UK resumes priority visas for work, study routes - THE SUN
From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The United Kingdom (UK), has resumed priority visas for work and study routes in the country.
The British High Commission in Abuja, disclosed the development yesterday.
The British High Commission had while announcing the suspension, said the decision was taken to protect the safety of customers waiting outside of its Visa Application Centres (VAC).
But in a message on its Facebook page and Twitter handle, the British High Commission said: “From 24 January, TLS will resume offering some Priority Visa (PV) Services in our Nigerian visa application centres (VACs).
“PV services will only be available to customers applying at VACs in Nigeria in work and study routes.
“These services will only be available via the TLS website and can be purchased when making a VAC appointment,” the British High Commission said.
The British High Commission further said due to the continued impact of COVID-19 on courier routes, United Kingdom Visa and Immigration (UKVI) are only able resume offering PV services in Nigeria at this time.
“UKVI will not resume offering a Super Priority Visa (SPV) service for the time being. We will keep priority visas under review and hope to be able to reinstate further services in due course,” the British High Commission also said.
United Nigeria Airlines to Expand across Nigeria - THISDAY
BY Gideon Arinze in Enugu
The Chairman and Chief Executive officer of United Nigeria Airlines, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, has announced that the airline would expand its activities across all commercial airports in Nigeria in line with its motto of flying to unite.
Okonkwo made this known in Enugu on yesterday during the opening session of the 2022 management retreat of the company held as part of activities preceding its 1-year anniversary celebration with the theme: Positioning for growth.
Okonkwo explained that the retreat was intended to enable senior members of the management to take stock of their activities, from when they started operations to where they are now and where they are headed to.
He recalled that at the start of operations on February 12, 2021, the airline had four fleets of airplanes, which was later increased to five, adding that the plan is to double the number by the end of the year.
He said: “We want to find ourselves in all commercial airports in Nigeria and that will mean expanding to the North-east and the North-west and further down the South-west and the South-South. It also means we will have to increase our operations and staff strength.”
Okonkwo said that the airline’s regional operations would take off in the first quarter of 2022.
He maintained that the retreat will provide management members with the opportunity to think of how best to improve customer client experience and sustain team motivation, which is necessary for the company to achieve desired success.
He noted that the retreat was organised to commend members of the management for their efforts at taking the company to greater heights, particularly, those who have performed well in the last one year to serve as an encouragement to other members.
“We are going to increase our interaction with the government of Enugu State. We do hope that the government will also provide us with the support and environment we need to thrive,” he said.
Hajj: NAHCON Chairman, commissioners visit Saudi Ambassador over flight ban - DAILY POST
The Chairman, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, alongside the commissioners in the agency, during the week, paid a visit to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Nigeria.
A statement signed by Fatima Sanda Usara, Head, Public Affairs of the commission, said the visit was to discuss issues of mutual benefit to both countries regarding Hajj and Umrah operations.
The statement said the visit was also to press on the Federal Government’s request for the lifting of flight ban into Saudi Arabia; a request already advanced through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other sister agencies.
Addressing His Excellency, Mr Faisal Bin Ibraheem Al-Ghamidy, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Nigeria, the NAHCON boss appreciated the constant mutual support and cooperation the commission and indeed Nigeria has been enjoying with the Kingdom.
Alhaji Hassan encouraged the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to reconsider the direct entry ban in the interest of Nigerian intending pilgrims for Hajj and Umrah who are NAHCON’s primary constituency.
The Chairman also expressed gratitude for the efforts being made by the Saudi Arabian authorities towards compensating families of the crane crash victims as promised.
In response, H.E, Mr Faisal Al-Ghamidy, warmly welcomed the entourage to his office. He revealed his hope that the said flight suspension on Nigeria into the Kingdom would soon end.
He pledged his country’s support to Nigeria whenever necessary.
On the issue of crane crash compensation, the Ambassador responded by saying his country is prepared to ensure the compensation is handed over to the heirs or their representatives soonest as long as the requirements are complied with.
Among the NAHCON Chairman’s entourage were Commissioner of Operations, Alhaji Abdullahi Magaji Hardawal; Commissioner of Policy, Personnel Management and Finance, Alhaji Nura Hassan Yakassai; NAHCON’s Secretary to the Commission, Dr Rabi’u Abdullahi Kontagora; and Special Assistant to the Chairman, Dr Danbaba Haruna.
NAHCON urges Saudi Arabia to reconsider direct entry ban on Nigeria - THE NATION
THE National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has appealed to the Saudi Arabian government to reconsider its suspension of direct Nigeria’s flight into the country.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, NAHCON, Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan, made the appeal when he visited the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Nigeria in Abuja.
