UK house sales fall 52% in month after stamp duty holiday deadline - THE GUARDIAN UK
BY Rupert Jones
HMRC property market figures reveal most subdued October for almost decade
House sales tumbled by more than half during the first few weeks after the end of the UK’s stamp duty holiday, leading to the quietest October property market for almost a decade.
After a record surge in activity earlier in the year, transactions slumped by 52% in a month to reach 76,930 in October after thousands of homebuyers rushed to complete their purchases and beat the government’s end-of-September stamp duty holiday deadline.
HM Revenue and Customs, which published the new data, said UK house sales in October were also 28% lower than in the same month last year.
HMRC said that after “significant forestalling activity” by homebuyers in September, there had been “an expected but noticeable decrease” in sales the following month. Forestalling is when advanced action is taken to prevent an anticipated event – in this case, the phasing-out of the stamp duty holiday. The threshold at which the tax begins returned to its pre-pandemic level of £125,000 on 1 October.
While last month was the slowest October since 2012, according to HMRC, other measures of the market – in particular, the various house price surveys – depict a market continuing to fire on all cylinders.
Halifax said earlier this month that UK house prices rose for a fourth month running in October, adding 0.9% to the average cost of a home and taking the typical figure above £270,000 for the first time on its measure. The rival lender Nationwide said property values increased by 0.7% in October, which meant the price of the average property had gone up by more than £30,000 since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020.
The HMRC data underlines the rollercoaster nature of the housing market during the past 18 months or more. It revealed that house sales in the second quarter of 2021 hit their highest quarter-two level since official records began to be compiled in this way in 2005, and also hit their highest total for any three-month period since 2007.
The figures prompted many commentators to predict that the market was heading for a winter “hibernation”.
Sarah Coles, a personal finance analyst at the investment company Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Property sales plummeted in October, but … we always see drops like this after the end of a tax break, and we tend to see buyers hunker down for winter, so the combination of the two was always going to mean a quieter few months.”
She added: “The monthly drop looks spectacular, as sales almost halved, but this was from an enormous peak created by the final stamp duty holiday deadline. A major chunk of sales we would otherwise have expected this winter were rushed through in time for the deadline at the end of September.”
One factor that may have kept house prices buoyant is the reported shortage of homes for sale. Earlier this month, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said that “a lack of new properties being listed for sale continues to drive house prices up”.
It added that despite a rise in the number of new buyer inquiries, estate agents currently only had 37 properties on their books on average.
Petrol to sell for N340 per litre next year, says Kyari - THE NATION
By Bunmi Ogunmodede, News Editor and Frank Ikpefan, Abuja
Labour cautions govt against unilateral action
N5,000 monthly stipend for 40m Nigerians
Going by the words of Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) Group Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer (GMD/CEO) Mele Kyari, petrol will sell for between N320 and N340 per liter from February, next year.
Kyayi, who said Nigeria would be out of the subsidy regime in the first quarter of 2022, explained that subsidy would have been eliminated this year, but for certain factors that prevented it.
However, the Federal Government is planning to give N5,000 each to 40 million Nigerians, representing 40 per cent of the country’s 200 million population, next year to coincide with the take off of the subsidy removal.
The NNPCL boss spoke in Abuja at the presentation of the November edition of the World Bank Nigeria Development Update, titled: “Time for Business Unusual.”
But, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) cautioned the Federal Government against unilateral removal or stoppage of petrol subsidy regime.
The organised labour warned that removing subsidy without meeting labour’s demands will be met with stiff resistance.
Kyari said: “There will be no provision for it legally in our system, but I am also sure you will appreciate that government has a bigger social responsibility to cater for the ordinary and therefore engage in a process that will ensure that we exit in the most subtle and easy manner.”
He assured that fuel subsidy removal would definitely be achieved in 2022 as it was now fully backed by law, adding that the price of the product may range between N320 and N340 per liter.
Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai assured of governors readiness to back the plan to eliminate the subsidy regime.
El-Rufai gave the assurance as a panelist, who joined the World Bank presentation virtually, said that if the regime of fuel subsidy was not eliminated, 35 out of the 36 states of the federation may not be able to pay salaries next year.
