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Stakeholders demand transparency as FG, investors pump N170.5b in new carrier - THE GUARDIAN

JUNE 01, 2021

By Wole Oyebade

• Carrier racks up N58b ‘working capital’ in three years 

• Govt already managing three airlines through AMCON, says Olumegbon

About three years after its unveiling in London, United Kingdom, and subsequent suspension, the Federal Government is having another go at the new national carrier project with an estimated sum of N170.5 billion already on the table. The sum, contributed by both private investors and budgetary provisions in the last three years, is expected to start up the new airline next year.

Findings by The Guardian showed that private investors have pledged at least $250 million (N112.5 billion), while government’s allocations in the form of “project working capital” between 2019 to 2021 have added up to N58 billion ($128.8 million).

Aviation stakeholders are, however, worried about the lack of transparency in the prolonged build-up to the new venture, coupled with its viability and sustainability in a pandemic era. The worry is not unconnected with the venture’s ability to attract 90 per cent of investment from both local and foreign investors, coupled with a credible technical partner to drive its operations at a time when global aviation has recorded multiple airline collapses and losses to the tune of $90 billion in 2021 alone.

The Federal Government on July 18, 2018 unveiled the name and logo of the proposed carrier at the Farnborough International Public Air show in London. That was ahead of the planned initial take-off on December 24 of that year. The lack of budgetary provision, and scathing criticism by the public forced the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika to “temporarily” ditch the rollout plan in 2018.

Before the suspension, the government had scheduled the carrier to commence flight operations on December 24, 2018 with a target of 81 local, regional and international routes on commencement of operations, 15 leased aircraft as at the due date with additional plans to own 30 planes within three to four years.

Sources at the Ministry of Aviation said that the project was never jettisoned. A senior official recently said the project remains on course, adding that the initial problem was that of funding.

“I think that is getting solved now as the project is getting the attention it required from the government. Before long, we will advertise, invite bidders and begin rollout. We already have some money, but I cannot say how much,” the official said.

Sirika had said that the project, among others contained in the aviation development roadmap initiative, remains a priority, which earned it a place in the 2019 budget. The project got a capital vote of N47.3 billion.

In the 2020 Appropriation Bill, the Federal Government proposed to spend N4.69 billion as working capital for Nigeria Air. The government also proposed to pay the sum of N304 million as consultancy fee. The 2021 fiscal plan only provided N1 billion under the “working capital for establishment of national carrier.”

Meanwhile, the carrier got a top priority in the N27 billion aviation bailout lump sum to cushion effects of the COVID-19 lockdown. Of the sum, the national carrier got N5 billion vote.

The total sum of N170 billion (that is, $250 million from private investors, and N58.5 billion or $128.8 government vote) already generated, has exceeded the sum of $300 million (N135 billion) originally planned for the project and approved by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).

The national carrier is intended to replace the defunct Nigeria Airways that ceased operations in 2003. The replacement was designed as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project with the Federal Government likely to own as much as 10 per cent stake.

Sirika earlier said that the venture was expected to gulp $55 million in 2018; $100 million in 2019, and $145 million in 2020. In three years, the government had planned $300 million for the airline project.

Reacting to the minister’s recent disclosure that the new carrier will now take off in the first quarter of 2022, travel consultant, Sunday Olumegbon, said it was unfortunate that what started as a good initiative has become “a plaything or pet project” of the minister.

“I think we should ask; is it a national carrier or a government-owned airline? Because, I don’t understand this pause and play approach. We have had about four proposed takeoffs till date. No one runs or sets up a national venture in the manner in which the minister, an aviator, is going about it. How come we have no coherent national aviation plan that makes the national carrier and private airlines complimentary?

“I think the best way to start such a mega venture is to first create the enabling environment for all airlines to thrive. Without addressing the toxic business environment that is killing private airlines, setting up a new national carrier is going to be a wild goose chase.

“Let’s us assume that the carrier flies, how many airlines will the government own? Don’t forget that the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) currently owns Arik Air, Aero Contractors, and another one is coming, NG Eagle. Where is that done? The government needs to get real. Sustainable businesses abhor such tardiness and lack of clarity,” Olumegbon said.

