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Fuel scarcity, panic buying in Lagos as NARTO threatens strike - THE GUARDIAN

FEBRUARY 08, 2022

By Kingsley Jeremiah (Abuja), Eniola Daniel, Victor Gbonegun and Adedamola Saka (Lagos)


• Artificial scarcity caused by recall of dirty petrol, source claims
• NARTO to withdraw haulage services over diesel price, operation cost

Residents of the nation’s commercial capital, Lagos, began the new week, yesterday, with some level of anxiety and confusion as fuel scarcity appeared in some parts of the state, especially on the Island axis.  

With an estimated population of 15.3 million, the roads play host to over five million cars and 200,000 commercial vehicles. The panic began gradually at the weekend when unusual long queues of vehicle at various filling stations in Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki were noticed as residents spent longer period trying to buy the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as petrol.

Many had attributed this to increased demand for fuel due to power outage following a fire incident that led to the shutdown of Nigeria’s largest power plant, Egbin, from the national grid, last week. 

However, the long queues persisted yesterday morning despite improved power supply. There were long queues on Awolowo road in Ikoyi, which caused gridlock along the axis.  

The situation was different on the mainland part of Lagos as queues were barely noticed at filling stations monitored. This posed a challenge for motorists and commuters resuming their daily activities after the weekend break.
 
Most of the fuel stations visited in the metropolis claimed they were without supply. The few stations that had supply attracted long queues.
  
From Ojodu-Berger to Lekki, Gbagada, Alapere, Oshodi-Apapa axis, Ajah, Sangotedo, Mile-2, among others, long queues were sighted in filling stations, which in some stations spiraled into the major roads.
 
Many commuters along the Lekki-Epe Expressway, including Sangotedo and Victoria Garden City (VGC) axis had a hectic time in traffic. On the Island (Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Obalende axis), only a few stations had supply with manageable queues. It was the same situation along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
  
Some commuters resorted to trekking long distances to get to their destinations, while commercial transporters took advantage of the situation to hike transport fares on busy routes. The fare from Ajah to CMS, which, ordinarily, was N400, was hiked to N1,000.

A motorist who spoke to The Guardian in Obalende alleged that many stations were not dispensing fuel, rather they chose to create artificial scarcity. Some, however, were attending to customers buying in jerry cans for the black market business.    

There were no queues at filling stations in Mushin, Isolo, Ejigbo, Ikotun and environs.  The Guardian, yesterday, gathered that the flash petrol scarcity currently being experienced in Lagos is due to current effort by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited to recall harmful imported petroleum products.

According to sources, most of the petrol imported into the country under the Direct Sale, Direct Purchase (DSDP) contract has a high content of methanol and ethanol, which are outside the official specification of Nigeria’s petrol. “This product is highly harmful to the market,” a source said.

A senior official in the downstream sector, who pleaded anonymity, confirmed the development, adding that NNPC is currently doing a product tracing to contain the harmful implication in the market.

“Nigeria should not be doing business with companies with bad reputation in the market. The implication is very cruel on the consumers of these products, most especially Lagosians,” he stated.

The issue of dirty petrol is coming at a time when there is a raging controversy on the removal of petrol subsidy or otherwise. The NNPC has always allayed fears of any hitch in the supply of petroleum products, assuring of its availability, despite reported cases of scarcity in some parts of the country.

HOWEVER, despite the repeated assurances, the entire country may be plunged into another round of terrifying fuel scarcity if the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) makes bold its statement of withdrawing haulage service should the Federal Government fail to urgently address the rising cost of operation that its members are facing.

Top on the list, according to the union, is the ever-increasing cost of diesel, which petrol tankers run on and which is part of the determinants of freight charges. The cost of diesel presently is N430 per litre.

The association’s National President, Yusuf Lawal Othman, in a statement, yesterday, stated that his members now find it difficult to remain afloat because of the high freight rate, which is regulated and paid in arrears.

He insisted that members would be advised to ground their haulage tankers if nothing was done to address the matter, describing the business environment as scorching and unbearable. “Our people have parked their trucks and more people are going to park theirs,” he said.

While some states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), has been struggling with fuel scarcity despite promises of sufficient petroleum products, Othman said the challenge could escalate across the country.

