‘Passports in 72 hours’ — FG unveils immigration express service - PUNCH
by Idris Shehu
The federal government has unveiled the express passport processing centre of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).
The centre, dubbed the “premium passport processing centre”, is expected to cater to Nigerians seeking to obtain their passports within a maximum of 72 hours.
At the unveiling of the centre in Abuja on Tuesday, Rauf Aregbesola, minister of interior, said the facility is the first of its kind, adding that other centres will be open across the country.
He also categorised the offers available, stating that the speed of the passport processing is based on the option selected.
“It is a first of many more to be established and designed to offer specialised services to Nigerians,” Aregbesola said.
“Every Nigerian has the right to a Nigerian passport and it is our responsibility to put it in the hands of anyone desirous of it within the shortest possible time, without stress. The passport should be available in a maximum 72 hours of a successful application.
“Where there are issues, the applicant must be notified within 48 hours. It will also afford Nigerians the opportunity of getting their passports within 24 hours, at the high premium service and 72 hours at the ordinary premium service, albeit with added value and a little bit of extra cost.
“A centre like this is necessary to reduce stress. Secondly, by minimising human contact, it eliminates the prospect of corruption.
“The commencement of the operations of this world-class facility will offer Nigerians services of convenience and pleasure by taking away the hitherto stress in the conventional passport offices.”
On his part, Muhammed Babandede, NIS comptroller-general, promised that the centre will offer “effective and efficient passport services to applicants”.
Nigeria: students look beyond “Big Five” for study - THE PIE
As a lack of spaces in Nigerian higher education leaves the majority of college entrance exam takers without a place in higher education, budget conscious would-be international students are becoming more interested in alternative destinations outside of the “Big Five” study destinations.
About Callan Quinn
Callan first began her media career in China with the expat magazine City Weekend. After travelling around Australia and New Zealand, she went on to launch an NGO-focused magazine in Somaliland and later worked as a freelance editor for China Daily. She has also lectured at Frantz Fanon University and Tianjin Polytechnic on academic English and cross-cultural communication. Get in touch with Callan at [email protected]
"You can't study in the US or the UK with $2,000. However, there's an opportunity for you to study in Lithuania or Poland"
According to figures from Campus France’s Chiffres Cles 2021 report, Nigeria saw 76,338 students head abroad to study in 2018, a drop of 11% which the report attributed to the drop in oil prices, the depreciation of the local currency and the lack of international purchasing power among the Nigerian middle class.
The 2020 edition of the report did suggest that this had led to some reconsideration of study destinations. Between 2012 and 2017, the UK saw at 27% drop in international students from Nigeria. However, in the same year “just under one in four mobile Nigerian students chose another country of Sub-Saharan Africa as their study destination”, including Ghana and Benin.
“We have Canada really emerging strongly [as well as] Malaysia and South Africa. I also think China is one country we should all watch out for because we’ve seen an increase in the number of students headed to China in the last two years based on lots of scholarships being available for them,” explained Folashade Adebayo, senior education adviser at the US Embassy Abuja, Nigeria, in a recent PIE Live webinar.
“We’ve seen an increase in the number of students headed to China in the last two years”
“[In the US] we’ve seen an increase in students and parents interested in historically black colleges. A lot of people are really looking at affordability so HBCU schools are coming into the limelight. And a lot of students are pursuing that option just because of scholarship opportunities.”
Other stakeholders are starting to take a tech-based approach. The MyStudyPath platform, for example, has been launched by Imperial Education Services to help students find study abroad opportunities and connect with institutions online within their budget.
“There’s something in our company we call the three Cs,” explained Lanre Ogundipe, and education consultant at IES.
“The three Cs are basically the three major considerations that Nigerian students consider before they make a journey abroad: the cost of the education, the course of study and the country.
“Sometimes we get enquiries from students who want to study in the UK, and we ask them what’s their budget and they tell you $2,000,” he continued.
“So you have let them understand that I’m sorry but you can’t study in the US or the UK with $2,000. However, there’s an opportunity for you to study in Lithuania or Poland.”
Yet while there may have been some reluctance in the past to stray from the traditional study destinations, Laveen Melwani, senior recruitment manager and Africa education expert at the EU Business School, has also seen growing acceptance of new destinations – including Spain, Germany and Switzerland – and predicted it will continue.