Secretary General of Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), a think-tank group of the industry, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said the lack of transparency in the build-up was worrisome.

“If N102.7 billion or $250 million is what the investors would raise for the national carrier, how much is government’s investment and how much for the private investors, or what are the percentages of each investment in this if we assume the amount is the initial capital investment? What materials or number of aircraft are we expecting from the $250 million?

“These are the questions to ask before the takeoff. When well answered, we takeoff, otherwise, we remain on the ground as we have been for two years. If well answered and we take off, the investors well defined, ‘aircraft to purchase’ known in numbers, then we should be ready to land in the first quarter of 2022, which is about 10 months from now.”

Ojikutu had expressed disappointment on how the project has stalled in the last three years. He said up till the beginning of 2020, he had no reason to think that the formation of the national carrier was not possible, “if we, as a people, not a few individuals in government, know what we are looking for.

“We need a national carrier not a government airline. We must bring every Nigerian onboard both in and outside the country. In my post to the Minister, I said it should not take more than six months to get it established. The COVID-19 pandemic has now become the alibi to every failure in aviation, including the failures that predated the pandemic.

“It will take as many more years as it would take existing airlines to make up for pre-COVID-19 passenger traffic, for anyone to begin thinking of establishing any new airlines, be it private, public or national, except a cargo airline,” Ojikutu said.

INDEED, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a tumultuous period for aviation, with 23 airlines collapsing due to the international travel restrictions introduced to curb the spread of the disease. The biggest losses have included Flybe, a UK domestic airline that operated since 1979, and Virgin Australia, which came into existence 20 years ago.

Some other big players are showing signs of struggle. Emirates Airlines has said it will cut 30 per cent of staff as a result of the pandemic, with 1,600 pilots sacked since May. Thousands of British Airways staff is at risk of redundancy. The American airline industry is “likely” to lose a carrier to this pandemic, according to Boeing president and chief executive David Calhoun.

Among the airlines that have collapsed are South African Airways in South Africa, Air Georgian in Canada, Air Italy in Italy, Air Deccan in India, AtlasGlobal in Turkey, Avianca in Peru, Compass Airlines in the United States, Ernest Airlines in Italy, and LATAM in Argentina among others.

Aviation Consultant, Chris Aligbe, had also expected that Nigeria Air would have taken off much earlier, even before the COVID-19 induced economic crisis. Aligbe, however, insisted that the country’s aviation sector needed a formidable carrier in the status of a national carrier to go farther than any private carrier could do.

He said despite the paucity of global investors, the airline project was an opportunity for investors that would be ready to take the risk. “I believe that the national carrier is still possible. But with the pandemic, it means that we have to start reviewing the project plan to align with the new realities.

“I am aware that a lot of airlines are doing away with the 747 four-engine aircraft, except for the A380s that some airlines still use. It means that we too have to start small. Where there was a plan for 20 wide-bodied aircraft before, we can start with about five single aisle aircraft of not more than 200 passengers. It will enable the operation for about two years before the market normalises.

“Again, instead of having technical partners with equity, we can start on the level of partnership arrangement with a formidable airline with an option of equity. That was how Kenya Airways operated with KLM. We can do that too, and review after about two years of operation, considering about 30 per cent of equity. For me, there are more opportunities with this pandemic as a lot of fairly new aircraft are all over the place for buyers and at cheaper rates,” Aligbe said.

Travellers to face longer processing time over protocols, traffic - THE GUARDIAN

JUNE 01, 2021

By Wole Oyebade

• Aero Contractors opens Bauchi, Maiduguri routes 

Ahead of summer travels and imminent boom in international traffic, airlines have warned that chaotic scenes await passengers at airports over COVID-19 travel protocols.

The airlines said compliance with mandatory tests and vaccine certificates at departure and arrival terminals may cost passengers between three to eight hours of delay, “which will be discouraging for customers and an industry in recovery phase”.

In a related development, Aero Contractors airline has disclosed plans to reopen Bauchi and Maiduguri operations as part of its route expansion programme. Deploying its Boeing 737-400 aircraft just back from C-checks, the airline will open Abuja-Bauchi route tomorrow, and subsequently follow with the Maiduguri operations.