According to him, kerosene which matters most to the masses had been regulated without any hitches, while diesel which was most important to transporters had also been regulated for a long time.
He said: “This hullabaloo about petrol is something that we must as a country have a conversation and agree that it has to end. We cannot continue to provide petroleum to our neighbouring countries, which is what we are doing.
FG inaugurates enhanced e-passport in UK - NAN
According to him, the minister made the disclosure at the official rollout of the enhanced e-passport at the Nigerian High Commission, London.
The minister, who revealed that the Nigerian passport was the highest affirmation of Nigerian citizenship, noted that it was the responsibility of the Federal Government to provide the passport without any stress and within a reasonable period.
“What we have come to do here (UK) is symbolic of the core mandate of the ministry and indeed the Federal Government of Nigeria affirmation of citizenship integrity.
“As we are all aware, there have been huge challenges in passport administration, from shortage of booklet to touting and an economy of corruption built around it.
“These challenges have persisted for too long and a lot of people have become cynical while others have taken them as normal and then roll with it.
“But I come from a tradition of problem-solving in public administration.
“I do not believe that any problem is insurmountable, so we are going to solve all the problems associated with passport administration and we are already succeeding, “ he said.
On the features of the enhanced passport, Aregbesola noted that it was a big improvement over the standard passport that was introduced back in 2007.
He said it has more sophisticated security features, making it one of the most secured passports in the world.
“The enhanced e-passport is a great improvement on the biometric passport technology which Nigeria adopted in 2007 as a strategic step towards curbing forgery.
“Impersonation and other forms of frauds associated with obtaining travel document under the old machine-readable passport regime.
“We are aware that technology rules the world and we are keeping abreast of the latest development in the field.
“Over the years, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) had worked assiduously and in close synergy with Messrs Iris Smart Technologies Limited to develop and implement passport reforms,’’ he said.
Aregbesola said the reforms are in tandem with international best practices, including extant International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Standards and Regulations.
The minister, who seized the opportunity to reel out some of the achievements of the NIS under his tenure, noted that the service had issued a total of 2.7 million Nigerian passports in the past two years.
“ We have taken substantial measures to address the issue of shortage of passport booklets.
“In 2021, the ministry approved the deployment of over 600,000 booklets, the largest of its kind ever done.
“That is not all. The NIS, through MIDAS, is now connected to INTERPOL and can upload information to the agency on lost, stolen and invalidated passports in real time.
“The ministry has consistently provided the enabling environment for the NIS to undertake and implement several reforms especially, with regard to border management and passport administration, as well as internal monitoring and control mechanisms,“ he said.
According to him, the aim is to enhance efficient and effective service delivery to Nigerians and foreigners alike,” the minister said.
In his remarks, the Acting Comptroller-General of NIS, Isa Jere, expressed the service’s readiness to meet the demands for passports in the UK.
Jere stated that his officers were ever ready to roll out the new passports at the official rate published on the NIS website.
“We are ready to serve the public and start rolling out the new enhanced e-passport in the UK with immediate effect. Our staff are professionals and will deliver excellent service to our citizens.
“Those who have any complaints whatsoever are advised to use the publicly listed complaints channels to adequately resolve any issues raised,” Jere advised.
Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Suspend Industrial Action For Two Weeks - CHANNELS TV
Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers’ Association (NATCA) has announced the suspension of its planned strike and any other actions for the next two weeks.
The group in a statement on Wednesday said the decision was taken after a meeting with MD/CEO of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) where it was agreed that a four-man follow-up and implementation group be submitted by NATCA to work with the management team in looking into their demands.
Find below the full statement of the group.
Sequel to the operational flow control embarked upon by our esteemed professional association on the 23rd November 2021 and the numerous calls and interventions by well-meaning Nigerians, the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers’ Association (NATCA) wishes to communicate and clarify the following:
- That it embarked on Air Traffic Flow Control because an operational ATC flow control is part of the tools recognised by ICAO, and used worldwide in the event that there exist a deficiency or inability of the ATM system to deliver a safe, efficient and effective ATC service.
