More Than a Thousand Seafarers Stranded on Ships Near Ukraine - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- About 140 ships have been trapped off the coast of Ukraine, putting more than a thousand seafarers in harm’s way.
Since Russian troops first began the invasion last week, a dozen oil-product tankers, a sunflower oil carrier, and 45 bulkers used to transport grains, ore and coal have gotten stuck, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. There are also 54 cargo carriers and a container vessel that sailed into Odesa just before the harbor closed.
At least five merchant ships have been blown up in the region since the attack started, highlighting the risk that the crews are facing.
Vessels can’t leave Ukrainian waters because there are no harbor pilots to guide them out, according to owners and ship managers. More importantly, navigation in parts of the north-west Black Sea is restricted due to the threat posed by underwater mines, according to an alert posted on the Spanish Navy’s website.
At least some of the stranded vessels have cargo on board, according to people with knowledge of the vessels in the area.
Panama-flagged cargo ship Helt sank after being hit below the waterline, prompting rescue operations to bring ashore six crew, said Ukraine’s Administration of Sea Ports. Meanwhile, an engineer on Bangladesh Shipping Corp.’s vessel Banglar Samriddhi died when a missile hit the ship.
Intense fighting and shelling has continued in cities across the key agriculture exporter. That’s led to a surge in commodities prices of everything from food to energy, while shippers scramble to divert thousands of containers of goods to other ports. Oil prices are also soaring because some tanker companies are unwilling to let their ships lift Russian barrels for the time being.
An typical ocean-going merchant ship will have 20 or more crew members on board, implying well over 1,000 seafarers would be stuck.
“All ports are blocked,” said Henrik Jensen, managing director of Danica Crewing Specialists, which provides services to two ships stuck in Ukraine with 40 crew on board, all of whom are uninjured. “This is a terrible situation.”
Singapore Overhauls Expat Visas, Nationality Among Criteria - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Singapore plans to introduce a points-based visa system for some of its highest-paid foreign workers, including scores for how the applicant’s nationality contributes to the diversity of their firm, in addition to education, skills and pay.
The program unveiled Friday in parliament by Manpower Minister Tan See Leng is among the biggest visa changes ever for a nation that relies heavily on overseas labor across all sectors. It’s similar to moves by other developed economies like the U.K. in adopting a points-based immigration system.
Read more: Here’s How Singapore’s New Expat Visa Program Will Work
Including recently announced increases in minimum pay criteria and tightened quotas for some middle-tier jobs, the overhaul underscores how the government of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is seeking to foster local employment and industries, as well as address public concern that international firms favor hiring foreigners.
In addition to factors such as how salaries compare to local peers, education and skills, the new system, known as Compass, will also grant points for whether the nationality of the candidate improves the diversity of their company or if the company is hiring more local staff.
“We remain committed to our goals of upgrading our workforce, comprising a strong Singaporean core, and a high-quality and diverse foreign workforce,” Tan said in parliament. The new guidelines aim “to ensure diversity in our foreign workforce – because a truly open and connected labor market must also be able to draw the best from all around the world,” he added.
The points system will apply to new applicants for an Employment Pass -- typically for highly skilled and top salaried workers -- from September 2023, and for existing visas renewals from September 2024. So-called EP holders made up about 14% of the country’s nearly 1.2 million foreign workers as of June, according to government data.
The Asian business and trade hub has sought to arrest a drop in the expat population during the pandemic and signal that it continues to be open to foreign talent and investment, as well as meet shortfalls in key growth sectors like technology, biotech and finance.
Unhappiness over foreign labor has been a longstanding issue in Singapore, but perceptions that hiring has been unfair to locals helped lead to the worst electoral showing since independence for the ruling People’s Action Party in 2020.
The government has made efforts to sell the case for why Singapore remains open to foreign labor. Finance Minister Lawrence Wong addressed the issue earlier this week in parliament, saying: “We must never let anti-foreigner sentiments take root here or give the impression that we are becoming more inward looking.”