The association had earlier decried delay in the payment of about N45 billion bridging cost for diesel, demanding an increase in the transportation allowance factored into the pump price of petrol, but the continuation of subsidy payment on petrol meant that the freight cost would remain.

Earlier this year, the Federal Government had hinted on a 20 per cent hike in the cost of freighting petrol across the country, as part of measures to boost the revenue of transport owners. The increase would have raised the cost of bridging petrol to N9.11 per litre from N7.51 in the petrol pricing template of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).

Decrying the prevailing situation, Othman said: “We will tell them (tanker drivers) to park if nothing is done because we can’t operate in such manner. Transporters, whose freight rate is fixed and regulated, cannot sustain the business if nothing is done.

“We can’t operate. We can’t work if nothing is done to increase the freight rate. The condition is unbearable because of the cost of diesel.”

He urged the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to urgently increase the freight rate to reflect the present cost of Automative Gas Oil (AGO) diesel and spare parts.

According to him, ex-depot cost of diesel soared to N401 per litre on Monday. Othman cried other that it might hit N420 per litre at the filling stations if nothing is done urgently.

“We have a problem. Today, the price of AGO ex-depot is N401 per litre. It means that in Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, it will reach N420 to N430. At the filling stations it will reach like N450.”

Last week, the Federal Government revealed that between December 2021 and February 2022, it has paid a total of N52.7 billion as bridging claims to transporters.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), Farouk Ahmed, made this disclosure in Lagos during an engagement meeting with the downstream stakeholders.

The authority had stated that the Federal Government would continue to pay the cost of bridging petrol to ensure its availability across the country.

MEANWHILE, it was gathered last week that petrol sufficiency days and stock figures are receding. While NNPC used to boast of 30 to 40- day stock sufficiency and about two billion metres, the record dipped to 24.02-day sufficiency and about 1,345,338,930 litres stock of petrol.

This was evident in a document titled: ‘Petroleum Products Stock & Days Sufficiency Report 27th January 2022,’ obtained from NMDPRA. Nigeria consumes between 54 million to 60 million litres of petrol daily.

Lagos filling stations shut, queues persist in Abuja, others - PUNCH

FEBRUARY 08, 2022

BY  Okechukwu Nnodim


Many filling stations were shut on Monday and this led to queues by motorists in the few outlets that dispensed Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, in Abuja, neighbouring states, as well as in parts of Lagos.

It was learnt that marketers of PMS were still unsure about moves to halt petrol subsidy, considering the fact that the government had projected in 2021 that it would stop the subsidy regime in February this year.

Also, our correspondent gathered that some members of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners had discontinued operations in protest against the low freight rate for petrol which they receive from government.

The National President, NARTO, Yusuf Othman, told journalists in Abuja on Monday that “our people have parked their trucks and more people are going to park (theirs).”

The National President, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, also stated that the fear over subsidy withdrawal had been in the minds of both private depot owners and some retailers, leading to product shortage at filling stations.

“I’ve explained to you that DPOs are studying the situation around subsidy, since the government has been making various statements on this matter and this has its way of affecting the market,” he told our correspondent.

Queues for petrol in filling stations have been appearing and disappearing in Abuja and neighbouring states in the past few weeks, as marketers confirmed that aside from panic buying by motorists, there have been disruptions in PMS supply.

Ukadike had told our correspondent, “They (government) said they want to fully deregulate. That statement and similar ones which some ministers made that by 2022 we are going to start full deregulation, made some PDOs decide to hoard or withhold their products.

“They (PDOs) are doing this to be able to match up with the cost of petrol when it rises above N300/litre upon full deregulation. Now, this became a bottleneck in terms of the chain of demand and supply.

“So people who were taking petroleum products out of Lagos from the PDOs stopped a little bit to be able to look at the market value and their cost of logistics.”

Ukadike added, “That was what put a gap in the chain of distribution that led to the appearing and disappearing queues in many parts of Abuja and the north, as well as in some other locations of Nigeria.”

But the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited had described the queues as panic buying. Its spokesperson, Garba-Deen Mohammed, could not be reached when contacted on Monday.

A text sent to him was not replied to up till the time of filing this report around 9.16pm Nigerian time.

However, in a recent statement issued by the company on the matter, it said, “The NNPC Limited wishes to assure the public that the company has sufficient PMS stock to meet the needs of Nigerians.