Foreign carriers, under the aegis of International Air Transport Association (IATA), said the prior warning avails an opportunity for Nigerian government, among others, to deploy automated screening facilities to manage travel health credentials and other COVID-19 measures to achieve pre-COVID-19 passenger facilitation time.

At pre-COVID-19 levels, passengers, spend an average of 1.5 hours in travel processes for every journey, that is, check-in, security, border control, customs, and baggage claim.

Current data indicate that airport processing times have ballooned to 3.0 hours during peak time with travel volumes at only about 30 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels. The greatest increases are at check-in and border control – emigration and immigration – where travel health credentials are being checked mainly as paper documents.

Modeling suggests that without process improvements, the time spent in airport processes could reach 5.5 hours per trip at 75 per cent pre-COVID-19 traffic levels, and 8.0 hours per trip at 100 per cent pre-COVID-19 traffic levels.

IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh, yesterday, said without an automated solution for COVID-19 checks, significant airport disruptions remain imminent.

“Already, average passenger processing and waiting times have doubled from what they were pre-crisis during peak time—reaching an unacceptable three hours. And that is with many airports deploying pre-crisis level staffing for a small fraction of pre-crisis volumes. Nobody will tolerate waiting hours at check-in or for border formalities.

“We must automate the checking of vaccine and test certificates before traffic ramps up. The technical solutions exist. But governments must agree digital certificate standards and align processes to accept them. And they must act fast,” Walsh said.

Over the past two decades, air travel has been reinvented to put passengers in control of their journeys through self-service processes. This enables travellers to arrive at the airport essentially “ready to fly”.

With digital identity technology, border control processes are also increasingly self-service using e-gates. Paper-based COVID-19 document-check would force travellers back to manual check-in and border control processes that are already struggling even with low volumes of travellers.

If governments require COVID-19 health credentials for travel, integrating them into already automated processes is the solution for a smooth restart. This would need globally recognised, standardised, and interoperable digital certificates for COVID-19 testing and vaccine certificates.

“This cannot wait. More and more people are being vaccinated. More borders are opening. Booking patterns tell us that pent-up demand is at extremely high levels. But governments and the competent authorities are acting in isolation and moving far too slowly. A smooth restart is still possible. But governments need to understand the urgency and act fast,” said Walsh.

Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Capt. Abdullahi Mahmood, yesterday, in Lagos, said it was a proud moment for Aero Contractors, Nigeria’s oldest commercial airline, to open the flight services into Bauchi, and Maiduguri.

“We are confident the flights will serve our customers well and give them more choices and flexibility in planning their business, family and leisure trips. The airline will fly from Abuja to Bauchi four times a week; every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

“We believe that these routes will add fresh breadth to our schedule and complement the quest to rebuild our network to other cities as part of our strategy to expand. Bauchi and Maiduguri are some of the underserved cities in Northern Nigeria.

“The Boeing 737-400 aircraft, which will be used for these new routes, has just been released from C-Check by our MRO team. We are proud of our team for their expertise and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for their professionalism and support.

“Our Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO) allows us to handle total repair with certified maintenance facility where commercial and private aircraft maintenance can be completed. The airline’s foundation is built on a proven safe, reliable and on-time transportation while delivering to customers the highest standard of safety and efficient services,” Mahmood said.

FG extends the commencement of new passport regime by one week - NAIRAMETRICS

JUNE 02, 2021

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has announced that the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Arebesola, has extended the commencement of the new passport regime earlier scheduled for June 1, 2021, by one week, to June 8, 2021.

This is to clear the backlog of teeming applicants turning up to collect their passports across various issuing centres, a situation that is now creating congestion.

This disclosure is contained in a statement issued by the Public Relations Officer of NIS, Mr Amos Okpu, on behalf of the Comptroller-General of NIS, Mr Muhammad Babandede on Tuesday, in Abuja.

What the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) is saying

Babandede noted that NIS had made significant progress in clearing the backlog of passport applications with a total of 230,500 applications cleared and passports produced.

The statement reads thus:

“In furtherance to the Ministerial directives to clear all backlog of passport applications across issuing centres, the Comptroller General of Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede MFR, wishes to inform the public, especially Passport applicants that the Service had made significant progress in the clearance exercise of the backlog of Passport applications.