“If global investors conclude that this is so, Singapore will become less attractive to them,” Wong said, “and it will be ordinary Singaporeans who suffer the most.”
The framework will mean the local workforce can be confident foreign professionals are “of a high caliber and will better complement their teams,” Tan said. “And that their employers will also take efforts to develop their local pipeline and to maintain workforce diversity seriously,” he said, adding that most current visa holders will pass the new criteria.
EP applicants in Singapore will need to earn at least 40 points under the new Compass system. In addition to nationality diversity, degrees from a “top-tier institution” or a monthly fixed salary higher than 90% of local peers in their sector will both provide 20 points each, for example. The new criteria allows bonus points for areas with skills shortages and economic priorities.
(Updates to add details on timing in sixth paragraph, details in final section.)
FG, airlines disagree over flight delays, cancellations - PUNCH
BY Edidiong Ikpoto
The Federal Government and domestic airlines under the aegis of the Airline Operators of Nigeria have disagreed over incessant flight delays and cancellations across the nation’s airports.
The carriers under the aegis of the Airlines Operators of Nigeria had recently said infrastructural issues such as lack of runway lights in some airports, and inefficiency on the part of airport managers were the major reasons for flight delays and cancellations in the nation.
However, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, in a counterclaim, said most airports in the nation have adequate facilities to allow for safe flight operations around the clock.
According to the airline operators, 80 per cent of the causes of delays and cancellations are due to factors that are neither in their control nor caused by them.
Specifically, the carriers said inefficiency on the part of the airports to provide some of its basic services were the major causes of the delays and cancellations.
However, spokesperson, FAAN, Henrietta Yakubu, said most airports in the country have adequate facilities to allow for safe flight operations around the clock.
She said, “Most of our airports have night landing facilities, if not, flights cannot operate at 12 midnight and 1am.
“Of course, they know that there are flights that have landed Abuja, Lagos at 1am, 2am in the morning. We have night landing facilities.
“Only a few airports have sunlight to daylight landing, but most of our airports have night facilities for night landing of flights, and the ones that even go to such airports too, for a fee, the airport still opens for them to land.”
Also, the spokesperson for the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Mr Khalid Emene, in an interview with our correspondent, said the issue of rendering night flying services to airline operators was connected to the operating hours of the airports.
He said, “It is the airport that works only during the daytime and is known to everybody in the aviation community. They all know. It’s not as if it’s a new thing.
“There are airports that are called sunset airports. Once it is evening, you cannot fly in. It’s not as if they do not know. They already know the operating hours of these airports.”
However, the Managing Director of Top Brass Aviation, a charter airline, Captain Roland Iyayi, said factors such as insecurity and lack of infrastructure were keeping airline operators from operating at optimum levels.
In an interview with our correspondent, he said, “The issue of night flying in Nigeria has to do with infrastructure, but the security situation of the country is also another consideration.
“Then, of course, you talk about the market size of all these different markets you’re talking about. If the market size cannot sustain the aircraft type. Then, of course, it will be a loss, ab initio, so no airline would want to do that. Those are actually the issues.”
Airports Concession to be Completed in Q2, Says Sirika - THISDAY
Kasim Sumaina in Abuja The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika has hinted that the process for the concession of Nigeria’s four major international airports will be completed in the second quarter of the year 2022.
Sirika also announced that the requests for proposal on the establishment of a national carrier would be out on Monday.
He disclosed this while playing host to the Executive Committee members of the Abuja Transport and Aviation Correspondents Association in his office in Abuja. Government, Sirika said has been making efforts to concession Nigeria’s major international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano.
According to him, “The transaction advisers for the concession have finished the Outline Business Case and had got the Request for Qualification. We’ve pre-qualified the people and they’ve been issued Request for Proposal. “They’ve turned the proposals in and we are analysing them to announce the successful bidders and this will be soon. Our timetable is for the first quarter of this year.”
