Travel News

Aviation minister scores self 100% on failed carrier, MRO, airport concessions - THE GUARDIAN

MAY 19, 2023

By Wole Oyebade

President Muhammaudu Buhari was clearheaded in his plan for the air transport sector, for which he appointed an aviator as minister – the first ‘round peg in round hole’ in the 95-year history of aviation in Nigeria. Eight years after, not only has the uneasy tenure failed to deliver on Buhari’s core promise of a new national carrier, the much-vaunted airport concession plan, aircraft leasing agency, maintenance and repair organisation, new airport city projects, aviation university, new condition of service for workers, among others, have plunged the critical sector into turbulence, and blighted achievements in the areas of safety, infrastructural uplift, and revised regulatory framework. Stakeholders reckon that landmines and tough decisions await the next administration. WOLE OYEBADE reports.
President Muhammadu Buhari made a solo pledge to the aviation community pre-2015. It was to deliver a befitting national carrier in the status of Nigeria Airways in its heydays.

Six months into the administration came Captain Hadi Sirika as Minister of States for Aviation, and later, a full-fledged Minister of Aviation. Like Buhari was to the presidency, Sirika was perceived as a breath of fresh air to local aviation administration. He is the first insider to lead the pack, and also turned out to be the longest serving Aviation Minister in the country.
Shortly after his confirmation in 2015, Sirika did hit the ground running with the Aviation Roadmap agenda. At the top is the new national carrier that Buhari promised, followed by the plan to concession airports for efficiency. Also, a Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility, and aircraft leasing company to service local operators. In addition is the creation of aerotropolis at major airports nationwide, among 15 other components of the “aviation transformation and modernisation plan”.
Fast forward seven years later, findings by The Guardian showed some improvements in major airport infrastructure, navigational facilities, and regulatory framework across the agencies. However, most dominant is the gross underperformance of key deliverables in the Aviation Roadmap initiative, with implementation rate still running at 20 per cent, contrary to high appropriation rack up over the years.
More disturbing for aviation stakeholders is the opaque nature of the project implementations, dodgy policy directions, and oddly familiar absence of transparency in the mix.

Progress, against all odds
Indeed, it was a chaotic era in which two major events of devastating proportions hobbled aviation growth globally. COVID-19 happened and shattered all plans and projections by cutting off air transportations for months. Shortly afterwards was the Russo-Ukrainian crisis that disrupted energy supplies, which is one of the major operating components of the air transport sector.
Indeed, it was an era when the U.S. Dollar – the currency of global aviation business – ballooned to N950 against the Naira on the black market end (the most reliable source for forex!). Aviation fuel also hit the N1000/litre mark. Local air travel buckled at the sight of a N200,000 ticket for a 55-minute one-way flight. Operators lost 70 per cent of fleet capacity and some distressed airlines closed shop. Foreign airlines were also hit over stuck funds that climbed to $800 million – the highest in the world after Venezuela. It was an industry in unprecedented disarray!
In between, the air transport sector in Nigeria recorded some cheering moments. Despite the chaos, the industry proved its resilience to weather shocks. Notably, airlines managed to stay in business with new ones coming onboard. Regulators were firm and kept tabs on the safety rules. Service providers also improved on some airports, and aeronautical services got better nationwide.    

Specifically, infrastructure got a significant boost with the eventual opening of the Chinese new terminals in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos – all of which started before 2015. Similarly, Abuja airport got runway rehabilitation. Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) in Lagos restored Runway 18L lighting and night operations after 14 years of blackout. The airports also got 10 new fire trucks at a whopping cost of N12 billion. 
The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) was very busy deploying advanced Instrument Landing Systems (ILSs) across nationwide airports to enhance night operations and safe flights even at low air-to-ground visibility.
Besides the upgrade of ILSs, the controversial Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) and Safe Tower facilities also got new equipment, all estimated to worth N36 billion. Similarly, the agency got two mobile state-of-the-art control towers at the cost of N1.7 billion.
Passenger traffic also rose from 12 million to 16 million as of 2022. The airline operators felt the positive impact in the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) on aviation equipment, the COVID-19 palliative of N5 billion, and recent push back on aeropolitics.
Conspicuously missing on the roll call of achievements, however, are the deliverables contained in the Aviation Roadmap of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.