So far, a total number of 230,500 applications have been cleared and the Passports produced. Out of the number, a total of 43,350 are yet to be collected.

Passport Control Officers have been directed to continue to send out short message notifications for collection to all applicants who indicated functional contact detail numbers in their applications while efforts have been intensified to clear up the remaining applications in some centres.

The NIS boss further directed that details of all Passports that were yet to be collected be uploaded on the service website, www.immigration.gov.ng for the attention of the public, adding that the service is also deploying other media means to notify the public.

The statement further said:

“A huge number of applicants are already turning up to collect their Passports across Issuing Centres and this is causing some forms of congestion. This situation will not allow the Service to accommodate new applications especially considering our desire to ensure that people who come to our offices comply with all the COVID-19 Protocols.

Consequent to the above, the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has extended the commencement of the new passport regime earlier scheduled for 1st June 2021 by one week till the 8th of June 2021. This period shall be used to attend to applicants for collection, clear all the remaining backlogs as well as improve systems automation for the takeoff of the new Passport regime effective 8th June 2021.”

Babandede assured the public of full commitment to improving service delivery to all Passport applicants and others.

In case you missed it

It can be recalled that about 2 weeks ago, the Federal Government suspended new applications for international passports to allow the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to clear passport applications that were received before the 17th of May 2021.

The FG also explained that the NIS would commence accepting new applications from June 1, 2021, adding that all payment portals have been closed till June 1 and a task force will be sent to passport offices to clear the backlog

Emirates unveils premium seats June 1, 2021 in Aviation - THE NATION

JUNE 02, 2021

Emirates will be showcasing its Premium Economy seats for the first time at the Arabian Travel Market 2021 (ATM).

The region’s leading travel and tourism exhibition is running this week. It will be the first in-person travel industry event to take place since the onset of the pandemic.

The Emirates stand will offer visitors from over 60 countries a chance to experience the airline’s signature product an recently introduced service enhancements across every cabin class onboard its A380 aircraft. It is  a reminder of the elevated onboard experiences in store for travellers once they get back to the skies.

The highly-anticipated Emirates premium economy seat will be on display for visitors to experience.  The seat boasts an abundant pitch of up to 40 inches, and visitors trying out Emirates’ premium economy seat will also notice its generous width of 19.5 inches and ability to recline into a comfortable cradle position with ample room to stretch out. The seats are covered in cream-coloured anti-stain leather with automobile inspired stitching details and a wood panel finishing similar to Business Class,  designed to provide optimal comfort and support with six-way adjustable headrests, calf rests and footrests.  Customers will also find other meticulous details including easily accessible in-seat charging points, a wide dining table and side cocktail table, as well as a storage area.

Emirates will also showcase its Boeing 777-300ER game-changer First Class fully enclosed private suites exhibit, Boeing 777 Business Class seat, the newly refreshed A380


ADVERTISEMENT

OnBoard lounge, along with other iconic products such the First Class Shower Spa and the latest version of the game-changer Economy Class seats. Across both the Emirates A380 and 777 Game changer products, visitors will notice new interior finishes and design details featuring the Ghaf tree motif, as well as an updated champagne colour palette.

Nigerians In Italy Slam Critics Of Passport Process, Commend CG - NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

JUNE 02, 2021

By 'Suyi Ayodele - Benin

Nigerians in Italy, on Tuesday, described as unpatriotic, attempts by some of the citizens to work against the efforts of the officials of the Nigeria Embassy in Rome, towards a seamless procurement of International travelling passports.

Reacting to a viral post on a Facebook platform, which disparaged the Embassy’s officials, the Welfare Officer of the National Union of Nigerians in Italy, NUNAI, Pastor Mike Oputteh, said such comments amounted to sabotage.

NUNAI reacted to a viral post by one Sunday Ogieva on his Facebook page, where he had accused the Embassy officials of compelling citizens in Italy to pay the sum of 150 Euro in the name ‘Urgent Scanning,” as fraudulent.

