1.3 Million Passport Booklets Printed in 2021 - Govt - VANGUARD
By Etop Ekanem
THE Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, has said 1,350,000 passport booklets were printed and distributed by the Federal Government in 2021, almost double of what was achieved in 2020.
The minister spoke at a Lagos Business School, LBS, Forum themed, "Nigeria in Challenging Times: The Contributions of the Ministry of Interior and Opportunities for Private Sector Participation,"
The virtual event was part of LBS Public Sector Engagement designed to promote more public-private sector dialogue and partnership to enhance Nigeria's inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development.
Providing an update on passports issued to date, Aregbesola said: "1,350,000 passport booklets were produced and distributed worldwide as at December 31, 2021, against 764,293 booklets in 2020."
The minister said there is increasing demand for passports, which is mounting pressure on processing structure and resources, saying "The current experience will soon be a thing of the past. We are working very hard to reform the passport application and issuance process.
This reform is going to be a continuous process. We want to significantly enhance the integrity of the Nigerian passport by ensuring that non-Nigerians are not able to obtain it. We also want to bring passport service closer to the people as much as possible and eliminate touting and corruption in the process."
On recent attacks on correctional facilities in the country, he said the ministry was doing everything possible to arrest escapees and would soon launch a task force for this purpose.
Several British, French & Portuguese Passports Seized in Nigeria - SCHENGENVISA INFO
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) of Nigeria has seized tens of passports from different countries during a routine check at the Lagos airport.
According to the Agency, the authorities confiscated 22 passports from six different countries, including the United Kingdom, France, and Portugal.
The passports were hidden in a bag of flour amongst other food items, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
“At the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos, operatives at the SAHCO export shed of the airport, during their routine cargo search, intercepted a consignment of 22 international passports of six different countries concealed in a bag of garri, among other food items,” the statement issued by the spokesperson of NDLEA reads.
Nonetheless, the authorities did not make an official statement regarding the reason why these documents were hidden or even brought to the country.
Among the passports that were seized, three each were official documents issued in the UK, France, and Portugal. As for the rest, eight passports were of Nigeria, four were of Ghana, and one of Cameron.
“Nine of the passports were three each of UK, France, and Portugal, while the rest were: Nigeria (8); Ghana (4) and Cameroon (1),” NDLEA’a statement further reads.
The responsible authorities are now investigating the case and are yet to reveal further details regarding these documents.
Passports of different countries, mainly of those that are part of the European Union/Schengen Area, often get misused as well as counterfeited due to the power they hold when it comes to travelling without being required to hold a valid visa.
Earlier in January, the Irish authorities sentenced two persons to jail time as they were facilitating illegal entry into the country. The sentenced persons were involved in a criminal group that provided nationals of Georgia with fake documentation. By using fake passports, foreigners were able to reach Ireland illegally.
The investigation regarding this case started back in 2018. It has been revealed that the arrested persons were responsible for the large number of Georgians that entered Ireland from 2017 until 2020.
Nonetheless, since the two persons involved in this particular case are not legal citizens of Ireland, they were imposed only a two-year prison sentence.
The EU/Schengen Area countries use the Schengen Information System (SIS) to control illegal actions. This system is the most commonly used IT system to control public security across Europe. The system enables the member countries to check as well as share data on missing, banned or wanted persons.
FG Approves Resumption Of Flights By UAE Into Nigeria - INDEPENDENT
The Federal Government has given approval for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to resume flight operations to Nigeria.
A letter addressed to His Excellency, Saif Mohammed Al Suwaid, Director General, General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), UAE said that the approval was sequel to the review and acceptance of the ‘Safety Decision 2021-02 Issue 24’ as released by the authority.
The letter stated that the Minister of Aviation has also approved the reinstatement of Emirates Airlines Winter Schedule with immediate effect.
The letter, dated February 1, 2022, with the reference: NCAA/DG/CCAA/20/16/119 and made available to journalists, was signed by Capt. Musa Nuhu, the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The letter also informed the GCAA that Nigerian carrier, Air Peace has submitted its request to UAE authorities for resumption of scheduled passenger flights between the two countries effective March 1, 2022.
