Nigeria’s Stolen Artefacts - THISDAY
The conflicts which today plague many African countries continue to shine a light and harshly too at their troubled history. This is because many times, to find the roots of that which is strangling the present, one only needs to reach into the recent past.
While it would be easier to blame the leadership of many African countries for the problem which plague them today, a measure of justice mandates that a measuring rod is reached into the past to determine the exact provenance of those problems, especially how they were created for African countries at their infancy, and primed to grow into monstrous difficulties along the way. Many African countries readily spring to mind here.
For example, Belgium`s baleful fingerprints in the conflicts which continue to plague the DR Congo today provide a stark example. Nigeria, the Giant of Africa, has largely enjoyed stability in the ensuing 61 years since it came to independence. The Nigerian civil war which came barely seven years into independence can be largely chalked down to the teething problems every country experiences when it first begins a new journey of independence, and the fact that the exuberance of young military officers who unexpectedly found themselves thrust into positions of authority forced them to act foolishly.
Way before the Africa was partitioned during the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th Century, the kingdoms which later came to form many African countries had shown themselves as culturally advanced. Archaeologists have been startled by the sheer value of the discoveries they made about some African countries and what those discoveries had to say about the past.
There is proof that way before colonialism, Africans knew how to craft and sculpt advanced artefacts. Many of these artefacts were plundered and taken away during colonialism in heists that continue to daze historians even till this day.
Nigeria has been in the eye of this storm with the ancient and culturally prodigious Benin Kingdom showing that even in the days when deep darkness covered much of Africa, it knew how just how to preserve its immense cultural wealth in sculptures and artefacts.
Many of those artefacts were carted away during colonialism to grimly expose the colonialists as not just political and economic slave drivers and task masters, but cultural saboteurs. Just like the infamous Abacha loot, the artefacts have continued to trickle in over the years as Nigeria has ramped up efforts and pressure to recover everything that was stolen from it.
On February 19 2022, Nigeria`s president, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari took this pressure a notch higher when he appealed to countries, institutions and bodies both private and public to return Nigeria`s artefacts in their possession just as he disclosed that 1,130 Benin bronzes would be returned to Nigeria by the German government before the year runs out. This was on the occasion marking the official handover of the Okwukwor and the Head of an Oba of Benin Bronzes repatriated from the University of Cambridge and the University of Aberdeen after about 125 years of them leaving Nigeria.
There is no doubt that colonialism indelibly scarred many African countries, leaving them struggling even till this day. There is no telling if African can ever make a full recovery. However, it can only be an auspicious start that maximum pressure is mounted to ensure that every stolen item is repatriated.
To do this, African governments as well as the governments of any of those countries where any of such treasures is found must take full responsibility for their repatriation.
FG, Republic of Benin Meet over Boundary Issues - THISDAY
BY Michael Olugbode in Abuja
Governments of both Nigeria and the Republic of Benin yesterday met over boundary related issues. The two neighbouring countries were led to the meeting by the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema (Nigeria) and Aurélien Agbénonci (Republic of Benin). Speaking after the meeting, Onyeama said both countries had very positive and fruitful deliberations on three areas.
He disclosed that the meeting was basically to agree on the modality to resolve everything, without being too legalistic, but more as brotherly countries, to find sensible solutions.
He said: “And that is what we have been able to do today to agree on how to go forward and how to arrive at a win-win situation for both sides.”Nigeria’s minister further said both countries have been able to identify a roadmap such that by the end of this year, there will be agreeable solutions to all the issues.
Also speaking, Agbénonci said both countries met to find solutions to issues relating to the borders between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin.
He said: “Benin and Nigeria cannot be in any confrontation concerning the borders. We are very close, the geography puts us together, the culture and history as well.
“So, my impression is that we find very interesting, positive solutions and interests of our two countries in the interest of our population.”
On her part, the Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Noimot Salako-Oyedele, said the meeting looked at issues in two of the areas affected in Ogun State and that she was pleased with the steps agreed at the meeting for the complete resolution of the border areas that are unclear in Ogun State.
