Nigerians escape nightmare Lagos traffic with new Chinese-built train - AFRICA NEWS
A Nigerian train is making transport easier for travellers exhausted by chaotic Lagos traffic.
The Chinese-built link between Nigeria's economic hub Lagos and the city of Ibadan is also safer and cheaper.
The route began partial operations in December 2020 and provides a faster and cheaper way to travel between the two cities.
It counts Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka among its fans.
"We all grew up with the railway and it's just a shame that it ever sort of disappeared as a natural way of travelling," Soyinka said.
"It's not cheap right now but I hope by the time they are running properly it will be more affordable for most people. "
Although some say it is a little expensive at the moment it is also on the slow side.
The train travels at a stately speed, taking more than two and a half hours to traverse little more than 150 kilometres (90 miles) of countryside in southern Nigeria.
But many praise it for being safer than travelling by bus.
"Unfortunately the current issue that is going on is the kidnapping and all that," said security guard Sunday Akenfademi.
"But when you're coming from Lagos to Ibadan trip through bus, aside the safety of the road itself, we are also talking safety in terms of the drivers, because some of them are under the influence of alcohol.
"We are also talking in terms of safety of the motor, some of them are not roadworthy and they have not been tested."
Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation of 200 million people, is pushing ahead with reviving its railways, despite years of frustrating delays.
"Apart from the passenger train that we are doing, we also have the track that goes into the port and we also have the addendum to Tin Can Port, so it's a whole thing," said Jerry Oche, Lagos district manager of the Nigeria Railway Corporation.
"So imagine the railways doing passengers from Lagos to Ibadan, also doing fret from Lagos to Ibadan. And don't forget this project is actually Lagos-Kano. What you have is just the first phase. "
The train is still operating skeletal services because of ongoing construction works at the tracks and stations.
When fully operational, it is estimated the train's frequency will increase and its speed will increase to 160 kph.
US Embassy warns Nigerians of work visa scam - PUNCH
BY Segun Adewole
The US Embassy has dissociated itself from a press release promising a new type of work visa for Nigerian citizens aged 40 to 55.
A copy of the press release claiming to be from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services says those eligible for the work visa are health workers, engineers, marine workers, accountants etc.
The press release partly read, “President Joe Biden, the 46 US. President has signed an Executive Order that interested citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who measure in some special professions are eligible for American Work E-Visa and Residence Permit. This was communicated to the Nigeria US Department of immigration.
“The terms of the Executive Order allows 25,000 citizens of the Republic of Nigeria between the age of 40 to 55 whose area of expertise are among the following: Health workers, engineers, marine workers, accountants…”
It added that “applicants and children who have been vaccinated must make a pre-visa vaccination deposit of $150 per person which is required as a condition for visa approval.”
Applicants are also required to make a deposit of $250 for English proficiency test.
Reacting to the press release, the US Embassy described it as a scam and warned people not to fall victim to it.
“Fraud Alert! Scammers and fraudsters are circulating a fake “press release” claiming to offer a new type of work visa to Nigerian citizens aged 40-55. It’s the same old scam, but in fresh packaging – don’t become a victim!” the US Embassy tweeted.
Airlines plan ‘travel pass’ for travellers - THE GUARDIAN
By Wole Oyebade
•Accept PCR results from approved labs only, NCAA directs carriers Airlines are considering a standard ‘travel pass’ criteria for international air travellers in the COVID-19 era.
Though the technology-driven pass aims at an efficient travel experience, part of the conditions will include health credentials and COVID-19 vaccination.
Similarly, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) has directed that only results from accredited private laboratories should be accepted from outbound passengers effective March 22, 2021.
Hence, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has threatened to sanction airlines that accept polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results from unapproved laboratories.
The travel pass proposal made headway when the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced the arrival at London’s Heathrow Airport of the first traveller using the IATA travel pass app to manage travel health credentials.
Director-General and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IATA, Alexandre de Juniac, said the successful implementation of IATA travel pass in this trial with Singapore Airlines passengers demonstrated that technology could securely, conveniently and efficiently help travellers and governments to manage travel health credentials.
“The significance of this to re-starting international aviation cannot be overstated,” de Juniac said.