Nigeria Air took off, landed in court 
Perhaps one of the biggest flops of the era is the handling of the national carrier project vis-à-vis the embedded ‘national’ over private interests.
Having been prepared as a worst kept secret, the national carrier project got off to a shaky start with the controversial christening and unveiling of the logo at the London Farnborough Airshow in July 2018. The launch was meant to draw foreign investors ahead of the December 23, 2018 commencement of operation.
Back home, the project soon ran into budgetary constraints, as it had no place in that year’s budget. The December 23 take off was aborted. But from 2019 to date, budgetary votes have continued to mount for Nigeria Air.
By 2022, the national carrier had racked up to N14.65 billion, out of which N6.25 billion was penciled for working capital, consultancy and transaction advisers’ fees. The minister said only N400 million had been approved out of the lump sum.
For the 2023 budget, another N1.3 billion, with N700 million as ‘working capital’ and N200 million as consultancy fee, also went to the national carrier for which the government was meant to own only a five per cent stake.

In November 2022, after five years of foot-dragging, Ethiopian Airlines (ET) – the biggest African carrier – got into the narrative as the “preferred” technical partner ahead of the December 2022 take-off date (the fifth that had been proposed). ET was actually the only airline that showed interest in the globally publicised invitation to bidders!

But unimpressed by the alleged tacit “giveaway” of Nigerian national carrier to fellow African competitor, local operators approached the court, technically throwing spanner into the works of Nigeria Air.   
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, in November ordered all parties involved in the proposed national carrier to maintain the status quo, effectively truncating the December take-off date as pledged by the minister.
The court gave the order upon receiving the application of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), urging the court to stop the national carrier deal and withdraw the Air Transport Licence (ATL) already issued to Nigeria Air by the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Operators, like Air Peace, United Nigeria, Azman, and Top Brass, claimed that the firm that served as Transaction Adviser for the transaction was incorporated in March, last year, and alleged that the company was linked to the aviation minister. The local airlines further alleged that the ATL issued to Nigerian Air did not pass through normal security clearance.

Concession of major airports amid controversies
In 2016, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the concession of airports in the country, beginning with the big four in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano. Not until last year did the Minister announce the preferred and reserved bidders for the concession of three major airports – Lagos, Abuja and Kano.
The process has also not been spared of controversies. One of the bidders for the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, Sifax Group of Companies Limited, has filed a suit seeking disqualification of two preferred bidders – Tav Airports Holding Company and GMR Airport Limited.
Similarly, aviation workers’ unions have registered their displeasure against the Federal Government’s plan to concession four major international airports, coupled with the new agenda to demolish aviation agencies’ offices in Lagos.
The workers, under the aegis of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), said details of the concession plan have shown it as self-serving and anti-Nigeria.

Aircraft leasing company, MRO, aviation varsity
This week, at the Extra-Ordinary FEC meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the government ratified the establishment of a leasing company, a vital component of the aviation roadmap, which would allow existing investors and new entrants to lease equipment at affordable rates.

