Second Niger Bridge Now 91% Complete, Says FG - CHANNELS TV
The Federal Government has disclosed that the Second Niger Bridge linking Anambra and Delta states, scheduled for completion in February 2022, is now 91 per cent completed.
Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, made this announcement on Thursday during the Special Weekly ministerial briefing at the State House in Abuja.
According to him, the 206 billion naira project has directly employed 1,486 people, while 8,110 indirect jobs have equally been created.
The Works and Housing Minister pegged major projects under the Presidential Infrastructure Development fund including the 375km Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway estimated at 797 billion naira; the 11.59km Second Niger Bridge at 206 billion naira and the 127km Lagos-Ibadan Expressway at 310 billion naira, at 1.3 trillion naira.
He noted that the Lagos Ibadan Express Way and Second Niger Bridge will be completed by the end of the year while the main Carriageway of Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano expressway is scheduled for completion by the second quarter of 2023.
The Second Niger Bridge was first proposed during the 1978/79 political campaign by then-candidate Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
However, in August 2012, the Federal Executive Council under then-President Jonathan’s approved a contract worth N325 million for the final planning and design of the bridge.
A somewhat complicated procedure continued under President Muhammad Buhari, who first cancelled the earlier contract in August 2015.
UK average house price jumps almost 10% to £274,000 in January - YAHOO FINANCE
The average price for a home in the UK jumped £24,000 in a year to reach £274,000 in January, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Prices increased over the year across the UK, with the average house price in England is now at a record level of £292,000.
The average house price in Wales increased by 13.9% over the year to January 2022, up from an increase of 12.4% in December 2021, with the average house price in Wales now at a record level of £206,000.
The average house price in Scotland increased by 10.8% over the year to January 2022, up from an increase of 10.2% in the year to December 2021, with the average house price in Scotland now at £183,000.
Northern Ireland remains the cheapest UK country to purchase a property in, with the average house price at £159,000
Overall, UK average house prices increased by 9.6% over the year to January 2022. Still, the figure is down from the 10% recorded in December 2021.
London remains the region with the lowest annual house price growth, where average prices increased by 2.2% over the year to January 2022, down from 5.1% in December 2021.
Despite being the region with the lowest annual growth, London's average house prices remain the most expensive of any region in the UK, with an average price of £510,000 in January 2022.
The North East continued to have the lowest average house price at £151,000.
Karen Noye, mortgage expert at Quilter, said: “The latest UK house price index shows house price growth has continued to slow, but prices are yet to start falling.
“Many people are already feeling the squeeze financially due to soaring inflation and the rising cost of living, leaving many feeling less financially stable than they were before. Lenders are quick to pass on any rate rise to customers, so the increased costs will likely put off prospective buyers and buying a new home or taking the first step onto the property ladder will be pushed out of reach for many. As a result, we could see house prices dip over the coming months."
Ukraine crisis seen as threat to African airlines' recovery - YAHOO FINANCE
NAIROBI, March 24 (Reuters) - A drawn-out conflict between Russia and Ukraine could further drive up oil prices and end African airlines' recovery from the pandemic slump, the head of the industry's association said on Thursday.
Unless the conflict is resolved as soon as possible, it will harm economies, increase ticket prices and curb demand for travel and tourism on the continent, Abderahmane Berthe, secretary general of the African Airlines Association, said.
"It will be another crisis our industry will have to face," he said in an interview.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, African carriers are expected to lose a total of $23.7 billion by the end of this year, said Berthe, whose association brings together 44 airlines, including the continent's biggest: Ethiopian Airlines.
Passenger traffic on the continent stands at about half of the pre-COVID level, Berthe said, reflecting lower vaccination rates that have forced many governments to keep travel restrictions in place.
"Many airplanes are still grounded," he said.
To boost the sector's recovery, African governments should allow unvaccinated passengers to travel if they present negative COVID-19 test results, he said. The continent has vaccinated just 15% of its adult population, the World Health Organization says.