IATA, the clearinghouse of over 280 world airlines, noted that to gain maximum benefit from the travel pass, and avoid confusion and inconvenience for passengers, “the standardisation of test or vaccination certifications and their acceptance by authorities are key.”
A recent IATA poll of travellers found that 89 per cent agree with the need for global standards and 80 per cent are keen to use a mobile app to manage their travel credentials.
Recently, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) also moved the establishment of global standards for testing/vaccination certifications a step closer to reality.
IATA said that next, governments need to provide a digital COVID-19 test/vaccination certificate when people are tested or vaccinated so they have a verifiable document on their mobile device. This will ensure equivalence, mutual recognition, and acceptance of COVID-19 certifications for passengers when they travel globally.
“Today’s success is a big win for many parties. It gives travellers a one-stop-shop to help them comply with the new rules for travel. It shows that governments can efficiently manage these travel requirements with complete confidence in the identity of the passenger and the veracity of the travel credentials – importantly, avoiding long queues. And it’s a purpose-built means for airlines to manage the new travel requirements without drowning in inefficient and ineffective paper processes,” de Juniac said.
Acting Senior Vice President, Marketing Planning, Singapore Airlines, JoAnn Tan, said digital health credentials would be essential as borders reopen and travel restrictions get progressively lifted worldwide.
IATA’s Senior Vice President Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security, Nick Careen, said airlines understand that their ground operations would grind to a halt if they have to manage COVID-19 travel requirements –test results or vaccine certifications – with paper documentation.
“The same is true for border authorities. The UK is ahead of other governments in mapping a way to re-starting international travel at scale. This real-life proof of concept should give all governments confidence that the industry has a workable digital solution that will ease the pressure of incorporating health certificate checks into the travel process, including at borders.
“This trial is an opportunity for us to work with the UK government to demonstrate that the solution works and to share the results with others as we build a robust and efficient system that will help the world get moving again,” Careen said.
A circular from the Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, dated March 19, 2021, stated that airlines are to board and process passengers in possession of a valid COVID-19 PCR test result conducted at accredited laboratories.
Vaccine certificates ‘helpful’ but restriction-free travel is goal: EasyJet chief - FLIGHTLOBAL
The European Commission’s proposed Digital Green Certificate is likely to be “helpful” during the reopening of international travel markets, according to EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren, but measures should be temporary and proof of vaccination should not be mandatory.
“If you have statistics and data that shows that the virus is in control in certain jurisdictions, you should be able to allow travel to take place with as few restrictions as possible,” Lundgren said on 22 March during a Eurocontrol event.
He describes the continuation of travel restrictions even once the pandemic is brought under control as “one of the fears that I have”, adding that he speaks to “decision-makers as often as I can, to remind them… we need to get back to a place where we safely can travel and fly again with no restrictions in place”.
As inoculation programmes are being rolled out across Europe, vaccination certificates can be “part of the mix” and “a helpful contributor” in reopening international travel markets, he states, but they “shouldn’t be mandated for people to travel”.
He expresses confidence that while different countries are at different stages of vaccine rollout, “the trajectory is the same”, towards the “unwinding the restrictions” once enough people have received jabs.
And despite the recent setbacks in many European countries, where Covid-19 case numbers have been rising again, “I never thought that this was going to be a straight line where we just see recovery happening and there would never be any bumps along the way”, Lundgren states.
The European Commission itself has said that its proposed Digital Green Certificate system – which covers Covid-19 vaccination and test certificates, and certificates for people who have recovered from the disease – is a “temporary measure” that will be “suspended once the World Health Organization declares the end of the Covid-19 international health emergency”.
The Commission also notes that member states have the right to decide on their own travel restrictions, with Portugal, for example, having already suggested that it might accept some unvaccinated travellers from the UK as soon as May.
Lundgren suggests that even with Covid-19 “variants of concern” having been identified in Portugal, its low case rate means countries with advanced vaccination programmes should have the confidence to reopen travel to and from the country.
Of a traffic-light system for travel restrictions – which is rumoured to be the preferred method for the UK to open up international markets in the coming months, and has been used by other countries at various stages of the pandemic – Lundgren says he has “no doubt that there will be a time where there needs to be a risk-based framework”.