According to the letter, Air peace and Emirates Airlines are at liberty to resume scheduled passenger flights between Nigeria and UAE under the terms and conditions of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) between the two countries.
The letter reads in part: “Your letter of 28 January 2022 with Ref GCAA/ATD/19-22 on the above subject matter refers. I wish to inform you that the safety decision issue has been accepted by Nigerian authorities after reviewing by relevant parties.
“Consequently, Emirates Airlines can resume scheduled passenger flight operations to Nigeria at its convenience.
JUST IN: Emirates Resumes Flight Operations To Nigeria February 5 - NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
Following the approval granted by the Nigerian government to the United Arab Emirates authorities for the resumption of flights between the two countries, Emirates, one of the carriers from the UAE has announced its decision to restart flights from Dubai to Nigeria from 5 February 2022.
The airline will operate to and from Abuja and Lagos with daily flights, providing more choice, comfort and enhanced connectivity for travellers connecting to Dubai and over 120 destinations.
According to a statement from the UAE airline: “Emirates will operate to Abuja with EK 785 and 786. EK 785 will depart Dubai at 1100hrs, arriving in Abuja at 1540hrs. The return flight, EK 786 will take off from Abuja at 1900, arriving in Dubai at 0435hrs the next day.
“Emirates flight EK 783 to Lagos will depart Dubai at 1030hrs, arriving in Lagos at 1540hrs. The return flight EK 784 will depart Lagos at 1810hrs, arriving in Dubai at 0415hrs the next day. All flights can be booked on emirates.com, with OTAs and via travel agents.
“All passengers travelling from Nigeria with Dubai as their final destination require a 48 hour PCR test. Passengers must present a valid negative Covid-19 PCR test certificate with a QR code for a test conducted at an approved facility, and validity must be calculated from the time the sample was collected. Upon arrival in Dubai, passengers will undergo an additional Covid-19 PCR test and remain in self-quarantine until the results of the test are received.
Passengers travelling from Nigeria and transiting in Dubai are required to follow the rules and requirements of their final destination.
Emirates further declared that since it safely resumed tourism activity in July 2020, Dubai remained one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, especially during the winter season.
“The city is open for international business and leisure visitors. From sun-soaked beaches and heritage activities to world-class hospitality and leisure facilities, Dubai offers a variety of world-class experiences. It was one of the world’s first cities to obtain Safe Travels stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) which endorses Dubai’s comprehensive and effective measures to ensure guest health and safety.”
Lekki Port Completion Will End Apapa Gridlock, Says Sanwo-Olu - NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has said that the completion of the Lekki Port will end the Apapa gridlock, the congestion along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, port access roads and Apapa environs.
Governor Sanwo-Olu made the statement at an event on Tuesday with the theme “The final solution to Apapa gridlock will be the completion of Lekki Port.”
He said several measures would be put in place to ensure Apapa is congestion-free, stating that “we need to change the officials regularly to ensure there is no compromise in services rendered.”
Governor Sanwo-Olu who spoke about his administration’s commitment to delivering the dividends of democracy to millions of Lagosians through the THEMES developmental agenda for Greater Lagos said his government has completed iconic projects within the State in the last two and half years.
He also cited some of the infrastructural projects such as Lekki Deep Port, 4th Mainland Bridge, Red and Blue line rails and Imota Rice Mills, among others that are ongoing or in the pipeline, which according to him would be completed and become operational within the next 24 months.
The Governor said the process leading to the commencement of the construction of the 4th Mainland Bridge, which starts from Badore in Ajah and ends in Ikorodu, would be completed before the second quarter of the year.
He said: “Lagos is, in addition to being Africa’s most populous megacity, the continent’s premier business and investment destination, and we will continue to do all within our power to remain so.
“As I speak, several landmark public and private infrastructure and investment projects are underway or nearing completion in Lagos State; the biggest single-train Petroleum Refinery in the world, one of the largest Rice Mills in the world, one of the largest and most modern Deep-Sea Ports on the continent, and West Africa’s biggest Light Rail network. Within the next 24 months, we expect all of these to be operational.
“We are also Africa’s Startup capital, ahead of Nairobi, Cape Town and Johannesburg, in terms of the number of startups and in terms of investment inflows and the size of exits. Flutterwave and Paystack, two of the most prominent African unicorns of the decade, were born here.