The sector also requires financial support, including tax deferral, tax cuts and access to financing, Berthe said, adding that a $25 billion support package for aviation, mooted by the African Union in 2020, did not materialise.
Already African carriers' share of intercontinental passenger traffic had halved to 20% in the two decades leading up to the onset of the coronavirus crisis, the secretary general said.
He called for consolidation and co-operation among the companies to help to cut costs and allow more effective competition with their counterparts in Europe, the United States and the Middle East.
AFRAA expects the industry to return to pre-COVID levels by the end of 2023 to the start of 2024, Berthe said, but that high prices of oil put that forecast at risk.
"Fuel represents the biggest share of operating expenses for airlines," he said.
Reporting by Duncan Miriri; editing by Barbara Lewis
BREAKING: Bandits storm Kaduna Airport, kill one, stop aircraft from taking off - DAILY POST
Report reaching DAILY POST newsdesk has it that bandits, on Saturday, stormed the Kaduna International Airport, stopping an aircraft from taking off.
It was gathered that the aircraft, which was billed to take off at 12.30pm, could not proceed due to the presence of the heavily-armed bandits around the runway of the airport.
It was also gathered that hoodlums, who stormed the runaway, forced officials of the airline and passengers to run for safety.
It was also learnt that bandits killed a staff of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).
‘’As I speak to you now, there is already a military presence to beef up security, though most of the staff are scared with the killing of the NAMA staff,” a source said.
As at the time of filing this report, security agencies at the airport were yet to react to the incident.
More to come.
BREAKING: Terrorists prevent aircraft’s take-off, kill one at Kaduna airport - PUNCH
BY Godwin Isenyo
Suspected terrorists attacked the Kaduna International Airport located in Igabi Local Government Area the Kaduna State on Saturday.
The attackers, numbering over 200 were said to have taken over the airport.
The development caused panic at the airport as the suspected terrorists reportedly killed one security official of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency.
The attack, it was gathered forced the authority to temporarily shut down activities while the military battled the suspected terrorists.
A source who confided in our correspondent said the terrorists insisted on shutting down the airport.
Following the presence of the terrorists on the runway area of the airport, workers attached to the airport were said to have left their duty posts.
It was also gathered that an aircraft scheduled to take off for Lagos at 12:30pm could not fly as a result of the presence of the terrorists at the runway of the airport.
Our correspondent gathered that most of the workers at the airport had fled as more military personnel have been deployed to the airport.
The source said, “They started attacking the Airport around midnight. The soldiers were able to repel them that midnight and we thought that was all. In fact, our workers resumed work this morning as usual till around 12:00 pm.
“Then, shortly after that, some NAMA workers went to check some of their equipment, then these bandits appeared and started shooting.
“The NAMA engineers scampered for safety, they could not even go and enter the vehicle that took them to the site. It was in the process that their security man was shot in the head.
“The security man was rushed to the hospital and he was confirmed dead.
“As I am talking to you now, the soldiers are still battling those bandits, and they are proving difficult to be repelled. Now, they had shut down the airport.”
Meanwhile, as of the time of filing this report, neither the state nor the police had confirmed the attack.
The Kaduna State Police Command’s Public Relations Officer, ASP Muhammad Jalige, however, promised to get back to our correspondent.
Nigeria High Commission in UK suspends e-passport biometrics capture over ‘assault of staff’ - THE CABLE
The Nigeria High Commission in London has suspended biometric capturing for persons interested in applying for the e-passport.
In 2021, the federal government launched the enhanced e-passport to address issues of forgery and improve the application process.
According to a statement issued by the commission on Saturday, the biometrics capture was suspended after a meeting to deliberate on issues surrounding assault of staff members.
The suspension is effective from March 28, 2022.
“At the launch of Enhanced E-passport operations in London on 23rd November 2021, Nigerians in the United Kingdom were quite optimistic of improvements in service by the Immigration Section, on the issuance of Passports,” the statement reads.
