new lives in our country as full members of our communities,” Biruta said. “This will not only help them but will benefit Rwanda and Rwandans and help to advance our own development.” Those who don’t want to settle in Rwanda will be helped to return to their country of origin, or other countries receiving migrants, he said.

Partygate Pressure

The announcement comes at a time when Johnson is trying to shift the narrative away from the so-called Partygate scandal that’s dogged his government since late last year.

Police are investigating a dozen allegedly rule-breaking gatherings in government buildings during the coronavirus lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, and two days ago they fined Johnson over his involvement -- making him the first sitting prime minister to be found in breach of the law. He refused to quit and said he wants to focus on the electorate’s priorities.

One of those priorities is immigration: a failure to solve the issue has been embarrassing for Johnson’s administration, given his promise to “take back control” of Britain’s borders during the Brexit referendum.

Channel crossings have also been a regular source of tension with France, with the U.K. accusing President Emmanuel Macron’s government of not doing enough to prevent migrants leaving French shores.

Read more: U.K. Says France Not Doing Enough to Halt Migrant Crossings (2)

About 600 people crossed the Channel on Wednesday and the numbers crossing could again reach a thousand a day within weeks, Johnson said.

This year Patel appointed Alexander Downer, a former Australian foreign minister, to review the U.K. Border Force. He has previously urged the U.K. to adopt Australia’s controversial policy of turning back migrant boats, and oversaw the creation of the “Pacific Solution,” which saw asylum seekers arriving in Australia from Indonesia sent to offshore detention centers.

Visa ban: FG approves foreign professionals with skills lacking in Nigeria - PUNCH

APRIL 14, 2022

BY Sami Tunji


The Director-General and Chief Executive Officer, National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion, Dr. Dan-Azumi Ibrahim, has disclosed that the Federal Government, through Executive Order 5, has restricted the issuance of visas to certain foreign professionals.

He added that only foreign professionals with skills lacking in Nigeria would get visa approval from the Ministry of Interior.

He said this in his address at a media chat on the public presentation of indigenous software for the implementation Of Executive Order 5.

Executive Order 5 was signed into law by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) on February 2, 2018, to promote local content in public procurement.

The NOTAP DG said, “The presidential Executive Order 5 for planning and execution of projects, promotion of Nigerian content in contracts on science, engineering, and technology, is aimed at ensuring that all procuring authorities shall give preference to Nigerian companies and firms in the award of contracts, in line with the Public Procurement Act 2007.

“The Executive Order No.5 also prohibits the Ministry of Interior from issuing visas to foreign nationals whose skills are readily available in Nigeria. In other words, the order will preclude foreigners from taking contract jobs that Nigerians have the competence and capabilities to handle. This is in a bid to not only protect and sustain the indigenous competencies but also to further build capacities as well as enhance their financial base.

“The President, in addition, directed Ministries, Departments, and Agencies to engage indigenous professionals in the planning, design, and execution of national security projects. He, however, noted that where expertise is lacking, procuring entities will give preference to foreign companies and firms with a demonstrable and verifiable plan for indigenous skills development prior to the award of such contracts.”

Executive Order 5 mandates NOTAP to develop, maintain, and regularly update a database of Nigerians with expertise in science, engineering, technology, and other fields of expertise.

The Ministry of Interior is expected to check this database to confirm that consideration is given to only foreign professionals with expertise that is not available in Nigeria at the point the contract is being awarded.

Hand over passengers’ identification to technology firm, FG tells NRC - THE CABLE

APRIL 14, 2022

The federal government has asked the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) to hand over tickets and passengers’ identification to Secure ID, the company in charge of the E-Ticketing platform for the Abuja-Kaduna rail service.

Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, gave the directive on Wednesday during the presentation of the Full Business Case Certificates (FBC) for the Lagos-Ibadan and Itakpe-Warri E-Ticketing service by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), in Abuja.

Amaechi said the introduction of the E-Ticketing platform for Abuja-Kaduna, blocked all revenue leakages and increased revenue generated by the agency from about N100 million to N400 million monthly.

“The benefits of the E-Ticketing is that we rose from N100 million to N400 million per month, which is an improvement,” he said.

“We have been able to do something that will eliminate leakages.

“The one I think I may disagree with the public is the issue of ticket racketeering, I have spoken with the person in charge of the Abuja-Kaduna e-ticket platform to take over the identification process from NRC.

