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U.K. Says Almost 100,000 EU Nationals Departed Britain in 2020 - BLOOMBERG

NOVEMBER 25, 2021

(Bloomberg) --

The U.K. said a net 94,000 European Union nationals left the country last year as overall migration levels plummeted during the pandemic.

Office for National Statistics figures published Thursday show that the EU population in Britain shrank as more Europeans left the country than in 2019, and at least 100,000 fewer arrived. 

The figures help to explain why companies are now struggling to recruit workers, particularly in sectors such as hospitality and retail that relied heavily on foreign staff before the pandemic struck. The squeeze is driving up pay and inflation, making it likely the Bank of England will raise interest rates as early as next month.

The ONS said Covid-19 and Brexit, with the U.K. formally leaving the EU in January 2020, were responsible for the drop but that it was “difficult to disentangle the effects.” The sharp fall in net immigration partly reflects restrictions on international travel to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

A separate and more up-to-date ONS population release for the year to June 2021 suggested that the trend continued early this year. The number of EU nationals living in the U.K. was estimated to have fallen by 200,000 to 3.4 million by that point.

The drop in EU nationals was offset by movement from other countries. An estimated 130,000 more non-EU nationals came to the U.K. in 2020 than left, but that figure was also sharply lower than recent years. In 2019, net non-EU immigration was 277,000.

As a result, overall net migration “fell considerably” to just 34,000 from average annual levels of 250,000 over the previous decade.

“Although there is no evidence of an exodus from the U.K. in 2020, global travel restrictions meant the movement of people was limited, with all data sources suggesting migration fell to the lowest level seen for many years,” said Jay Lindop, director of the Center for International Migration at the ONS. 

“These are our best current estimates for international migration over this period,” he said. “However, they are modeled figures based on experimental research and subject to a high level of uncertainty,” he said.

Number of Hong Kongers Applying for U.K. Visa Program Fell Again - BLOOMBERG

NOVEMBER 25, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- The number of Hong Kongers applying for a visa that provides a pathway to U.K. citizenship continues to fall. 

The decline comes after authorities made it more difficult to move pension savings out of the region. Some people using the route found themselves unable to take their retirement money with them, Bloomberg reported in August, as China cracks down on the city’s freedoms.

There were 24,000 applications for the British National (Overseas) in the third quarter compared with about 34,300 in the three months through January and about 30,600 in the second quarter, the latest government data show.  

The visa was drawn up amid concerns in London about the imposition of the national security law on Hong Kong, a former British colony. Officials had estimated that more than 320,000 people could take up the offer in its first five years.

The visa to remain in the U.K. for five years costs 3,370 pounds ($4,500). Successful applicants must also pay a health-care surcharge and show they have enough funds to house and feed themselves for six months.

With 49% foreign ownership, Nigeria Air starts operations April 2022 - PUNCH

NOVEMBER 25, 2021

BY  Stephen Angbulu

The proposed national carrier will begin flight in April next year, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has said.

The development came three years after the Federal Government announced plans to establish a new national carrier, following the liquidation of the Nigerian Airways in 2003.

At the end of a virtual Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday, Sirika told State House correspondents that the Federal Government would own not more than five per cent equity stake in the national airline.

According to him, Nigerian entrepreneurs will own 46 per cent shares while international strategic partners will own 49 per cent stake.

The minister said his ministry presented two memoranda which were approved by FEC.

“The next one also is the approval of the outline business case for the establishment of the national carrier and this is the sixth time the memorandum appeared before Council. The sixth time, we got lucky to be passed by the Council.

“The structure of the proposed airline; the government will be own not more than five per cent. So, five per cent is the maximum equity that the government will take, then 46 per cent will be owned by Nigerian entrepreneurs. So, if you add that, it’s 51 per cent.”

Sirika noted that 49 per cent stake would be held by strategic equity partners that would be sourced during the procurement phase.

He added, “This airline, if started, within the first few years will generate about 70,000 jobs. These 70,000 jobs are higher than the total number of civil servants that we have in the country. Its importance has been well discussed, so; I’ll not go back to it. You had discussed it separately also on various fora as to the need for it.”

Speaking about the second memo, the minister said, “Today in Council, civil aviation presented two memoranda. The first one is approval for the award of contract for the provision of Automated Civil Aviation Regulatory Equipment, including software support and training, which will be located in Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.

“In summary, this is a software that will allow all of the activities of civil aviation regulation to be done electronically on one platform, including payments, including follow-ups on personnel licensing, the medicals, the economic regulation of airlines, safety regulation of airlines and all other businesses within the envelope of civil aviation will be monitored by this single software.

“It is called ‘the truth machine’ in Europe because all of the truth of the regulation of civilisation will appear on this platform. It’s extremely important software that the world has now come to terms with.”