He further said: “Well, I can see that it is still happening, let’s be very ambitious, but certainly it will end in second quarter and all the (identified) airports will be concessioned. Many airports have been established since the current administration took over government in 2015.”
Continuing, he disclosed: “there are more airports today than when we came in 2015. There’s Anambra and Lafia airports; there is Ekiti airport, going on; Makurdi airport, going on; Yobe airport, Ebonyi airport and many other airports.
“We have about 12 new airports added since we came and this is growth. And we have the same in other aspects of the sectors, as more runways are being added, more capacities for the airports are being delivered.”
Sirika said the government was diligently implementing the key components of the aviation sector roadmap, adding that, “we are very sure that before the end of the term of Mr. President, these things will be achieved and realised.” The minister also revealed plans to begin the issuing of requests for proposal to intending investors for the establishment of the national carrier on March 8, 2022.
Nigerians in South Africa ask President Ramaphosa for protection - THE GUARDIAN
Nigerians living in South Africa have asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to protect them and their properties from xenophobic attacks.
The Nigerian community in that country made the request amid the recent wave of hostilities against foreigners in South Africa.
The Nigerian community, under the aegis of Nigeria Union South Africa (NUSA) made the request in a statement signed by the President of NUSA, Mr Collins Mgbo and e-mailed from Pretoria, South Africa.
“I call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to help our community during this trying time so that we may not lose our brothers again” xenophobic attacks, Mgbo said.
The NUSA president said foreigners became even more worried when a group of more than 2,000 people recently demonstrated against migrant workers as part of “Operation Dudula’’.
Dudula, a Zulu word which means “drive back’’, has gained popularity as a sign of growing anti-immigrant sentiments in South Africa, a country that has seen the level of unemployment worsen and poverty further worsened by the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
“The Operation Dudula group turned up in a mob of several hundreds at a migrant centre in South Africa’s Soweto township, with the unemployed, wielding weapons and angry with foreigners they accuse of taking their jobs, chanting `Foreigners, go home’,’’ Mgbo said.
He explained that NUSA was worried about the safety of Nigerians in South Africa when the groups began with their illegal acts of abuse and destruction of properties and businesses owned by foreigners, and Nigerians in particular.
“We are concerned because in the past, xenophobic protests have led to violence and looting of shops owned by foreigners.
“In 2008, the attacks against foreigners left at least 62 people dead, and in 2015, seven innocent African brothers were killed.
“Armed mobs descended on foreign-owned businesses in Johannesburg in 2019. Another mob attack left at least 12 people dead.
“In recent weeks, scores of protesters have been staging demonstrations against undocumented migrants in what they have dubbed ‘Operation Dudula’, and this time, we do not know how many foreign nationals would sacrifice their lives for it,’’ he said.
Mgbo said that politicians such as Julius Malema, the Commander-In-Chief of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Mmusi Maimane, had condemned the actions of this group.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa voiced out his concern stating that his government was closely watching ongoing anti-migrant protests to prevent them from resulting into xenophobic attacks, amid growing public anger at foreigners.
“Ramaphosa said his government is aware of pockets of groupings that are trying to foment negative attitude and feelings toward foreigners.
“The president said the law enforcement agencies are keeping a watchful eye on the way that people are responding to the presence of people from other countries in our own country,’’ Mgbo said.
He quoted the South African president as saying: “The security agencies are watching and will make sure these things will not result into violence against people from various other countries.’’
African students say they faced guns, hostile guards as they fled Ukraine - REUTERS
- "The soldiers pointed guns at us," student says
- More than 400 Nigerian students fly back to Abuja
- Ukraine sets up hotline to help African, Asian students
ABUJA, March 4 (Reuters) - Nigerian medical student Oduola Adebowale said he and some friends were trying to get on a train to flee Ukraine when the soldiers pointed guns at them and ordered them back.