“The issuance, renewal, and operations since the introduction of the new Enhanced E-passport have been fraught with many challenges, particularly on the issuance of National Identification Number (NIN) and the appointments for biometrics capture.
“The Mission feels and shares in the pains of teeming Nigerians since the launching of the new Enhanced E-passport scheme in the United Kingdom by the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
“The staff of the High Commission are currently being assaulted on regular basis on account of attendant frustrations, particularly by Nigerians who travel long distances from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Manchester, Cardiff, Birmingham, etc., to the Mission in London without positive resolution of their respective consular issues.
“Nigerians with dual citizenship desirable of renewing their British Passports and those seeking the issuance of British Resident Permit (BRP) are also usually on edge because of the inability of the Mission to resolve their legitimate needs and requirements.
“The meeting deliberated extensively on the current challenges associated with the issuance of passports as enumerated above and agreed that drastic actions must be taken to bring succour to Nigerians in the UK. A stitch in time saves nine.
“The leadership of the Nigeria High Commission remains responsive to the needs and welfare of Nigerians in the United Kingdom. Consequently, the biometrics capture on the new Enhanced E-Passport at the Nigeria High Commission in London is hereby suspended with effect from Monday, 28th March 2022, until these challenges are resolved, in the interest of the Nigerian Community in the United Kingdom.
“Whilst we regret the inconveniences the suspension may cause, the Emergency Travel Certificate window and visas for British-Nigerians are available as a stop-gap measure.”
In 2020, the commission had suspended passport processing to limit exposure of staff and applicants to the coronavirus.
China Covid Spike Preceded by Surge in Cases From Hong Kong - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- China’s worst Covid-19 outbreak since Wuhan was preceded by an influx of imported cases from Hong Kong, showing the risk the city’s virus crisis poses to the mainland.
Just across the border from Hong Kong, tech hub Shenzhen is emerging from a week-long lockdown called to tackle an outbreak of the omicron variant. Shanghai, meanwhile, is seeing its highest new case levels of the pandemic, with half the city locked down for testing after a handful of infections ballooned into more than 2,000 in a matter of weeks.
An analysis by Bloomberg News found the uptick in cases in both cities -- key entry points into the mainland -- came around the same time or shortly after a surge in infections was recorded in quarantined travelers coming from Hong Kong, where the number of recorded new cases still hovers above 8,000.
How Hong Kong Went From Covid Zero to World’s Deadliest Outbreak
While China isolates everyone coming into the country for at least two weeks in line with its Covid Zero policy, health officials in both Shenzhen and Shanghai have pointed to lax oversight in quarantine facilities for arrivals as a potential cause for the virus’s spread.
Read about how long experts see China sticking with Covid Zero
Having gone long stretches Covid-free thanks to its zero-tolerance approach, China has typically been quick to point out the foreign sources of virus cases that seed outbreaks in the community, tracing flareups back to a traveler from Pakistan, for example, or people who came in from the U.S.
On this current wave, the National Health Commission has only said that China has come under increasing pressure from Covid incursions as outbreaks in neighboring regions surge.
Data from Shenzhen’s health authorities, however, show those traveling from Hong Kong accounted for the overwhelming majority of imported cases detected there since the beginning of the year, with over 93% of the 901 confirmed infections from abroad as of March 26 originating from the financial hub.
In Shanghai, more than half of the imported cases reported by the city’s health commission this month to March 26 originated from Hong Kong. In this period, locally acquired infections skyrocketed from two to 2,676.
The two cities have been top destinations for those fleeing Hong Kong’s outbreak, with the number of people leaving the territory hitting records from late February, as the outbreak there quickly spiraled out of control. Mainlanders living in Hong Kong, in particular, have sought refuge at home, where the national caseload is still below the city’s.
READ: Thousands Fleeing to Mainland China as Hong Kong Outbreak Widens
Quarantine hotels are effective at catching Covid cases, but as the virus has evolved to become more infectious leaks have become more common.
