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Airlines Push Back On Ticket Fares Cut - THE TIDE

AUGUST 16, 2021

Stakeholders in the aviation industry have said the charges paid by airlines in Nigeria and the cost of operation make it difficult for them to reduce their ticket fares.
A member of Aviation Round Table, Olumide Ohunayo, said the cost of tickets was still rising due to the naira-dollar exchange rate.
He said, “Most of the expenses of the airline are denominated in dollars; they have to buy spares, train their crew and spend money on certification. When you put all these together, it is a big cost to them.

“Also, the aviation fuel price keeps getting worse. We do not refine, we transport. As you leave Lagos, the cost of the aviation fuel keeps rising.”
He added that the insecurity in the country had prevented airlines from expanding, as they had to spend so much providing security for some of their personnel, including expatriates, and other important guests.

Ohunayo said, “Almost all charges and payments to agencies have increased by ratio. All of these would return to the passengers. The tax collected by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has also doubled.”

The Managing Partner, Aglow Aviation Support Services Limited, Tayo Ojuri, said, “At the moment, we might not anticipate low ticket fare because airlines have to put some factors into consideration such as the crew, maintenance insurance, as well as the cost of operations, including the aviation fuel.
“Airlines put these into considerations before determining their ticket fare. The lease is major; your lease is dollarised. Whatever money you make on your lease, you have to convert it to dollars. However, dollar does not exist at a preferential rate at the moment.

“Also the crew, operational staff down to the pilot, in-flight crew have to go for their training every six months which is also dollarised.
“We do not have simulators for ATRs yet in Nigeria; maintenance also has to be put into consideration, likewise the insurance cost.”
According to him, other charges include landing and parking charges.

An aviation security expert, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), said airlines must carefully examine the cost of operation, and set reasonable fares for their tickets in order to make profits. “You cannot fly to Abuja now that you are importing fuel, buying aircraft from foreign countries, importing spare parts in dollars, yet sell tickets cheap and expect to make profit.”

The Chief Operating Officer, Ibom Airlines, George Uriesi, said the price of aviation fuel have a major impact on ticket fares.
He said, “We have to fly, so we have as much as possible tried to take as much fuel as we can out of Lagos which is the cheapest fuel. But you still have to refuel everywhere you go. 

Every two or three days, they announce a new price to us and on the average, we are paying double.
“When you are paying twice the amount of what you were paying before for fuel, then you have to try to be efficient in all your other expenses. You have to look for a way to add a little to the ticket price.”

UK house prices fall in August as demand drops for bigger homes - THE GUARDIAN UK

AUGUST 16, 2021

UK house prices fell in August amid a drop in demand for bigger homes after the government scaled back its stamp duty tax break for buyers in England and Northern Ireland this summer, according to Rightmove.

The property website said the national average asking price of a home had fallen by 0.3%, or about £1,000, over the past month, and now stood at £337,371. However, it said buyer demand remained strong for smaller properties in particular, and that it was predicting an “autumn bounce” in prices.

In a further sign of the housing market cooling after the government changed its stamp duty rules earlier this summer, bringing to an end a boom in property values as buyers scrambled to take advantage of the tax break, the figures come after the Nationwide building society said house prices fell by 0.5% in July. Rival lender Halifax said prices rose by 0.4% in July, but predicted a drop in house prices over the coming months.

The government took the first steps in July to scale back its stamp duty holiday for property buyers in England and Northern Ireland, which was first launched by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, last year to ward off a collapse in the housing market during the first Covid lockdown.

Buyers paid no stamp duty on the first £500,000 of the purchase price before the end of June. The threshold at which the tax on property purchases begins fell to £250,000 on 1 July. In September it returns to the pre-pandemic level of £125,000. First–time buyers can purchase homes costing up to £300,000 without incurring stamp duty from 1 July. A similar tax break in Scotland and Wales has ended.

Rightmove said its headline findings masked wide variations between different types of property.

It said the overall monthly fall was driven by a 0.8% drop in average prices for homes with four bedrooms or more. With buyers no longer able to make large stamp duty savings, it said the typical asking price was down by £4,699.

By contrast, it said smaller properties sought by first-time buyers and families looking to move to their second home continued to rise in value to record levels.

Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s director of property data, said: “Average prices have only fallen in the upper-end sector, which is usually more affected by seasonal factors such as the summer holidays and has also seen the greatest withdrawal of stamp duty incentives. The mass market of properties that cater for first-time buyers and second steppers is still seeing high demand and upwards price pressure, leading to new record high average prices in those sectors.”

Air Travellers Spent N40bn on Covid-19 Test in Nine Months - THISDAY

AUGUST 17, 2021

.AuGF fails to release audit on disease funds’ utilisation

BY  Chinedu Eze in Lagos and James Emejo in Abuja

Inbound passengers who travelled into the country through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, were estimated to have spent about a total of N40.212 billion as payments for Covid-19 test on arrival, from September 2020 to June, 2021, investigation by THISDAY has revealed.

However, the much-anticipated release of the maiden interim audit report on the COVID-19 intervention funds has now been shrouded in uncertainty, about 10 months after it was supposed to be ready, THISDAY’s findings also showed.

International air travel resumed on September 5, 2020, at the Lagos and Abuja airports after the lockdown occasioned by the pandemic.

According to data obtained by THISDAY, 575,175 passengers arrived Nigeria through the MMIA, Lagos, while 286, 324 arrived through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja between September 2020 and June, 2021. Arriving passengers to the Lagos airport pay about N50, 400 for Covid-19 test, while those arriving at the Abuja airport pay about N39, 200, hence the N40.212 spent during the period.

The payments are compulsorily collected on arrival from passengers to test for the virus, which they are expected to do after seven days of quarantine.

According to COVID-19 protocol from the Presidential Steering Committee, passenger on arrival are expected to proceed on mandatory seven days self-isolation/quarantine in their selected in-country destination.

Also, the passengers are expected to show-up at the laboratory/sample collection centers on the seventh day of arrival and pay the applicable fees for the COVID-19 PCR test. Samples will be taken, and a COVID-19 PCR test done.

Also the Nigeria International Travel Portal of the NCDC states that the cost of COVID-19 PCR test varies across private laboratories.

“Currently, it ranges between N36, 000 to N50, 400 naira on the payment portal. Please note that all payments go directly to the private laboratories and not to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control or Port Health Services, Federal Ministry of Health,” it stated.

Speaking recently on why the federal government insists on compulsory test for arriving passengers, the NCDC had said PCR testing for COVID-19 was important in order to protect the Nigerian populace.

“The fragility of our health system means that we must collectively take responsibility to reduce the spread of the disease,” the agency had explained.

But THISDAY investigations revealed that after collecting the money on arrival many of the passengers are not followed up.

A passenger who arrived from Brazil recently told THISDAY that after he paid the fee on arrival, he was neither sent an SMS message nor called upon, until when wanted to travel back to Brazil before he went for the test.

On the other hand, another passenger narrated how he was stopped from travelling because he didn’t do the test as prescribed after he arrived Nigeria.

Also, another passenger told THISDAY how he arrived Nigeria and was directed to quarantine but he did not do that and was stopped by NCDC officials from leaving the country.

Managing Director of Finchglow Travels and former President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bankole Bernard, said, “To a very large extent the Covid-19 protocol we put in place is quite commendable. But my question is this, Why must travellers pay through their nose?

“If United States of America can say COVID-19 test is free, why should you make your citizens pay that huge sum? I think it is unfair. I think it is something the government can look into.

“We should stop thinking that air travel is luxury. It is no longer luxury but necessity. Let us start to look at it that way. Let us start to look at travel as an essential service and not one luxury thing. I mean nobody is flying private jets.

“We are talking about going from point A to Point B, using a commercial flight. So the COVID-19 test protocol they put in place is good, but I believe that the cost can come down.

“I think the cost needs to come down. There is no need putting the cost at over N40, 000. In Abuja it is cheaper. Are we saying the government is in the business of making money from its own people?” he queried.

In a related development, the much-anticipated release of the maiden interim audit report on the COVID-19 intervention funds has now been shrouded in uncertainty, about 10 months after it was supposed to be ready, according to THISDAY findings.

In October 2020, the erstwhile Auditor General for the Federation (AuGF), Mr. Anthony Ayine had assured that the audit would be released before the end of the month. But he left office on October 25 without unveiling the report.

The fact that he had promised to release the report a week from the day he publicly announced it will be released, indicated that the study was almost completed if not ready.

