Travel News

Travel green list set for review as Merkel urges EU to shut the gates - CITY.A.M UK

JUNE 24, 2021

Ministers will meet today to agree changes to the UK’s travel “green list” after the sector united yesterday to plead for a fuller reopening of international travel.

It comes as German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on EU countries to force all UK travellers to quarantine on arrival amid fears over the Delta Covid-19 variant.

Merkel’s comments risk slamming the door on summer holidays for sun-seeking Brits, who had recently been offered a chink of light after it was revealed that the government was considering easing the isolation rules for fully vaccinated people.

Under the new scheme, health secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC, those who had received two doses of a vaccine would not need to quarantine on return from “amber list” countries.

The Telegraph reported that ministers will sign off on the policy today ahead of its “checkpoint review” of the travel traffic light system on Monday.

But any such scheme is unlikely to come into effect until August, despite calls by the sector for the change to coincide with the UK’s new “freedom day”, 19 July.

Although wide-ranging changes to the “green list” are not expected, a number of holiday islands have reportedly been approved by the government’s health advisers.

The Balearic islands, Madeira, and Malta have all been cleared to be added to the “green list”, the Times reported, while Israel could be added to the “amber list” due to a surge in cases.

But even if ministers do make steps to open up travel, holidaymakers could yet find themselves thwarted, if the EU heeds Merkel’s words.

“In our country, if you come from Great Britain you have to go into quarantine and that’s not the case in every European country, and that’s what I would like to see,” she told the Bundestag.

Brits arriving in Germany have to quarantine for 14 days, while Italy and Poland have also introduced mandatory isolation. At the moment, Spain and Greece have resisted such steps.

Emirates makes a U-turn, accepts Nigeria, South Africa, Indian passengers - PUNCH

JUNE 25, 2021

BY  Juliana Ajayi and Kariola Mustapha

Emirates Airlines has confirmed that it will begin accepting Dubai-bound passengers from India, South Africa and Nigeria to Dubai.

This, according to a statement released to our correspondent, was facilitated by the revision of rules issued by the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management in Dubai which allowed fully vaccinated travellers to return to their homes in the UAE.

The airline said, “Effective from Wednesday, June 23, it will resume carrying passengers from India, South Africa, and Nigeria.”

It added, “Emirates welcomes the latest protocols and measures announced by Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management to allow the safe resumption of passenger travel from South Africa, Nigeria and India to Dubai and onwards.

“We look forward to facilitating travel from these countries and supporting various travellers’ categories.”

The statement added, “We will resume carrying passengers from South Africa, Nigeria and India in accordance with these protocols from June 23.

“We thank the supreme committee for their continuous efforts in monitoring the development of the situation and announcing the appropriate guidelines and protocols to protect the community and safeguard the travel sector.”

Recall that UAE had suspended inbound passenger entry from India on April 24 amid a severe second wave of COVID-19 infections, and travel from South Africa was suspended mid-January this year.

The rules for passengers travelling from India said entry would be permitted to residents who had received two doses of UAE-approved vaccines.

All travellers are required to present a negative Covid-19 test result taken within 48 hours before departure. UAE citizens are exempted; only QR coded PCR test result certificates are required from them.

All passengers must take a rapid PCR test four hours before flight departure; all passengers must also undergo a PCR test on arrival at Dubai Airport, the airline added.

Lagos, Abuja airports, others to be concessioned by August - THE GUARDIAN

JUNE 25, 2021

•NAMA acquires automated mobile control towers

The Federal Government, yesterday, said the quartet of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano airports will be concessioned by August.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said in Lagos that the last phase of the concession preparations would be done between this month and July.

In a related development, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has acquired two new automated mobile control towers, to serve as backups in both Lagos and Abuja airports.

The Federal Government has been itching to concession all the 22 federal airports since 2016, beginning with the big four in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano, to enable them to function efficiently and profitably. Despite the government’s assurance that the workers would still be relevant in the new arrangement, the unions have been against concession.

The main concern of the workers, under the aegis of the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Pensioners (NUP), is what would be their fate when the airports fall into private hands.

Similarly, they faulted the rationale behind concessioning viable airports that are beneficiaries of the 2013 loan deal between Nigeria and China. The unions have requested for details of the $500 million credit for the four terminals, especially the additional plans to concession them.