“The public is therefore, advised not to engage in panic buying of petrol; and to ignore all rumours that may suggest otherwise.”

It stated that in line with the existing laws of the land, NNPC was deeply committed to ensuring energy security for the country.

Ottawa declares state of emergency as police boost enforcement, target protest's fuel supply - CBC

FEBRUARY 08, 2022

The Ottawa Police Service issued a statement shortly after the action saying that two people were arrested at the Coventry Road site for mischief and that "multiple vehicles" were seized.

City solicitor David White told city councillors on Saturday that the declaration of a state of emergency "does little" in terms of legal authority and does not give more power to Ottawa police.

A local state of emergency will, however, allow Ottawa to work more efficiently to manage essential services and make procurement more flexible, the city said.

Provincial legislation grants mayors powers during an emergency to make orders "not contrary to law to implement the emergency plan of the municipality and to protect property and the health, safety and welfare of the inhabitants of the emergency area."

City yet to ask for military aid

The state of emergency and increased police action represent significant changes in the response to the chaotic situation in Ottawa — where demonstrators have become entrenched in the city's downtown core.

Amid increasing resident anger, police said on Saturday that they lack the resources to end the protest, now in its 10th day.

Politicians have also increasingly denounced the protest over COVID-19 public health restrictions, with Ontario Premier Doug Ford and others calling it an "occupation" and the head of the Ottawa Police Services Board referring to it as an "insurrection."

Ford said on Sunday that his government was supporting Ottawa in whatever way it could. His office told CBC News the city had not asked the province to request military aid from the federal government.

In a statement, Ontario's solicitor general, Sylvia Jones, emphasized that politicians cannot direct the police but that discussions were ongoing "to ensure [Ottawa police] have every necessary resource they need to keep their community safe."

Local, provincial and federal politicians have condemned the protesters' actions and called for a solution. But what that solution might be remains unclear.

"This group is emboldened by the lack of enforcement by every level of government," Diane Deans, a city councillor and chair of the police services board, said Saturday.

"We're giving a signal to everyone coming into town that it's a free-for-all," Coun. Carol Anne Meehan said.

More than 650 calls have been made to Ottawa police since the start of the protest, resulting in 97 criminal investigations, police said Sunday. The force said earlier in the week it had opened 11 investigations related to hate crimes and four people have been charged.

Structures in place in Ottawa's Confederation Park, including a plywood shack and tents, were removed on Sunday after protesters co-operated with police and the park was fenced off.

Government response in question

The group is facing a proposed class-action lawsuit spearheaded by Ottawa human rights lawyer Paul Champ, who on Saturday posted a video statement saying truckers could be excluded from the lawsuit if they leave the city by Monday morning.

Organizers for the protest maintain they intend to stay in the city until the federal government lifts all restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, even though most of those measures were introduced by the provinces.

The convoy began as a protest against a federal vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers, but it has developed into a larger demonstration against public health measures related to the pandemic.

WATCH | Public safety minister discusses protests:

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said in an interview that aired Sunday that he had heard people questioning whether the federal government would meet with protesters.

"We've been engaging Canadians throughout the pandemic. We put the question of vaccines and vaccine mandates on the ballot, and Canadians had a right to exercise their vote freely in the last election," he told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton on Rosemary Barton Live.

"We do need to see that the laws are enforced at the end of the day. We're a country that is based on the rule of law," Mendicino said. He also hinted that support may be coming from the federal government for the city or for local businesses that have had to close their doors for the past week due to security concerns.

"I think we are working closely with the city to look at providing some support for those who have been impacted. I know that shops and businesses have been closed, and I know that those discussions are ongoing," he said.

The protests have also received significant rhetorical endorsements from politicians south of the border, including former U.S. president Donald Trump. Ottawa police say they are aware of American funding for the protests as well.

"This is no place for Americans to involve themselves in these kinds of activities," Bruce Heyman, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada, told CBC News on Sunday.

The Ottawa police force also noted on Sunday that it is "actively working with Canadian, U.S. and international security agencies … to investigate email-based threats to public officials."

Finances in flux

On Friday, crowdfunding platform GoFundMe announced it would be stopping payments through the main convoy fundraising page, which by then had received more than $10 million in donations.