U.S. imposes travel ban from eight African countries over Omicron variant - REUTERS

NOVEMBER 27, 2021

By Nandita Bose and David Shepardson

NANTUCKET, Mass./WASHINGTON, Nov 26 (Reuters) - The United States will bar entry to most travelers from eight southern African countries starting on Monday, after a potentially more-contagious new coronavirus variant was identified in South Africa, President Joe Biden said on Friday.

The new variant, dubbed Omicron, poses a new challenge for Biden, who has had a mixed success getting Americans vaccinated after a politically motivated pushback by 10 states. Biden also faces criticism from international health experts and foreign leaders for failing to send vaccines to poorer countries. The travel restrictions do not ban flights or apply to U.S. citizens and lawful U.S. permanent residents.

No cases of Omicron were identified in the United States to date, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday. The agency expects that it would identify the B.1.1.529 variant quickly, if it emerges in the country. read more

Countries around the world rushed to suspend travel from southern Africa after the World Health Organization said Omicron was "of concern." Many of those bans kick in immediately, unlike those issued by Biden. read more

The restrictions apply to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. Most non-U.S. citizens who have been in those countries within the prior 14 days will not be allowed into the United States.

Biden made the announcement while spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket.

"As a precautionary measure until we have more information, I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries," Biden said in a statement.

The president told reporters while on a walk in Nantucket that his medical team recommended the ban begin on Monday instead of immediately. A White House official told Reuters the gap was due to the procedural things that had to be done before such a ban could be put in place, including working with transportation authorities and airlines.

Airlines for America, an industry trade group, said it was "in communication with the U.S. government as specifics remain unknown at this time and there are many unanswered questions. Amid this rapidly evolving situation, it is critical that U.S. government decisions regarding international travel restrictions and requirements be rooted in science."

The United States could add countries to the restriction list if the variant spreads, a senior administration official said.


Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and United Airlines both fly to South Africa and United is set to resume nonstop flights from Newark to Cape Town on Dec. 1. Shares of both airlines closed down more than 8% Friday.

PUSH ON WTO

Biden called on nations meeting at the World Trade Organization next week to waive intellectual property (IP) protections for COVID-19 vaccines in the wake of the new variant.

"The news about this new variant should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations," Biden said in a statement.

However, the WTO meeting was postponed because concerns about the variant, sources told Reuters, potentially making the already slow and uncertain process of intellectual property waivers even more so.

Some public health experts have said the United States has not done enough to provide the first doses of vaccines overseas, particularly as it pushed forward with booster shots for its own citizens who are already vaccinated.

Earlier, top U.S. infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci said the United States was rushing to gather data on the new COVID-19 variant.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul issued a COVID-19 "disaster emergency" declaration on Friday, citing increasing rates of infections and hospitalizations. She did not reference the Omicron variant.

It could take weeks for scientists to fully understand the variant's mutations. Health authorities are seeking to determine if Omicron is more transmissible or infectious than other variants and if vaccines are effective against it.

The Biden administration was holding a briefing with U.S. airlines to discuss the restrictions on Friday.

The United States only lifted the travel curbs on 33 countries including South Africa, China, much of Europe, India, Brazil, Ireland, Britain and Iran on Nov. 8, after blocking the entry of most foreign nationals who had recently been in those countries since beginning in early 2020.


Reporting by David Shepardson and Nandita Bose; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler, Heather Timmons and Sandra Maler

Parts of Southern California Still in Dark on Black Friday as Power Cuts Continue - BLOOMBERG

NOVEMBER 27, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- Almost 50,000 Southern California homes and businesses remain in the dark on Black Friday after utilities cut power during the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday to avert wildfires.

Edison International’s Southern California Edison had halted electricity to more than 42,000 customers as of 8:21 a.m. local time, and warned on its website that another 128,000 may lose power. Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric switched off more than 4,400 customers. Utilities started cutting power on Wednesday to prevent live wires from triggering fires as high winds sweep through the drought-scorched region.

“Today might be the last of the worst days” though some gusts may persist into Saturday, Brandon Fox, a meteorologist with Maxar Technologies, said in a phone interview.

More than 63,000 Southern California customers were without power on Thursday, marking the second straight year that utilities in the region proactively shut off power during Thanksgiving to reduce wildfire risks.

Strong winds are expected across the region from Ventura County to the Mexico border, with gusts up to 50 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. Red-flag warnings, the highest level alert, are in place until 6 p.m.

Across California, 8,367 fires have charred nearly 3.1 million acres (1.3 million hectares) of state and federal land this year, burning more than 3,600 buildings and killing three people, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The fire risk is made worse because all of the state is currently gripped by drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

(Bloomberg) -- Almost 50,000 Southern California homes and businesses remain in the dark on Black Friday after utilities cut power during the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday to avert wildfires.