“Because what the National Assembly told me is that the NRC doesn’t cross-check the identification of passengers on the tickets. They wanted to do it, but they have not gotten approval from NRC.

“So, I have told NRC to allow them to do it so that we match faces with the names, it’s not all about crime alone but is also security, so we release it to those security outlets.

“Even though we cannot eliminate 100 per cent crime and corruption, it will reduce the danger of having to run into security crises.

“So, we know that what we are battling with is not a crisis in our terminals, but on the way and I believe that that also will be sorted out as we go to the cabinet for approval of the security gadgets.”

On his part, Michael Ohiani, acting director-general, ICRC, said the concession is to bring about thousands of jobs as well as generate more revenue.

“The concession is for 10 years. It is going to generate over N140 billion to the federal government, most importantly, it will also create job opportunities for over 3000 direct and indirect jobs,” Ohiani said.

“The next phase is for the honourable minister to take it to the federal executive council for approval, and the ministry of justice will now clear it.”

Africa Covid-19 New Infections at Lowest Since April 2020 - BLOOMBERG

APRIL 14, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- New Covid-19 infections in Africa are at their lowest since April 2020 and have declined for 16 consecutive weeks, the World Health Organization said.

Over the past week 18,000 new cases were identified and 239 deaths were recorded, the WHO said in a statement on Thursday. Those represent declines of 29% and 37% respectively from the week before, the WHO said. 

Easter Travel Surge to Stress U.K. Airports, Roads and Ports - BLOOMBERG

APRIL 14, 2022

(Bloomberg) --

Sun-starved British travelers endured hours-long backups this month trying to leave the country for a spring holiday. The return trip could bring renewed stress.

The past two weekends saw rolling chaos at airports and the Port of Dover, while fuel shortages in some places added to the uncertainty over travel. Many families will soon return to the U.K. ahead of schools starting up again after the long Easter weekend, testing the Border Force once again.

Airlines scheduled around 25,000 international flights per week to and from the U.K. over the Easter holidays, according to data from aviation analytics firm Cirium. While that’s still only 85% of 2019 capacity, it represents a rapid ramp-up from levels earlier in the year.

The Cirium figures exclude hundreds of pre-emptive flight cancellations made by airlines including EasyJet Plc and British Airways, which have struggled to contend with staff illnesses and, in BA’s case, hiring delays, technology glitches and resource shortages at its London Heathrow base. 

The pared-back schedules set the tone for a holiday period that hasn’t gone smoothly for carriers. They now find themselves on the defensive even as they welcome back much-needed customers. 

Here’s what to expect this weekend:

Airport Hassles

Staffing shortages and hiring delays continue to dog the system, raising the risk of further delays, cancellations or missed flights. At Manchester airport, a shortage of staff trained on scanners was the main cause of congestion that prompted an apology last week from CEO Charlie Cornish. Wait times as long as 90 minutes to get through security will persist for several months. 

The biggest pinch point at London’s Heathrow airport this weekend could be with incoming traffic. Europe’s largest hub said it had sufficient staff to conduct security checks, but it expected the longest lines at immigration.

The U.K. Border Force, which processes arriving passengers, warned of longer wait times due to expected high volumes. The agency has mobilized more staff and will deploy them flexibly to manage demand, it said in a statement.

BA, a unit of IAG SA, said it has lowered frequencies on some routes and brought in larger aircraft to minimize customer disruptions from schedule cutbacks made in late March, just ahead of the holiday surge. 

Luton-based EasyJet said this week that it hasn’t yet seen a let-up in Covid-19 cases that have driven absences at some bases to 20% of staff. Larger rival Ryanair Holdings Plc, whose main U.K. base is at London Stansted, hasn’t suffered the same levels of cancelations or delays.

Dover Problems 

There has been significant disruption in recent weeks on the vital shipping route from Dover to Calais, France, which transports thousands of trucks, cars and passengers between mainland Europe and the U.K.

That’s set to continue this weekend after authorities on Thursday diverted passenger cars off the M20, the main highway linking London to Dover, and onto local roads to make way for trucks headed for the EU.

The abrupt firing of almost 800 workers by P&O Ferries, which operates about a third of the capacity on the link, has led to a spat with the government and a suspension of the company’s operations on the route. 

P&O tried to bring two ships back into service this week, the Spirit of Britain and the Pride of Kent. Both failed safety inspections with new, agency-supplied crews -- the Pride of Kent for a second time -- and won’t be in use for the weekend. 