Nigeria Still Attractive To Tourists Despite COVID -19, Insecurity, Says Amachree - NEW TELEGRAPH
Business mogul and Father of Nigerian Tourism, Chief Mike Amachree, has said that despite the COVID -19 global pandemic, current difficulties in international travels, and insecurity in some parts of the country, Nigeria is still very much an attractive destination to tourists. Amachree said his position on Nigerian tourism prospect is borne out of his interaction with some of his contacts and agents in Nigeria’s source markets in the United States of America, United Kingdom, Brazil and the Caribbean. He said: “Our contacts with partners from these countries show that many people are interested in coming to Nigeria.
When I talk with my contacts, they will always show that they are interested in coming to Nigeria.’’ He said that for Nigeria to continue to maintain this level of interest, the country needs to do more for tourism. He called on business men to invest in tourism because of the opportunities that abound. “They could invest in hospitality business like hotels and resorts. There are also opportunities in transportation, tour operation, amusement parks and so on,” He said. Saying that: “The government should create the enabling environment through policies like making the process of obtaining Nigeria visa easy.
Most of the inbound tourists always complain about the difficulties in getting visas to come to Nigeria. Tourism cannot grow if the tourists find it difficult to come to Nigeria. He further stated: “These sites are directly under the control of the states. While we are calling on private business men to invest in tourism, states should also be up and doing by investing in infrastructures to these sites to make them accessible and also providing the necessary amenities within the area the sites are domiciled in.’’
Amachree, a former president of Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria (ATPN), has been at the forefront of tourism development in Nigeria. He has led the private sector advocacy for the creation of a stand-alone tourism ministry in Nigeria others. He was a member of the launching committee of the Plateau State Development Fund. He also has substantial investments in tourism in Lagos, Nasarawa and Rivers states through his Brooklyn Hotels chain. In River State, he also developed the Port Harcourt Tourist Beach and nurtured it into a major leisure and tourism hub in the state.
Russia: No visa required for Nigerians moving from Ukraine to Romania, Hungary -FG - PUNCH
The Federal Government has announced that free visa arrangements are in place for Nigerians arriving from Ukraine through the borders in Romania and Hungary.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gabriel Adudar, made this known in a statement on Sunday.
Adudar also said due to the challenges faced by Nigerians crossing into countries bordering Ukraine, especially the Polish border, the government has arranged accommodation and feeding pending evacuation.
The statement read, “The Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs has spoken with his counterpart, the Foreign Minister of Ukraine on this unsavoury development and both are working on alleviating the suffering of Nigerians including deploying the International Organisation for Migration to the border to ensure easier access to all Nigerians and other nationals.
“For now, movement to the Hungarian Zahony border and Romanian Suceava, Tulcea, Satu Mare County & Maramures borders is advised, as they have approved visa-free access to all Nigerians coming from Ukraine and arrangements for accommodation and feeding before evacuation is arranged.
“Parents, guardians, and wards of Nigerians in Ukraine are please enjoined to remain calm as the Federal Government of Nigeria is working very hard to get them all home safely.
“Similarly, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Budapest, Hungary in a Public Travel Advisory said, it wishes to inform Nigerian nationals arriving from Ukraine, that the Government of Hungary has enacted Decree 56/2022 (24.11), which permits third-country nationals with valid Ukrainian resident permits to enter Hungary on a temporary basis, without a Schengen visa.
“As such, Nigerians arriving at the Hungary-Ukraine border can enter Hungary, either on transit to Nigeria, or to temporarily reside in the country.” It further stated that arrangements are underway for the transportation of Nigerians nationals, to enable them stabilise.
“To that effect, therefore, affected Nigerian nationals wishing to be admitted into Hungary are advised to have their travel documents (valid Nigerian passport and Ukrainian resident permit) with some money in Euros, and cooperate with the Hungarian border authorities.