Places that utilized them as a key part of their pandemic response, including Australia and New Zealand, as well as Hong Kong, have all seen outbreaks spawned by escaped cases. It’s one of the reasons most countries that sought to eliminate the virus early on in the pandemic have now -- unlike China -- pivoted to living alongside it, like the U.S. and much of Europe.
Contact tracing data released by Shenzhen’s health authorities show that the earliest domestic cases in February stemmed from staff working at quarantine hotels, while Shanghai’s government has also acknowledged the role of “lapses in management” of imported cases in quarantine driving local outbreaks.
China may be mute on whether Hong Kong was the source of its current outbreak, but its actions indicate officials recognize the risk.
After airlines added more flights in February to cater to the demand from fleeing mainlanders, authorities capped the number of passengers per plane to 50% from Feb. 25 on the Hong Kong-to-Shanghai route.
Flights to Shanghai -- which is emerging as a key epicenter of the mainland’s current wave -- have been steadily pared. Until recently, more flights from Hong Kong went to Shanghai than anywhere else, but now Shanghai has fallen below Taipei, Singapore and Manila as the top destination, according to data from Cirium.
Similarly, at Hong Kong’s land crossing with Shenzhen, cross-border truckers plying the flow of fresh food were also found to be infected, forcing drivers and close contacts to go into compulsory quarantine.
The city has instead sought to maintain the supply of food through deliveries by train and ship from China.
Despite these actions and the lack of finger-pointing by mainland officials, the perception arrivals from Hong Kong have fueled the mainland’s outbreak has taken hold on Chinese social media.
There was outcry mid-March over pictures of Hong Kongers crowding beaches despite record numbers of cases. A post on Weibo -- China’s equivalent of Twitter -- featuring photos of the beach-goers, was liked over 126,000 times and received more than 5,000 comments in a day before being removed by the platform.
Users criticized Hong Kong residents as selfish and called for the withdrawal of support such as mainland medical staff, and for Hong Kong visitors to be banned from entering Shenzhen.
While Hong Kong has in the past pushed hard for reopening the border with the mainland, and Chief Executive Carrie Lam last week expressing optimism about the resumption of talks to do so, the threat still posed by the city’s still-high caseload may give Chinese officials pause for thought.
London Pollution Worse Than Beijing as Mayor Extends Alert - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- London’s Mayor extended the first air quality warning since August 2020 for another day after pollution levels mushroomed throughout the week.
A cocktail of high atmospheric pressure, little wind and peak farming season emissions made London’s air quality worse than Beijing’s on Friday. While pollution normally rolls into London from central and southern Europe at this time of the year, there’s currently a lack of wind to blow emissions out of the city, according to Andrew Grieve, senior air quality analyst at Imperial College London’s Environmental Research Group.
“By the time we [got] to Friday, we’ve had essentially five days of pollution gradually building up,” he said.
Springtime is also when farmers across the U.K. and the continent spread fertilizer, which further worsens air quality.
The alert, which initially covered Tuesday through Thursday, was renewed after Imperial College London forecast that pollution levels would stay high on Friday, Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office said in a statement.
The government urged Londoners to not drive their cars, stop engine idling and refrain from burning wood or garden waste. It also advised people with heart and lung problems to avoid physical exercise.
More winds coming from the North Sea over the weekend should begin clearing the air, while the high pressure area is expected to return to continental Europe, according to Richard Miles, a spokesperson at the Met Office.
Grieve said Saturday will start off polluted and then gradually get better throughout the day. “Sunday should be a lot better,” he said.
Countries on the European continent are struggling with smog, too. In Belgium, the government imposed a temporary speed limit of 90 kilometers per hour (56 mph) on some motorways, while public transport in the capital Brussels was made free for Friday and Saturday to encourage less use of cars. The country was experiencing high concentrations of fine dust that were also due partly to low wind speeds, according to local media reports.
At least one company in London’s Canary Wharf district told employees to not come in today if they have lung or heart problems, or conditions including long Covid.
London pollution was also a hot topic on social media among city residents and workers. Some Twitter users said it was possible to “taste” how poor the air quality was, while others posted photos of the smog covering views of London landmarks like Canary Wharf or the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens.