- That NATCA decided to embark on such process and to use such tool, after a deliberate due diligence indicated that due to some failures in the ATM system, it’s members could no longer guarantee the delivery of a safe, efficient and effective ATC service.
As a consequence of the above, the executive council agreed that, as a disciplined and responsible body, it cannot allow it’s members to operate to full capacity under such stringent and inadequate conditions, hence we decided that a reduced capacity is better, so as to safeguard and maintain a semblance of the safety standards established by ICAO SARPs and NCAR in the system.
- That as a consequence of the death of one of our member on active duty under conditions which the executive council considers unacceptable by all standards, and the resultant trauma suffered by his immediate colleagues causing real apathy in its ranks due to perceived negligence on part of management.
It is important that we clarify the above so as to correct some misinformation being reported.
As a fallout of our actions, the MD/CEO of NAMA requested for a meeting with NATCA EXCO.
The meeting discussed extensively all the issues highlighted by NATCA and it was agreed that a 4-man follow-up and implementation group be submitted by NATCA to work with management team immediately.
That management of NAMA will immediately implement 3 crucial demands from NATCA as a show of goodwill as others are being worked on for implementation.
That as a sign of reciprocating management’s action, NATCA shall suspend all further action on all forms of reactions as it further engages management on implementation.
That the MD/CEO shall be the direct head of the implementation group.
In consideration of all of the above, NATCA has agreed to suspend any further protests or actions for 2 weeks pending the outcome of the implementation of the 3 items agreed to.
NATCA had earlier on Tuesday lamented poor working conditions and threatened industrial action following the death of their colleague, Aniekan Effiong Inuk, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The group said they have lost nine members on active service due to stress-related health complications which seem associated with poor working conditions and inadequate staffing.
They announced the commencement of three-hour flow control for two days affecting flight operations in the country.
Sean Fraser prepared to increase Canada’s immigration levels even as 46,000 immigrants landed in October - CIC
Fraser knows there are a lot of challenges ahead of him, but sees an opportunity to make a positive difference on Canada's immigration system.
BY Kareem El-Assal
Sean Fraser knows he has a lot of hard work ahead of him.
In his first major interviews as Canadian immigration minister, Fraser spoke with Shelly Hagan of Bloomberg and Nicholas Keung of the Toronto Star to discuss the opportunities and challenges of his new role.
Speaking with Bloomberg, the minister said he is prepared to increase Canada’s immigration levels if it is necessary to address labour shortages. Canada is currently experiencing significant job shortages in large part due to fewer immigrants arriving from overseas amid the pandemic.
The country is currently pursuing its most ambitious Immigration Levels Plan in its history as it aims to welcome 401,000 immigrants in 2021, another 411,000 in 2022, and an additional 421,000 in 2023.
Fraser said he is “very much open to” even higher levels if there is an appetite from businesses and communities for more workers.
The Immigrations Levels Plan 2022-2024 is due to be announced by February 10, 2022 at the latest.
46,000 immigrants landed in October, mostly from within Canada
The minister also revealed that Canada is well on track to achieve its 401,000 newcomer target for this year.
Bloomberg obtained data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) showing that 46,315 new permanent residents completed their landing in October, even more than the 45,000 landed in September. These figures represent monthly records for Canada in the modern era (monthly immigration landing data is only readily available dating back to 1980).
A landing means that an existing temporary resident of Canada, or a person from overseas has their immigration status officially converted to a permanent resident of Canada. The vast majority of those who have landed during the pandemic are existing temporary residents of Canada. This helps to explain why Canada’s population and labour force growth remain weak. In fact, Statistics Canada data shows Canada’s population grew by just 0.5 per cent last year, the weakest growth since the First World War. Under normal circumstances, most new permanent resident landings come to Canada from abroad.
Canada has now welcomed 313,838 immigrants between January and October 2021. It needs to land about 87,000 more immigrants (an average of 43,500 per month) in the remaining two months of this year to achieve its newcomer goal for 2021.