“Affected Nigerian nationals are advised to send their names, phone numbers, email addresses, and a copy of their passport biodata page to the Embassy’s consular email: [email protected],hu, to enable the facilitation of the aforementioned arrangements.
“For information and guidance on consular assistance, please contact the following persons, who would be on ground to coordinate: I. Mr. Stanley OPARA (Consular Officer) +36308202903 Il. Mr. Ayotunde Adigun (Immigration Attache)+36308639203 4.
“Finally, further necessary updates will be regularly communicated through the official website of the Embassy (www.nigerianembassy.hu). Please disregard any information purportedly issued by the Embassy about entry into Hungary, that is not conveyed via Mission’s website.”
The Nigerian students caught in the Russia-Ukraine war - ALJAZEERA
Lolade Lawal’s life has been turned upside down in a way she never imagined.
The third-year medical student from Nigeria is coming to terms with the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that started last week.
“It is scary, very scary. I’m very worried. People are running for their lives. We are hiding in groups so we can keep an eye on each other,” Lawal told Al Jazeera over the phone as she sheltered with other students at a safe bunker in the northeastern city of Sumy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered what he said was a “special military operation” against Ukraine on Thursday. A full-scale invasion followed, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declaring martial law, saying his country would defend itself.
On Saturday, fighting reached the streets of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv as Russian troops pressed ahead.
According to the US military, Russia now has at least 50 percent of its estimated 150,000-strong invasion forces in Ukraine.
The conflict has so far killed more than 200 civilians, including three children. Nearly 1,100 have been injured in the conflict, including 33 children, according to Ukraine’s health ministry.
The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been displaced within the country since the conflict started.
“There’s no escape. Trains have stopped working. Most supermarkets are closed and those that are opened are running very low on food stocks. ATMs are not working and everyone is desperately looking for money,” Lawal said, as sirens went off in the background.
There are no official figures on the number of African students currently studying in Ukraine but Lawal said “there are hundreds of us in our city”.
“At my university, there are about 100 Nigerian students. I’m sheltering with some of them,” Lawal added.
Some students have managed to cross the border into Poland.
“I live in Kyiv. I have been living here since March last year,” Somto Orah, a student at State University of Telecommunications in Kyiv, told Al Jazeera.
“We have received no support from any government authorities. The school only gave us bomb shelter to hide when the air raid siren is on. The sirens came on and off for about five times yesterday before I left,” Orah, a Nigerian national, added.
“There is little food. I couldn’t access cash for two days now. Every ATM on the road has no cash.”
Others have had even less luck.
Samuel George, a first-year software engineering student, fled Kyiv after the shelling and sirens got too much for him to handle.
“I drove from Kyiv. We are trying to survive. We don’t want to die in a foreign country,” George said.
As he neared the Polish border, Samuel’s luck ran out. He said he had a minor road accident with a vehicle carrying Ukrainians because the road was narrow.
He said they took his money and stopped him from driving any further.
“They are not officials, police or military. They are normal citizens who stopped us Africans from driving to the border. They let Ukrainians pass through but not us,” George said.
“I’m now walking to the border. I have no other option. I don’t know how much further the border is. They even took our money. It is like they are not human beings,” George said, adding that he could no longer talk on the phone because his hands were freezing in the sub-zero temperature.
On Saturday, the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs said more than 115,000 people had crossed into Poland from Ukraine, adding that everyone from Ukraine was allowed to enter, even those without a valid passport.
But for Somto and several other students, crossing the border into Poland has not been easy.
“I will be heading to Nigeria from Poland if I’m able to cross. But if I see a school offer around Schengen, I will take it up because I don’t want my school life to be disrupted,” he said as he joined the queue at the border gate.
Germany to close airspace to Russian planes - REUTERS
BERLIN, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Germany on Saturday said it was preparing to shut its airspace to Russian planes, the latest European country to do so in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Separately, German flag carrier Lufthansa (LHAG.DE)said it cancelled all flights to Russiafor the coming week due to the "emerging regulatory situation."