DFDS A/S, which had been taking passengers with P&O reservations, has added capacity to France but says it won’t accept its competitor’s customers over the Easter weekend.

The port tumult was exacerbated last week by an IT glitch on a key customs system instituted after the U.K.’s departure from the European Union. The problem led to 20-mile queues for trucks trying to cross the Channel. HM Revenue & Customs officials say the issue has now been resolved. 

Train Services

Eurostar International Ltd. is running at about 84% of pre-pandemic levels as it continues to build up services.

There will be up to 15 daily round-trips between London and Paris this weekend, up to six between London and Brussels, one between London and Disneyland Paris and three between London and Amsterdam, a spokeswoman said. That compares with as many as 19 returns a day to Paris, eight to Brussels, one to Disney and two to Amsterdam in the same weekend in 2019.

Londoners hoping travel by train to Liverpool or Glasgow will be out of luck, thanks to London’s Euston station being closed for upgrade works. Getting to airports will also pose challenges, with fewer trains stopping at Gatwick because of construction work and the Piccadilly Tube line to Heathrow not running all weekend.

Road Crunch

Nearly 22 million people will hit U.K. roads this weekend -- some 40% of those heading to airports, ferries or the Eurotunnel -- according to roadside recovery firm Green Flag. 

“It’s very possible this weekend could turn out to be one of the busiest for leisure journeys for many years,” with traffic exceeding 2019 levels, said Rod Dennis, a spokesman for motoring group RAC.

Climate-change protests have exacerbated fuel shortages -- most acutely for diesel -- that were triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Several stations in southeast England ran out of supplies last weekend, and the environmental group Just Stop Oil plans further actions this weekend. 

A spokeswoman for the group wouldn’t say where it plans to target, after protesters disrupted supplies at two terminals in Essex on Wednesday by blocking tankers and loading bays.

Passengers To Present NIN Before Boarding Trains In Nigeria - INDEPENDENT

APRIL 15, 2022

The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) says passengers will be required to provide their National Identity Number (NIN) before boarding trains for improved profiling from May. 

Fidet Okhiria, managing director of the NRC, said this in a statement on Thursday, adding that the NIN would be required to improve passenger profile.

Okhiria advised passengers who plan to travel by train to get their NIN ready.

This, he emphasised, would also improve rail riders’ safety and security.

“The process of linking passengers to their NIN for improved profiling is ongoing. This layer of passenger screening will commence by May,” he said. 

He said the Abuja-Kaduna Train Service (AKTS) would resume as soon as possible with additional security measures put in place.

The corporation had suspended the Abuja-Kaduna train operations following an attack on passengers by gunmen.

President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the “immediate conclusion” of the implementation of the security surveillance and monitoring solution for the rail line.

For security reasons, the federal government recently asked NRC to hand over tickets and passengers’ identification to Secure ID, the company in charge of the E-ticketing platform for the Abuja-Kaduna rail service. 


Passengers should 'try to smile and be caring': former United Airlines CEO on flying - YAHOO FINANCE

APRIL 15, 2022

Flying the friendly skies has been anything but friendly in the two plus years of the pandemic as passengers rail against mask requirements and feel the stress of quarantine life.

Former United Airlines CEO Oscar Muñoz thinks travelers need to be more mindful of their surroundings on aircraft as to avoid any potential confrontations.

"I think what you as an individual can do is look around yourself and try to smile and be caring," the former long-time CEO of United Airlines said on Yahoo Finance Live. "It helps."

While the number of unruly passengers appears to be on a downtrend from a year ago (see chart below), travelers would agree that even one is too many.

Year to date, there have been 1,150 reports of unruly passengers on airplanes, according to the latest data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). A whopping 65% of the reports were related to face mask requirements. In total, 169 enforcement actions have been initiated against unruly passengers.

Unruly passengers are still a major problem for airlines.
Unruly passengers are still a major problem for airlines.

"I don't understand why people do what they do, and it has been getting worse," Munoz said. "I think we have to monitor it ourselves and to check our troubles at the door to some degree. But also there needs to be intensive training of flight attendants to manage these things — it can never be enough when somebody is just a jerk."

The angst on airlines related to face mask requirements is poised to carry on, at least through the end of April.

The Biden administration is reportedly expected to extend the mask mandate for passengers on airlines and other forms of transportation for another 15 days. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is reportedly examining whether rising COVID-19 cases will lead to a pickup in hospitalizations.

The federal mandate on masks wearing was poised to expire on April 18.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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