Sirika highlighted the significance of the aviation leasing company, stating, “Today in Council, something very significant happened in the world of civil aviation. Part of our roadmap, the aviation leasing company, has been established and approved by Council.”
An elated Sirika said: “So, I’m glad to see the full business case has been approved by the FEC. So the roadmap is gradually coming to 100 per cent completion. Therefore, entrepreneurs and civil aviation will have access to lease equipment at affordable rates within our country, Nigeria, and this is part of our roadmap.”
While there is no mention of the Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility at all, Hadi Sirika last year assured that the Federal Government was committed to setting up a University of Aviation which will commence on September 26, 2022.
He said President Buhari had concluded all the necessary preparations for the establishment of the African Aviation and Aerospace University in Abuja. Sirika said the institution, which would be the first of its kind in Africa, will commence with 20 pioneer students with a BSc in Aviation Business and BSc in Meteorology in view and by 2023, the University would start an MSc in Air Transport Management programme.
“For this year’s (2022) academic session, we are going to start BSc Aviation Business and BSc in Meteorology, then each of the courses will start with 20 students for now and by 2023 the University will start MSc in Air Transport Management,” Sirika had said.
Just yesterday, the minister announced that the commencement date of the university has been shifted till September 2023 – four months after the expiration of the President Buhari-led administration.

Performance rating: Poor
But the minister has given a verdict of 100% delivery of the aviation road map – without the takeoff of the national carrier, airport concession (despite endorsement of bidders), MRO, airport cities. Fillers from the stakeholders did not agree with his self-appraisal.
The Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), in a recent poll, scored the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s performance in the air transport sector only six per cent success rate in over seven years.

The rating was benchmarked on key performance indices like the aviation roadmap, critical issues identified by the stakeholders and recommendations made to the government since assumption of office.
ASRTI, a think-tank group, estimated that only six per cent of the agenda has so far been implemented successfully; 42 per cent still in the progress, while 52 per cent others remained unscratched in almost eight years.
Aviation Security Consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd) noted that there are about 12 items in the minister’s Roadmap, “but none of them seems to be up to 20 per cent in completion”.
Ojikutu noted that the 16 million yearly traffic would not even qualify as an achievement. “The Vision 2020 projected 20 million passengers traffic by year 2020 but unfortunately, in 2019, the passenger traffic was 16 million, and COVID-19 could not be an excuse for not attaining 20 million in 2020.
“We are in 2023, two years after COVID-19 had been declared ended in Nigeria, and we are still in the pre-COVID figures. The airfare is higher than pre-COVID. About 70 per cent of the air travelling passengers are government and corporate officials whose airfares are paid by their employers.
“The question now is, are the employers financially buoyant today to be able to be paying for the airfares of their officials to increase or sustain the passenger traffic figures? Only time can tell,” Ojikutu said.
Aircraft engineer, Andrew Sunday, is one of those disappointed with the state of the industry. Sunday said though the minister enjoyed good support from stakeholders, “attempts to implement unpopular and outdated ideas were his undoing”.
He said: “I’m surprised that he awarded himself a 100 per cent score for the Roadmap. Sadly, he came in as an insider and professional, but clearly missed the runway and crash-landed on his promises to the industry at large. It’s so painful for some of us who love him so much, to witness these episodes of unfulfilled promises. He should score three over 10, because on the overall, aviation is worse off than he met it,” Sunday said.

Where are the governing boards of agencies?
Indeed, one of the issues that agitated aviation workers the most is the conspicuous absence of statutory governing boards of directors for five aviation agencies. President Buhari had six years ago, approved replacements for the former boards but the new ones were not inaugurated, allegedly in preference for “a one-man” leadership at the helm.
The responsibilities of the board include fixing the terms and conditions of service for employees, reviewing yearly reports of the management for submission to the President, presenting yearly budget estimates of the agency to the minister, record-keeping, and auditing the agency among others.
Former scribe of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Olayinka Abioye, said besides the Roadmap “been a colossal disaster as the items became distorted with variations, wasteful, and avoidable controversies”, the tenure also treated the worker with disdain.
Abioye noted that workers are the lubricant of the industry, and despite their grievances over the years, they remained steadfastly devoted to the provision of seamless services.
“As the maxim says, a disgruntled worker is an accident waiting to happen. It is disheartening that under the watch of the minister, workers service conditions nosedived arising from the failure of the Executive and the Ministry to secure for these workers the only ingredient that could add value to their lives and working conditions. This non-provision and approval of functional service conditions worsened following the arbitrary and unwholesome refusal, failure and reluctance of the supervising Minister of Aviation to inaugurate Federal Government approved Governing Boards for aviation agencies.
“The establishment Acts of these agencies provides for the existence of these Boards, who see to the day-to-day running of the agencies in consonance with the Act establishing them. And without the existence of these Boards, the Minister becomes the alpha and omega, de facto and de jure controller of the agencies and that’s where we have found ourselves in these past eight years, where probity, accountability, and transparency had taken the back seat.
“It is very frustrating for CEOs to be running helter skelter all over the ministry waiting to secure one approval or the other from the minister for days. I have witnessed occasions where the minister became the spokesman for the CEOs at several fora whereas the CEOs were present. Very humiliating, to say the least!” he said.
President of the group, Dr. Gbenga Olowo, said it was regrettable to find the “national carrier a stillbirth, MRO as unborn, and airport concessioning inconclusive”.