The Nigerian Embassy in Italy had through a letter dated 28th May 2021, with the caption “Resumption of Urgent Scanning” and signed by the Minister (Consular& Immigration), S.O Bello, announced that the embassy was “set to commence Urgent scanning /fast-tracking for the passport with effect from 31st May 2021.”

A portion of the letter reads, “The resumption of this service will attract the sum of 150 Euro (administrative charges inclusive). The service will target those that actually need a passport for urgent and important usage. It is not automatic even when the applicant is willing to pay.”

Pastor Oputteh, while refuting the allegation of fraud against the Embassy officials, described the allegation as “baseless and an outright mischief against the effort of the embassy staff and the Controller General of Immigration in ensuring that passport booklets are obtained with ease.”

Oputteh, who pointed out the fee had been in place before the new ambassador was deployed to Italy, called on Nigerians in Italy to approach the embassy for proper clarification and understanding on the policies and program of the Mission before making unsubstantiated and uninformed allegations in the social media.

He further appealed to the Control General of Immigration to consider sending a passport intervention team in addition to increasing the manpower of immigration staff.


https://tribuneonlineng.com/ni...


Why FG Want To Concession Four Airports - Sirika - NIGERIA TRIBUNE

JUNE 02, 2021

By SHOLA ADEKOLA - Lagos

Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has for the umpteenth time explained why the Federal Government took the decision to concession some of the country’s airports, saying despite the huge potential abound, that the airports are currently operating at a sub-optimal level.

The airports set aside for concession are; Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt, Kano and Enugu which coincidentally are the man at viable of the airports across the country.

According to the minister, the Federal Government is proposing between 20 and 30 years programme for the would-be concessionaire even as he declared that infrastructure concessions of this nature come with a significant financial obligation which any responsible concessionaire will no doubt be keen to recoup.

Under the concession policy, the Federal Government gave a condition that the 20 to 30 years duration may be extended depending on performance and Nigeria’s best interest and that the duration was not set in stone and will be subject to negotiation and then final approval by the Federal Executive Council.

The minister who spoke through the Director of Media, Ministry of Aviation, Dr James Odaudu, explained that u see the concession policy that the Federal Government was starting with the most strategic assets saying the successful delivery of the concession programme would give all stakeholders the confidence required to consider other possibilities in the sector.

The concession Sirika declared applied to the non-aeronautic assets of the airports located in the Passenger and Cargo terminals, stressing that they are thus comprised of the assets from the entry door of the airport to the point of embarking plane, and from deplaning to the exit doors.

This space commonly referred to as the Passenger terminal comprised of retail spaces, waiting and seating areas, airport and airline lounges, baggage collection, check-in counters as well as administrative offices, while the Cargo terminals are comprised of the facilities between the point of entry and up to loading and off-loading points, including administrative offices within said facilities.

The Minister put to rest the argument that the airports were planned to be sold, saying: “There shall be no change in the ownership structure of the airports involved in this programme. What has been mandated by the Federal Executive Council is a concession programme.

“The decision of the government to settle for concession rather than outright selling of the assets is because of tremendous national importance from an economic and security perspective; adding, “We believe it remains in Nigeria’s best interest to maintain ownership for this reason.

“A concession is governed by a concession agreement whereby two parties – a private sector investor and a Public sector owner of an asset enter into an agreement that gives the Private sector investor the right to operate said asset for a specific business and within the Government’s jurisdiction, subject to certain terms that are agreed upon by both parties during the negotiation and contracting phase. It is thus a form of Public-Private Partnership whereby there is no transfer of equity between the contracting parties.”

While denying any conflict of interest between the planned concession and China construction giant, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), the minister added: “There is no conflict. China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) was contracted to deliver a number of infrastructure projects throughout Nigeria in 2013. The Passenger Terminal development works are a small part of this, and the Federal Government has every intention to service its obligation.”

On how to select preferred bidders for the airports to be concessioned, the Minister hinted that the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC)– the institution that oversees all concession and Public-Private-Partnerships in Nigeria had clearly laid out processes governing a transaction like this.

The Transaction Advisors – a coalition of independent and reputable organisation, he said have been mandated by the Ministry of Aviation (having received approval from the Bureau of Public Procurement for their appointment) to drive this process transparently, ensuring that regulations laid out by the ICRC are followed whilst also ensuring that Nigeria gets the best partner(s) and deal possible given the unique attributes of the assets to be concessioned.