Edison International’s Southern California Edison had halted electricity to more than 42,000 customers as of 8:21 a.m. local time, and warned on its website that another 128,000 may lose power. Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric switched off more than 4,400 customers. Utilities started cutting power on Wednesday to prevent live wires from triggering fires as high winds sweep through the drought-scorched region.

“Today might be the last of the worst days” though some gusts may persist into Saturday, Brandon Fox, a meteorologist with Maxar Technologies, said in a phone interview.

More than 63,000 Southern California customers were without power on Thursday, marking the second straight year that utilities in the region proactively shut off power during Thanksgiving to reduce wildfire risks.

Strong winds are expected across the region from Ventura County to the Mexico border, with gusts up to 50 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. Red-flag warnings, the highest level alert, are in place until 6 p.m.

Across California, 8,367 fires have charred nearly 3.1 million acres (1.3 million hectares) of state and federal land this year, burning more than 3,600 buildings and killing three people, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The fire risk is made worse because all of the state is currently gripped by drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Nigeria lifts restrictions on Emirates flights - REUTERS

NOVEMBER 27, 2021

ABUJA, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Nigeria has lifted restrictions on Emirates airline flights, the aviation minister said on Friday.

In March, Nigeria suspended Emirates from flying into or out of its territory after the carrier imposed additional COVID-19 test requirements on passengers from Nigeria.

"Today we received communications from Emirates removing some of the conditions for travelling for which we had concerns," the minister of state for aviation, Hadi Sirika, said on Friday. "Having done that it is necessary to lift the ban on Emirates. This subsequent lifting of ban is a product of lengthy negotiations between us and them."

Reporting By Felix Onuah; writing by Libby George; editing by Mark Porter and Leslie Adler

Empty houses litter Nigeria's cities despite housing crisis - REUTERS

NOVEMBER 28, 2021

by Kelechukwu Iruoma | Thomson Reuters Foundation

Nigeria's affordable housing push has led to a boom in new homes, but high construction costs and a lack of development tax mean the majority are too big and expensive for those who need them most

LAGOS, Nigeria, Nov 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Chigoziri Onuoha was hoping to spend her final year at the University of Lagos living in the university's student accommodation, but when she realised the huge demand for spaces could leave her stranded, she decided to rent her own place.

The 23-year-old political science student has been living with a friend and looking for an apartment in Nigeria's largest city since September, but so far has had no luck.

There are plenty of places available, Onuoha said - but none she can afford. With 200,000 naira ($487) a month to spend from her savings, she said real estate agents have been showing her houses with rent three times as high.

"The rents are crazy," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "It is frustrating and expensive. I have to pay the agents for every appointment and most times I end up not seeing anything I actually want."

Private developers in Nigeria have been rushing to build homes over the past decade, as a fast-growing population and a surge in migration from rural areas to the cities puts a squeeze on the country's housing supply.

But the mix of massive demand, high construction costs and poor market research by developers has resulted in a wave of new two- and three-bedroom houses that few people in Nigeria need or can afford, housing experts say.

"When 60% of Nigerians are under the age of 40 and not married, developers should not be building duplexes," said Timothy Nubi, director of the University of Lagos' Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development.

"You do not go to a city and build family houses all over the place, because they will be empty."

An online search of houses for sale in Lagos and other big Nigerian cities shows that most new houses are large, family homes with rent of more than 1 million naira a year, nearly three times the annual minimum wage.

In July this year, housing minister Babatunde Fashola disputed that Nigeria has a housing deficit.

"There are empty houses all over the major urban centres of Nigeria," he told reporters. "It is illogical to say we have that housing deficit when (we) have empty houses."

Boade Akinola, spokesperson for the Ministry of Works and Housing, said the ministry has commissioned a committee that is in the process of auditing the houses sitting empty across the country.

"It is hoped that at the end of the exercise the government will come up with a policy that will (solve) the anomaly," she said in an interview over WhatsApp.

PASSING ON CONSTRUCTION COSTS

About 40% of Nigeria's estimated 206 million people live below the country's poverty line of 137,430 naira per year, according to the NBS.

But even professionals looking to work and live in the cities are forced to sleep in slums and other unsafe places like bus stops, petrol stations or unregistered accommodation while they wait to find somewhere they can afford to live.

Nigerian filmmaker Alesh Sani said in an Instagram post in October that he was homeless as he struggled to find a place in Lagos that matched the 1.4 million naira he was spending on annual rent for his previous apartment before the lease expired.

"(I am) checking houses online and talking to agents, who are telling me 3 million to 6 million naira and a service charge of 750,000," he told his followers.

"Who are they building these houses for and where do they want people to get the money?"

Paul Ojenagbon, a property consultant in Lagos, said developers are building larger houses to cover soaring construction costs, which are driven by high inflation and the rising price of imported building materials.