Olowo added that the government, however, did well in the area of regulatory bodies, with the status upgrade of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and expansion of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) into National Safety Investigation Board (NSIB).
He, however, said that: “the failure to establish some aviation agency boards as stated in the Civil Aviation Act (CAA) violates Section 29:1 of the Civil Aviation Act, as contained in Section 11:1 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution.
“The New Airport Terminal Building in Lagos, commissioned by the President last year, was said to have had no apron for parking, ditto for the one in Abuja obstructing the control tower. The light rail line in Abuja does not connect to the airport terminal building either. Were there no plans before these projects were executed?
“We expected the government to have done at least 60 per cent and leave the rest to politics. To us at ASRTI, following our indices, we scored the administration below par. We didn’t see the national carrier. We started acquiring non-profitable airports from state governments, and some governments still want to develop their own. And we said no. How about the existing ones that are unprofitable?
“The Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos that is supposed to be our number one airport has been neglected. The one added by the Chinese, recently, some foreign airlines rejected it. How can we deliver a facility that operators don’t want? So, who is delivering facilities for who? No airline growth, no airport growth because I didn’t see a hub developed,” Olowo said.

Caveat emptor!
The president added that it behooves the incoming administration to critically review the aviation roadmap and make amends with the foreign airlines, to return air transport to the path of growth.
Aviation analyst, Olumide Ohunayo, said the current administration has demystified the age-long agitation for having aviation professionals at the helm of its affairs.

“Now we have realised the need for a change; to bring people from outside the industry but people with good flair for economics and commerce. What is actually lacking in our industry is that ability to attract FDIs and the need to push for the commercialisation of the industry and its agencies,” he said.
Ohunayo explained that with aviation agencies struggling with inefficiencies, each minister that comes on board has been loading those agencies with all manner of irrelevant staff.
“The staff structure is killing professionalism; we must address it. Again, we must get to the point of ICAO’s statute that says that revenue generated in aviation must be reinvested to develop infrastructure and delivery of quality services. We need sincerity of purpose. That much we lacked and you can see why all the concessions are failing.
“For me, we should return to those days when we had the Minister of States for Aviation, under transport, for accountability purposes and avoidance of dictatorial tendencies. I only pity the next minister of aviation because there are so many landmines that have been put in place for him or her failure. And all of them are coming from the Roadmap that is enmeshed in all manner of controversy just because the handlers put their private interest before national benefits,” Ohunayo said.

Hajj 2023: Nigeria announces date for departure of inaugural flight - PREMIUM TIMES

MAY 19, 2023

NAHCON says over 96,000 Nigerians are expected to participate in the 2023 Hajj.

By Bakare Majeed

The inaugural flight of Nigerian pilgrims for the 2023 Hajj exercise will depart the country for Saudi Arabia on 25 May, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria has disclosed.

The Chairman of the Commission, Zikrullah Hassan, announced this on Thursday at the inauguration of the media team for the 2023 exercise in Abuja.

Mr Hassan said pilgrims from Nasarawa State will be the first set to depart for Hajj.