Hassan explained that the visit was to discuss issues of mutual benefit to both countries, especially regarding the annual Holy Pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia by Nigerian Muslims.
The Chairman added that the visit was also to press for the lifting of the flight ban as requested by the Federal Government.
“It is a request that has already been advanced through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other sister agencies,” he said.
Responding, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Faisal Bin Ibraheem Al-Ghamidy, expressed hope that the flight suspension would soon end.
He pledged his country’s support to Nigeria whenever necessary.
Immigration pilot program helps Nigerian family settle in Timmins - CBC NEWS
The city of Timmins doubled its applicants through the program in 2021
Everard Kasimanwuna always dreamed of living in Canada, and in April 2021 he made that dream a reality.
Kasimanwuna, who is originally from Nigeria, moved to Timmins with his family, where he started a job as a veterinary technician at Hard Rock Animal Hospital.
"It was always a country that I wanted my kids to grow in," he said about his new home. "Canada is peaceful and is a melting pot for all cultures."
Kasimanwuna said he was able to emigrate to Canada thanks to the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program.
The program, which has been active in northern Ontario's largest cities since 2020, makes it easier for new immigrants with full-time job offers in Canada to successfully emigrate.
Kasimanwuna said he first applied to work at the Hard Rock Animal Hospital in 2018, when he had connected with the clinic through LinkedIn.
"Getting a work visa was difficult," he said. "I don't know why immigration refused to grant me the visa to come."
But through the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program he was able to get a community recommendation in 2020, and made the move the next year.
Now that he is in Canada Kasimanwuna said he is working to get his veterinary certification so he can practice in Timmins.
"It's a pretty long and expensive process," he said. "A lot of bottlenecks, you know? So there are three exams you need to write,"
And while there are no guarantees he will obtain his licence, he said is committed to put in the time and money to complete the process.
Kasimanwuna said his three children have already started to adapt to life in Timmins, and have learned to love the snow.
A slow start
"We're always happy to have these kinds of programs that help promote the community and help with the economic stability of the community," said Lynn Michaud, the program's project coordinator with the Timmins Economic Development Corporation.
Michaud said that despite a slow start in 2020, the program has proven successful at attracting immigrants to the city.
In 2021, Timmins received more than 120 applications through the program and issued 106 community recommendations to candidates, which would help them emigrate to Canada.
In 2020, the city received 60 applications and issued 41 community recommendations.
Michaud said the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the numbers during the first year, and added the program was also not in operation for the full year.
Northeastern Ontario's four largest cities have participated in the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program, and have said their experiences were similar to Timmins'.
In Sudbury, 84 candidates received community recommendations through the program in 2021.
"Including families, the amount totals 215 total newcomers that have come through the program just last year alone," said Alex Ross, a business development officer with the city.
"So it was a really great year."
As with Timmins, Ross said Sudbury faced challenges with the program the first year, due to the pandemic.
Eleven candidates received community recommendations in 2020.
North Bay said it tripled its numbers from 2020 to 2021.
The city issued 44 community recommendations in 2021 and was able to welcome 11 new permanent residents, along with their families.
"I think every city across northern Ontario has shown declines," said Peter Chirico, the president and CEO of the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce.
"So anything that we can do and matching those employers with employees that are willing to work and willing to come to Canada, that's been the goal."
Lagos Acquires 3 Trains For Blue Line Rail - DAILY TRUST
By Christiana T. Alabi
The Lagos State Government has acquired three more trains for the blue Line rail project days after
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced the acquisition of two new intra-city metropolitan trains from a Spanish train manufacturer, Talgo in the United States for the red line rail project.
Governor Sanwo-Olu disclosed the acquisition of the three trains for the blue line rail on Wednesday at the flag-off ceremony of the construction of the Ojota to Opebi link bridge and approach roads.
While flagging-off the construction of the Ojota to Opebi link bridge and approach roads, Sanwo-Olu maintained that his administration recognizes the strategic importance of road infrastructure to sustainable development.
The 3.89km Ojota– Opebi Link Bridge and Approach Roads consisting 2,829m road length: with a 276m Bridge (184m + 127m), Deck-on-Pile and 474m Mechanically Stabilized Earth Wall sections in Rigid Pavement has been awarded to Messrs Julius Berger Nigeria Plc while the project is expected to be delivered in 20months.
Earlier, the Special Adviser, Works and Infrastructure, Engineer Aramide Adeyoye explained that the project was conceived as far back as 2001 but was not realised.
