Airports authority unveils equipment to curb bird strikes - PUNCH
BY Juliana Ajayi
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria says it has unveiled bird equipment, also known as wildlife management equipment, at its headquarters annex.
FAAN said it inaugurated the equipment in its Lagos officer in a bid to improve safety flight operations and manage bird hazards at the nation’s airports.
According to a statement issued by the authority on Monday, the bird equipment will help regulate the occurrences of bird strikes at various airports.
The Managing Director, FAAN, Captain Rabiu Yadudu, represented by the Director of Commercial and Business Development, Alhaji Sadiku Rafindadai, described the equipment provided by the agency as some of the best around.
He said the equipment were procured based on the recommendation by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
According to him, the deployment of these equipment will usher in an era of safe flight operations, as incidents relating to bird strikes will now be a thing of the past.
The Director of Airport Operations, Captain Muktar Muye, said, “What is being commissioned is not just the equipment but a complete package that also includes the recommended storage facility, patrol vehicle and trained personnel in line with ICAOs Standards and Recommended Practices.”
According to the statement, some of the equipment inaugurated include three different models of bird scaring gas canons, day boxes for carrying pyrotechnics during operations for safety, 15,000 rounds of 12G (heavy caliber bird scaring pyrotechnics), and Hi-tech bird laser.
Others include personal protective equipment for staff dealing with wildlife, purpose-built TYPE IV explosive storage magazine, and a brand-new Hilux jeep for Runway wildlife patrol.
Nigeria Immigration reopens passport application portal - THE SUN
From Joseph Inokotong, Abuja
The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (CGI), Muhammad Babandede, has announced the reopening of the passport application and payment portal effective from 12 midnight of June 8 to allow eligible passport applicants to apply and make payments for the various categories of passports of their choices.
The passport portal was closed following the directives of the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, on May 17 to afford the Service the opportunity to clear all backlogs of applications that have piled up across Issuing Centres in the past few months.
The reopening of the portal means that a new passport application and payment regime has commenced.
Under the new passport regime, applications and payments for passport services shall be made through the Service website: www.immigration.gov.ng and applicants are expected to visit the portal to apply and upload their support documents for vetting and processing.
A chat room facility to guide applicants through the application and payment process has been provided on the portal, and upon successful applications, applicants shall make their online booking interview/enrollment appointment on any day, time and location they consider convenient.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Amos Okpu, Assistant Comptroller of Immigration, Service Public Relations Officer, said:
‘The new timeline for passport production and issuance after a successful enrollment at the selected Issuing Centre shall be six weeks for Fresh applications and three weeks for Re-issue (Renewal applications); that no applicant who is yet to make online application and payment shall be allowed into any of the Passport Issuing Centres for passport processing; applicants will be contacted through email and phone number they provided during application when their passports are ready; a helpline with number 08021819988 has been provided for feedback mechanism on any challenges.’
The Comptroller General, Muhammad Babandede, called on Nigerians and indeed passport applicants to avoid patronizing touts as the entire process has been made seamless for effective and efficient service delivery.
He warned passport racketeers to desist from acts capable of undermining the reform efforts to avoid very strict sanctions.
Passport Fees: Nigerian Mission In South Africa Denies Extortion -
by Abdullateef Aliyu
The Nigerian Consulate in South Africa has reacted to allegations of arbitrary fees charged for replacement of lost passports by Nigerians living in the country.
Nigeria’s Consul General in Johannesburg, South Africa, Hon Malik Abdul, stated that he had “been blackmailed as wicked” and tagged “an extortionist by elements within the community.”
Daily Trust reports that there was a protest recently by some Nigerians living in Johannesburg querying the fees charged for loss of passport.
They also demanded the removal of R10,000 (N300,000) demanded by the agents as deposit fee, and another R120, which translates to N3,600, imposed on Nigerian citizens for lost passport processing and passport capturing respectively.
However, the consul general, in a speech delivered to chronicle his activities from November, 2020, when he assumed duty, said, “It must be emphasised that the administration fees and the lost passport fees are paid to the government’s designated account and not to any individual account.