He stated that the commission has concluded arrangements for the advance team to depart for Saudi Arabia on Sunday to prepare for the Nigerian delegation.

“Every pilgrim will get value for money in terms of the money they paid for service.

“Insha Allah, we are fully prepared, all registered Nigerian pilgrims will be airlifted. Our plan still remains that our advance team proceed to the holy land on the 21 May, which is just in three days.

“An advanced team of Hajj officials will depart to the Holy land on Sunday to prepare for the reception of Nigeria’s pilgrims,” he said.

Mr Hassan further disclosed that over 96,000 Nigerians are expected to participate in the 2023 Hajj.

Speaking to the media team, Mr Hassan urged it to cover the 2023 Hajj robustly while maintaining the ethics of journalism.

He assured the team that the commission is ready and willing to provide information when required. He noted that the team should equally obey the laws of the host country during the exercise.

In his remarks, the commissioner of planning, research and policy management, Sulayman Momoh, also called for collaboration between the commission and the media in making the 2023 Hajj seamless.

According to the timetable released by the Saudi authority, Saudi airports will open for the first flight carrying 2023 Hajj pilgrims on Sunday 21 May and close for arrivals of Hajj flights on Thursday 22 June.

FG to launch passport home delivery – Aregbesola - PUNCH

MAY 20, 2023

By Solomon Odeniyi

The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has said the Federal Government has plans to launch a home delivery service for passports.

He said the government intended for anyone desirous of having a passport to do so within a reasonable time, and at an affordable price without any stress.

The minister spoke at the opening of the Nigeria Immigration Service Passport Front Desk Office in Auchi, Edo State, on Saturday.

A statement by his Media Adviser, Sola Fasure, quoted the minister as promising to conclude negotiations with the Nigerian Postal Service on the usage of its speedy mail service to start delivering passports to Nigerians.

The statement partly read, “What we are doing here is significant for two main reasons. The first is the right (and even the necessity) of Nigerians, especially those in the diaspora to hold the Nigerian passport. Except for those travelling outside the country or intending to, most of those who hold a passport do so for identification purposes. For some, it is also a thing of pride to be able to brandish the greenback of the passport.

“But for those outside the country, the passport is the proof of their existence. The inability to produce it on demand may bring untoward consequences. The government, therefore wants to provide the passport for anyone desirous of it within a reasonable time, at an affordable price, and without any stress whatsoever. The second is the need, flowing from the first, to break out of the regular.

“We are in the final stage of concluding negotiations with NIPOST to begin using its speed mail service to deliver passports to Nigerians wherever they are in the world after production. ”

Aregbesola stated that Edo State has one of the highest passport applications in Nigeria, adding that the waiting period between application and collection would likely increase due to the recent increase in demand.

He said, “Our current working schedule is that a fresh application would take six weeks after biometric data registration and three weeks for renewal. This is reasonable, competitive, and in line with the global best practices.

“The challenge however is the waiting period at the point of application and data registration. All applicants will be put in a queue, depending on the centre of their choice, to determine the registration date. Regrettably, it might take two months in some highly competitive centres where the application is very high. We have no control over this.”.

He also urged applicants to plan ahead for their travelling, as travelling requires long-term planning, whether for education, work, leisure, or migration, except for urgent national assignments or medical emergencies.

Speaking earlier, the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Isah Jere Idris, said that the choice of Auchi is apt, as Edo State ranks fifth amongst states with the highest volume of passport applications locally.

He said, “In the past 365 days, Edo state has processed 56,291 applications out of the 1.5 million passports produced in Nigeria. The commissioning of this front office will no doubt go a long way in reducing the traffic in Edo State and other neighbouring states”.

UK to ban Nigerian students, others from bringing family over - PUNCH

MAY 21, 2023

By Amarachi Okeh

The United Kingdom is set to announce new restrictions that will most likely stop Nigerian students, other nationalities studying in the UK from bringing their families over.