The company deleted the fundraising page from its website, saying the protest violates a rule in its terms of service that prohibits the promotion of violence and harassment.

Along with the disruption caused by blockages and noise, protesters have displayed symbols of hate, including the Confederate flag and swastikas.

Convoy organizers have instead pointed potential donors toward a Christian fundraising site. As of Sunday morning, organizers had received more than $2.5 million US in donations on that site.

Airlines seek review of N200, 000 COVID-19 test protocol per traveller - THE GUARDIAN

FEBRUARY 08, 2022

Airlines have prevailed on governments globally to review mandatory COVID-19 test requirements for vaccinated passengers to ease the burden of cost and lift artificial barriers to air connectivity.

The airlines, under the aegis of International Air Transport Association (IATA), said scientific evidence no longer supports the safety objectives of pre-departure COVID-19 tests for all travellers. Same for blanket quarantine, self-isolation at destinations, coupled with travel bans in some parts of the world.

Findings showed that in Nigeria and few others, the COVID-19 racketeering has assumed a revenue-driven motive for the government and private sector operators rather than for public health purposes.

The implication is severe on the travelling public that pays an average of N200, 000 for four sessions of COVID-19 testing, per trip.

Currently, a return-trip overseas requires four sessions of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. At the rate of N50, 000 per test in Lagos, a traveller will spend additional N200, 000 on the trip.

Travel expert at Dart Travels and Tour, Yinka Ladipo, said there are many customers that are discouraged by the COVID-19 test-induced hike in air fares.

IATA noted that the costs of COVID-19 test on family travel is even more severe. Based on average ticket prices of $200 for domestic travel and average low-end PCR testing ($90) twice each way, a journey for four that would have cost $1,600 pre-COVID could nearly double to $3,040—with $1440 being testing costs.

IATA, in partnership with Airlines for America (A4A) and 28 U.S. and international aviation and travel and tourism stakeholder groups, therefore, urged the U.S. government and others to remove the pre-departure testing requirement for fully vaccinated air travellers flying to the United States.

The airlines argued that the vaccinated traveller population adds no additional risks to the domestic U.S. population, especially. Increased immunity levels, the pervasiveness of COVID-19 in all 50 U.S. states, rising vaccination rates and new therapeutics, all point to removing the testing requirement for fully vaccinated travellers.

IATA’s Director-General, Willie Walsh, said the experience of Omicron made it clear that travel restrictions have little to no impact in terms of preventing its spread.

“Moreover, as Omicron is already broadly present across the U.S., fully vaccinated travellers bring no extra risk to the local population. International travellers should face no additional screening requirements than what is applied to domestic travel.

“In fact, at this stage of the pandemic, travel should be managed in the same way as access to shopping malls, restaurants or offices,” Walsh said.

Indeed, more than 74.3 million people – meaning at least 22 per cent of the U.S. population –have had COVID-19, and that is almost certainly an undercount owing to asymptomatic infections and limited testing early in the pandemic. When combined with an adult population that is 74 per cent fully vaccinated, it is clear that the U.S. is developing very high levels of population immunity.

The organisations also noted that the European Union (EU) has recommended that its member states remove COVID-19 travel restrictions for travel within the EU, and the United Kingdom has announced the removal of COVID-19 pre-departure testing for vaccinated air travellers to enter the country. The UK concluded that the cost to both passengers and airlines of the testing mandate could no longer be justified, as there was no evidence the regime protected the population from COVID-19.

Recent research by Oxera and Edge Health in Italy, Finland, and the UK all support the conclusion that travel measures do little to control the spread of COVID-19 when it is already broadly present in the local population.

The studies found that, if implemented at a very early stage, travel restrictions may at best delay the peak of a new wave by a few days and marginally reduce the number of cases.

Furthermore, IATA’s most recent air traveler survey showed that 62 per cent of respondents support removing a testing requirement for those who are fully vaccinated.

“Removing the pre-departure testing requirement for fully vaccinated travellers will greatly support the recovery of travel and aviation in the U.S. and globally without increasing the spread of COVID-19 and its variants in the U.S. population. There is no use in closing the barn door after the horse has bolted,” Walsh said.

Travel consultant, Sunday Olumegbon, yesterday noted that raising the cost of any product will significantly stifle demand.