Opportunities and challenges facing immigration system
Fraser spoke candidly in his interview with the Toronto Star on current obstacles, conceding “There are no shortage of challenges ahead of me.”
Discussing Canada’s backlog of some 1.8 million immigration applications, Fraser said “I don’t want to communicate to you today that in a short period of time, all of these problems will be fixed. They weren’t made overnight and they won’t be fixed overnight. I want to accelerate the work that’s going to help clear some of these backlogs. It’s going to make the process less painful for families that are trying to pursue a new life or reunite with their loved ones or find a job to contribute to our economy.”
He noted that citizenship applications are being digitized and IRCC is looking to address other issues slowing down the immigration system. For example, he said it does not make sense to deny the temporary entry of family members currently awaiting the processing of a sponsorship application.
The minister also said that most of his focus since becoming minister in October has been on resettling Afghan refugees. The federal government has committed to resettling 40,000 Afghans but has only resettled 3,500 so far. Fraser said “Canadians are right to be frustrated about what’s going on in Afghanistan. The reality on the ground right now is that we don’t have access the way we did in Syria, and that’s the equation that a lot of Canadians I think are trying to make.”
Nonetheless, Fraser sees a tremendous opportunity ahead of him to help improve the immigration system.
“Things are at such a strained point as a result of COVID-19 that I see an opportunity to make an extraordinary difference coming from this particular starting point.”
South African Airways Resumes Lagos-Johannesburg Flight - DAILY TRUST
South African Airways (SAA) has concluded plans to resume the Johannesburg-Lagos route on December 12, 2021.
The airline had been out of service for 18 months due to operational turbulence before it resumed operation on September 23rd, 2021.
After resuming operations, it would be restarting the lucrative Lagos flight which it described as an important continental route, commencing with a three-times a week flight to Lagos.
The interim CEO of South African Airways, Thomas Kgolo, in a statement said, “This specific destination takes SAA into one of the biggest travel markets in Africa and we’re delighted that we are again able to resume operations, providing a link between Africa’s two biggest economies.”
According to him, the service is part of SAA’s gradual growth strategy, having resumed full operations in September.
He said, “Our intention is to continue to develop our route network driven by passenger demand and revenue potential. We are constantly evaluating opportunities, both locally, regionally, and internationally.”
He further stated that not only does the new Johannesburg Lagos route function as a key economic link between the two countries but would also service the burgeoning tourism market in both countries.
Nigeria aims to launch new national airline by April, aviation minister says - REUTERS
ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria aims to launch a new national airline by April and will seek to sell a minority stake to a foreign airline or financial institution, Hadi Sirika, minister of state for aviation, said on Wednesday.
The plan, one of President Muhammadu Buhari's 2015 election campaign promises, has been on and off the table. The government suspended it in 2018, with no reason provided.
Sirika said the government will source a strategic partner via a procurement process to take a 49% stake in the new carrier, called Nigeria Air. The government would not own more than 5%, while local entrepreneurs would hold a 46% stake.
"The best case is that the airline will pick up... April 2022 if all things go equal," he told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Abuja.
The government has said the airline will require initial capital of between $150 million and $300 million.
Nigeria has been seeking to set up a national airline and develop its aviation infrastructure - currently seen as a barrier to economic growth - to create a hub for West Africa.
But decades of neglect and lack of investment have left Nigeria with low-quality infrastructure. The government has said that upgrading it will require private investment.
The West African country's previous national carrier, Nigeria Airways, was founded in 1958 and wholly owned by the government. It ceased to operate in 2003.
British billionaire Richard Branson set up domestic and international carrier Virgin Nigeria in 2000, but pulled out in 2010 in frustration at what he said was interference by politicians and regulators.
The airline he created, which was later rebranded Air Nigeria, closed in 2012 after collapsing under about 35 billion naira ($85.4 million) of debt which left it unable to pay staff, a former finance director of the company told Reuters at the time.