According to an exclusive report by The Sun UK, this crack down will be annocued this week.

The crackdown will see all masters students and many other post grads banned from bringing family over.

However, the ban will not apply to PHD students, whose courses usually last between 3 and 5 years and are very highly skilled, the UK media House reported.

This follows the reports that net migration into the UK has skyrocketed to 1 million with Tory MPs asking the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, “to get a  grip on the rocketing numbers.”

To get a hold of the climbing numbers, UK ministers are said to be expected to announce the immigration clampdown on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Sun reports that “Rishi Sunak is expected to come out fighting on immigration – pointing out they are figures he inherited as they date back to the year ending December 2022 – two months after he became PM.

“There has been an explosion in the number of people coming to Britain piggybacking on their relative’s student visa.

“Students brought 135,788 family members to Britain last year – nine times more than in 2019.

“Last year, 59,053 Nigerian students brought over 60,923 relatives.”

“We have got to get a grip,” a Tory MP told The Sun on Sunday.

Japa: 128,770 Nigerian students move to UK in seven years - PUNCH

MAY 22, 2023

In search of better education and quality of life, a total of 128,770 Nigerian students enrolled in universities in the United Kingdom between 2015 to the end of 2022, analysis of the data obtained from the Higher Education Statistics Agency of the UK has revealed.

The number of Nigerian students has continued to grow over the years, as Nigerians try to escape the horrors of bad governance, and the disruption of academic activities by tertiary-institutions-based unions such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities, and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, among others.

In the 2015/2016 academic year, statistics indicate that 16,100 Nigerians were enrolled in UK universities.

During the 2016/2017 session, there was a sharp decline as only 12,655 Nigerians were enrolled, with experts blaming the recession back home in Nigeria for the drop.

In 2017/2018, the number of enrolled Nigerians reduced to 10,685 while it rose marginally to 10,810 during the 2018/2019 academic session.

A total of 13,020 students were enrolled during the 2019/2020 academic session while 21,305 were enrolled during the 2020/2021 session representing a 64 per cent increase.

The latest data available by HESA revealed that 44,195 students were enrolled for the 2021/2022 session, the highest so far since Nigeria’s independence in 1960.

A breakdown of the HESA statistics shows that in the top 10 international students list, Nigeria ranked third behind China and India.

 The PUNCH reports that foreign tertiary institutions and their respective countries have continued to benefit from the migration of Nigerian students to oversea institutions.

For instance, in 2021, Nigerian students and their dependants in the United Kingdom contributed an estimated £1.9bn to the economy of the UK, according to a report by SBM Intelligence.

An education activist and Programme Director, Reform Education Nigeria, Ayodamola Oluwatoyin, who had spoken to our correspondent earlier, listed poor government policies as one of the reasons Nigerians seek better opportunities abroad.

Meanwhile, The United Kingdom is set to announce new restrictions that will most likely stop Nigerian students and other nationalities studying in the UK from bringing their families over.

According to an exclusive report by The Sun UK, this crackdown will be announced this week.

Again, UK plans visa restriction for dependants of Nigerian students, others - BUSINESSDAY

MAY 22, 2023

The British government may soon limit the number of dependant visas for international students from Nigeria and other countries due to an increase in net migration.

According to the Financial Times (FT), the department of education, home office and treasury are set to finalise plans that prevent masters’ students on one year courses from bringing family members to the United Kingdom (UK).

This development may affect immigration numbers for countries like Nigeria which recorded the highest number of dependants (60,923) of sponsored study visa holders in 2022, increasing from 1,586 in 2019.

“Immigration has become one of the most explosive political issues. Ministers are now finalising plans to tackle one recent boom area for legal migration: the number of dependants who come to Britain with overseas master’s students, often from India and Nigeria,” the FT said.

It said students have been one of the main drivers of the post-coronavirus pandemic surge in migration, with almost 500,000 study visas issued by the UK authorities in 2022 — a rise of 81 percent compared with 2019.