The Ukrainian troops told him they were only letting pregnant woman on the service from the city of Lviv to the Polish border, but he said he saw them stop some pregnant African women from getting on board.
"When we asked why they were doing this, the soldiers pointed guns at us, endangering our lives," he told Reuters days later after he finally managed to complete his journey and landed at Nigeria's Abuja airport on Friday.
Scores of foreign students have echoed his complaints in social media posts, saying they were treated badly as they queued up with the crowds trying to escape Russia's invasion.
Reuters could not independently verify the accounts of Asian and African students being pulled off trains, held up at borders and pushed to the back of long lines.
Ukraine's national police and state border service did not immediately respond to requests for comment on reports that Reuters had received from refugees.
But the African Union said this week it was disturbed by what it had heard and the U.N. refugee agency said it had urged authorities in countries neighbouring Ukraine to open their borders to African citizens. read more
Ukraine's Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said on Wednesday authorities had sent up a hotline for African and Asian students looking for help in getting out. "We are working intensively to ensure their safety & speed up their passage," he tweeted.
Nigerian students arrive at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport from Ukraine after fleeing the invasion by Russia, in Abuja, Nigeria March 4, 2022. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
'THE POLICE DRAGGED US OUT'
Adebowale did finally manage to get away, after waiting for hours for a train at Lviv then getting permission to travel to Romania.
He was among 415 Nigerian students who flew into Abuja on a Nigerian government-chartered flight from Bucharest. The government has also sent planes to collect Nigerians from Poland and Hungary.
One student still waiting in Warsaw told Reuters via Zoom he and two fellow Nigerians were pulled off a train they had boarded in Ukraine's capital Kyiv.
"We were already in our cabin, and they called police on us. The police came and dragged us out. Police (said) that 'this is specifically for Ukrainians'," Alexander Orah, a 25-year-old management student, said.
Reuters could also not independently confirm his account.
Orah said he and his friends were eventually allowed to board a train to Medyka, on the border with Poland, but then met guards who told them that Africans, South Asians and Arabs had to use a different crossing into Romania.
When the students refused, he said the guards put up barricades to stop them crossing while allowing white people to leave. When the growing crowd began to move forward, a soldier pointed a gun at them, he said.
"He cocked his gun and stood in a shooting position, so we raised our hands up and started telling him, 'We are students; we just want to go home'." Orah eventually made to the Polish capital and started looking for his next exit.
Writing and additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe, Editing by Alexandra Zavis and Andrew Heavens
Nigeria sixth position in global terrorism index - DAILY POST
Nigeria is now in the sixth position in the current Global Terrorism Index.
This is as a result of successes recorded in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents in the country.
The report stated that Nigeria dropped two places from fourth, a position it occupied since 2017.
The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) published by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), established by an independent and non-profit think tank, showed that Nigeria, Syria, and Somalia are the only nations, among the 10 countries most affected by terrorism, to get an improved score from 2020 to 2021.
There was a decline in the number of terrorism-related deaths in Nigeria, according to the report.
It noted that the death of Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, as well as the Federal Government’s efforts at defeating the group led to the decline.
According to the report, “Total deaths from terrorism in Nigeria fell to 448 in 2021, the lowest level since 2011. Terror-related casualties dropped by almost half compared with the previous year.
“However, the number of terrorists’ attacks increased by 49 percent between 2020 and 2021. 36 percent of attacks were claimed by ISWA, Boko Haram being responsible for eight percent and 44 percent not attributed to any group.”
It explained that in 2020, ISWA became the deadliest terrorist group in Nigeria, saying that the decline of Boko Haram continued into 2021, with Boko Haram responsible for only 69 deaths, a decrease of 77 percent from the previous year.
According to the report, it is the lowest number of deaths by the group for a decade, stressing that Boko Haram’s decline has resulted in a substantial improvement in terrorism in Borno State, which experienced a decrease of 71 percent in terrorism deaths when compared with the previous year.