“We see a phenomenal growth of students looking outside the traditional spaces for education as well because of the opportunities that are there in these places in terms of careers and cultural exchange programs,” he added.
On the flip side, others argue that the pent up demand for higher education in Nigeria also presents an opportunity to build up capacity in-country through private institutions and TNE programs.
“What we are seeing in Africa is that private education has a lot of opportunities. There is a very high demand for higher education,” said Laura Kakon, chief growth and strategy officer at the pan-African Honoris United Universities.
“There is a growing need to partner the public sector and private sector in order to increase access to quality education across the continent.”
Nigeria loses 20% passenger traffic over Emirates, Etihad exit - THE GUARDIAN
By Wole Oyebade
•Foreign airlines rally behind controversial rapid antigen test
The suspension of Emirates Airlines and Etihad’s withdrawal from Nigerian airspace has cost the country, at least, a 20 per cent decline in international passenger traffic.
The Guardian learned that the decline was a major setback for air travel’s gradual recovery that earlier climbed to 45 per cent of pre-COVID-19 traffic.
Meanwhile, foreign airlines have rallied behind the controversial rapid antigen tests as a better alternative to the popular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test standard for COVID-19. To that effect, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged governments to accept best-in-class rapid antigen tests following the publication of new research findings.
The Federal Government lately suspended the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) national carrier, Emirates, over the arbitrary imposition of rapid antigen testing on Nigerian travellers to UAE, and refusal to reverse the order.
From findings, Emirates and Dubai Airport authorities took the extra safety measures following cases of fake COVID-19 PCR test results coming from Nigeria, among others, in the wake of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the UAE. Similarly, Etihad voluntarily withdrew services from Nigeria though quietly.
Chairman of the Airline Passenger Joint Committee (APJC), Bankole Bernard, yesterday said the withdrawal of the UAE airlines was unfortunate, with a significant impact on passenger traffic.
Bernard, who is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Finchglow Travels, said the market’s erstwhile recovery of 45 per cent had in the last two weeks slumped to 15 per cent following the withdrawal of both Emirates and Etihad.
“That is so because Nigerians are not allowed into the UAE. Besides frequencies to Dubai, Nigerians had often connected other parts of the world through Dubai given their effective connectivity, which other destinations and airlines don’t have. So, the withdrawal of Emirates and Etihad is a big loss for all,” he said.
Bernard added that the UAE authorities were not to blame for the additional rapid antigen test controversy.
“They (UAE) value lives ahead of money. They value every life in their country, unlike us here. They found the impact of fake COVID-19 test results too huge to handle and found themselves caught in-between.
“Unfortunately, we (Nigeria) didn’t even see the fake results as a big deal, to warrant investigation and prosecution. Etihad withdrew, we didn’t even see the need to find out why and see how to work together to resolve the problem. It is a shame,” Bernard said.
But the OXERA-Edge Health report, commissioned by IATA, has found that antigen tests to be most effective. From findings, the best antigen tests provide broadly comparable results to PCR tests in accurately identifying infected travellers. The BinaxNOW antigen test, for example, misses just one positive case in 1000 travellers (based on an infection rate of one per cent among travellers). And it has similarly comparable performance to PCR tests in levels of false negatives.
In terms of convenience, processing times for antigen tests are 100 times faster than for PCR testing. Cost-efficient: antigen tests are, on average, 60 per cent cheaper than PCR tests.
IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, said restarting international aviation would energise the economic recovery from COVID-19.
“Along with vaccines, testing will play a critical role in giving governments the confidence to re-open their borders to travellers. For governments, the top priority is accuracy. But travellers will also need tests to be convenient and affordable. The OXERA-Edge Health report tells us that the best-in-class antigen tests can tick all these boxes. It’s important for governments to consider these findings as they make plans for a re-start,” de Juniac said.
He added that testing requirements are currently fragmented, which is confusing to travellers. Moreover, many governments do not allow rapid testing. If the only options available for travellers are PCR tests, these come with significant costs disadvantages and inconvenience. And in some parts of the world, PCR testing capacity is limited, with priority correctly given to clinical use.