UK resumes work, study visa applications processing in Nigeria - PUNCH
BY Sodiq Oyeleke
The United Kingdom has resumed work and study visa applications processing in Nigeria.
This was contained in a post by UKinNigeria on its social media handles on Wednesday.
In the post, Nigerians were urged to proceed to the UK visa application centres for the Priority Visa Services.
“From January 24, TLS will resume offering some Priority Visa (PV) Services in our Nigerian visa application centres. PV services will only be available to customers applying at VACs in Nigeria in work and study routes. These services will only be available via the TLS website and can be purchased when making a VAC appointment,” the post read.
The British High Commission had on December 6, 2021, suspended visa applications from red list countries, including Nigeria.
“To support the UK Government’s aim to protect public health from COVID-19 and associated variants of concern, UK Visas & Immigration will pause making decisions on visitor visa applications in all red list countries, including Nigeria, until travel restrictions are lifted,” the high commission had said while suspending visa applications in Nigeria.
As of June 2021, the United Kingdom announced that at least 20,427 Nigerians are studying in the UK.
When the visa processing was suspended over Omicron concerns, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said it was “unjust, unfair, punitive, indefensible, and discriminatory” and not based on science.
“Instead of these reflex responses that are driven by fear, rather than science, why can’t the world take a serious look at the issue of access to vaccines, and ensure that it is based on the principles grounded in the right of every human to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, political belief, economic, or any other social condition,” he had said.
The minister especially called on the British government to urgently review the decision to put Nigeria on its red list and reverse it immediately.
Hospitals struggle to retain staff amid migration tsunami - BUSINESSDAY
BY Temitayo Ayetoto-Oladehinde
The effect of mass migration of healthcare workers is biting harder and nudging towards an emergency situation even as top private hospitals that have pooled huge investment into operations struggle to retain skilled staff, according to BusinessDay finding.
Hospitals continue to face rejections despite offerings of a work setting that matches global standards, a pay level that doubles local average, or is at par with some foreign offers.
Vast and short experienced health workers are constantly migrating out of Nigeria even if it means little or no raise in their income. Hospitals are left to run with a constant cycle of fresh graduates who are often looking to enrich their credentials with the experience before leaving.
A center manager at one of the private hospitals championing the reversal of medical tourism in Lagos informs BusinessDay that the management is considering bringing in equally skilled expatriates as a means to protect service delivery.
Her hospital, for instance, lost close to 30 skilled workers between December and January, all leaving for destinations such as the UK, Canada, and the US, among others.
Those who are yet to leave are actively processing their way out, taking different examinations.
“Unfortunately, in the hospital now, we are losing very skilled people and those that are available are applying to leave. I have a consultant close to 50 who earns up to N2 million monthly. He’s leaving also and I can’t stop him. He wants a better life for his family. A lady in patient service left for the US last week. It’s so bad,” she says, asking not to be mentioned.
The drought of health professionals is also hitting hard at another big private hospital with multi-specialties in one of Lagos major highbrow setups. BusinessDay understands that if the desertion continues at the current pace, the hospital’s prospects of delivering world-class services could be dampened too early. It could even land in a double whammy where it struggles to keep both professionals and high-end patients from going abroad.
“Those you see applying for the jobs we have now are fresh out of school, and those that want to work in the health sector for one or two months to enrich their CV because it is very hard for them to get employed without work experience. We are at that point where it is either we pay our local people more money or we start importing Indians, as they are the closest to our economy,” the center manager states.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria has a ratio of 16.1 nurses to 10,000 people and one doctor to 5,000 patients, rather than one to 600.
The trend shows top private hospitals are no longer protected from the skill drought that has been challenging many government-run facilities for decades. The Federal Government had on several occasions acknowledged the shortage of healthcare experts without substantial actions to tackle the crisis. Rather, health workers are owed several months of salary and due allowances unpaid.
A real tsunami
Despite that shortage and a ban on recruitment, 1,334 Nigerian trained nurses joined the UK workforce between March and September 2021, marking an all-time high, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) of the United Kingdom data indicate.
Population growth-based projections on Nigeria from 2016 to 2030 suggest that there would be a shortage of up to 140,000 nurses and midwives in 2030, compared to 2016.
The International Council of Nurses (ICN) on Monday said about 13 million nurses would be required over the next 10 years to fix the worsening nursing shortage from mass poaching from countries, including Nigeria.
The body, representing over 27 million nurses worldwide, says it anticipates a migration tsunami as wealthier countries find a quick fix to the pandemic fallout by pooling qualified hands out of poorer countries, deepening inequalities in access to healthcare further.