Sirika, at the Airport Business Summit and Expo, yesterday, assured that there would be no job loss during concession, but an opportunity to engage more hands into the system.

He said there was no need to sell the people’s asset but to concession them in a way that it would be operated with a view to providing more revenue.

He said the proposal would be presented to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in February 2022 for approval.

He added that all the agreements on concession were contained in the outlined proposal, saying they were in the interest of the people.

Sirika explained that the proposal, which commenced in 2015, will be advertised this month for bidders to show interest after which qualified companies will be invited for profiling, adding that everything convening the process will close in August

He added that evaluated companies would be asked to present a proposal for engagement, even as he assured labour of dialogue to ensure that every issue concerning concession was addressed, adding that no single worker will be laid off.

He assured that all ongoing concessions would be allowed to finish their tenure before review.

On tackling the present traffic in-between the domestic and international airport, Sirika said the arrangement was on between the Lagos state government and ministry to construct light rail from the Ikeja terminal through the local airports to the international airport.

NGX rebounds as capitalisation increases by N78 billion - THE GUARDIAN

JUNE 25, 2021

By Helen Oji

The Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) halted three consecutive days of losses to close in an upbeat yesterday, as investors’ wealth increased by N78 billion.

At the close of trading yesterday, the All-Share Index (ASI) increased by 149.89 absolute points, representing a growth of 0.40 per cent to close at 37,954.35 points.

Similarly, the market capitalisation value gained N78 billion to close at N19.781 trillion.

The upturn was driven by price appreciation in large and medium capitalised stocks amongst which are; BUA Cement, Nigerian Breweries, Guaranty Trust Bank Holdings Company, Eterna and Zenith Bank.

Capital market analysts said that the bullish sentiment was due to investors’ bargain hunting in virtually all the sectors, except the Insurance sector.

Analysts at Vetiva Dealings and Brokerage said: “While the market was in a positive swing today, activity levels remained subdued. Thus, we expect the market to end the week on a mixed note, as investors continue to buy up beaten-down names and take profit on some counters.”

On the price movement chart, 20 stocks appreciated in price, while 14 others constituted the losers’ chart.

Mutual Benefits Assurance and Portland Paints & Products Nigeria emerged as the highest price gainer with 10 per cent each to close at 44 kobo and N2.64 kobo, while Learn Africa followed with a gain of 3.96 per cent to close at N1.05.

Eterna rose by 3.92 per cent to close at N7.95 kobo. Oando appreciated by 3.45 per cent to close at N3.00 kobo.

On the other hand, Juli Pharmacy led the losers’ chart by 9.56 per cent to close at N1.23 kobo, while AIICO Insurance followed with a decline of 7.41 per cent to close at N1.00 kobo.

Chams depreciated by 4.76 per cent to close at 20 kobo. Champion Breweries shed 2.44 per cent to close at N2.00 kobo. Honeywell Flour Mill depreciated by 2.08 per cent to close at N1.41 kobo.

However, the total volume of trades declined by 19.65 per cent to 167.407 million units, valued at N1.830 billion, and exchanged in 3,256 deals.

Transactions in the shares of Zenith Bank topped the activity chart with 13.895 million shares valued at N330.124 million. Sovereign Trust Insurance followed with 12.745 million shares worth N3.431 million, while United Bank for Africa (UBA) traded 11.755 million shares valued at N84.650 million.

Mutual Benefits Assurance traded 10.955 million shares valued at N4.763 million, while FBN Holdings (FBNH) transacted 8.846 million shares worth N63.359 million.

U.K. Adds Balearics, Malta to Quarantine-Free Travel List - BLOOMBERG

JUNE 25, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. added Spain’s Balearic islands and Malta onto its quarantine-free “green” travel list, and said rules will be relaxed later for more destinations for people who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

Airline shares gained on Friday after the announcement, which will boost the country’s ailing travel industry ahead of the school holidays that begin next month. Bermuda, Madeira, and a number of Caribbean destinations were also added to the list.

Opening up the island destinations to U.K. tourists will offer some measure of relief to a U.K. aviation industry that’s been whipsawed by changing travel rules -- most recently when Portugal was abruptly pulled off the green list.