Transport fare rises by 35% in 12 months, says NBS report - PUNCH
BY Edidiong Ikpoto
The average fare paid by commuters for bus journeys within the city per drop rose by 35.28 per cent from N352.15 in January 2021 to N476.39 in January 2022, according to a report by the National Bureau of Statistics.
The report, which shows transport fare for January 2022, covers the following categories: bus journey within the city per drop constant route; bus journey intercity, state route, a charge per person; airfare charge for specified routes single journey; journey by motorcycle (Okada) per drop; and waterway passenger transport.
The NBS said that in January 2022 that most of these categories of transport mentioned above recorded a marginal increase.
According to the report, the average fare paid by air passengers for specified routes single journey increased by 0.26 percent on month-on-month from N38,253.35 in December 2021 to N38,352.19 in January 2022. On year-on-year, the fare rose by 5.18 percent from N36,463.65 in January 2021 to N38,352.19 in January 2022.
The average fare paid by commuters for bus journey intercity stood at N2,801.36 in January 2022, indicating an increase of 0.59 per cent on month-on-month when compared to the value of N2,784.92 in December 2021.
The fare also rose by 19.39 percent on year-on-year from N2,346.41 in January 2021 to N2,801.34 in January 2022.
Similarly, the average fare paid by commuters for bus journeys within the city per drop increased by 1.18 per cent month-on-month from N470.83 in December 2021 to N476.39 in January 2022.
Financial experts linked the hike in transport fare to various economic issues including inflation, the rising cost of living, among others.
“Inflation is a major factor here driving the rise in the cost of transportation. The cost of vehicle maintenance for transport business operators here is also a factor,” an economist and analyst, Mr Kunle Okuwobi, said.
Saudi Arabia opens Hajj to foreign participation after two-year hiatus - THE GUARDIAN
By Murtala Adewale, Kano
After two years of restriction, Saudi Arabia has confirmed the participation of foreign pilgrims from around the world in this year’s hajj rituals.
Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah Sunday disclosed that a revised quota of pilgrims for hajj 2022 will soon be released to each participating country.
Saudi Authorities in 2020 restricted the annual spiritual activities to citizens and residents within the Kingdom as part of stringent measures to prevent the spread of the deadly Covid-19.
The lifting of restrictions for international pilgrims for the 2022 hajj came less than 24 hours after the Kingdom opened its gateways to direct flights from 17 countries including Nigeria.
By this direction, Nigeria pilgrims and millions around the world are guaranteed the assurance to participate in this year’s religious obligation that will hold between June and July 2022.
Brent Oil Soars Above $135 on Fears Over Tightening Market - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Oil roared above $135 a barrel at the start of what is set to be another tempestuous week after the White House said it was discussing an embargo on Russian supplies in a move that is set to fan supply fears in an already jittery market.
Brent jumped as much as 18% to $139.13, building on last week’s 21% surge as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered fears of a brutal supply crunch, before paring gains. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration and its allies are discussing an embargo of Russian oil, as pressure mounts to hit back harder at the invasion of Ukraine by squeezing exports from Russia’s key energy industry.
While traders, shippers, insurers and banks have been increasingly wary of taking on or funding purchases of Russian barrels, a formal embargo would increase the uncertainty that led to Brent trading in its biggest range since the launch of the futures contract in 1998. It adds to more bullish news over the weekend, with Saudi Arabia hiking prices of its main crude blends and Libya saying its production has fallen because of a political crisis in the North African nation, although progress on nuclear talks with Iran offers the prospect of some relief in the longer term.
“We have plenty of twists and turns to come,” Mike Muller, Vitol’s head of Asia, said Sunday on a podcast produced by Dubai-based consultant and publisher Gulf Intelligence. “While I think the world is already pricing in the fact there’ll be an inability to take in a serious amount of Russian oil in the western hemisphere, I don’t think we’ve priced in everything yet.”