“As head of mission, I have a responsibility not to succumb to the blackmail and intimidation tactics of a few disgruntled elements among our community.”
No block asylum for IPOB, applications will follow procedure – UK - PUNCH
BY Eniola Akinkuotu
THE United Kingdom has ruled out a blanket ban on members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra who apply for asylum. Rather, the UK says all applications will be considered on their individual merit.
The Head of Communications, British High Commission in Nigeria, Mr. Dean Hurlock, made the clarification during a chat with The PUNCH.
The UK Visas and Immigration had last month released new guidelines to its decision makers on how to consider and grant asylum applications by members of Biafran secessionist groups.
However, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the move was disrespectful to Nigeria because IPOB had been proscribed by the Federal Government.
The UK subsequently took down the guidelines and promised to update it soon.
In a chat with The PUNCH on whether IPOB still qualified, Hurlock said applications by all Nigerian nationals would be treated on their individual merit.
He said, “This latest guidance is currently under review and has no longer been made available on our UK Government GOV.UK website.
“All asylum and human rights claims from Nigeria nationals, as is the case with all foreign nationals, are carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with our international obligations.
“We publish reports in this way so it is clearer and fairer for all involved (applicants, their lawyers, judges, stakeholders such as the UNHCR). All UK asylum decisions can be appealed in the immigration courts, which are public.”
When asked if IPOB members would be given asylum if they qualify, he responded, “Every case is assessed on its own merit. If that guidance had never existed, we should still expect to consider a well meaning application fairly and follow due process.”
Attempts to get from the Federal Government proved abortive as the telephone line of the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ferdinand Nwoye, indicated that it was switched off while the Minister of Informational, Lai Mohammed, did not respond to an inquiry on Sunday.
British Airways, Ryanair Face U.K. Probe Over Denied Refunds - BLOOMBERG
A British Airways Plc sign stands in front of travelers queuing at check-in counters at Athens International Airport, in Athens, Greece, on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. The U.K. government imposed a 14-day quarantine for travelers arriving from seven Greek islands, starting from Sept. 7, in a shift to its coronavirus strategy, as domestic cases of the disease continued to rise. Photographer: Yorgos Karahalis/Bloomberg , Bloomberg
(Bloomberg) -- British Airways and Ryanair Holdings Plc face an investigation into whether they broke U.K. consumer rules by failing to offer refunds to customers for flights they couldn’t take.
The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority said it has opened enforcement cases against both airlines on Wednesday. The watchdog last year opened a probe into the airline sector, following concerns that during the Covid-19 pandemic, customers were denied refunds while unable to fly and instead were offered vouchers or the option to rebook flights.
The refund issue caused a backlash last year when flights were grounded and customers were forced to cancel trips that they were no longer legally allowed to take. It proved contentious from the start of the pandemic when cash-starved airlines steered passengers toward rebooking or accepting credits for future flights.
U.K. Probes Airlines for Refusing Refunds During Pandemic
“While we understand that airlines have had a tough time during the pandemic, people should not be left unfairly out of pocket for following the law,” Andrea Coscelli, chief executive officer at the CMA, said in a statement. “Customers booked these flights in good faith and were legally unable to take them due to circumstances entirely outside of their control.”
The airline companies will now have the opportunity to respond to the regulator’s concerns. British Airways said that it had issued well over 3 million refunds during the coronavirus crisis. “It is incredible that the government is seeking to punish further an industry that is on its knees,” the carrier said in a statement.
Ryanair “approached such refund requests on a case by case basis and has paid refunds in justified cases” and that since June 2020 customers have been able to rebook flights at no extra cost, the airline said in response to the probe.
Where Can You Fly Right Now? U.S. Grabs China’s Short-Lived Aviation Lead - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. has taken the lead in the global aviation recovery from China, where a Covid-19 outbreak in Guangdong province has undone months of steady growth in air traffic.
Airlines in the U.S. are taking advantage of a vaccine rollout that’s reached 52% of the population. Looser restrictions have made domestic air travel an almost-routine experience, save for the facemasks, with capacity for flights within the country at about 84% of 2019 levels, based on data from flight-tracking firm OAG.