Attractive remuneration packages, advanced working conditions, and immigration policies targeted at easing healthcare workers’ emigration have effects as baits and major drivers of brain drain in lower-middle-income countries, the ICN report shows.
Read also: Emigration: The old-new rage
Such a scale of nurses’ exodus in emigrating countries such as Nigeria has seen the nursing workforce grow leaner.
The report notes that global inequalities in the availability of nursing personnel are largely income-driven, with a density of 9.1 nurses per 10,000 population in low-income countries compared with 107.7 per 10,000 population in high-income economies, a tenfold variation in nurse availability.
Nigeria falls among the countries accounting for the largest shortages, and population growth is expected to further push up demand for nurses, irrespective of the current workforce profile.
More than 550,000 foreign-trained nurses were working across 36 OECD member countries in 2019, which was a marked increase on the 460,000 recorded in 2011, according to an OECD analysis.
The share of foreign-trained nurses has increased particularly in Belgium, France, Germany, and Switzerland, with a steady growth also occurring in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US.
The US reports the highest number of registered international nurses, estimated at almost 197,000; the second was the UK with over 100,000 foreign-trained nurses, then Germany with 71,000, and Australia with 53,000.
Howard Catton, CEO, ICN, who co-authored the report, says the findings underlined the severity of the shortages.
While the situation was known hitherto as a persistent historical underfunding of nursing around the world, the latest information about nurse vacancies, their rates of intention to leave, and staff sickness rates is a compelling reason to now recognise the issue as a global crisis.
“We already had a shortage of 6 million nurses at the start of the pandemic, but with the immense and relentless pressure of responding to COVID and the Omicron variant, and an avalanche of resignations and retirements anticipated, the world will need to recruit and retain up to 13 million nurses over the next decade,” Catton states.
The report says a long-term plan is needed to stem the tide of those leaving nursing because of the additional stresses resulting from COVID-19 and to create a new generation of nurses to grow the profession to meet the increased future demands of an aging global population.
The ICN is calling for urgent coordination of policies both at national and international levels to mitigate the effects of these shortages.
At the country level, it suggests that policy priorities are focused on ensuring adequate domestic training capacity and improving the retention of domestically trained nurses.
There also has to be increased commitment to supporting early access to full vaccination programmes for all nurses as well as all other interventions to improve sustainability risk that could be undermined without it.
FG faults ban as UAE lifts travel suspension on Nigeria, others - PUNCH
BY Solomon Odeniyi and Edidiong Ikpoto
United Arab Emirates has lifted its travel bank on Nigeria and 11 other African countries.
The UAE officials said all inbound flights from Nigeria and 11 other countries would resume after the indefinite ban that was triggered by the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
The 12 countries affected by the ban were Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
According to the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Emergency Management Authority, starting 2.30 pm on Saturday, January 29, entry measures for travellers coming in from three other African countries: Uganda, Ghana and Rwanda have been updated
It, however, said inbound passengers from the listed countries would be required to present negative Covid-19 test results, obtained from approved laboratories not longer than 48 hours prior to their departure, on arrival in UAE.
Also, the passengers will be required to undergo a Rapid PCR test at the airports of departure as well as another PCR test upon arrival.
Emirates Airlines, one of the UAE carriers, had also suspended flights to many African cities due to the earlier directive.
Emirates had also suspended flights to Nigeria.
Reacting to the development however, the Technical Head, Presidential Steering Committee, Mukhtar Muhammed, said there was no reason for the ban in the first place.
He said the decision was political and discriminating, adding that European countries with high index cases of the coronavirus were not affected by the move.
He said, “The decision to suspend flight from Nigeria and other African countries had no scientific basis, it was just a discriminatory move. What they did was not fair because we did not see any of the countries that have a high prevalence rate in Europe were affected by that decision.
“As far as we are concerned, it was just a political move. Now that the ban has been lifted, we would look at their conditions and we will also make sure they comply with our own. We have our protocol in place, and we expect anybody coming into the country to comply with them.”
Emirates to Restore Flights From Dubai to Five African Countries - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Emirates will resume passenger operations between Dubai and five African countries from January 29, a month after halting flights on concerns over the fast-spreading omicron variant.
The Dubai-based carrier will restore services to Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa, according to a statement. All passengers traveling from Emirates’ African network with Dubai as their final destination require a 48-hour PCR test.
Earlier Thursday, the United Arab Emirates’ aviation regulator said it would allow the resumption of inbound flights and transit passengers from 12 African countries.