Germany's Transport Ministry announced the measure in a tweet. "The Federal Minister Volker @Wissing supports the blocking of German airspace for Russian aircraft and has ordered everything to be prepared for this," the ministry said in its post.
Lufthansa was in close contact with national and international authorities and would continue to monitor the situation closely, a company spokesperson said.
"Flights that are in Russian airspace will leave it again shortly," the spokesperson said.
Two Lufthansa flights between Germany and Asia on Saturday appeared to have turned back, returning to their departure airports, Reuters monitoring of flight-tracking service FlightRadar24 showed.
Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Alison Williams and Leslie Adler
KLM Dutch airline halts flights to Russia for 7 days - REUTERS
AMSTERDAM, Feb 26 (Reuters) - KLM, the Dutch arm of airline Air France KLM (AIRF.PA) on Saturday said it will cancel all flights to Russia for the coming week as a result of European sanctions.
It will also cease to use Russian airspace for the coming seven days, it said in a statement.
Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Leslie Adler
Expansion of New Lagos Terminal: AIB Staff Moved to Abuja for Planned Demolition of Lagos Office ] - THE GUARDIAN
BY Chinedu Eze
The federal government has ordered Accident Investigation Bureau –Nigeria (AIB-N) to vacate its office at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and relocate to Abuja this weekend for the planned demolition of the Bureau’s office for the expansion of jet ways of the new international terminal projected to start operation in March.
THISDAY learnt that the administrative department of AIB-N last Wednesday issued an internal memo to all the staff of the bureau to resume in Abuja on or before Monday, threatening that anyone that failed to comply would be sanctioned. As at yesterday most of the workers of the bureau were seen outside the premises trying to move their personal and official belongings out of their offices.
Some of the workers, who spoke to journalists on the condition of anonymity, lamented that they were only given two working days to comply with the new directive, as one of them wondered why the management would issue such a directive to the workers when relocation allowances had not been paid to any of them.
The source also lamented that over 90 per cent of the workers were yet to collect January 2022 salaries and wondered where they would get the financial resources to relocate.
The source further alleged that their in-house unions might have compromised, as none of them was willing to discuss the issue with the management THISDAY learnt that out of the 245 workers of AIB-N, no fewer than 100 of them are based in Lagos, which is the hub of aviation activities in Nigeria.
The source said: “We on Wednesday received a letter from the admin department, which directed us to move to Abuja without prior notice. We were given till Monday to relocate to Abuja even when we don’t have a befitting office there and nothing is being said about our accommodation. And as we stand, no one is talking about relocation allowances to the workers.
“Even, in the civil service rules, you can’t compel staff to relocate without the payment of relocation allowances. Staff are using their personal resources to relocate government property to Abuja.”
The Deputy General Secretary, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Comrade Frances Akinjole, in his reaction to the directive said the unions were not aware of the relocation of the staff.
Secretary General of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Ocheme Aba, who confirmed the relocation order, however said that some senior staff of the bureau, especially those in the finance department had been paid relocation allowances since 2020, but refused to move.
Aba also confirmed that most of the staff were yet to get January salaries, but said that the Ministry of Aviation promised to pay them once they relocate to Abuja.
The new terminal, which was built by CCECC, a Chinese company with Chinese loan from China Exim bank and counter funding by the federal government, had been completed but has not been put into use because there was not enough space for the ramp where aircraft could taxi to the avio bridges.
Similar terminals in Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt have been put into use and THISDAY learnt that the federal government has started repaying the loan for the terminal facilities, while the existing international terminal in Lagos is being overstretched due to under capacity.
As Airline Passengers Protest Spike in Fares - THISDAY
Last week, most domestic airlines increased their base fare to over N50,000 in response to an increase in the price of aviation fuel and other factors. As airline passengers protest the sudden increase, Chinedu Eze looks at the economic consequences of the development and the sustainability of domestic air transportation in Nigeria
Last week, most of the Nigerian airlines raised their airfares by over 100 per cent, from about N23,000 to over N50,000.