His words: “We now have OBC Certificates of Compliance from the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission. We are currently finalising the documents required for the procurement phase, after which we will commence the next stage of the process, i.e. publishing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) – a critical phase of the public procurement process. The RFQ will give interested parties, local and international, ample time to prepare their submissions. Once the deadline for submission has been crossed, we will then begin the pre-qualification process. Only Pre-qualified parties will be invited to respond to a Request for Proposal (RFP), which will also be published as per ICRC guidelines and general best practice in Public Procurement.”
https://tribuneonlineng.com/wh...


United Airlines returns to Nigeria in November five years after exit - BUSINESSDAY

JUNE 02, 2021

BY  Ifeoma Okeke

United Airlines is returning to Lagos airspace in November five years after its voluntary exit.

The return of the airline was disclosed by Nigerian Aviation Handling Company, (NAHCO ) Plc, in a statement.

According to NAHCO, it would be handling contracts for United States-based United Airlines for the next three years, adding that it is the preferred partner, providing passenger and ground handling services.

The airline exited Nigeria following challenges with crashed oil prices and a flailing economy. The Lagos – Houston route which was once a favourite especially for oil sector workers and executives has suffered a major decline in patronage.

In addition, airlines operating in Nigeria at the time faced a hard time with foreign exchange restrictions.

Prince Saheed Lasisi, NAHCO’s group executive director, Business Development and Commercial, who expressed excitement on the feat while making the announcement, described it as a boost for the industry, ‘’NAHCO is excited to be the chosen one, we welcome United Airlines back to our airspace, and we are ever ready to provide the airline quality handling at all times, as being currently provided to our numerous client airlines’’.

In the same vein, the company recently signed a five-year contract with Qatar Airways in Abuja, as well as renewed the Lagos contract for another five years.

According to Prince Lasisi, ‘’with the new contracts, which run for five years and coupled with the additional frequencies of Qatar flights to Nigeria and Ghana, we are glad to go even further to provide the top-notch services for which we are known and have offered the airline for the past nine years’’.

The renewed contracts cover all service areas, as it will see NAHCO provide passenger, cargo, and ground handling services to Qatar Airways. It also includes the provision of crew transportation and other ancillary services to the respected airliner.

UK’s post-study work visa targets graduates from Nigeria, others - BUSINESSDAY

JUNE 02, 2021

...starts in July

Under the post-study work visa rules by the United Kingdom government, Nigerians and nationals from other countries will be allowed to stay in Britain looking for work for up to two years after they graduate.

The graduate route which will be open for applications on 1 July 2021 will allow the UK to retain the brightest and the best international students to contribute to its society and the economy post-study.

“The Graduate route will be available to international students who have completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance, and who have valid Tier 4 or Student permission at the time of application,” the Home Office said on its website.

While the Graduate route does not count towards settlement, the policy explained that graduates will, however, be able to apply to other routes at the end of their 2-3 year stay.

According to the statement by the British Government, graduates will be able to “apply to the Skilled Worker route from within the UK, once they have found a suitable job.”

Under current rules (which will expire on July 1), introduced by former prime minister Theresa May when she was interior minister, students are only allowed to stay for four months after they finish their degree.

According to a statement by the British Government, the launch of the route demonstrates its support for the UK’s education sector, and commitment to the International Education Strategy, which sets out an ambition to increase education exports to £35 billion and the number of international higher education students in the UK to 600,000 by 2030.

“The important contribution international students make to our country and universities is both cultural and economic. Their presence benefits Britain,” Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement.

Nigeria’s outbound student mobility which greatly exceeds that of other African markets is expected to benefit from the UK’s post-study policy. Data from ICEF monitor, market intelligence for international student recruitment puts the number of Nigerian students in the UK at over 10,540 in 2018. But, the prevailing economic challenges coupled with a weak exchange rate is a threat that might restrict many Nigerians from tapping from the UK Graduate route.

Nigeria’s foreign-currency shortage forced the Central Bank to devalue the local currency two times in 2020 and has recently adjusted the exchange rate in May 2021.