The COVID-19 fund audit was supposed to assess the utilisation of funds released to manage the pandemic starting from the period the Presidential Task Force (PTF) was established up till June 30.

Subsequently, the report was supposed to be published quarterly, meaning that at least three editions ought to have been released by now.

Ayine had also declined to provide insights into the report, citing administrative protocol of first submitting its findings to the National Assembly before divulging its content public.

However, more than a year after the audit was announced, the report appeared to have been politicized, according to sources.

Also, over eight months into the appointment of the current AuGF, Mr. Adolphus Aghughu into office by President Muhammadu Buhari, nothing has been heard about the COVID-19 audit report.

THISDAY couldn’t ascertain whether the report had actually been submitted to the National Assembly as earlier indicated by the former AuGF.

A source who spoke under conditions of anonymity said given the controversies surrounding the utilisation of the funds released by the federal government to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report may have been embargoed by those in authorities.

Also, there are allegations that part of the intervention fund were siphoned by those who administered it. Ayine had said his office had the mandate to evaluate the usage of all public funds advanced for specific purposes -and to determine whether these were deployed for the purposes meant for.

He had also said auditors had a clear responsibility to present timely, accurate and reader-friendly reports that speak directly to key issues affecting the public purse.

FG opens bid for airports concession, pegs worth of bidders at N30bn - THE GUARDIAN

AUGUST 17, 2021

The Federal Government, yesterday, opened bids for the concession of four international airport terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano.

The request for qualification (RFQ), as part of efforts to run the facilities efficiently and profitably, is open to firms or consortia with track record in airport terminal management and net worth of N30 billion per bidding firm or consortium.

The Federal Government earlier proposed 20 to 30 years concession tenure for the facilities, which will enable private investors to own, operate and recoup investments.


The Federal Executive Council (FEC) in 2016 approved the concession of the four major airports in a move to have them run efficiently and profitably.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, at a project update session with stakeholders, said the concession exercise is open to all qualified entities with the capacity to turn around the fortunes of the facilities.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Aviation, in compliance with the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and National Policy on Public-Private Partnership (N4P), released a request for qualification for the concession.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) through the Ministry of Aviation is inviting bids from reputable Airport Developers/Operators/Financiers/Consortia for prequalification for the Concession of selected Airports Terminals under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.

“The airport’s terminal concession is one of the critical projects under the Aviation Sector Roadmap of the FGN and fits well within the scope of the Ministry’s strategic plan for the sector. The execution of this project is meant to achieve the Federal Government’s objective in terms of air transport value chain growth by developing and profitably managing customer-centric airport facilities for safe, secure and efficient carriage of passengers and goods at world-class standards of quality,” the memo read in part.

Eligibility requirements include the full names of firm/consortia; evidence of Company Registration; ownership structure of bidding entity; audited financial statements; sworn affidavit; power of attorney/board resolution and in the case of a consortium, evidence in the form of a letter of association agreement.

The terms further stated that to be prequalified for consideration as a prospective PPP partner for the project, the prospective firms/consortia must have the technical, operational and financial capability including; experience in the development and operation of an international airport and cargo terminals; evidence of financial capacity in support of the company or consortium’s ability to undertake the airport concession illustrated by a minimum net worth of N30 billion and letters of support from credible financial institutions in support of the consortium’s ability to manage and operate the airport terminals.

The request emphasizes that the RFQ is the pre-qualification stage of the procurement process for the Project in which interested parties are required to meet the pre-qualification requirements specified in the RFQ package.

Only pre-qualified parties will proceed to the Request for Proposal (RFP) stage and shall execute a Non-Disclosure Agreement prior to issuance of the RFP documents.

Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu, added that the interested international parties had been urged to partner with local firms in compliance with the requirements of the Federal Government’s local content development policy while submission of RFQs through electronic media will not be considered.



South Africa Sees Covid-19 Fourth Wave Starting in Early December - BLOOMBERG

AUGUST 17, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- South Africa expects a fourth wave of coronavirus infections to start on Dec. 2 and to last about 75 days, Salim Abdool Karim, former chairman of the government’s ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19, said.

The government is assuming that the wave will follow a similar pattern to that of the third wave and that there will be a new variant by then, he said in a Government Technical Advisory Centre conference.

Data is suggesting the current wave will end about Aug. 26, he said.