However, the prospects for Britons hoping to take trips in Europe are still uncertain. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested the whole European Union should coordinate its rules closely and be more cautious about allowing entry to travelers from countries outside the bloc with high rates of the delta variant of the virus -- which would include the U.K.

Delta Cloud

Germany, Italy and Poland have already imposed quarantine rules on people arriving from the U.K. due to the rise in British cases of the fast-spreading mutation. France and Portugal have said they may tighten restrictions.

Under the U.K.’s traffic-light system, destinations are coded red for those with the highest Covid-19 danger, amber for moderate risk and green for low risk. Travelers returning from green-listed countries do not need to quarantine, but those on the amber and red lists must isolate for 10 days after arrival.

There was also a measure of caution in the U.K.’s latest easing of restrictions: All the new additions, bar Malta, were also put on the green watch list -- meaning they could be placed on the medium-risk amber list at short notice.

Double Vaccination

The government said it plans to ease rules further “later in the summer” to allow people who are double-vaccinated to return from amber countries without needing to self-isolate. Details will be set out next month, including the rules for children and when the changes will come into effect, it said.

“We’re moving forward with efforts to safely reopen international travel this summer, and thanks to the success of our vaccination program, we’re now able to consider removing the quarantine period for fully vaccinated U.K. arrivals from amber countries, showing a real sign of progress,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement late Thursday.

Shares Gain

Executives at carriers including EasyJet Plc, Ryanair Holdings Plc and British Airways rely on the U.K., the biggest supplier of tourists in Europe alongside Germany, for big chunks of their business. They’ve grown increasingly frustrated with their hands tied as nearby countries in the European Union steadily relax their borders.

While the industry welcomed Thursday’s move, they said it doesn’t go far enough. Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Shai Weiss said in a statement the U.S. should have been added to the green list. EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said the government’s timetable for resuming international travel “simply isn’t ambitious enough.”

EasyJet put 50,000 extra seats on sale to newly green-listed destinations. Shares of the U.K. low-cost carrier jumped as much as 2.6% in London, while Irish rival Ryanair, tour operator TUI AG and British Airways parent IAG SA also gained.

‘Lost Summer’

“There are some airlines that have already lost another summer,” Willie Walsh, the head of the International Air Transport Association trade group, said in an interview before the announcement. He cited Aer Lingus, the Irish carrier he once ran and oversaw as chief executive officer of IAG. It’s dependent on transatlantic travel and is in a situation that’s “much more difficult than others.”

Airport Operators Association CEO Karen Dee said the announcement is “not yet the vaccine dividend people in the U.K. had hoped for.”

Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had not ruled out taking a foreign holiday himself this year but cautioned travel overseas would continue to be disrupted by the pandemic.

“The real opportunity we all have now is to open up travel through the double jab,” Johnson said in pooled broadcast interview. More than 60% of U.K. adults have now received their second vaccine dose.

(Updates with share reaction from second paragraph)

New Trajectory for Nigerian Airlines - THISDAY

JUNE 26, 2021

Nigerian airlines are beginning to choose aircraft types that are appropriate to their routes in addition to acquiring new equipment. Industry experts say this would make their operations more profitable, writes Chinedu Eze

Some years ago industry analysts used to excoriate Nigerian airlines at every aviation fora because of their poor choice of aircraft for the routes they operate. Many of the industry experts said for airlines that operate short haul flights of largely less than two hours, it is most inappropriate to operate long haul airplanes.

New entrants into commercial aviation seemed to have taken a cue from the criticisms and have started acquiring smaller body aircraft suitable and economical for short haul flights. Over 10 years ago Arik Air came in with Boeing 737-700 and 800, but while operating it, it realised that there was need to have smaller body equipment and it acquired Bombardier CRJ 900 and later turboprops, Bombardier Q400.

Air Peace, which joined the market in 2014, acquired Boeing aircraft and shortly after acquired smaller body aircraft, ERJ 145, a 50 passenger capacity aircraft. United Nigeria Airlines, which started operation in February, 2021came in with ERJ 145 and Green Africa, which is under the process of obtaining Air Operator Certificate (AOC) finally chose ATR turboprop aircraft.

The Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Captain Fola Akinkuotu, told THISDAY in a telephone interview that choosing the right aircraft has so many benefits, saying Nigerian airlines in recent time seems to have realised that because they are now choosing small body aircraft which is right for the short haul flights.