“In addition, we are home to several major investments ongoing in real estate, like Eko Atlantic on the edge of Victoria Island, and Alaro City on the Lekki Peninsula.”
Speaking at the event, the Publisher of Business Day Newspaper, Mr. Frank Aigbogun, applauded Governor Sanwo-Olu for the great work he has done in ridding Apapa of traffic gridlocks and for delivering on his promise to the people of Lagos State.
He said: “When we had the interview, which I moderated, hosted by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry before the elections in 2019, Apapa dominated that conversation. I don’t know how often you go to Apapa Mr. Governor but I think between 23 and 27 minutes these days, you get Apapa.
“When I have an appointment with people, they often will get to the office before I get there because they would make so much room for traffic and they don’t find any traffic on the way; so they are there waiting for me in the office. So, Mr. Governor, I want to acknowledge the work that you have done and to commend you and your team for delivering on your promise.”
Aviation unions vow to ground flights February 8 over minimum wage, others - PUNCH
Nigeria’s four major aviation unions on Wednesday vowed to ground activities in the sector from Tuesday, February 8, 2022, over the failure of the Federal Government to release the negotiated conditions of service of aviation agencies since 2013 and the non-implementation of the National Minimum Wage/consequential adjustment since 2019.
In a notice of industrial action jointly signed by officials of the unions and issued to aviation workers, the associations said flights and related activities would be brought suspended.
The unions include the National Union of Air Transport Employees, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals, and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees.
“By this notice, all airlines, ground handling companies, aviation security/logistics, in-flight catering, and other aviation-related businesses, as well as the traveling and general public, are hereby notified that aviation services will be unavailable as from the given time until the issues are fully resolved,” they declared.
The aviation workers’ union recalled that they had earlier sent ultimatums to the Federal Ministry of Aviation and its six agencies about workers’ concerns but nothing was done.
The notice read in part, “As you are all aware, our unions variously issued ultimatums to the Federal Ministry of Aviation and the six aviation agencies over the vexed issues of failure to release negotiated conditions of service of the agencies since 2013 and the non-implementation of minimum wage/consequential adjustment since 2019.
“All the ultimatums expired January 31, 2019, without the demands being met in any form. The meeting called by the Federal Ministry of Aviation on the same January 31, 2013 did not resolve the issues as there was no clear assurance from the ministry/managements’ delegation towards meeting our genuine demands.
“In the circumstance, our unions are left with no choice but to take the next obvious step. In this regard, all aviation workers are hereby directed to commence the total withdrawal of services from midnight of Tuesday, February 8, 2022, unless, and until, otherwise directed in this same manner.”
The six agencies include the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Nigeria Meteorological Services Agency, Accident Investigation Bureau, and the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology.
The unions advised the managements of FAAN, NCAA, NAMA, NiMet, AIB, and NCAT, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Aviation to utilise the one-week window so provided to avert the looming crisis by prevailing on the relevant government agencies to act jointly to ensure that workers’ twin demands were met.
They said, “All conditions of service of the NCAA, NAMA, FAAN, NiMet and any other aviation agency pending before the Ministry of Aviation; National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission; the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, or any other organ of government or management of the agencies must be released wholly for implementation with the effective date of the signing of the agreement between our unions and the respective agencies.
“And the new minimum wage/consequential adjustment must be immediately implemented with effect from the law’s effective date of April 2019.”
Air Peace, Emirates free to resume UAE-Nigeria flights – FG - PUNCH
BY Okechukwu Nnodim
The Federal Government on Wednesday announced that Air Peace and Emirates Airlines were now free to resume scheduled passenger flights between the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria.
Both carriers had suspended flight operations into the two nations, following diplomatic scuffles between the governments of Nigeria and the UAE as touching issues around the management of COVID-19.
But the Federal Government announced on Wednesday that it had approved the re-instatement of Emirates Airlines winter schedule with immediate effect, as Nigeria and the UAE had resolved their differences.
It announced this through the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Capt. Musa Nuhu, who stated that the resumption of scheduled passenger flights between Nigeria and the UAE had received the required approval.