Until recently, China set the standard, with domestic travel powering a comeback that’s stood above 2019 levels for most of this year. After bringing the virus under control in the first half of 2020, the world’s most populous country was able to quickly restart its economy and went on to displace the U.S. as the world’s largest air-travel market.
That progress has reversed with the arrival of the Delta variant of the coronavirus first identified in India. Officials in southern China’s Guangdong instituted a lockdown late last month, requiring people to show a negative Covid-19 test before leaving the capital Guangzhou, a major hub for transportation, manufacturing and shipping.
“Asia finds itself in a difficult position, with some short spikes occurring and also the vaccine rollout in many markets behind the rest of the developed world,” said John Grant, chief analyst at OAG.
The curbs have dragged down airline activity, with Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines Co. feeling the brunt of the drop-off. Just last year, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport knocked Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International off its perch as the world’s busiest hub.
What’s Happening in Air Travel This Week
Global aviation capacity showed little sign of movement in the most recent week, and stands at 60% of 2019 levels, according to Bloomberg’s weekly flight tracker, which uses OAG data to monitor the pulse of the comeback.
The U.S. has pulled up the average, with airlines adding seats, raising prices and ordering more planes to keep up with the robust rebound ahead of the peak summer travel season.
Despite China’s drop, airline capacity there is still off less than 1% compared with pre-pandemic levels, leaving it well ahead of all major aviation markets by that measure. China domestic capacity stands at 15.6 million, compared with 13.9 million this time two years ago. While the U.S. gap is shrinking, activity there remains 20% below 2019 levels. Europe has awakened from near dormancy as countries like France start to loosen border controls, though it is still down 59%.
Vaccines Vs “Covid-Free”
The two leading aviation markets have taken a diverging approach to controlling the outbreak and getting their economies back on track. The U.S. has focused on rapid vaccine deployment, while China instituted strict lockdowns to quickly quell the disease in early 2020.
China has since then had periodic flareups that led to targeted lockdowns and restrictions on movement. Air traffic suffered a hit this February during the peak travel period of Lunar New Year, when the government encouraged people to stay at home as it tried to stamp out an outbreak in the northeast.
In the European Union, the reliance on inoculations will be put to the test in coming weeks, as governments begin to ease restrictions on movement within the bloc and individual countries reopen trans-Atlantic links. Government officials in the U.K., where the Delta variant has become dominant, have already backtracked on a loosening of border rules, drawing the ire of airline executives.
The issue will become more pressing now for the U.S., where airlines have thrived on international trade and tourism, said OAG’s Grant.
While the U.S. eased travel advisories this week, and Americans can go wherever they'll be welcomed, the Biden administration hasn’t yet lifted restrictions set in place since last March that bar entry for the vast majority of Europeans. The U.S. is also off-limits to most people from a host of other places, including China, Brazil, South Africa and India.
Given more than half its population now has at least one shot, and the U.S. isn’t prepared to re-open, the message this sends to other countries is this, according to Grant: “Don’t open your doors until you have higher levels of vaccination.”
Air passengers to benefit from competition – Stakeholders - PUNCH
BY Juliana Ajayi
Stakeholders in the aviation industry have said that competitions among airlines will be beneficial to passengers.
Among the new airlines that emerged this year in the aviation industry with over 20 airlines on the waiting list; the United Nigeria Airlines received its Air Operators Certificate on 1st February, 2021, while Green Africa Airways announced on the 3rd of June the arrival of its third aircraft.
In a time where airlines were still trying to recover from the outbreak of COVID-19, Green Africa Airways said it had special packages reserved for its prospective customers.
Aside from having three ATR 72-600s, the airline offered 10 per cent off first bookings with pre-sales code.
Aero Contractors Company of Nigeria Limited recently extended its network routes to Bauchi and Maiduguri, using Boeing 737-400 aircraft released from C-Check.
Other airlines that joined the race of attracting customers are Air Peace Limited and Azman Air Services Limited.