He said such aircraft types would help airlines breakeven with less number of passengers. For example, Embraer ERJ 145 is a 50 passenger capacity aircraft. With 35 passengers the airline can break-even a flight, but with a bigger aircraft like Boeing 737-800, which has the capacity of about 145 passengers, the airline needs about 90 passengers to break even.

Akinkuotu said bigger aircraft would make it difficult for an airline to breakeven with in a route where passengers cannot fill more than half of the aircraft. He noted that such airplanes are good but their choice should be dependent on the market.

“For example, if I have an airline that is not yet known, I can use smaller airplane to operate Lagos-Abuja route with a capacity of about 50 passengers; but as I get popular I will use bigger aircraft. With smaller aircraft you can ginger the market,” he said.

Wear and Tear The NAMA Boss said the choice of aircraft is determined by design and market. For a long flight a bigger aircraft is needed, but aircraft utilisation is dependent on cycle and hours of flight. He said that if an airline uses Boeing 737-800 for example, to fly Abuja-Lagos and use the same aircraft to fly Lagos-Dakar, the Abuja-Lagos aircraft would record higher cycle because it would land six times in the same hours of flight, the one on Lagos-Dakar would spend before it lands.

In other words, if you operate Boeing 737-800 between Lagos-Abuja it will operate about 55 minutes in each flight so under one hour it would land two times and in the three hours it would take the one going to Dakar to get to its destination, the one on the Lagos-Abuja route would have landed six times, which is six cycles; while the other would have landed two times, which is two cycles. He said the more the cycle, the higher the maintenance. But if appropriate aircraft is used it would be cost effective. Boeing 737-800 would be appropriately used from four to six hours’ flight. So there should be a balance.

Akinkuotu noted that there should be other factors to consider in choosing the aircraft type. “You have to also look at the public perception. In Nigeria, travellers like aircraft that takes them above the clouds. Smaller aircraft are not as tolerant to weather as the big ones, but they may be good to the economy of the airlines,” he said.

Beckoning Airports The Managing Director of Flight Logistics Solutions, Amos Akpan, said in the past most of the aircraft types used by Nigerian carriers were those that have capacity for 120-140 seats, noting that the cost of operating these aircraft types is high in terms of fuel, manpower, spare parts and these aircraft types include Boeing 737, 727, MD11 and DC9.

“These aircraft are expensive for domestic operation in Nigeria. The number of passengers required to break even is high. The volume of fuel used for one hour’s flight is high. Now, people have to reassess their business model and decide to choose aircraft that burn less fuel and the break-even load factor is lower.

“So where there used to be 80-90 passengers to break even, they would need 35-40 passengers to break-even because of the aircraft type and passenger traffic,” Akpan explained. He also noted that smaller body aircraft could easily fly into airports that have smaller runway and the airports where passengers that are ready to travel by air at anytime could be average of 35-40.

“Such airports where you can have relatively smaller number of passengers are Ilorin, Katsina, Akure, Ibadan, Minna, Osubi, Calabar, the new airport in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state capital, Kebbi, Bauchi and Gombe. There are some cities where you cannot have a high number of passengers at any point in time, so you deploy smaller body aircraft there. So there are lower number of passengers that can pay for air service there.

“By the time you land there with that number of passengers, you break even. There are a whole lot of airports that are waiting to be served with smaller body aircraft. These airports are waiting to be exploited. They have a number of passengers with average of about 30 passengers per flight. So they need smaller aircraft, what we call feeder service plane,” Akpan said.

Size Critical as Brand New

Last week when Air Peace received third of 13 aircraft it made firm order for from Embraer, the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu, in eulogizing the airline noted that an airline buying the right size of aircraft for its operations is very critical to the success of that airline.

“Today is another milestone and it is a paradigm shift in the aviation industry in Nigeria. Not since the days of Nigeria Airways when I was quite a young man when I started my career have I seen any Nigerian airline purchase brand new aircraft. It is not only ordering a brand new aircraft but the right size aircraft for the Nigerian market.

“That right size is as critical as being brand new because it further enhances the airline economics, you break even with much lower passengers, the operating cost are lower, your maintenance cost are lower, it is much easier.