U.S. Dropped From Abu Dhabi Travel Green List as Cases Spike - BLOOMBERG

AUGUST 17, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- The United States has been removed from Abu Dhabi’s green list, meaning travelers from the country will now need to quarantine on arrival in the Middle Eastern city.

The oil-rich capital of the United Arab Emirates updated the list to remove five other countries, including Austria, Israel, Italy, Maldives and Armenia, The National newspaper reported. The new rules come into effect from 2 p.m. local time on Wednesday.

Abu Dhabi’s move to remove the U.S. comes as cases there surge again with the arrival of the delta variant, which has spread primarily among the un-vaccinated.

Air Peace launches Ibadan operations - THE NATION

AUGUST 18, 2021

by Kelvin Osa Okunbor

 

Air Peace yesterday launched scheduled flights into Ibadan Airport, in Oyo State.

The airline was received by the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji at the airport.

The inaugural flight, operated with the airline’s brand new Embraer 195-E2 aircraft, touched down about 11 am and was greeted with a water cannon by Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Fire Service unit.

Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde said the coming of the airline to the state was a big relief to the city travellers as the airline has immediately “crashed the airfare from Ibadan to Abuja to affordable level”.

Makinde said the state would make the route economically viable for the airline.

He said: “The coming of Air Peace will strengthen and enhance the economy of the state. We have a dry Port here that will facilitate the clearing of goods in record time. This will take the stress off importers in the state and neighbouring states and save them the stress of going to Lagos port to clear goods.”

Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, promised to link Ibadan to every geo-political zone of the country.

He also said the opening of the Ibadan route was part of the airline’s “no-city-left-behind” policy aimed at interconnecting various cities across.

Onyema said: “Plans are already on to commence Port Harcourt to Ibadan flight. Abuja, Ibadan to Kano flight is also already in the pipeline. I believe in the oneness of Nigeria. As a nationalist, I am going to connect all cities in the country.’’

“I will link Ibadan to the South South, South East, North East, North West and every part of the country. I believe in the unity of the country”, he disclosed.


Aviation Minister And The Status Of Nigeria’s International Airports - NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

AUGUST 18, 2021

NOT a few Nigerians were jolted by the Federal Government’s recent declaration that  four frontline airports in the country were not designed as international facilities. The affected airports are those located in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt. The Minister of Aviation,  Hadi Sirika,  at a stakeholders’ webinar during his presentation on Nigerian Airport Concession Strategy, pointedly declared: “The airports in Nigeria are currently operating in a suboptimal environment, most notably due to factors that will have to be improved as part of the public private partnership programme.” He added that “there is relatively low assets utilisation due to the limited opening hours of other smaller Nigerian airports, and lack of terminal capacity as the airports fall short of gates, stands and check-in desks. He also noted that “The airports have not been designed as international hubs but operate separate international and domestic terminals.”

According to the minister, these are the reasons the airports in question are being concessioned. The concessionaires are expected to  provide the needed funds  to upgrade the existing terminals, take over the new terminals, and maintain them over a period of time to be determined based on the financial assessment of each facility. To be sure, there is nothing wrong or unusual  about  Public Private Partnership (PPP). Indeed, that is the trend in infrastructure development financing in the advanced countries. However, it is imperative that the  government enters into such private partnership agreements from a position of strength and that cannot be the case if the infrastructure to be upgraded needs disproportionately huge private sector  financial injection. The volume of resources committed by the private partner in a PPP arrangement can significantly  determine the length of time the economic infrastructure, upon completion, will be under the operation and management of the  private partner. What that means is that if the four airports  are in the state the minister described, then the private resource providers will be  at the driver’s seat during the negotiation of the terms and condition of the concession.

The real issue, therefore, is whether the country should be concessioning any of  its airport facilities in the state they allegedly are given the  enormous  volume of resources that have been  committed to running and maintaining them over the years. Indeed, the claims by the Federal Government about the status of the facilities are astounding not only because the four airports carry the prefix “international” in their nomenclatures but more importantly because these facilities usually draw sizeable portions of the national budget yearly for their operations. In addition, there have been quite a few national  intervention schemes by successive administrations in the country to upgrade airport facilities across the country, the most notable being the widely publicised remodelling programme  executed by Senator Stella Oduah when she was the Aviation minister under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.  In September 2012, the Federal Government approved the sum of N106 billion for the construction of 11 new international airport terminal buildings. According to the then minister, the new international terminal projects were different from the then ongoing remodeling and reconstruction of 11 airports in the country, and the 11 new projects would include five international terminals for commercial flights and six for perishable cargoes.