Air Peace Limited in April offered some gifts to its customers.
Azman Air Services Limited recently upgraded its customers’ economy tickets to business class.
Dana Airlines and Ibom Airlines came together on the 21st of May to sign a code share agreement which would enable both airlines to increase profitability in the industry.
The General Manager, Public Relations Department, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, in an interview with our correspondent said, “Competition in the aviation industry is a welcome development. It shows the industry is growing. NCAA is there to ensure the right thing is done by all parties, and violations are viewed seriously.”
Adurogboye also noted that air passengers were to benefit most amidst the competitions in the aviation industry, as this would offer them better services and grant returns on their investments.
“Passengers would be the best to benefit as there would be options available to them,” he said.
Reacting to the competition among the airlines in Nigeria, Spokesperson, Air Peace Limited, Stanley Olisa, explained to our correspondent that, “Air Peace is focused on easing the air travel burden of Nigerians. We are committed to this and continually review our operational practices to ensure consistent excellent service delivery.
“We strategically expanded our fleet and commenced new routes. We launched direct nonstop incredibly affordable flights to Johannesburg. Flights to Ilorin are starting June 17, 2021. We have ordered 13 brand new Embraer 195-E2 aircraft. Two have been delivered while the third comes in later in June.”
He noted that the airline was committed to the safety of passengers and employment to teeming Nigerians and other Nationals.
Travel Expert and consultant, Olubiyi Oluwajoba, said the competition among airlines in Nigeria was a healthy one.
He said, “It is a healthy competition. More people will be interested in air travel because of the affordability, more routes will now be accessible – some of the airlines will love to attract new customers by flying new routes.
“Importantly, airlines will keep to schedule, unlike before when they misbehaved and changed schedules. They can easily lose clientele when they do that.”
Nigerian Students in Romania Cry Out Over Unpaid Allowances - DAILY TRUST
By Chidimma C. Okeke, and, Chris Agabi
Nigerian students who were recently sent on scholarship programme under the federal government's Bilateral Education Agreement (BEA) to Romania have cried out over the failure of the Nigerian government to send them their allowances since their departure from the country.
The students who left over nine months ago said they were suffering and unable to meet up with the provision of their needs following the high cost of living in Romania and failure of the federal government to pay their entitlements.
Daily Trust gathered that the BEA scholarship offers supplementation allowance of $500 per month for upkeep and books; postgraduate research grant of $1,000 per annum and warm clothing allowance of $250 per annum.
Others are take-off grant of N100,000 and one-way ticket to the country of study.
The students said only the take-off grant and one-way ticket were given to them and that not even a kobo from the other entitlements had been paid to them since they arrived Romania.
One of the parents who does not want to be mentioned told Daily Trust that the students left Nigeria during the partial lockdown and that up till now they had not received any money as promised.
The parent who suspects that there is likely to be a foul play in the whole process, said the students' offer letters were only given to them when they were boarding the aircraft.
She explained that, "When they were boarding, someone from the scholarship board went to the terminal as they were about to check-in to give them the offer letters. This was something they should have had two weeks before the trip."
The parent also noted that they were to be given a certain amount of money which was supposed to be in dollars but that they were given in naira and thus suspected that the money given to the students was not up to the approved amount.
Another parent said they gathered that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) gave the money in dollars while the scholarship board officials changed the money to naira, adding that it was not up to the said amount.
The parent said, "Our children collected the money because they were not aware of what was due to them.
"After the children got their offers, they were supposed to be getting a $500 stipend every month through the BEA, but since the students left for over nine months, not one penny has been given to them, and life over there is very expensive," adding that, "Nobody prepared the mind of the parents that the government will not pay."
While lamenting that the parents were finding it difficult to meet up with the demands of their children, he appealed to the government to meet its responsibility to the students to help ease their condition.
He added that, "The latest information from Romania is that Nigerian students wishing to stay on campus during the three-month vacation will have to pay. From where do they get the money to pay for the accommodation when the Nigerian government has refused to pay their entitlements? The burden is becoming unbearable on us parents."