One of the ministers told the British business news organisation that many of the master courses only last for nine months. “We don’t think this will have a big effect on our ability to attract global talent.”

Another minister confirmed the focus was on the dependants of master’s students, saying: “It’s clear we have to do something. We’re a long way from David Cameron’s promise to reduce annual net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’.”

The treasury, which normally favours higher migration, has accepted the political need to restrict the number of dependants of overseas students, while Gillian Keegan, education secretary, has also agreed to the plan.

Last September, the Telegraph, a national British daily broadsheet newspaper reported that the UK government was considering tightening visa rules on how many relatives migrants can bring into the country.

Suella Braverman, UK’s Home Secretary, said there were too many students coming into the UK and needed to be cut down. “There are structural pressures that mass and rapid migration poses to our country.”

In January, Braverman pushed for a visa change that would force foreign students out of the country if they don’t get a skilled job six months after graduating.

According to The Daily Mail, she committed to cut immigration and substantially reduce the number of unskilled foreign workers coming to Britain, from 239,000 to the tens of thousands.

Over 3,000 stranded Nigerians repatriated in five months – Report - PUNCH

MAY 23, 2023

The Federal Government and the International Organisation for Migration evacuated no fewer than 3,363 stranded Nigerians between January and May 2023.

This is according to figures obtained from the  IOM and the National Emergency Management.

Checks by our correspondent on Monday showed that 2,518 stranded Nigerians were evacuated from Sudan; 538 from Libya; 294 from the Niger Republic and 13 from Saudi Arabia in the last five months.

It was reported on May 17, that NEMA facilitated the return of 13 Nigerian students who fled from the Sudan war to Saudi Arabia.

On May 14 via the Twitter handle of NEMA, the agency announced that it evacuated 2,518 stranded Nigerians from war-torn Sudan.

On April 18 via the Twitter handle of IOM, the organisation evacuated 107 Nigerians stranded in Libya.

On April 11, FG in collaboration with the IOM, evacuated 152 Nigerians, who were stranded in Libya, to Nigeria.

On April 4, the FG and the IOM evacuated 144 stranded Nigerians from Niger Republic.

On March 28, the FG, in collaboration with the IOM evacuated 151 stranded Nigerians from Benghazi, Libya, as the government resumed its voluntary evacuation in Libya.

Within 24 hours, on March 29, they evacuated 128 more Nigerian migrants living illegally in Libya to Nigeria under the voluntary evacuation exercise.

On February 14 via the Twitter handle of NEMA, 150 distressed Nigerians were evacuated from Niamey, Niger Republic. The profile of the returnees indicated that 98 were male adults, male children 11, and two male infants. While 24 were female adults, 13 were female children with two female infants.

According to the United Nations, irregular migration poses multiple challenges to countries of origin, transit, and destination and migrants themselves.

Migrants in irregular situations are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and abuse.

A retired Nigerian ambassador to Mexico, Ogbole Amedu-Ode, who recently spoke with The PUNCH, blamed unemployment and an inconducive political environment for high irregular migration.

Amedu-Ode said, “The unemployment rate for Nigeria stands at 33 per cent (2022 figure). Added to that, is an inconducive political atmosphere.

“This mix is responsible for Nigerians voting with their feet. Those who can afford it do so through legal or legitimate migration channels and those who cannot take the perilous trans-Sahara and trans-Mediterranean route.”

South Africa’s Nursing Shortage Becoming Critical, Netcare Says - BLOOMBERG

MAY 23, 2023

BY  Janice KewBloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- South Africa is facing a critical shortage of nurses as private hospitals are restricted from training more of the caregivers, according to the country’s largest private health-care network.

Although most South African hospitals have their own nursing colleges, only designated universities can issue professional nursing qualifications. This is despite the fact that the country has an estimated shortage of between 26,000 and 62,000 nurses, as well as a large proportion of health workers due to retire by 2030, Richard Friedland, chief executive officer of Netcare Ltd. said in an interview Monday.