Questions may, therefore, be asked as to  what happened to the remodeling exercise. Was it just a facade? What about the public resources committed to the remodelling; have they gone down the drain? Besides, what happened to the money made by the government over the years? The social content of airport operations and services, if any, is limited. Airports are essentially revenue-generating organisations.  By the way,  the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) was designated an international airport before Nigeria’s independence. MMIA is only a renaming. So what is the minister talking about?  And does that mean that the relatively young  Nnamdi Azikiwe International  Airport in  Abuja, the new federal capital, was not designed as an international facility too? Or were  the airports at any point in time downgraded by the  international regulatory authorities?And why is the government only just realising that those four major airports were not designed for international operations?

There is palpable apprehension in some quarters about  the government’s real motives, which many consider suspect. Some are  even of the opinion that the talk about substandard facilities  is the government’s surreptitious move to prepare the minds of citizens for the eventual sale of the airports. Thus, beyond the rather confusing explanations of the minister about the status of the airport facilities, citizens will  need an independent confirmation of their  status and the veracity or otherwise of the resources channeled to upgrading and remodelling them  in recent years. The country cannot afford any suboptimal management of scarce national resources and assets at a time it is piling up both local and foreign debts in an unprecedented fashion.

 
https://tribuneonlineng.com/av...



FG earmarks N658.8m for deployment of dogs to Lagos, Abuja airports - THE SUN

AUGUST 18, 2021

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday,  approved the sum of N21,107, 212,510billion for various projects in aviation, education ministries, and other sectors. The government also earmarked N658.8m for deployment of dogs to Lagos, Abuja airports  just as it voted N985million for installation of body scanners for four international airports.

Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, alongside Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina and Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, disclosed this to journalists at the end of the meeting.

Sirika said Council approved four memoranda for his ministry, the total cost of which amounted to N16,697, 742,839 billion.

According to him, the projects to be executed in the contracts include the construction of Wachakal Airport in Yobe State at N6.3 billion; post construction services for the same airport at the cost of N219. 8million; procurement of eight airport rescue and firefighting vehicles at the cost of N9.5billion; and a contract for the deployment of sniffer dogs to the Lagos and Abuja international airports at the cost of N658.8 million.

Nwajiuba on his part said Council approved contract in favour of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources Effurun (FUPRE), Delta State, for the construction of facilities, including hostels, administrative blocks and a new library at the cost of N2.7 billion.

Adesina said Council approved contracts worth N1,709,469,671billion  for four federal agencies including Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

According to him, while a total of N187.5 million was approved for procurement of operational vehicles for the FRSC, a total of N537 million was approved for NEITI’s permanent office building for its head office, and a total of N985 million for the procurement and installation of dual body scanners for four international airports in the country.

“The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) got approval to procure operational vehicles at N187,469,669.25 and that is to reduce carnage on our roads and to meet its goals of reducing accidents by at least 15 per cent and fatalities by 20 per cent. For the Ministry of Health, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in particular also got approval to procure some vehicles for its use.

“NEITI, which is, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative was given approval to acquire a Permanent Office Building for N537,000,000 to be used as its head office. NEITI has been in a rented place. There was also an approval for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to procure and install four Body Dual View Scanners Solution with x-ray management software at Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu, and Kano Airports at N985,000,002.40. You know that NDLEA has been doing wonderful things in recent times.”

UAE Bars Nigeria, S’Africa, Others From Visa-On-Arrival List - LEADERSHIP

AUGUST 18, 2021

 by Yusuf Babalola,  

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has approved visa-on-arrival for passport holders from 70 countries except Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and some other African countries.

This was contained in an update on the official websites of Etihad and Emirates airlines on Wednesday.

Among the 70 countries whose citizens are eligible for visa-on-arrival in the UAE are Argentina, Canada, United States, China, Maldives, France, and Russia.

Nigeria and many African countries were not included on the list. However, Seychelles was included.

“If you are from any of the countries or regions listed below, you do not need to apply for a visa before you travel to the UAE. When you land in Abu Dhabi, simply make your way to immigration to receive a visa when you arrive,” the update reads.


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