On the back of naira depreciation, new and continuing Nigerian students who will be resuming schools abroad for the 2021/2022 academic session could be paying as much as an additional N2 million or more to complete their tuition fee. Similarly, Nigerians planning to study abroad would also be facing a higher living cost.

Though many Nigerian students may have a hard time paying their way through schools abroad, enrolling in Nigerian universities, especially public ones, is not an option for many as the country’s education standard has been constantly called to question.

Anthony Kila, professor of Strategy and Development and international director of studies at the European Centre of Advanced and Professional Studies, said the government is to blame because it has not done its best to make Nigeria’s education system attractive.

“Nigerians tend to travel abroad for studies because the education system is bad in the country and those that go abroad are the ones that can afford it,” Kila said.

The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recommend that 15 to 20 percent of a nation’s total budget should go to the education sector. Nigeria’s 2020 budget only allocated 6.48 percent to its education sector. It was 7.11 percent in 2019, 7.14 percent in 2018, 7.27 percent in 2017, and 9.20 percent in 2016.

Breakdown of the new UK post-study policy reveals that graduates whose Tier 4 or Student visa leave expires before the route is introduced will not be eligible, “however, most of these students will have did not expect benefitting from such a route when they applied to study in the UK.”

The Graduate route will require a new visa application, which will only be possible from inside the UK. It will include the payment of a visa fee of £700 and the Immigration Health Surcharge at the full rate of £624 per year. Students will also need to know the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) they used for their most recent Student (or Tier 4) application to apply for the Graduate route, the document said. “Individuals applying to the Graduate route will not need a sponsor.

Student sponsors will not need to fulfill any sponsorship duties for their students once they switch onto the Graduate route and students will not need a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to apply under this route,” the Home Office said, adding that students sponsors will, however, need to notify the Home Office that a student has completed their course.


NAHCO, United Airlines seal handling deal - THE NATION

JUNE 03, 2021

By Kelvin Osa Okunbor

Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc, has clinched the handling contract for United State based United Airlines for the next three years.

United Airlines, having voluntarily exited the Lagos airspace since 2016, is making a return in November, with NAHCO as its preferred partner, providing passenger and ground handling services.

According to NAHCO’s Group Executive Director, Business Development and Commercial, Prince Saheed Lasisi, who expressed excitement on the feat while making the announcement, described it as a boost for the industry.

He said: ‘’NAHCO is excited to be the chosen one, we welcome United Airlines back to our airspace, and we are ever ready to provide the airline quality handling at all times, as being currently provided to our numerous client airlines.”

The company recently signed a five-year contract with Qatar Airways in Abuja, as well as renewed the Lagos contract for another five years.

Lasisi said: “With the new contracts, which run for five years and coupled with the additional frequencies of Qatar flights to Nigeria and Ghana, we are glad to go even further to provide the top -notch services for which we are known and have offered the airline for the past nine years.”

The renewed contracts cover all service areas, as it will see NAHCO provide passenger, cargo, and ground handling services to Qatar Airways.

It also includes the provision of crew transportation and other ancillary services to the respected airliner.

Also, NAHCO has renewed its contracts with Egypt Air and Royal Air Maroc for another three years. The new signings and renewals signal NAHCO’s commitment to service excellence and reaffirm its leadership position in the nation’s ground handling business.

Company News 3h ago Where Can You Fly Right Now? ‘Covid Zero’ Brings Maximum Travel Pain - BLOOMBERG

JUNE 03, 2021

BY  Kyunghee Park and Siddharth PhilipBloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- Fresh Covid-19 outbreaks and lockdowns have further delayed an international travel revival in Asia, where movement remains tightly restricted even in places where the virus has been contained.

While Hong Kong has brought new cases down to practically zero, its draconian quarantine regime makes travel unappealing for the masses. A plan for quarantine-free travel with Singapore was shelved after an outbreak there. Malaysia went into a two-week lockdown from June 1 following a jump in infections. Low vaccination rates haven’t helped get things moving. 