“The tragedy is we’ve got tens of thousands of people applying to become nurses every year and in a country that is beset by such a skill shortage, by such rampant unemployment, it’s almost inexplicable that government isn’t opening the doors to allow the private sector to train,” he said.

Netcare has capacity to train more than 3,500 nurses a year, but has only been accredited to take about 10% of that, said Friedland. He said the company is collaborating with the government and other bodies to try and make better use of excess nursing college capacity. 

“It’s akin to the Eskom crisis,” he said, referring to the crippling power cuts South Africa is facing because Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the state-owned company that supplies about 90% of the nation’s electricity, can’t meet demand from its dilapidated plants. “The private sector, through the Hospital Association of South Africa, is galvanized at the moment. We’re exploring all of our options in this regard and we’re not excluding taking legal action.”

Nursing shortages are not unique to South Africa and many countries are facing severe shortages of workers post-pandemic. 

Netcare earlier reported a rise in paid patient days in the six months through March compared with a year earlier, and said it expects full-year revenue growth of between 9% and 12%.

New immigration rules ban foreign students from bringing family to UK - metro

MAY 23, 2023

The government is set to ban most international students from bringing their family to the UK in a crackdown against immigration.

The news comes as new figures, set to be released on Thursday, are expected to show net migration has increased to 1 million people.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to reduce net migration when he entered Downing Street last year – but he’s likely to come out fighting on these figures.

He inherited them as they date back to to the year ending December 2022, two months after he became prime minister, The Sun reports.

The number of people coming to the UK using a relative’s student visa reached 135,788 last year, which is nine times more than in 2019.

This crackdown, expected to be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday, will see all masters students and many post graduates from bringing family over, but won’t apply to PhD students.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman reportedly also wanted to increase the salary threshold.

Currently foreign workers have to earn at least £26,000 to move here, but she wanted this upped to £33,000 – the average wage in Britain.

The proposal, also backed by Robert Jenrick, was overruled by the Treasury.

One Tory MP said: ‘We have got to get a grip.’

Airline sued over ‘absolutely disgusting’ business class seat - the independent

MAY 23, 2023

A passenger is taking Emirates to a small claims court in the UK over his “grubby” AU$3,240 (£1,728) business class seat.

Brodie Chapman, 20, claims that the airline mis-sold his ticket, after he boarded to find an “absolutely disgusting” plane and a seat that didn’t even recline. He is hoping to win back almost AU$5,000 (£2,667).

Mr Chapman runs a wholesale energy firm and travels with the airline up to 20 times a year. Last month he was travelling from Oslo to Dubai when he experienced what he called a “misrepresentation of the brand”.

Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, Mr Chapman – who divides his time between Perth and the UK – said: “The seats were grubby, there were socks stuck down the side of my chair, it didn’t recline properly, one of the screens didn’t work, [and] there were stains on the seat.

“They advertise this fancy product – the 777 or the A380 – and this plane I got on was absolutely disgusting. It’s a plane they don’t advertise – it was around 23 years old. None of the services they advertise or offer were available”, he added.

Mr Chapman claims that the airline’s website only advertises new aircraft interiors, such as those on the A380 or the new 777, so he has effectively been mis-sold a product. It is understood that the aircraft he travelled on was one of the older 777 fleet.

Emirates’ customer services team offered Mr Chapman 20,000 Skyward Miles as compensation, reportedly telling him that they “do specify on our website that products and services may vary on actual flights depending on routes and aircraft configuration”. In addition, “operational requirements may cause last minute changes to the aircraft used on scheduled flights”.

Mr Chapman was not satisfied with this repsonse, making the decision to take the airline to small claims court. “I pay more money to fly with Emirates than other carriers because they are meant to offer more luxury and comfort”, he said.

“But if the product they are advertising bears no relation to what you are actually receiving, I don’t think it’s really fair”.

The Independent has contacted Emirates for comment.

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