“We have seen that impact globally, not only in Nigeria. The impact is greatest for short-haul trips (up to 1,100 km), with average fares of $105, the tests will cost more than the flight. That’s not what you want to propose to travellers as we emerge from this crisis.

“Testing costs must be better managed and already due for review. That’s critical if governments want to save tourism and transport jobs; avoid limiting travel freedoms to the wealthy,” Olumegbon said.

Visitor visa processing in Nigeria will now take 6 weeks - UK - VANGUARD

FEBRUARY 09, 2022

BY: Victoria Ojeme

The British High Commission in Nigeria on Tuesday said its visa and immigration process for applicants seeking to visit the United Kingdom will take six weeks.

British High Commission in Nigeria on its official Twitter handle issued by the UK Visas and Immigration office.

The UKVI office said that they are working on reducing the current processing time as quickly as possible.

The increase in processing time is due to unpredictable demand across all visa centres, a fallout of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the global travel restrictions.

What the UK Visas and Immigration office is saying The statement from the UKVI reads, ‘’Due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and global travel restrictions, UKVI is experiencing unpredictable demand across all visa routes.

Standard visitor visa applications are taking on an average of six weeks to process. UK Visas and Immigration are working to reduce the current processing time as quick as possible. You should bear this in mind when making travel arrangements.”

The UKVI advised applicants against unnecessary visits to the Visa Application Centres (VACs) unless they were invited, stating that applicants whose passports were ready for collection would be contacted by officials at the centre for pick up.

It, however, stated there would be a consideration for extremely compassionate or compelling circumstances such as medical emergencies, although that would come at an extra cost.

It said, “You will be contacted by the Visa Application Centre (VAC) when your passport is ready for collection. Please do not attend the VAC until you have been invited to do so,” it said.

“Where there are extremely compassionate or compelling circumstances (for example, a medical emergency), we may consider expediting specific cases. However, the bar for this is high and will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

“If your request is exceptionally urgent you can contact UK Visas and Immigration for help. Please note that this is a chargeable service for overseas customers. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Visa agents operating with impunity in Nigeria, causing high costs – US Embassy - NAIRAMETRICS

FEBRUARY 09, 2022

Warns Nigerians to be aware of fake travel websites.

The US embassy has stated that visa facilitators and agents operating in Nigeria, especially in Lagos are operating with impunity for their financial gains, warning that Nigerians will continue to pay high fees if they work with visa facilitators to get appointments at the embassy.

This was disclosed by Susan Tuller, Country Consular Coordinator of the US Embassy in Nigeria in a press briefing with newsmen on the No-interview U.S visa renewal services launched in Nigeria.

She warned that Nigerians should also be aware of fake websites, as all information can be found in official US government immigration websites.

What Tuller is saying about visa processing

Tuller disclosed that the visa appointments system is manipulated by facilitators and agents, especially in Lagos.

She added that unfortunately the visa facilitators here (Lagos) operate with impunity, and for financial gain, and as along as Nigerians continue to pay the very high fees to them to get appointments, that will make it hard for the Consulate to control the number of visa appointments that they make available.

So unfortunately, visa facilitators and agents, manipulate our systems for their own financial gain,” she said

She urged that there is no reason to pay any high additional fees to any visa facilitators or travel agents.

“As of right now there are thousands of appointments available, for this new no interview renewal programme and available right now and as long you meet the criteria and follow the procedure, there is no reason to pay someone to get the appointment.

“One of the real challenges with paying someone for the appointment is that the visa facilitators use vague information to book these appointments.

“When you buy a slot from them you don’t know the information they have put in the system,” she said.

Tuller disclosed that they see a lot of people who paid a facilitator and who don’t even know what was used to book their appointment. And then they come in and the embassy is not able to see their details because the information in the system does not match the information on their passport.

She urged that one criterion to participate in the programme is to do the process themselves, citing that all information is available on official immigration travel websites.

What you should know no-interview U.S visa

  • Nairametrics reported earlier this month that the U.S. Consulate-General announced that from February, it will start the No-interview U.S visa renewal services to aid non-immigrant visa applicants in Nigeria who qualify to renew their visas.
  • The new procedure which entails no-interview visa renewal will commence at the U.S. Consulate in Lagos and will be extended to the U.S embassy in Abuja thereafter.
  • The processing time for the program is expected to be up to two months and applicants will not be able to retrieve their passports during that time.
  • Each applicant must individually meet the criteria and minors can apply without an interview only if they meet the eligibility criteria on their own.