“You can fly routes and still come out profitable, even when you don’t have too many passengers. In addition to that, another factor we don’t realise, this new aircraft are environment friendly, less noise, less pollution. I am really proud to be the DG of NCAA when this change is coming,” Nuhu said.

The Director General also said with the initiative of Air Peace he hoped that other airlines would follow the same way and buy brand new aircraft types that suit the Nigerian market. “I see a paradigm for other airlines, like the chairman of Air Peace prayed, I also pray that other airlines also will buy brand new aircraft and the right size. So that the air transportation industry can grow much better than it is currently.

“If it grows much better, there will be more jobs; more income and the contribution of the industry to the GDP will grow. Once our contribution to the GDP grows bigger, the government recognises the industry more, with more attention. We are getting good attention now, but the attention will grow and we will become a more relevant sector by increasing our GDP in the industry. We are here to work together and grow the industry,” the Director General said.

He described the relationship between airlines and NCAA as partnership, noting that the agency would always support Nigerian carriers in exploiting domestic, regional and international markets. “We are friends and partners in progress in the industry. If you have issues, we will sit down and discuss and resolve it. Yes, Senator Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation spurred airlines to make such bold move to acquire new aircraft. Most importantly, we need entrepreneurs like Onyema that believes in the country to come and invest, tie all loose ends together and grow the sector.

“I look forward to the day that majority of the Air Peace planes are brand new E195-E2s. Not only will it grow your market domestically, it will grow your market at the regional level. In West and Central Africa, we have 600 million people; you can imagine with the right size aircraft, you can easily airlift 150 million passengers. And I promised we would continue to work together, if you need all the assistance we will cooperate to ensure the industry survives,” Captain Nuhu said.

Cost Cutting Also during the ceremony, the Chairman and CEO of the airline, Allen Onyema, explained that he was encouraged by the Minister’s compelling speech, which urged Nigerian airlines to acquire new aircraft. But at the point the speech was made, many of the domestic carriers were not positively disposed to the speech but with a hind sight, that speech inspired the decision of Air Peace to go for new aircraft and also the right aircraft for its operations.

“The Minster didn’t want Nigeria to be a dumping ground for old planes, not that the old planes are not safe. But at the same time, if you know the amount of money we spend on these planes you will not believe it.

“It is very, very demanding, whatever you make you take it to the MROs (maintenance facility) abroad. So any sensible Minister will be worried. But at that time, we didn’t really understand it but later we started understanding what he was saying. And he started getting us to understand him, trying to explain to us. “Secondly, this government provided enabling environment for us to thrive. The day we went to the Senate, the Minister was fully behind me when I was making presentation as the Vice President of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON). The Minister drove me in his car; we went to the Senate to plead with them to pass certain things into law.

“Today we have Customs duties waived, today we have VAT removed from importation of aircraft, if not I will be paying over N1 billion from this aircraft that is arriving today. Today, it is part of our laws even when President Muhammadu Buhari leaves tomorrow, customs duties, VAT, will never depend any longer on the whims and caprices of whoever becomes President because now it is part of our laws. So government has created the environment for the industry to thrive, it has never happened in the last 15 years,” Onyema said.

Seychelles Extends Virus Curbs Indefinitely as Outbreak Rages - BLOOMBERG

JUNE 27, 2021

BY  Vidya Gappy and Antony Sguazzin

  •  Island nation has vaccinated 70% of its 98,000 people
  •  Coronavirus infections surged in early May, remain high

Seychelles extended curbs imposed on movement and gatherings indefinitely as the world’s most-vaccinated nation fights a persistently high number of coronavirus infections.

The palm-fringed Indian Ocean archipelago has seen a large number of infections since early May even though 70% of it 98,000 people are fully vaccinated with either Sinopharm or AstraZeneca Plc vaccines. It had rushed to conduct an inoculation campaign and reopen to tourism, the lifeblood of its economy.

“In view of the persistent community transmission of Covid-19, the increasing number of deaths, the confirmation of the presence of variants circulating in the population, the Public Health Authority is reinforcing the public health and social measures in place,” the health ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Bars, casinos and shops have to close at 7 p.m., events such as wedding celebrations are banned and gatherings of more than four people, unless its for work, is banned indoors and outdoors.

“These measures will remain in force and can only be relaxed when the outbreak is under greater control,” the ministry said.