“The slow rollout combined with a commendable but equally near impossible desire for a zero-based level of infections has resulted in authorities being ultra-cautious in their market reopening,” said Mayur Patel, head of Asia Pacific at OAG Aviation. “In Europe and North America, there is a much wider acceptance that we will have to learn to live with Covid as much as we live with other common diseases and viruses.”

Like Taiwan, Singapore has long been lauded as one of the best places to be during the pandemic, only for infections to flare recently. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Monday that school children would be inoculated and every adult who wants a shot would have one by early August, pledging to not get left behind as the world begins to reemerge from the pandemic.

“We will have to learn to carry on with our lives even with the virus in our mindset,” Lee said in an address to the nation. Singapore is under tight social-distancing measures until June 13 following a recent outbreak. About 40% of the population has received at least a first vaccine dose.

Almost 2 billion vaccines have been administered globally, with the U.S. and U.K. among those leading the way. China has given out more than 680 million doses, but rates are much lower in other parts of Asia, including tourist destinations Thailand and Vietnam, where enough shots have been given to cover only 2.6% and 0.6% of the populations, respectively.

/What’s Happening in Air Travel This Week

With summer holidays approaching in the northern hemisphere, global aviation capacity rose to almost 60% of 2019 levels -- a 3 percentage-point jump in a single week, the most in at least a month, according to Bloomberg’s weekly flight tracker, which uses OAG data to monitor the pulse of the comeback.

Some markets even managed to claw back modest gains: Capacity in Russia has almost returned to 2019 levels, while Nigeria is up 7.3% from that year. The U.S. recovery picked up speed -- it’s now down 23% from 2019 levels.

Memorial Day gave the U.S. a significant bounce, with airlines carrying the most passengers in almost 15 months on the Friday before the long weekend.By contrast, Asia — long the leader in the global aviation recovery — slipped again in recent weeks, falling behind the U.S. rebound, the data show.

With an envious eye on vaccine progress and borders opening in other parts of the world, some businesses in Asia are rolling out unusual incentives to encourage people to get inoculated. Among them, a brand new, $1.4 million, 42-square-meter Hong Kong apartment is up for grabs in a lucky draw for vaccinated residents, while Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd. is offering “mega prizes” including unlimited flights for a year.

“The relatively slow pace of vaccinations continues to undermine the region’s economic recovery, in particular, the travel and tourism sectors,” Subhas Menon, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, said Monday as data showed international air passenger volume in the region in April was 3.5% of the level reported in the same month in 2019.

A Collinson survey of 46,830 people globally found about 78% of respondents would travel as long as more people get vaccinated, though it didn’t specify a number. People were also willing to use vaccine passports and take pre-departure tests if it meant they could travel. Quarantine was easily the biggest deterrent for respondents everywhere.

Flights within Asia to popular beach and cultural destinations are still way off pre-pandemic levels, and in some cases have slid further since the start of 2021. Hong Kong-to-Bangkok flights have fallen by about 85% from their level this time two years ago. Singapore to the tropical Thai island of Phuket is even lower, though the route has picked up from the start of the year when there were no flights at all, Cirium data show. Bali routes have flatlined as the Indonesian island remains shut off to international arrivals. 

Thailand has been battling to overcome virus outbreaks and revive tourism, a critical part of the Southeast Asian nation’s economy. Phuket is due to reopen to fully-vaccinated foreign visitors on July 1 — Qatar Airways for one said it will resume four weekly flights there — followed by other destinations in October. Even so, Thai authorities have warned it could take another five years for tourism to fully recover in the country. 

Cargo services out of Asia are proving more resilient thanks to continued demand for products from major exporters such as China and Japan.

/Airport Challenges

As Asia’s tourism recovery has stalled, restrictions are easing in places like Europe. That will bring challenges, with passenger traffic in the region set to almost triple from 47 million in May to 125 million in August, Airports Council International Europe said Monday.

Managing the increase will “amount to an unprecedented operational challenge” due to factors including space constraints from physical distancing measures, longer passenger processing times and multiple Covid checks.

While airlines and airports are grappling with the problems of too little service, for others there are concerns of being overwhelmed.

“The level of both uncertainty and complexity in planning for the restart is just mind blowing for now,” ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec said. “With each passing day, the prospect of travelers enduring widespread chaos at airports this summer is becoming more real.”

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