With a large proportion of its operations based in the UK, EasyJet is awaiting a report from the government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which is due to be issued by 12 April and will outline how international travel can resume, with 17 May the earliest restart date.
US denies offering new work visa to Nigerians aged 40-55 - THE GUARDIAN
The denial is in response to a supposed press release by United States Embassy announcing the work permit for Nigerians.
But the US Mission in Nigeria said the purported press release circulating is “fake” and is being circulated by “scammers and fraudsters.”
“It’s the same old scam, but in fresh packaging – don’t become a victim,” the mission tweeted.
The mission further urged Nigerians seeking visa information should refer only to official sources.
Until January 2021, Nigerians and some other countries such as Yemen, Venezuela was on an immigration ban. But days after the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the ban was reversed.
With the travel restriction, Nigerians were denied the opportunity of applying for US green cards which gives them an official immigration status in the United States.
“The ban that Biden ended, blocked entry to most people from Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and North Korea,” Bloomberg reported.
“It also restricted immigrant visas for people from Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, and Eritrea as well as for certain others from Venezuela and Tanzania.”
The reversal of the immigration policies is part of Biden’s campaign promises to chart a new course for the nation.
Former President Trump’s administration in February 2020 placed Nigeria on a travel restriction it said was aimed at cracking down on illegal migration.
Trump also announced he would suspend entry to travelers from seven mostly Muslim nations- Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan. The policy also suspended refugee resettlement.
Biden, however, has signed an executive action ending restrictions on travel and immigration from some predominantly Muslim countries.
The executive directs the State Department to resume visa processing for those countries and develop a plan to address people affected, such as those who were denied entry to the US.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Nigerians and other nationals who were refused visas prior to January 20, 2020, can now submit new applications and pay a new application fee.
Government action can still save summer, European airlines say - REUTERS
PARIS (Reuters) - European governments can still salvage the summer tourist season despite COVID-19 vaccine setbacks and resurgent infections, if they take joint action on digital health passes and travel rules, airline chief executives said on Thursday.
“Travel in Europe will be possible this summer if EU governments deliver,” industry group Airlines for Europe said in a presentation hosted by the CEOs of Air France-KLM, easyJet, TUI Airlines and Volotea.
Renewed lockdowns and slow vaccine rollouts have raised the spectre of another weak European summer that would leave indebted airlines in need of more cash and further damage the travel and tourism sector, which accounted for 10% of pre-pandemic jobs and 9% of economic output.
Governments also face political pressures to loosen restrictions as the crisis drags on. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to ditch plans for a circuit-breaker lockdown over Easter.]
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary this week urged UK consumers to ignore official advice against booking foreign travel.
The European Parliament voted on Thursday to fast-track work on an EU digital certificate allowing travellers to show evidence of COVID-19 vaccinations, immunity or negative tests.
Airlines are pushing governments to drop blanket travel bans and quarantines and instead allow consumers meeting those criteria to travel without restriction.
Reporting by Laurence Frost,; Additional reporting by Marine Strauss in Brussels; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise
Ibadan Airport should serve as altalnative to Murtala Muhammad International Airport – Makinde - DAILY POST
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State on Thursday said that Ibadan Airport should henceforth serve as an alternative to the Murtala Muhammad International Airport in Lagos.
Makinde made this disclosure in Ibadan, when he received Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Logistics Command, Ikeja, Air Vice Marshal Olaonipekun Makinde.
He said that the airport in Ibadan should be considered as an alternative to the MM International Airport if it has all the facilities required.
Makinde while speaking however added that his administration will improve social services and expand infrastructure at the airport.
He noted that this is necessary in a bid to enhance the economic growth of the state.
Makinde while speaking further, commiserate with Air Force on the loss of officers in the recent the air accident in Abuja.
He added that one of the victims is from Oyo State.
Makinde said, “We believe that the Airport in Ibadan should serve as a true alternative airport to Lagos if it has the capacity to take the 747 aircraft. So, we have a project that we are incubating right now. We are trying to expand the runway so that bigger aircraft can land in Ibadan.
“We are also looking at Ibadan as actually becoming the hub for regional air transportation. We are trying, even within the shortest possible time, to see if we can have a connection between Ibadan and Port Harcourt.