Nipping Rail Vandalisation in the Bud - THISDAY

JUNE 28, 2021


Kasim Sumaina writes on the need for government to nip in the bud the recent ugly trend of vandalisation in newly-constructed rail tracks by highly-placed government officials and some unscrupulous elements in the society

It is often said that evil, like death, could be found among any one. To this end, one cannot be surprised by the recent alleged arrest of highly-placed government officials involved in vandalising rail infrastructures.

The importance of railway as mode of transportation cannot be over-emphasised. Railway over the years has played a great role in economy development to the country and the expectation is that the recent government drive to modernise the rail sector should be given the full support it needs. However, despite government’s on-going efforts to build, revamp and resuscitate existing rail tracks and constructing new rail lines across the country with huge borrowing facilities, recent activities of some citizens in connivance with foreign nationals to cart away rail components built with huge loans from the Chinese government. This development has given stakeholders serious concern.

According to an industry expert, this is what happens when some unscrupulous elements in the society hate their country so much that they desire its demise. These tracks were laid in the late 1980s. Why are they being vandalised now?

He noted that rail tracks should be given special recognition as it’s annoying to see people destroying what was built for the betterment of their states.

While the federal government had already begun negotiations for additional loans, which, If granted, will balloon Nigeria’s public debt stock, which according to data from the Debt Management Office (DMO), stood at N33.107 trillion ($87.239 billion) as at March 31, 2021, despite public outcry.

If government is bent on contracting more loans for railway expansion, it should be prepared to safeguard the already existing infrastructures from vandalism or all will amount to nothing.

Barely six months after the inauguration of the Itakpe-Warri rail by President Muhammadu Buhari, a project abandoned more than 35 years ago by successive administrations, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), raised the alarm over the vandalism of the newly-fixed Itakpe-Warri rail line by persons who cut off several sections of the track. In a viral video, the vandals used saw-like object to cut through the rail line to a point, where the pieces could be carted away, thereby exposing passengers to danger. The corporation, also announced the arrest of two persons suspected of vandalising rail tracks along the Kaduna-Zaria rail line.

The Managing Director/CEO, NRC, Mr. Fidet Okhiria, had confirmed the development to journalists stating that vandals perpetrated the act on the Warri-Itakpe standard gauge line around KM 30 Adogo, Kogi State section of the rail. He noted that despite the incident, the train was still being operated as there was an alternative.

Also, NRC Northern District Engineer, Mr. Haruna Sabo, also recently told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in Zaria that two persons suspected of vandalising rail tracks along the Kaduna-Zaria rail line had been arrested. He had also stated that the corporation had deployed patrol teams along the rail line following the repeated vandalism of the rail tracks. Sabo said those arrested were members of a syndicate that specialised in removing rail clips that hold sleepers and rail tracks together.

Sabo said the suspects were arrested by staff of the NRC district office at Sayi-Dumbi rail section along the Zaria-Kaduna axis on Friday. He gave the names of the suspects as: Sabitu Kabiru of Matara Sarki in Zaria and a trader, Sabi’u Shehu.

What now appears a lucrative job also saw the Special Adviser on Infrastructure to Nasarawa State Governor, Yusuf Abubakar Musa, picked up by the state Police Command for vandalising NRC facilities alongside two police officers and one operative of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), among others. The state Commissioner of Police, Bola Longe, recently paraded the arrested Special Adviser alongside 16 other suspected vandals at the state command headquarters in Lafia. Longe gave details of other suspected vandals to include Mohammed Isiaka, former supervisory councilor on Education in Nasarawa Eggon Local Government Area, Mr. Marta Thai; a Chinese national and manager of Young Steel Company, Abuja (receiver); and Jacob Terlumun Emmanuel, the procurement officer of the Chinese company.

Others arrested, according to him, were “Samuel Shagbaor, a staff of the NRC and the principal technical officer covering Agyaragu, Lafia and its suburbs; Umaru Dauda and Abubakar Nuhu, owners of the trailer, who offered N160,000 bribe to secure the trailer; Nathaniel Oba, Principal partner, Nathoba and co, a law chamber in Benin-city, Edo State, who is the legal adviser to Yong Xing Steel Company Nigeria Limited, who offered N600,000 to bribe the investigating team of the Police Anti-kidnapping Unit to secure the release of his client.