“Travellers need options. Including antigen testing among acceptable tests will certainly give strength to the recovery. And the EU’s specification of acceptable antigen tests offers a good baseline for wider international harmonisation of acceptable standards. We now need to see governments implement these recommendations. The goal is to have a clear set of testing options that are medically effective, financially accessible, and practically available to all prospective travelers,” de Juniac said.
Digital vaccine passport for travel to launch on Apple within weeks - THE TELEGRAPH
Plans for digital vaccine passports were given a boost this morning after IATA, the global airline industry body, revealed its version of a digital travel pass would be launched on the Apple platform in mid-April.
Spain also today said it expects digital vaccine passports that can ease travel within the European Union to be ready in June at the latest.
Elsewhere, Deliveroo's shares have plunged as much as 31pc, the worst performance in decades for a big UK float. Its poor debut has dealt a blow to London’s efforts to establish itself as a hub for technology listings in the wake of Brexit.
And Bill Gates and the billionaire behind the mobile network Three, Li Ka-Shing, have invested a further $24m into a hydrogen plane start-up.
ZeroAvia, which is based in Cranfield and also has backing from the government, is working on a hydrogen powered propulsion system that will ultimately allow aircraft with up to 50 passengers.
IATA says travel pass app to launch on Apple mid-April
Some more vaccine passport news this morning: Global airline industry body IATA has just announced that a digital travel pass for Covid-19 test results and vaccine certificates will launch on the Apple platform in mid-April.
The digital travel pass, currently in the testing phase, had been planned to be launched by the end of March.
IATA Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East Kamil Alawadhi said it was expected to launch on the Apple platform around April 15, and later for the Android platform.
"But the application will only achieve its success once airlines, different countries, airports adopt it," Alawadhi said.
Virgin Atlantic said on Friday it would trial the IATA app on its London to Barbados route from April 16. Barbados has said it will accept the pass at its border, one of the first countries to accept a digital pass instead of paper documentation.
Delta to resume selling middle seats as travel rebound builds - BLOOMBERG
Delta Air Lines Inc. will resume selling middle seats on May 1, ending the social-distancing policy after more than a year as a rising pace of COVID-19 vaccinations spurs a U.S. travel rebound.
In another sign of normalization, expanded offerings of onboard snacks, cocktails and other beverages will restart next month, Delta said in a statement Wednesday. The company is also extending the validity of tickets purchased in 2020 and 2021 through the end of next year, and adding more time for travelers to use some benefits earned through the Delta credit card.
The Atlanta-based airline is restoring elements of its pre-pandemic service amid rising evidence of a long-expected resurgence in travel demand as consumers seek to escape a year of staying close to home. With rivals American Airlines Group Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. saying their planes are now flying as much as 80 per cent full, Delta will become the last major U.S. carrier to resume selling all of the seats in its cabins.
The decision to stop blocking middle seats was based in part on “the knowledge that nearly 65 per cent of those who flew Delta in 2019 anticipate having at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1,” Delta Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said in the statement. Masks will continue to be required during flights, the carrier said.
Starting April 14, domestic and short-haul international flights will offer snacks, sodas and alcohol, along with tea and coffee, the airline said. On some U.S. transcontinental flights, hot meals will return for first-class passengers and flyers in the airline’s premium Delta One seats. Boxed meals will come back in first class on some flights starting in July.
Many U.S. carriers removed meals and snacks for sale on board and served only bottled water during most of the pandemic, in an effort to help reduce person-to-person contact and make the onboard environment safer. Delta’s loyalty clubs will start to bring back food and beverages in May.
The airline will continue waiving change fees for no-frills Basic Economy tickets purchased through April 30, along with tickets that originate outside North America.
Visa On Arrival Not Compromising National Security - NIS Boss - NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
By Clement Idoko - Abuja
THE Nigeria Immigration Service has insisted that the visa on arrival policy introduced to enhance ease of doing business in Nigeria has not in any way compromised national security.
Comptroller-General of NIS, Mr Muhammad Babandede, who said this on Wednesday in Abuja, said he was delighted that VOA has constituted 20 per cent of arrivals, which he said was a good development.