Nuhu disclosed this in a statement that was made available to journalists in Abuja by the Director, Public Affairs, Federal Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu.
The statement read in part, “Following the review and acceptance of the ‘Safety Decision 2021-02 Issue 24’ as released by United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority, the Minister of Aviation has approved the re-instatement of Emirates Airlines winter schedule with immediate effect.
“All parties have been informed accordingly. Consequently, Air peace and Emirates Airlines are liberty to resume scheduled passenger flights between Nigeria and the UAE under the terms and conditions of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement between the two countries.”
It added, “All parties must ensure strict compliance with the COVID-19 travel protocols of both countries.”
The Federal Government reassured the traveling public that it would continue to ensure the provision of air services while protecting national interests at all times.
Meanwhile, an Air Peace official, who requested not to be named due to lack of authorisation, told our correspondent that “the airline will announce in due time the resumption of its UAE operations.”
This came as Emirates announced that it would restart flights from Dubai to Nigeria from February 5, 2022.
It said the carrier would operate to and from Abuja and Lagos with daily flights, providing enhanced connectivity for travellers connecting to Dubai and over 120 destinations.
The airline said all passengers travelling from Nigeria with Dubai as their final destination would require a 48-hour PCR test.
Saudi Arabia increases market access for Nigerians with startup passport - THE GUARDIAN
By Adeyemi Adepetun, Riyadh, S’Arabia
Nigeria’s startup ecosystem is expected to benefit immensely from the newly unveiled Startup Passport Initiative unveiled by Digital Cooperation Organisation (DCO), a Saudi Arabian-based multinational organisation.
The Startup Passport makes it quicker, easier and less expensive for startups to do business across borders, opening up potentially lucrative markets with a combined population of more than half a billion people.
Making the announcement in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, yesterday, at the maiden edition of LEAP, a technology conference and exhibition organised by the Ministry of Communications and Technology, Saudi Arabia, DCO Secretary-General, Deema Al-Yahya, explained that the Startup Passport provides expedited entry and support in the markets of eight DCO countries, adding that the initiative would be rolled out initially in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.
Founding member nations of DCO are Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Representing the digital aspirations of 478 million people – 270 million of whom are under the age of 25 – and leveraging 6,300 digital start-ups and 46 million small and medium sized enterprises across three regions, DCO is focused on accelerating social welfare and economic prosperity by empowering women, youth and entrepreneurs to shape an inclusive digital future.
The DCO is focused on 10 areas, which are access to connectivity, cross-border data flows, ethical use of technology, digital identity management, data pooling and user privacy, mobility of skilled ICT labour, accelerating start-ups and SMEs, adoption of emerging technologies, alignment on digital taxation and cooperation on R&D and innovation.
Al-Yahya said the initiative reduces administrative and financial burdens and accelerates corporate registration and other processes for entrepreneurs.
“Through this passport, they will be able to enter the markets of other DCO member states. This will further our mission of coordinating efforts and sharing expertise to grow the digital economy for the benefit of all nations,” she stated.
She disclosed that during LEAP 22, the DCO also endorsed Elevate50, an initiative launched to support 50,000 small to medium-sized enterprises over the next three years to sell their products online, adding, “supported by the Jordanian ecommerce platform MakanE, Elevate50 is projected to generate 5,000 jobs and specifically target businesses run by women and young people.”
The DCO Secretary-General noted that this inaugural LEAP is set to become the world’s largest debut technology platform, spotlighting the entire innovation ecosystem, connecting pioneers and disruptors with business and government leaders, entrepreneurs, investors and more to experience and learn about the technologies of the future.
At the event, some 10 Nigerian startups are billed to pitch with others from other regions for the $600, 000 startup support grant.
Leading the Nigerian delegation at the event, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, said the DCO has been very supportive to Nigeria, stressing that they gave the country slot, pavilion and others for free at the event.
Most importantly, Pantami said the DCO is also supporting Nigerian startups, “as some many of them would pitch against their global counterparts here at the conference, and thereafter provide networking support.”
MEANWHILE, Aramco Ventures, the venture capital arm of Saudi Aramco, announced the formal launch of its $1 billion diversified growth fund, Prosperity7.