In the past 10 years, he said, "the price of land has skyrocketed and development costs have also increased by over 50%."

"Developers will transfer the cost to the buyers ... If (they) build expensively, they will sell expensively."

John Olugbemi, spokesperson for MFF Housing, which builds affordable housing for mid-to-low income earners, said the high interest on the commercial loans that many developers tap into makes it impossible for them to sell at a loss.

"Instead, they prefer to leave their houses empty until they can get people to buy them at the price that would help them repay their loans and make a profit," he said over email.

HELP FOR LOW-INCOME EARNERS

Nubi, at the University of Lagos, said Nigeria's lack of development tax is one main reason developers are happy to leave new homes unoccupied.

State governments should charge tax on all new construction, he said.

"If (developers) are paying tax, they will not allow their property to stay idle ... they will retrofit or redesign the houses into units the market can afford," he said.

MFF Housing spokesperson Olugbemi would like to see the government subsidise the cost of building materials and provide subsidised construction loans.

For property surveyor Ojenagbon, the solution is for the government and private developers to work more closely together.

"The government has the land and funds, but the private sector has the resources and manpower to build housing projects," he said.

That collaboration is already happening, noted Akinola at the housing ministry.

She pointed to a national housing bond that the federal government announced in May, giving developers access to low-interest financing as Nigeria pushes ahead with its 200-billion-naira National Housing Programme aimed at building 300,000 homes for low-income earners.

But for Onuoha, the student in Lagos, none of this helps her find the apartment she needs right now.

"It is painful," she said. "I want the government to create an environment where Nigerians can rent affordable housing easily." ($1 = 410.4300 naira)


FAAN suspends Airport officials for allegedly extorting passenger - NAN

NOVEMBER 28, 2021

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) says it has suspended some officials for allegedly extorting a passenger at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, General Manager, Corporate Affairs of FAAN, disclosed this in a statement in Lagos on Saturday.

Yakubu said the action was in line with management’s determination to rid the nation’s airport of corrupt officials.

According to her, the officials are staff of Aviation Security and Customer Service departments of the Authority, and have been suspended.

She said that the On Duty Card of their accomplice from the Nigeria Immigration Service had been withdrawn.

Yakubu said the action was taken to serve as deterrent to other bad eggs in the system that are bent on tarnishing the image of the country.

Qatar Airways to start operations in Enugu, Kano, Port Harcourt Airports - VANGUARD

NOVEMBER 28, 2021

By Victoria Ojeme

Qatar Airways will start flying to Enugu, Kano and Port Harcourt airports following bouts of bilateral trade agreements between Nigeria and the Qatari government.

The two governments are also considering a 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 areas of air travel and 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 envoys appreciated the cordial bilateral relations both countries enjoy since the establishment of diplomatic relations about a decade ago in 2013.

They agreed that the good service being offered by the Qatar Airways by launching direct flight to Abuja will be expanded to Kano, Enugu and Port Harcourt while acknowledging the contributions of the State of Qatar to the improvement of livelihood of many Nigerians in some states of the country through Qatar Charity and similar organisations;

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 to 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.

Lagos airport users decry poor state of MMIA roads, parks - THE GUARDIAN

NOVEMBER 28, 2021

By Benjamin Alade

Members of the Limousine car park, Lagos, have called on the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to expedite action in repairing the deplorable access road.

Reports indicate that the car parks at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport’s (MMIA) – Terminal Zero, Limousine and access roads – are managed by the FAAN.

Some users of the car parks complained about FAAN’s failure to keep the parks in good condition.

According to them, the parks become muddy each time it rains, thereby making movement difficult for both vehicles and people.

A car hire operator, Moses Fagbenro, described the state of the car parks as ridiculous despite the huge revenue FAAN was realising from the parks.

Car Hire operators, who spoke anonymously, said that the association had written several letters to the authority on the deplorable situation of the car park, all to no avail.

“It got to a stage where we told FAAN we wanted to use our money to repair the park but they told us we cannot do anything until they give such approval and that is why you see the situation like this,” said one of the car hire operators.

“The truth of the matter is that we are concessionaires under the Federal Airport Authority, we meet them every year and they give us what we want.

“They are supposed to manage and maintain the access road. Most times, we have accidents from the whole session. We recorded one accident a few days ago on the road. The vehicles were damaged; we are paying money and they are not helping us to fix the place.

“Every car here pays up to N100, 000. We have over 400 cars. Even when you get to Hajj camp, you can imagine how that place looks like, flooded. Government must fix this place. By December now, they will come up with their forms and terms to pay the next fee. We are really not enjoying this place. They need to help us fix the light, as there are limitations to how much we can work at night.”

SEE HOW MUCH YOU GET IF YOU SELL

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