Although the increase has sparked off protests among airline passengers, airline operators however argued that the action they took would guarantee their survival in the face of the high cost of operation given the fact that they operate in a harsh environment with obsolete and inadequate infrastructure at the airports. They complained that they have to contend with poor landing aides, scarcity and high cost of aviation fuel and also the scarcity of foreign exchange.
Many Nigerians believe the new fares are not realistic because the airlines did not take cognisance of pleting personal income and the general degeneration of the economy, but the airlines countered that it is the prevailing economic situation that forced them to make the last-ditch effort at survival by raising the fares to at least recover their costs of operation.
Last week, many Nigerians who bought one-way tickets at the cost ranging between N30,000 and N35,000 got the shock of their lives when they wanted to buy a return ticket to their destinations a few days later. The base fare had increased from about N23,000 to N50,000.
Some people who could brace it chose to travel by road; others who felt it was not safe for them coughed out the high fares in order to buy flight tickets.
By Sunday last week, it became evident that airlines had increased their fares by 100 per cent, except Green Africa, which also increased fares but less than N50,000 base fare. As of Tuesday last week, Green Africa Airways sold Abuja-Lagos tickets for about N19,500 and return was about N18,500 but tickets advertised on its site for February 25 flights were at a cost between N35,000 to N38,000. The airline, which styles itself as a low-cost carrier, has a maximum acceptable luggage of 7kg and it charges N500 for every additional kg.
The airlines told THISDAY that the major reason they increased fares was the sudden increase in the cost of aviation fuel, which rose suddenly from N400 per litre to N420-N480 per litre, depending on which part of the country the product is being sold.
The airlines said they were jolted by the new prices, especially when there was no prior notification. The airlines also argued that while the sale of tickets is a continuum, the price in the cost of aviation is sudden so airlines lose money because they sell tickets at the cost of the old prices of the product and airlift the passengers at the new cost of the product so they make losses.
They also said that if marketers give them prior notice of even two weeks, they would be able to sell at the cost that would reflect the increase in the prices of aviation fuel.
THISDAY also learnt that as long as Naira weakens against dollars and other foreign currencies, the price of aviation fuel would continue to rise until when the country begins to refine the product locally or when the naira gains value against foreign currencies.
Another dilemma faced by airlines is that aviation fuel is scarce. Industry pundits are asking: was the product made scarce by the marketers to justify the increase in airfares because airlines even after paying for the product have to wait for it to be brought to the airport by the bowsers.
On Tuesday a major airline extended flight time from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm on its Abuja-Lagos flight because it could not refuel its aircraft in time. Passengers who had critical appointments to meet in Lagos raved and raged without succour. One of them who spoke to THISDAY said, “What was most annoying is that they waited a few minutes to departure time before they announced the change in time. Why are they doing this? Why are they frustrating passengers? These people are heartless!”
THISDAY learnt that about three weeks ago, the product was scarce in all the airports in the country and this contributed to some of the delayed flights which some airlines experienced at that period.
“The government needs to arrest the situation before it goes out of hand,” said the image-maker of one of the airlines who spoke to THISDAY.
Defending the increase in airfares, a spokesman of one of the major domestic airlines told THISDAY that the new fares were a response to the increase in the price of aviation fuel, the increase in the cost of handling rates by aviation handling companies and also the increase in the exchange rate.
The official said that airlines had to increase fares to survive, insisting that without the increase most of the airlines would not continue to operate in the next three months, adding that until now, airlines have been subsidising the base fare.
“We are battling with poor infrastructure, high exchange rate, high prices of aviation fuel, even scarcity of the product and increase in the price of handling by aviation handling companies. We are feeling the economic pinch together. We should put the blame where it should be and these are forex, aviation fuel, which are the biggest reasons for the hike,” the spokesman said.
Depreciation of the Naira
On February 9, 2022, as a precursor to what was to come, the CEO of United Nigeria Airlines, Dr Obiora Okonkwo, during a press conference in Lagos with aviation correspondents to mark the first anniversary of the airline, warned that airfares must have to increase to meet operating costs of airlines; otherwise, airlines would begin to go under.