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, the mother of a nine-year-old girl who was the first person in Britain to have air pollution listed as a contributing cause of death, called on the government to step up efforts to improve air quality. Her daughter, Ella Kissi-Debrah, lived near a busy road in South London before dying in 2013 from an asthma attack.
Pollution remains a grave problem in the British capital and poor air quality is associated with 4,000 premature deaths a year, according to city officials. An Ultra-Low Emission Zone, which imposes a daily charge on the use of vehicles with higher tailpipe emissions, will be expanded next year to cover an area of more than 600 square miles.
London’s measured levels of PM2.5, particulate matter 2.5 micrometers and smaller in length that’s found in vehicle exhaust, is currently more than 8 times above guidelines issued by the World Health Organization, according to IQAir, a Swiss company that makes air quality monitors and air purification technologies.
Imperial College’s Grieve said fit and healthy people might not notice any pollution effects this week. “But episodes like this and living in polluted cities add to the effect of pollution on our health in the long term,” he said.
Nigerians spend $39.66bn on foreign education, medical tourism – CBN report - PUNCH
BY Nike Popoola and Amarachi Orjiude
NIGERIANS spent a total of $39.66bn on foreign education and healthcare-related services between 2010 and 2020, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria data.
According to CBN’s Balance of Payments, Nigerian parents and guardians paid about $28.65bn for their wards to study abroad during the period under review.
The BoP report also revealed that Nigerians paid $11.01bn for healthcare-related services in foreign countries.
The amount spent on these foreign services is almost equivalent to the current value of the country’s foreign reserves which stood at $39.51bn as of March 23, highlighting its high cost.
These statistics and their impacts were cited in a financial report released last week titled, “A Simple and Factual Explanation of Nigeria’s Exchange Rate Dynamics”
According to the report, the high cost of these services has drastically increased the demand for foreign exchange in the country, which has put a strain on the value of the naira to the dollar.
The report which seeks to provide answers to questions on the continuous rise and fall of Nigeria’s exchange rate explained that the exchange rate of the naira is the price of the dominant foreign currency in the country – the US dollars.
It added that like the price of every other commodity, the price of the dollar in Nigeria is determined by the interplay of demand and supply of the foreign currency in the country’s market.
The report noted that an increase in demand of a commodity leads to a rise in the price of that commodity, adding that a similar result is replicated when a fall in supply occurs.
Using the same logic, the report explained that the depreciation or appreciation of Nigeria’s exchange rate or the naira is determined by the rise or fall of demand and supply.
On demand, the report explained that factors such as the cost of foreign education, healthcare, and a large import bill had had major impacts on the increase in the demand for foreign exchange in the country.
It added that the factors had also greatly contributed to the weakening of the naira.
According to the report, between 1998 and 2018, the number of Nigerian studying abroad quadrupled, from 15,000 to 96,702, a rise it attributed to the spike in the cost of foreign education.
It added, “Today, a sizeable amount of the foreign exchange request Nigerian banks receive for school fees are for primary and secondary school education, some of which are for neighboring African countries.”
On the impact of imports on forex demands, the report noted that Nigeria’s import bill had continued to skyrocket since 1980, declining slightly only in 2021.
According to the report, Nigeria’s annual import bill rose from $16.65bn in 1980 to $67.05bn in 2014, falling marginally to $54.71bn in 2021.
It pointed out that with the current level of demand for forex, the country’s exchange rate would be under constant pressure to rise, especially if its supply either remained constant or fall.
On the supply side, the report compared the cost of imports with the revenue earned from exports between 1980 and 2020, which showed that while the country’s import bill continued to rise; its exports showed a steady decline.
For instance, the report said that over the last seven years, the demand for the dollar had exceeded its supply by about $18.45bn.
It also said that oil export, which accounts for over 90 percent of our foreign exchange earnings, had fallen from $93.89bn in 2011 to $31.4bn in 2020.