FG Approves Nigerian Citizenship For 286 Foreigners - CHANNELS TV

FEBRUARY 09, 2022

The Federal executive council has approved Nigerian citizenship for 286 foreigners out of 600 applications.

The Minister of the Interior, Rauf Aregbesola disclosed this on Wednesday after the council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to him, the number of those whose citizenship was approved by naturalisation stands at 208, while 78 applicants were approved by registration.

The applicants from every part of the world including Europeans, Americans, North and South Australians, etc. were thoroughly scrutinized by agencies such as the department of states services, foreign affairs, Nigeria’s immigration service, and the state of domicile of the foreign individuals.

Foreign treatment: Reps propose seven-year imprisonment, N500m fine for officials - PUNCH

FEBRUARY 10, 2022

BY Leke Baiyewu

A bill seeking to prescribe a jail term of seven years and/or a fine of N500m for officials who spend public funds on foreign medical trips narrowly passed second reading at the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Sponsored by Sergius Ogun (PDP, Edo), the proposed legislation is titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to amend the National Health Act, 2014; and for related matters’.

Leading the debate on the bill, Ogun noted that the objective of the proposed law was to amend the Act “so as to make provision for sanctions against any public officer, who violates the provisions of the Act, especially Section 46 of the Act”.

The section reads, “Without prejudice to the right of any Nigerian to seek medical check-up, investigation or treatment anywhere within and outside Nigeria, no public officer of the government of the federation or any part thereof shall be sponsored for medical check-up, investigation or treatment abroad at public expense, except in exceptional cases on the recommendation and referral by the medical board and which recommendation and referral shall be duly approved by the minister or commissioner of Health of the state as the case may be”.

Ogun said, “This bill, which seeks to amend the National Health Act, is borne out of a desire to discourage medical treatment abroad at the detriment of our indigenous health institutions. The need to revamp the poor state of the health care sector in Nigeria, among other things, is the reason for introducing this bill.

“It is no news that Nigeria’s health care system is in a deplorable state and needs urgent attention. There is paucity of infrastructure, dearth of medical personnel, poor standards and many other challenges that need to be addressed. The intent of this bill is to spur public officers to pay more attention to our health care sector and take drastic steps to develop and improve on the sector.”

The lawmaker urged members of the House to look at the merits of the bill and let it pass “in the interest of our nation, which is currently going through trying times and requires drastic steps to bring it back on its footing”.

Ogun listed the merits of the bill to include reduction of the exodus of doctors from Nigeria to other countries.

“If this House passes this bill into law, it will curtail the excessive medical trips of public officers abroad and direct their attention to fixing the poor state of the country’s health sector. This will in turn lead to the development of the health sector and improved remuneration for medical doctors, thus attracting Nigerian doctors abroad to come back home,” he stated.

The lawmaker also noted that the bill, when passed into law, would demonstrate the government’s commitment to the welfare of citizens, “in the sense that funds, which were hitherto expended on foreign medical trips, will be redirected into building an efficient and effective health care system in the country. This will in turn positively impact the lives and wellbeing of the people”.

Ogun also cited reduction of capital flight abroad, saying, “This bill, as stressed above, will stop the export of cash abroad and redirect the same to the development of our economy.

“All of this cash, which flies abroad in the disguise of one medical trip or the other, will be retained here in our country and be used to develop our nation.”

While Ogun was making his presentation, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, interjected him, asking if the lawmaker was sure of what he was saying.

Responding, Ogun noted that the Act prohibited unapproved spending of government funds on foreign medical services, but it failed to prescribe punishment for disobeying the law.

“I read the Act and the gazette is here. I was not in this Assembly then. It is an Act; it is a law of the land today. What I am basically doing…, my amendment is saying that there should be punishment for flouting that Act, which the Act did not capture. It could be (due to) an oversight,” he stated.

The lawmaker, therefore, proposed insertion of Clause 2(2) to read, “Any public officer of the government of the federation or any part thereof, who violates the provision of sub-section (1) above shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000,000 or to an imprisonment term of seven years, or both”.

The proposed punishment, however, generated murmurs in the chamber.