“We are talking to Air Peace and they should be starting an operational flight from Ibadan to Abuja in the next two weeks. And Ibadan to Port Harcourt should commence once we have finalised the discussion that we are having with them.
“It means that with all these activities we are bringing to the state and the Ibadan Airport, we will need more cooperation and collaboration with the Nigerian Air Force.
“I discussed with the Chief of Air Staff when he visited me here. We talked about the Air Force Base here in Ibadan and our House of Representatives member, Hon. Abass Agboworin, who is the Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Air Force, is making efforts to bring some of these projects into fruition.
“About three days ago, I spoke with the Governor of Ogun State and we both agreed that we can fix the 11-km road that will take one from Akanran(in Oyo State) to Ijebu-igbo, Ogun State. So, what that means is that from the airport, anyone coming from the Ijebu axis would not have to even think about going to Lagos to fly.
“Let me also commiserate with the entire Air Force on the loss of your officers and men in the air accident in Abuja. One of them actually happened to be from Oyo State and we are trying to reach out to the family to give the support required.”
Thailand approves quarantine waiver for tourists, orders more vaccines - REUTERS
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai authorities on Friday agreed to allow foreigners inoculated against the coronavirus to travel to its biggest holiday island without undergoing quarantine, and announced a new order for five million more doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
With arrival numbers plummeting this past year, tourism-reliant Thailand is racing to secure vaccines for its population and reopen the country to foreigners in a pilot project for vaccine passports.
“If we can inoculate 50% to 60% of the population we can open the country safely and move the economy and tourism forward,” senior health official Kiattiphum Wongraijit said.
Its main vaccination drive is expected to start in June, with the goal of immunising half of its population by year-end.
It will receive an additional five million AstraZeneca doses, as well as five million more doses procured from Sinovac Biotech’s, the health ministry said on Friday.
That would take its overall vaccine order to 73 million doses.
The coronavirus task force on Friday gave the green light to Phuket, a major tourist destination, to receive vaccinated visitors directly from July, without subjecting them to quarantine, after the island inoculates 70% of its residents.
Thailand has until now made entry requirements strict, including mandatory quarantine, which has devastated tourism, but helped limit infections to just 28,577 so far, with 92 fatalities.
From next month, the hotel quarantine period will be halved to seven days for fully vaccinated visitors to Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Phang Nga and Krabi, Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told a news conference.
By the fourth quarter, the quarantine waiver is expected to be implemented in five holiday destinations, he said.
The central bank expects to see 3 million foreign tourists this year, compared to nearly 40 million in 2019 before the virus struck.
Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Martin Petty
Stakeholders Call for Passenger Protection by Airlines - THISDAY
BY Chinedu Eze
Stakeholders in the aviation industry have called on airlines to develop a collaborative system that will ensure that the interest of passengers is protected when they cancel or delay flights. The objective of the collaboration is to enable a passenger to travel with any available flight to his destination as long as he has valid ticket from any of the domestic carriers.
Many industry players who spoke to THISDAY said such an initiative would have evolved many years ago, disclosing that airlines in many countries of the world have adopted the system to protect air travellers and also help themselves by not putting their operations under severe strain.
This, they said, would enable an airline to still airlift its passengers even when its aircraft is AOG (aircraft on ground) due to technical hitches or any other problem, which are the major reasons why flights are delayed or cancelled in Nigeria. Such passenger protection agreement will provide settlement platform, possibly supervised by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), where the airlines will share revenue according to given guidelines, including whether base or average fares would be used for such tickets, they said.
The Managing Director and CEO of Aero Contractors, Captain Abdullahi Mahmoud, told THISDAY that such cooperation would ensure that passengers’ interest was protected.
He lamented the lack of cooperation among Nigerian carriers, saying this has adversely affected their operation. According to him, if they have been working together they would have been reaping the benefits of such cooperation, which include providing alternative choice of flights to their passengers.
“I have said it severally that one of the biggest challenges that airlines in Nigeria have is that they find it very, very difficult to come together. There is dirty professional politics that is being played, which is very, very unfair. And it is so disappointing because when an airline is having problem another airline will feel happy about it.