He recalled how things had suddenly changed last year.
“The first-ever flight we operated, we paid for the first litre of aviation fuel (Jet A1) at N190 per litre. Within this one year as of today (February 9, 2022), aviation fuel is N400 per litre. The first ticket we sold, the base price, was N23, 000 when aviation fuel was N190 per litre. The first foreign exchange transaction we had one year ago at the official rate was N340 per dollar. Today if it is available, it is N450 per dollar, when it is not available; the alternative market rate is N570 per dollar. This time last year when we operated the alternative market was about N370 per dollar, the official market was N340.
Alternative Travel Options
Incensed by the increase in airfares, the Senate on Tuesday called on the federal government to, as a matter of urgency, declare a State of Emergency on the nation’s federal roads.
It also urged the federal government to immediately offset its indebtedness to FERMA to enable the agency to carry out its primary responsibility of rehabilitating federal roads, especially in the face of the astronomical increase in airfares.
This followed a point of order raised to draw its attention to the increase in airfare and the fact that most of the roads are broken and need rehabilitation
Rising under Orders 41 and 51 of the Senate Standing Orders, Senator Gershom Bassey, lamented that local airfares in Nigeria have risen by 63 per cent in response to a spike in the price of aviation fuel and the attendant cost of operation.
According to him, the rise in airfare has pegged the minimum Economy Class ticket at around N80, 000 (N50, 000) for travellers buying one-hour, one-way economy tickets. He expressed worry that the increase in airfares would increase the pressure on the neglected and dilapidated Nigerian roads and further worsen their state.
No Fixed Fares
Industry expert and Managing Director of Flights and Logistics Solutions Limited, Amos Akpan, has argued that airlines do not fix fares but fares fluctuate according to demand for seats. He observed that it is wrong to say that airlines fixed fares because if airlines’ online sites still advertise fares that are less than N50,000.
“There was no known fixed figure as airfare for a one hour flight within Nigeria by operators. Fares usually fluctuate according to seasons for different operators. You could find yourself on a flight where the passenger sitting beside you paid N45,000 whereas you paid N12,000 for example, for that same flight.
He said that so many factors are considered in pricing seats and cargo space on flights. So also does the unit price differ according to those factors.
“The operator must know the breakeven figures for its routes and aircraft type. This will be the critical input in fixing the price per seat. I have paid 50,000 on a – way economy ticket in 2021 within Nigeria, so this is not new to me. Domestic airlines need a holistic strategic approach not just an increase in airfare,” he said.
Many industry stakeholders said they are looking up to the government to intervene because air transport is a catalyst to any economy; so either government intervenes by making forex available to airlines at a lower rate or find a way aviation fuel could be produced locally, which would be a long term intervention.
The question many Nigerians are asking is whether the price hike will improve the services of the airlines.
“Will the price hike improve their services? This is because a lot of these airlines know how to treat Nigerians shabbily. They delay a lot without taking their passengers into consideration. They cancel flight at will and generally exhibit nonchalance and insensitivity in their operations. Will the hike in price curb all these? Will Nigerians get value for their money? This is what I am looking forward to see, going forward,” said a frequent flyer who did not want her name mentioned.
Dollar Surges Versus Almost Everything on Ukraine Conflict Risks - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- The dollar is rising against virtually every peer as fallout from the deepening conflict in Ukraine supercharges demand for the world’s reserve currency.
Nordic currencies fell the most among the Group-of-10 in early Asia trading Monday, with the Norwegian krone and Swedish krona falling more than 2%. The euro fell 1%, while the South African and Turkish currencies dropped as emerging-markets faced contagion concerns.
“USD is king, offering liquidity and safe haven attributes,” said Rodrigo Catril, a currency strategist at National Australia Bank Ltd. in Sydney. “When trouble hits the road, you need to look for cover.”
The Russian ruble, which rebounded to the 83 per dollar level on Friday, will be in sharp focus when onshore trading starts Monday.