He, however, said they had been in touch with the scholarship board which said it had written to CBN through the Ministry of Education and that it was yet to get the money to disburse to the students.
While noting that the scholarship board's letter to the CBN was written since December through the Minister of Education, he said the scholarship was on merit for students who had first class, but that no matter how intelligent a student was, when there was no money to feed, it would affect their performance.
"The students are really suffering as they cannot get help from anywhere; they said bottled water is about 3,000 when converted to naira. This is very embarrassing to the nation."
When our reporter contacted CBN, a source who spoke under anonymity, said it was unlikely the CBN had not disbursed the funds if the ministry indeed applied for it.
He explained that, "If indeed the ministry applied, CBN can't deny them the funds. If the CBN can ask banks to sell Basic Travel Allowances (BTA) and Personal Travel Allowances (PTA) to those travelling, it can't hold back school fees and allowances of students abroad."
He said if the students were being owed, then the ministry had to check its status very well as CBN did not usually delay on those requests, but that in this extant case, he noted that he was not in that department to be able to confirm.
When contacted, the Director of Press and Public Relations at the Federal Ministry of Education, Ben Bem Goong, said the delay was not from the ministry as there were processes from other relevant ministries.
Goong said, "Yes, we understand that we have to be sending this money to the students as at when due, but the process does not start and end with us; it is a process that goes through the system, and we are institutions that have processes.
"We are very conscious of the fact that they are in a foreign land without their parents, but they should have communicated to us; and the process is not just the Ministry of Education. For us, we have appropriated, and if there is an omission in the appropriation, then the office of the Accountant General and Ministry of Finance must also do their processes and release money to us to send to the students."
The director frowned at the students for going to the media, saying, "What the students have done is the height of ingratitude; it is extremely irritating. The students we are paying their fees have not communicated to us to even know their problems and they took us to the media; it is uncalled for."
Buhari inaugurates Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge - DAILY POST
President Muhammadu Buhari has officially inaugurated the 157km double track Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge.
The inauguration ceremony took place on Thursday morning.
Some top officers including three ministers, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, were present at the occasion.
Some royal fathers, led by representatives from the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu; the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Gbadebo, witnessed the occasion.
President Buhari, who had an interview with a leading national television on Thursday morning, arrived at the ornately decorated venue, which was the Mobolaji Johnson Railway Station, Ebute-Metta, at exactly 10.25am.
While addressing Nigerians, Buhari expressed happiness that the project was inaugurated during his tenure.
He expressed commitment to the ongoing massive infrastructural development across the country.
Nigeria Building Rail To Niger Republic So I Don't Cut Off My Cousins, Family Members There, Says Buhari - SAHARA REPORTERS
Speaking during an exclusive interview broadcast on Arise TV, Buhari said the government’s decision to connect Niger with Nigeria by rail through Kano was to allow his Nigerien relatives easily have access to Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari has justified the decision of his government to construct a rail line linking Nigeria with the Niger Republic despite criticisms that trailed the announcement of the plan.
Speaking during an exclusive interview broadcast on Arise TV, Buhari said the government’s decision to connect Niger with Nigeria by rail through Kano was to allow his Nigerien relatives easily have access to Nigeria.
“I have cousins, family members, etc., in Niger Republic. I shouldn’t just cut them off,” Buhari said.
He also cited transportation of oil from the neighbouring country to Nigeria and job creation as other reasons for constructing the rail line.
The Nigerian government had in January 2021 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Mota- Engil Group, a multinational engineering and construction company, for the construction of the $1.959 billion Kano to Maradi (Niger Republic) rail line project.
Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation, signed the agreement on behalf of Nigeria while Antonio Gvoea, managing director of Mota- Engil Group, signed on behalf of the firm in Abuja.
The rail line is expected to run through Kano, Jigawa and Katsina states and terminate in Niger Republic territory.
“The 283.750 kilometre rail line, besides developing freight and passenger transport as it will be integrated with road transport, will make a great contribution to the local economy as well as an important development in the social sector,” Amaechi had said.