“But if the airlines come together, even if there no interline, you will have what they call passenger protection. You will sign a protection agreement with other airlines. When you have a challenge, you will call the other airlines and seek the protection of your passengers,” he said.
The Chief Executive Officer of Mainstream Cargo Limited, Seyi Adewale, told THISDAY that it would be a pleasant experience to witness collaboration among airlines operating within the country. He explained: “Indeed, it typifies a maturing system. If codeshare agreements are made, then passengers can have the ease of convenience in ticket purchase without the need to search for multiple airline schedules or particular ticket sales point. “If interline agreements are available, then a passenger does not have to be limited to a particular carrier, which schedules a particular (long distance) location.
“For example, a passenger going from Lagos to Maiduguri can buy ticket from Air Peace and the arrangement could be first flight LOS-ABV on Air Peace and second flight ABV-MAI on Azman, each operating from its area of comparative advantage or vantage point. “These arrangements also have good handshake for smooth and seamless airport transfers. Another backend benefit to the passenger is that downtime and rescheduling will reduce because an airline can also fill in for the other airline in operational or technical difficulties.
In fact, an airline can support the other in the area of technical support, equipment or spare part leasing etc, since they now have a joint or complimentary focus and interest. This should be our aviation industry in the immediate future.”
In his contribution, industry security expert and secretary of Aviation Round Table (ART), Group Captain John Ojikutu (retd) said airlines should find a meeting point and evolve ways to protect their passengers.
“If they cannot merge as has been suggested and advised for corporate governance, they should be considerate to find a ‘meeting point’ for passengers’ protection and comfort in flight connectivity.
“It makes no economic sense for two airlines flights to check in passengers with low load factors on same route to same destination. It is a better economic sense for one to agree to drop its passengers to the other at and agreed price and save itself further operational costs on fuel consumption, air navigational, landing and parking at destination, ground handling at destination, etc. “Such cooperation among airlines will reduce unnecessary delays and cancellations except those that are caused by or for safety and technical reasons,” Ojikutu said.
We’ll only allow 200 Nigerian travellers every two weeks, UAE lists conditions to restart flights - PUNCH
BY Kayode Oyero
The United Arab Emirates has listed conditions for the resumption of commercial flights between Nigeria and the Emirates.
The UAE Embassy in Abuja made this known in a letter to the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Amongst other things, the letter dated March 24, 2021, stated that only 200 passengers from Nigeria would be allowed into the UAE every two weeks.
The PUNCH had earlier reported that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority on February 5 barred Emirati carriers from Nigeria, alleging flouting of COVID-19 protocols as well as the introduction of rapid antigen test as a requirement for Dubai travellers against the Nigerian government’s negative PCR requirements.
This has degenerated into a situation with the UAE banning Nigerian flights for several weeks on end.
But in the letter sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the UAE Embassy said the requirement for the rapid antigen test at Nigerian airports for UAE-bound passengers has been removed.
The letter partly read, “The embassy has the honor to convey the response of the competent authorities in the UAE regarding the ongoing flight halt between the UAE and Nigeria as well as the travel requirements for travelers to the UAE.
“The UAE Government has decided to remove the requirement for the Rapid Antigen test at the airports in Nigeria while demanding the following requirements:
“Number of passengers on inbound flights to the UAE must not exceed 200 passengers for two weeks.
“Only direct flights between the UAE and Nigeria are allowed.
“Passengers need to present a valid negative PCR test conducted within 48 hours before boarding.
“Provide the embassy with updated list of the approved PCR test centers by the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the importance of ensuring the accuracy of the passengers’ information, contact details and place of stay during their visit in UAE.”
UAE, especially, Dubai, is a top destination among Nigerian travellers. A percentage amongst Nigerian vibrant youthful population finds the middle east nation attractive. Nigerian elite and bourgeoisie also find the tourism hotspots in the gulf state appealing. Many Nigerian politicians have also been reported to own properties in the UAE.
But the Gulf nation had since 2020 been slamming some restrictions on Nigerians in what many described as stern bilateral policies against the West African country.
The sanctions were not unconnected to fraudulent activities perpetrated by some Nigerians based in Dubai including alleged international internet fraudster Abass Ramon aka Hushpuppi who was arrested by the Dubai Police in June and is being prosecuted in the United States.