He also dismissed claims that the Federal Government is owing to a Malaysian company billions of naira for alleged passport booklets production contract. He maintained that passport booklets production is private-sector financed and that the Nigerian government is not owning anybody for the contract.
While explaining that the current scarcity of the travel document was temporary and caused by foreign exchange challenge, Babandede explained that Iris Smart Technology Nigeria Limited who won the contract for the supply of the passport booklets and maintenance is purely a Nigerian company, stressing that the Immigration Service has no business with a Malaysian company as reported in a section of the media.
The Immigration boss noted that Nigeria Visa Policy 2020 to cater for requirements and need of migrants intending to travel to Nigeria, was to liberalize the Visa issuance and process, ease doing business in Nigeria, encourage Foreign Direct Investments and make Nigeria the most preferred destination and hospitality hub.
He said the Visa on Arrival was originally conceived for business purpose and investment, but later extended to others during the COVID-19 lockdown to facilitate movements for essential service workers.
He said the same with Visa on Arrival for Africans and holders of African Union (AU) Passports to come to Nigeria and take their visas at the Point of Entry, Airport specifically, not Land or Sea Borders.
He frowned at the issue of fake marriages between foreigners and Nigerian ladies carried out to evade payment for Resident Permit, saying this has been on the increase from the year 2020 and that the policy would soon be reviewed.
Speaking further on passport scarcity, he said: “I must emphasize that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that
production of Nigerian Passport is domesticated.
“We as the operational arm of government have complied by making a proposal to ease the transition and to avoid a drought leading to shortage.
“A lot of Nigerians abroad especially in places like France, UK, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia and countries that have put stringent measures in place including locking down till date, Nigerians in those countries and others
experience hardship in renewing their Passports and could not obtain a new one both to continue staying with a valid Passport and for travelling back to Nigeria.
“We are working tirelessly with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to resolve the technical issues that are hampering the smooth transition,” he said.
He explained that as some of the affected countries are under lockdown, the Nigerian missions would have to also comply by closing down.
Babandede said: “With the closure of some Missions due to COVID-19 compliant policy of some countries, Nigerians in such countries where Missions are closed and are holding expired Passports can board aircraft after applying to the CGI for approval and clearance received they can proceed to the Airport for their onward journey o Nigeria.
“The Minister of Interior has magnanimously approved for the purpose of mitigating the problem opening of three (3) front Offices at three (3) International Airports namely: Mallam Animu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano; Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja and Murtala Muhammad International Airport (MMIA), Lagos
“This is to attend to the passport need of Nigerians on arrival with an expired passport before entry into the country,” he said.
NLC ends strike, give Turkish Airlines ultimatum - PUNCH
BY Joseph Olaoluwa
The Nigerian Labour Congress has called off its strike to ground Turkish Airlines on Tuesday over the violation of workers’ rights.
The organised labour had vowed to picket the airline on March 30, 2021, adding that the mass action would commence in Lagos and Abuja airport toll gates in a letter to the general manager of the foreign carrier.
The PUNCH learnt the labour congress demobilised the protest after they received orders from the President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, not to go on with the strike action.
This was after several labour leaders from other allied unions converged on the Lagos airport to seek reversal of the sack of trade union leaders working in Turkish Airlines.
Chairperson, NLC Lagos State Council, Sessi Funmi, told our correspondent in an interview that workers demobilised after the airline sought to dialogue with the labour union.
She said, “Comrade Ayuba Wabba was to lead the picketing in Abuja while I was to lead the picketing in Lagos. But late yesterday night, the company called that they want us to sit down and dialogue with them.
“They initially brought one letter and I told them it was not acceptable. Based on that agreement, we are holding them in trust that everything will be resolved before May 1, 2021. If not, we will come back for them.”
Funmi made a case for the aviation workers, stressing that their rights should not be trampled upon.
She said all workers must be given respect, dignity and an enabling environment to work.
The NLC labour chairperson also warned that the airline must recall its sacked members before May 1 and pay all outstanding entitlements fully or face a serious mass action.
She said, “The NLC is fully into the action and we just want to respect the rule of dialogue. This is the last opportunity and we want them to take it seriously.
“We expect that on or before the recall date, their entitlements are paid to them in full. We also look forward to a cordial relationship between employers and employees.”
Funmi said workers had a right to form associations.