Similarly, the Nigerian Police a week ago announced the arrest of criminal syndicate responsible for recent vandalisation of rail tracks in the North-west and North-central parts of the country. The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Frank Mba, a Commissioner of Police, said the arrest followed deliberate efforts by the force to contain and clamp down on perpetrators of recent incidents of rail tracks vandalisation, carting away of critical locomotive equipment and other related economic crimes in some parts of the country.

He said the arrested suspected vandals were among a total of 36 criminal suspects arrested by the police recently.

Parading the suspects in Abuja, he said the arrests were achieved due to sustained nationwide tactical, anti-crime operations by the Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) and the Special Tactical Squad (STS) in the ongoing efforts aimed at stemming criminal activities particularly violent crimes in the country.

According to him, “Exhibits recovered in the operations included eight AK-49 rifles; three AK-47 rifles; one locally made rifle; 346 rounds of AK-47 live ammunition; 24 live cartridges; 20 AK-47 magazine, N1.4 million; vehicles, including two Toyota Corolla (Abuja -RBC 653 AE and ABC 906 AG); one Toyota Camry; one 307 Peugeot (Abuja-BWR 920 HK); one 406 Peugeot and one Honda. The rail track vandalism suspects, Idris Lawal, 42; Abdullahi Musa, 29, and Usman Umar, 22, were arrested following a coordinated intelligence-driven special operation on May 27, 2021, which uncovered a warehouse in Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State. A cordon and search operation conducted by the police operatives on the building revealed different vandalised rail equipment, stolen rail installation racks, weld-shear, rail puller, and other rail accessories and consumables. He said further investigations by the police team led to the interception of three heavily-loaded trucks along Ikom-Ibom junction in Cross Rivers State.

According to the PPRO, the trucks were fully loaded with vandalised rail items transported from the warehouse. Investigation is on-going to identity the destination, the targeted criminal receivers, end-users and other suspects complicit in the crime.

But, with the increasing cases of rail tracks vandalisation, industry observers are of the view that the Nigerian government’s seeming indifference is given rise to the ugly trend as those arrested are treated with kid gloves.

The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, had recently disclosed that the federal government had so far repaid over $150 million out of the $500 million facility secured by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan for the Abuja-Kaduna railway. Meaning an additional $350 million dollars is needed to offset the loan obtained from the Chinese government. He said, under the regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the loan for Abuja – Kaduna was about $500 million. “As of today, we have paid over $150 million on that loan.”

He empahsised that Nigeria had never defaulted when it comes to loan repayment. And that he didn’t also expect that the nation will default on any other loan the government has taken.

He also informed that the loan for Ibadan-Kano project was about $1.5 billion, stating that the rest of $500 million came from “our budget and I expect that whatever loans we take we will be able to pay.” Just when the federal government has started making headways in rail modernisation and its generated income risen from N70 million to N350 on Abuja-Kaduna corridor alone as disclosed by the Minister, and with huge debt staring at us, unscrupulous element are bent on distabilising on-going government railway modernisation plan through vandalisation. While efforts of the Nigerian Police should be commended, there is the need for the Nigerian Railway Corporation to synergise with various security agencies in the country to curtail the situation.

Okhiria, the NRC MD, told THISDAY in a telephone interview that efforts were being put in place not only to arrest those stealing the corporation’s properties, but to safeguard the rail tracks across the country.

Okhiria noted that the corporation has started a deliberate strategy to synergise with various community leaders to see how vigilantes will be drafted in to protect tracks along their corridor.

Also, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has ordered the arrest of buyers of vandalised rail track facilities and equipment.

Amaechi said cases of vandalisation exists because there were those who have indicated interest in the vandalised facilities. He also said the rate of vandalisation would reduce, if the judiciary system dispenses justice without delay.

“I don’t know why some Nigerians are like the way they are. I have told the Managing Director of NRC to arrest the buyers of the equipment. It is not enough to arrest the vandals. It is likened to those who said why should the National Assembly punish those who pay ransom? That law was first passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly when I was a speaker and the reason is, that, when there is no demand, there will be no supply. “If we don’t pay ransom, they will be tired and they will stop. The same way, if they don’t buy those metals, slippers and others, nobody will steal them,” he said

“Also, we must approach the Judiciary to have court that can dispense justice readily so that people are sent to jail early enough to deter others and we will also encourage our governors to create jobs,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr. Usman Baba, expressed the determination of the police to ensure that public spaces are reclaimed from criminal elements and a comfortable level of public safety and security achieved in all parts of the country.