London starting salaries rising at fastest rate on record - EVENING STANDARD

FEBRUARY 10, 2022

BY  Jonathan Prynn

London starting salaries are rising at their fastest rate on record in the latest signal that the capital’s economy is roaring back to life.

Huge demand from employers combined with a severe shortage of skilled staff sent wages racing higher in January at their fastest rate in the 24-year history of a monthly survey published on Thursday.

Employers have been firmly in recruitment mode since the last lockdown ended last Spring and most restrictions were lifted in the summer.

The Plan B measures, including the work from home guidance in December and January, are increasingly looking like a short-term blip in London’s recovery rather than a major setback.

However, there are fears that the shortfall in skilled staff fuelled by Brexit and what has been termed “the Great Resignation” as people reassess their lives could hold back London’s bounce back.

The survey found that 59 per cent of London employers found that starting salaries increased during the month while 41 per cent saw no change. This is the highest reading for the index since it was first compiled in October 1997.

City lawyers are the latest profession to see starting salaries pushed to all-time highs with pay for newly qualified lawyers rising by up to 50 per cent to as high as £150,000.

Other roles proving particularly hard to fill included chefs, accountants, security guards, compliance officers, software engineers, nurses, social workers and shop assistants, according to the survey.

Across the UK there were a record of 1,247,000 job vacancies in the three months to December, an increase of 462,000 from pre-pandemic levels, according to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, but the problem is most acute in the capital.

Anna Purchas, London office senior partner at consultants KPMG UK, which publishes the survey with recruitment body REC, said: “As the capital looks to recover, the severe candidate shortage has driven starting salaries in London to an unprecedented level. This, combined with the other rising cost challenges, is placing pressure on the profitability of businesses in the capital, and risks hampering their ability to grow.

“There is huge competition for talent in London and sourcing those skills locally is a challenge. Whilst addressing our skills shortage starts with our young people in schools, colleges and universities - ensuring they have the skills employers are looking for - there remains a huge task to reskill those workers in the capital who are unemployed and those whose roles are changing either due to automation or because of new skills required to meet our environmental commitments.”

Neil Carberry, chief executive of REC, said: “The jobs market is still growing strongly at the start of 2022. Recruiters are working hard to place people into work as demand from employers continues to rise.

“With competition for staff still hot, companies are having to raise pay rates for new starters to attract the best people. And the cost of living crisis means there is also more pressure from jobseekers who want a pay rise. But pay is not the only important factor - companies must think about all aspects of their offer to candidates to ensure they get the staff they need. This will be important as firms’ spending is under pressure from inflation as well.

“Government’s role is to manage inflation, but also to ensure that they do not discourage investment - that is what will drive the economy to grow through this year. Now is the wrong time to be raising National Insurance, the biggest business tax.

“But politicians should also be thinking about longer-term workforce planning, making sure we have the skills the country needs for the future. This will take a collaborative effort between the public and private sectors, and the recruitment industry stands ready to help.”


How Nigerians Abroad Can Help Build a New Nigeria - Dabiri-Erewa - PREMIUM TIMES

FEBRUARY 10, 2022

Abike Dabiri-Erewa received UK-based Nigerian radiologist, Reuben Obaro, who is in Nigeria to donate medical equipment in Ekiti State.</sub>

The Chairperson of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has said a new Nigeria can be built through collaboration between Nigerians at home and abroad.

Mrs Dabiri-Erewa stated this on Wednesday during a meeting with a UK-based Nigerian radiologist, Reuben Obaro, who was at the NiDCOM office in Abuja to share his plans of donating medical equipment to selected healthcare facilities in Ekiti State.

The NIDCOM chairperson commended Mr Obaro for his concern for events at home and his contributions to Nigeria, assuring that the Commission is always ready to render its support to his future projects.

She said the likes of him are part and parcel of nation-building and his actions are worth emulating.

In his remarks, Mr Obaro said Nigeria is blessed with many human, material and intellectual resources to attain the development level of countries like Israel, India and China and lead the world's black people.

He also commended Ms Dabiri-Erewa for her efforts in putting the Nigerian Diaspora on the global map and projecting people in the country in general as trailblazers.

Mr Obaro, who said he has lived in the UK for over 40 years, is a radiologist with the King George's Hospital in the UK.

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