For non-oil exports, the report decried challenges constraining forex inflows from this type of exports.
While lauding the efforts of the CBN to stabilise the naira through the introduction of policies in critical sectors of the economy, the report noted that the task of stabilising the country’s exchange rate shouldn’t be left to the apex bank alone as it requires the collective effort of every Nigerian.
The report recommended a strong production base that will enable the country to produce goods and services that the rest of the world will be willing to buy, which will, in turn, increase the supply of dollars into the Nigerian economy.
China's Shanghai launches two-phase lockdown as COVID surges - REUTERS
By Andrew Galbraith and David Stanway
SHANGHAI, March 28 (Reuters) - China's financial hub of Shanghai launched a two-stage lockdown of its 26 million residents on Monday, closing bridges and tunnels, and restricting highway traffic in a scramble to contain surging COVID-19 cases.
The snap lockdown, announced by Shanghai's city government on Sunday, will split the city in two roughly along the Huangpu River for nine days to allow for "staggered" testing. It is the biggest COVID-related disruption to hit the city.
While residents east of the Huangpu were confined to their homes, those in the west stockpiled groceries and other essential goods as they prepared for a similar fate starting on April 1, with delivery services overwhelmed and supermarkets running low on supplies.
"Many wholesale markets are now closed," said Bi Yingwu, a 50-year old stallholder. "Some vendors are reluctant to buy in vegetables. If we cannot get vegetables from wholesalers or the wet market is closed, we are finished."
The lockdown order marks a turnaround for Shanghai's authorities, which as late as Saturday denied the city would be locked down as it pursued a more piecemeal "slicing and gridding" approach to try to rein in infections. read more
Wu Fan, a member of Shanghai's expert COVID team, said recent mass testing had found "large scale" infections throughout the city, triggering the stronger response.
"Containing the large scale outbreak in our city is very important because once infected people are put under control, we have blocked transmission," she told a briefing, adding that testing would be carried out until all risks were eliminated.
Shanghai said earlier this month that its daily testing capacity was around 3 million, but Chen Erzhen, a doctor in charge of a city quarantine facility, warned it still might not be enough to outpace the rapid spread of the virus.
"When case numbers reach a certain level, the difficulty of relying upon previous staff deployments increases by a large degree," he told government newspaper Liberation Daily, adding that the new lockdown should at least ensure the "stillness" required to bring the outbreak under control.
Though still low by global standards, Shanghai recorded a record 3,450 asymptomatic COVID cases on Sunday, accounting for nearly 70% of the nationwide total, along with 50 symptomatic cases.
Nationwide, there were 5,134 new asymptomatic and 1,219 symptomatic cases on Sunday,the health authority said in its regular bulletin. read more
As a major engine of China's economy, Shanghai has been trying to heed President Xi Jinping's call to minimise the impact of COVID controls on businesses and people's lives.
Wu told a briefing on Saturday that Shanghai could not be locked down for long because of the important role it played in the national and even global economy.
But following Sunday's about-turn, mass testing has disrupted transport, healthcare and a wide range of economic activities, with citywide land sales also halted on Monday.
Shanghai's Public Security Bureau said it was closing cross-river bridges and tunnels, and highway tollbooths concentrated in the city's east until April 1.
The bureau said traffic controls would be implemented on highways into and out of the city, and people leaving would have to show a negative nucleic acid test taken within the previous 48 hours.
Shanghai also said on Sunday it would suspend public transport, including ride-hailing services, in locked down areas. It also ordered the suspension of work at firms and factories, exempting those offering public services or supplying food. Some hospitals also suspended services as they release staff and other resources to assist with mass testing.
U.S. automaker Tesla (TSLA.O) is suspending production at its factory, located in a district impacted by the first stage of the lockdown, for four days, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment. read more
Reporting by Andrew Galbraith, David Stanway, Xihao Jiang and the Shanghai newsroom; Additional reporting by Ryan Woo in Beijing; Editing by Jane Wardell, Robert Birsel and Louise Heavens