He said all the suspects would be charged to court on completion of investigations

The question is, should the vandalisation be traced to lack of job opportunities or something else? Experts has attributed the spate of vandalisation bedeviling the rail sector to the negligence of traditional institutions, adding that the traditional institution has the vital role to play in curbing train tracks vandalisation along their domain.

They are also of the opinion that the NRC should engaged other relevant stakeholders within the rail corridors to sensitise their wards of the danger of trespassing on rail tracks and vandalising it.

Belgium’s entry ban for travellers from 24 countries comes into force today - BRUSSELS TIMES

JUNE 28, 2021

By Maïthé Chini

Credit: Danny Howard/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

As of today/Saturday 26 June, an entry ban for most travellers coming to Belgium from 24 countries, including the United Kingdom, enters into force.

The 24 countries on the list are considered as “very high-risk zones” by Belgium because of the increasingly strong circulation of coronavirus variants of concern (such as the Delta variant). At the end of April, Belgium already imposed an entry ban on travellers coming from India, Brazil and South Africa.

Among the 24 countries now on the list, is the UK, which recorded 15,810 new coronavirus infections in one day on Friday, and as many as 16,703 on Thursday.

The other countries are Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Chile, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Georgia, Jordan, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda, Uruguay and Zimbabwe. 

“I am not happy about it, but we have to protect ourselves against what is happening in these countries,” Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said when announcing the ban last week.

The entry ban applies to travellers coming from all countries on this list, and means that most people who were on one of their territories at some point in the last 14 days are prohibited from travelling – directly or indirectly – to Belgium.

Exceptions are only made for Belgian nationals, people who have their main residence in Belgium and people in transit, as well as for a very limited number of authorised essential journeys, such as travel by transport personnel and diplomats.

All this will certainly have an impact on travel during the holiday period, according to Brussels Airlines, which operates flights from Kinshasa in Congo and Entebbe in Uganda.

The measure comes very suddenly, as it was published on Thursday and already enters into force today, the company told the Belga news agency.

For the time being, there is no information on how long these travel measures will stay in place.

FG restricts travellers from South Africa amid surge in COVID-19 cases - BUSINESSDAY

JUNE 28, 2021

...extends restrictions on three others

BY Godsgift Onyedine

The Nigerian government has restricted entry to travellers from South Africa, amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, and to avoid the importation of the variants of concern.

It would be recalled that the federal government through the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 had in May banned travellers who visited India, Brazil and Turkey within 14 days preceding travel to Nigeria.

Boss Msutapha, chairman PSC and Secretary to the Government of the federation, speaking at a press briefing on Monday, said South Africa was added to the list after the country recorded a surge in cases with over 100, 000 cases in the last one week and 20,000 recorded in the last 24 hours.

The chairman also informed that the restrictions on India, Brazil and Turkey will remain for another four weeks before it is further reviewed.

Part of the restrictions is that Nigerian citizens and permanent residents in Nigeria who have travelled to at least one of the affected countries in the last 14 days will be required to undergo a mandatory one-week quarantine at a government-approved facility upon arrival.

In addition to the above countries, Mistapha said the PSC has also shifted its focus on some African countries. They include Zambia, Rwanda, Namibia and Uganda

He noted that there are four major variants of concern now classified as Alpha (UK), Beta (SA); Gamma (Brazil) and Delta (India).

Mustapha however informed that the Delta variant which has wreaked devastating havoc, is not yet found in Nigeria hence the need to tighten borders and be more vigilant.

On the issue of Emirates flights in and out of Nigeria, the Chairman said the relevant Ministries continued to review developments and concluded that any decision to fly the Nigerian route by an airline is a business decision.

“In all circumstances, however, conditions placed on such flights must conform with international civil aviation standards and must not be discriminatory and must respect our sovereignty”, he said.

“The PSC wishes to encourage members of the public not to lower their guards yet because we continue to see spikes in some countries (including African countries) and the emergence of variants of concern in several jurisdictions where the third wave has occurred”, he added.


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