($1 = 409.6300 naira)
(Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Jan Harvey)
By Felix Onuah
Nigeria, Qatar mull partnership on gas development - PUNCH
BY Adepeju Adenuga
The Federal Government and the State of Qatar are considering partnership that will lead to the development of gas in both countries.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Gabriel Aduda, said collaboration in the area of gas development between Nigeria and Qatar would enhance economic growth and development.
A statement by the Embassy of Nigeria in Doha, Qatar, quoted Aduda as saying when he met with the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar, Dr. Ahmed bin Hassan Al Hammadi, in Doha.
The Permanent Secretary was accompanied to the meeting by the Nigerian Ambassador to the State of Qatar, Yakubu Ahmed, and the Head of Chancery, Mr. Kimiebi Ebienfa.
According to the statement, the Federal Government is currently deepening natural gas utilisation to enable it boost investment in power and gas-based industries.
Aduda called for investment in gas exploration and infrastructure, technology exchange, skills acquisition and knowledge sharing, manpower development in safety and environment.
He also listed other areas of potential partnership to include gas shipping and marine transportation, advocacy and collaboration in campaigning for gas as fuel of choice in the midst of climate change and global energy transition.
As a result, the permanent secretary called for relaxation of visa restrictions on Nigerians who intend to visit Qatar as well as easing of work visa for Nigerian professionals.
In his response, Al Hammadi recalled the robust relations between Nigeria and Qatar and lauded the proposal for cooperation between the two countries.
According to him, Qatar is ready to provide training for Nigerian diplomats.
To achieve this, he said the Head of the Diplomatic Institute would meet with the Nigerian side and agree on the terms and develop a framework to actualise set objectives.
NDLEA intercepts N2.7b cocaine at Abuja airport - PUNCH
BY Segun Adewole
Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency have arrested a 32-year-old drug trafficker based in Liberia, Maduabuchi Chinedu, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja with 9.30 kilograms of cocaine worth over N2.7 billion in street value.
The suspect is said to hail from Obaha Okigwe Village, Okigwe Local Government Area of Imo State, and works as a miner in Liberia.
The Director, Media and Advocacy, NDLEA Headquarters, Abuja, Femi Babafemi disclosed this in a statement titled, ‘NDLEA intercepts N2.7b cocaine at Abuja airport,’ and issued on Thursday.
The statement said the suspect was arrested during an inward joint search of Ethiopian Airlines flight 911 at the Abuja airport on Wednesday, November 24, 2021, with 9.30kg cocaine with each pellet in candy wraps and concealed in his luggage.
According to the statement, “During his preliminary interview, Chinedu claimed he left Nigeria in 2018 to settle in Liberia where he now has a residence permit. He however added that economic pressure and the need to raise money to treat his mother for an eye problem led him to seek help from a friend in Liberia who introduced him to another friend based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia who eventually gave him the drug to deliver in Abuja for a fee of N1million. He added that he was initially scheduled to deliver the drug to Ivory Coast but was rerouted to Nigeria at the last minute.
“While commending the officers and men of the NAIA Command of the Agency for their vigilance and working in synergy with other security agencies at the airport, Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) charged them and their colleagues in other commands to always remain two steps ahead of merchants of death who are daily getting more desperate to make money at the expense of the image of the country and Nigerians’ wellbeing.”
Germany considers a full Covid lockdown and mandatory vaccines - CNBC
BY Holly Ellyatt
- Germany is set to decide on tougher Covid restrictions on Wednesday.
- Officials have been considering more Covid rules and even a full or partial lockdown.
- Germany is seeing a record daily number of Covid cases and mounting pressure on hospitals as the delta variant takes hold.
- Outgoing Health Minister Jens Spahn has already issued a dire warning to Germans this week.
Senior doctor Thomas Marx puts on his personal protective gear (PPE) before he enters the room of a patient infected with the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in an intensive care unit (ICU) at the hospital in Freising, southern Germany. LENNART PREISS | AFP | Getty Images
Germany is set to decide on tougher Covid-19 restrictions and could even opt for a full lockdown amid record daily infections and mounting pressure on hospitals.
Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor-designate, said Wednesday that the Covid situation was serious and that the country would massively push its vaccination campaign, noting that “vaccination is the way out of this pandemic.”
Scholz said Germany “should make vaccination compulsory for certain groups,” without stating which groups, while new Finance Minister Christian Lindner stated that Germans should avoid all unnecessary contact this winter “to preserve all of our health in this pandemic.”
That Scholz chose to address the Covid crisis as he and his new government colleagues announced a draft coalition deal on Wednesday shows where the officials’ immediate priorities lie.
‘Vaccinated, recovered or dead’
The country’s outgoing health minister, Jens Spahn, issued a dire warning to Germans this week, saying that by the end of winter “pretty much everyone in Germany will be vaccinated, recovered or dead.” Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on the heads of Germany’s 16 federal states (which have largely been free to determine their own Covid measures) to decide upon stricter rules by Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Spahn reiterated that request, adding that more public spaces should be restricted to the vaccinated, the recently recovered, or those that have had a negative test — otherwise known as the “3G rule.” From Wednesday, 3G rules apply to any Germans going into the workplace or accessing public transport.
Many states in Germany have already restricted access to public spaces like bars, restaurants, movie theaters and museums under “2G rules,” restricting access to only those who are vaccinated — “geimpft” in German — or recovered, “genesen.” A number of major German Christmas markets which have not been canceled this year have adopted 2G rules.
2G sign is seen during the opening of Christmas market in Cologne, Germany on Nov 22, 2021 as Coronavirus cases are at a high peak in Germany. NurPhoto | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Last week, the government and federal states agreed to further nationwide restrictions that would come into force based on the hospitalization rate in the respective federal state.
Hospitals and vaccines
Spahn also warned about rising pressure on hospitals in Germany, noting that “we are having to move patients around as intensive care units are full and that doesn’t just affect Covid-19 patients,” he told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio, according to a Reuters translation.
The warning comes as the number of daily Covid infections hit a new record on Wednesday, with 66,884 new cases (a massive number for Germany and a big jump from the 45,326 new cases reported Tuesday) with the seven-day incidence rate passing 400 for the first time since the pandemic began, according to the Robert Koch Institute. Almost 100,000 people in Germany have died from the virus to date.
German officials are also said to be considering compulsory vaccinations, having already implored those not yet vaccinated to take up a shot. The country has one of the stubbornly lower vaccination rates in western Europe, with 68% of its population fully vaccinated.
Like other European countries, Germany has been desperately trying to boost Covid vaccinations and the deployment of booster shots as winter approaches. But vaccine hesitancy and the spread of the highly infectious delta Covid variant, which is far more virulent than previous strains, make the task far harder.
The idea of compulsory vaccinations has been a controversial idea in Europe but the dramatic Covid landscape has made the debate an increasingly prevalent one, and some officials believe mandating vaccines is the only way to stop the virus.
Covid vaccines greatly reduce the risk of severe infection, hospitalization and death from the virus, but we also know vaccine immunity wanes after around six months and that they are not 100% effective at reducing transmission.
Experts say there are a number of ethical questions to consider regarding vaccine mandates, but some countries have sidelined concerns in favor of the overall benefit that vaccination confers.
Austria has already announced it will make Covid vaccines compulsory from Feb.1 next year (it has also just introduced a full lockdown) and a number of countries (such as Italy and France) have made Covid vaccines mandatory for frontline health workers. The U.K. will follow suit in spring 2022.
German states have called for mandatory vaccinations for medical workers and health care staff, and the idea is being considered by the federal government, which had previously ruled out compulsory vaccination.
That some lawmakers are now calling for compulsory vaccination shows the current level of concern in Germany at the Covid crisis.
“We’ve reached a point at which we must clearly say that we need de facto compulsory vaccination and a lockdown for the unvaccinated,” Tilman Kuban, head of the youth wing of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, wrote in Die Welt newspaper on Sunday, noting that 90% of coronavirus patients in German intensive care beds are unvaccinated.
The unvaccinated, Kuban said, were bringing Germany “to the brink of desperation” adding that “it cannot be that the entire population is locked away every winter.”