The fund backs exceptional entrepreneurs, across the globe, including Nigeria to build transformative companies and solve some of the world’s toughest problems. Prosperity7 provides its portfolio companies with the funding and connections they need to scale and enter new markets to attain global reach.
President and CEO of Saudi Aramco, Amin Nasser, said: “Prosperity7 will connect the dots through big ideas, top talents and disruptive technologies from around the world as we look beyond the energy value chain to areas like healthcare, education and blockchain, for viable solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.”
With Saudi Arabia’s technology sector said to worth more than $40 billion, the new investments announced at LEAP22 are part of the Kingdom’s ongoing plans to transform into an innovation-based economy, which have already seen the country become one of the fastest-growing new markets for Fintech and digital content in the region.
Commenting, Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Abdullah Alswaha, who said the world is changing very fast and that no country should play behind, noted that the “investments and initiatives area manifestation of the Kingdom’s push toward the growth of the digital economy for the greater good of people, the planet and the prosperity of the MENA region. They mark the next level of growth for the digital economy in Saudi Arabia, the MENA region’s largest technology and digital market.”
Alswaha noted that Saudi Arabia is the regional leader for technology talent, with over 318,000 jobs in the technology sector in the Kingdom, and with a rate of participation of women in the ICT workforce that has jumped to 28 per cent in recent years.
Beaches, Airport Shut as Mauritius Faces Worst Cyclone in Years - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Mauritius, home to idyllic beach destinations, closed its main airport, banks and beaches as a severe cyclone barreled toward the Indian Ocean island nation.
Authorities raised the warning twice to the highest level in less than 24 hours. Winds reached 133 kilometer per hour (83 miles per hour) and parts of the nation saw 118.5 millimeters of rain as cyclone Batsirai approached, the Mauritius Meteorological Services said in a statement.
“Moreover, there was a risk of storm surge along the coast,” according to the statement. “The sea would be phenomenal with swells of 10 meters.”
Mauritius faces cyclones almost every year, though Bastsirai may turn out to be the strongest in more than five years, Prem Goolaup, director of the meteorological service said in a phone interview on Wednesday. African coast was hit by one of the worst cyclones ever, Idai, in 2019 when it caused a humanitarian crisis in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam international airport -- the main gateway for tourists heading to attractions such as Mont Choisy beach and Le Pouce mountain -- was shut at 8:40 p.m. on Tuesday. The Port-Louis based Stock Exchange of Mauritius is not operating, according to an emailed statement.
The highest cyclone level is equivalent to the most severe hurricane warning.
Airlines urge White House to end COVID international travel testing rules - REUTERS
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, (Reuters) - Major airlines, business and travel groups urged the White House on Wednesday to end COVID-19 pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated international passengers traveling to the United States.
Airlines for America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, International Air Transport Association, Aerospace Industries Association, the U.S. Travel Association and other groups called for change in a letter to White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients.
"Surveys of air passengers indicate that pre-departure testing is a leading factor in the decision not to travel internationally. People simply are unwilling to take the chance that they will be unable to return to the U.S.," they wrote.
The White House declined to comment. Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N), United Airlines Holdings and others said as of last week international air travel was down 38% over 2019 levels.
In December, the Biden administration imposed tougher new rules requiring international air travelers arriving in the United States to obtain a negative COVID-19 test within one day of travel.
Under prior rules, vaccinated international air travelers could present a negative test result obtained within three days of their day of departure.
The White House and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) previously considered but have never imposed testing requirements for Americans to board domestic flights.
The letter noted that more than 74.3 million people have had COVID-19 in the United States, meaning that at least 22% of the population has had the virus.
"Clearly COVID is widespread throughout the U.S. and attempts to control its importation via air travel under today’s circumstances are unlikely to change that fact," it said.
If any new threatening variants appeared "pre-departure testing could be easily reinstituted," it added.
The European Union recommended countries remove intra-Europe COVID travel restrictions, the letter noted. Britain will end COVID predeparture testing for vaccinated air travelers to enter the country starting Feb. 11.
The groups said "travel and aviation’s recovery is dependent on the government taking steps to remove travel restrictions that are no longer justified by current circumstances."
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates