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UK red passports 'worth £8.6m binned' as government wastes taxpayers’ money - YAHOO FINANCE

OCTOBER 11, 2022

Government departments wasted over £4bn last year, with £8.6m squandered by the Home Office as it ditched burgundy passports when the colour was switched to blue.

The analysis of the accounts of Whitehall departments by the Labour party for the 2020-21 financial year shows that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy alone managed to write off more than £1.6bn of taxpayers’ money. This included £1bn in fraud and error from COVID grants alone.

The Department for Health and Social Care wasted just under £1.6bn while the Ministry of Justice wrote off £233m, including a £2m loss after HM Prison and Probation Service made a mistake when calculating how much should be charged for youth custody accommodation.

At the Home Office, on top of the passport blunder, another £800,000 was spent on plane tickets for migrant deportations that were never used due to legal challenges.

The burgundy design was replaced in March, following the UK's departure from the European Union.

Blue passports were introduced in 1921 and phased out after 1988 when members of the then European Economic Community agreed to harmonise designs.

Securing a change in the design became a rallying point for Brexit supporters, with the government announcing in December 2017 that the blue passport would return.

The Department of Education spent £3.2m designing the new building that would house the National College for Digital Skills, only to see the entire project scrapped and the taxpayers’ money lost.

Angela Rayner, Labour deputy leader, told both The Times and The Mirror — who first reported it — that Conservatives' economic policy is just “one colossal write-off”.

“This catalogue of waste and write-offs shows the cost of a Conservative government.

"They claim to be the party of fiscal prudence and sound money, but just can’t be trusted with Britain’s economy.

“The Tories’ economic policy is just one colossal write-off, leaving taxpayers paying through the nose for ministers’ mistakes.

Some airport websites go offline; cause being investigated - AP

OCTOBER 11, 2022

The websites for some major U.S. airports went down early Monday in an apparent coordinated denial-of-service attack, although officials said flights were not affected.

The attacks followed a call by a shadowy group of pro-Russian hackers that calls itself Killnet for coordinated denial-of-service attacks on the targets. The group published a target list on its Telegram channel.

“We noticed this morning that the external website was down, and our IT and security people are in the process of investigating,” said Andrew Gobeil, a spokesman for Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. “There has been no impact on operations.”

Portions of the public-facing side of the Los Angeles International Airport website were also disrupted, spokeswoman Victoria Spilabotte said. “No internal airport systems were compromised and there were no operational disruptions.”

Spilabotte said the airport notified the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration, and the airport’s information-technology team was working to restore all services and investigate the cause.

Several other airports reported problems connecting to their websites and appeared to be functioning very slowly, including Chicago's O'Hare International Airport website, which was included on Killnet's target list.

The Chicago Department of Aviation said in a statement that websites for O’Hare and Midway Airport went offline early Monday but that no airport operations were affected.

Last week, a group of hackers claimed responsibility for cyberattacks against state government websites across the country.

The Associated Press

Nigeria Air: After Ethiopian Airlines Grabs 49% Stake, MRS, SAHCO, Other Local Firms Manage 46% - DAILY TRUST

OCTOBER 11, 2022

By  Chris Agabi

As Nigerians await the takeoff of Nigeria Air, transaction records have shown that the minority shareholders after the federal government with 46 per cent stake are Nigerian firms comprising MRS (also in the energy industry), SAHCO (aviation handler) among other investors.

Ethiopian Airlines alone takes 49 per cent of the stakes making it the largest decision maker for the planned national airline. The Federal Government of Nigeria, however, retains 5 per cent.

“After a careful, detailed and ICRC governed selection process, Ethiopian Airlines (ET) Consortium has been selected as preferred bidder, offering an owner consortium of 3 Nigerian investors MRS, SAHCO and other institutional investors (46 per cent), FGN owning 5 per cent and ET 49 per cent,” stated one of the transaction records.

Going by the presentation by the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, Nigeria Air may be delivered before 2022 comes to a close or by the first quarter of 2023. The minister has promised the national carrier will take to the skies before May 29, 2023 when the lifespan of this government will expire.

But before Nigeria Air comes alive, here are more details extracted from various transaction records for the airline which is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) project.

According to its expected operational plan, Nigeria Air will be launched with three Boeing 737-800 under a dry lease arrangement, starting in the first instance, with a shuttle service between Abuja and Lagos. Other domestic destinations will follow thereafter and perhaps regional and international flights.

According to the documents, the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) approved all the Outline Business Case (OBC) while the investors will develop a Full Business Case (FBC) for the ICRC and the Federal Executive Council to approve within six to eight weeks.

Already, Nigeria Air has been granted Air Transport License by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) but is expecting Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from the NCAA. However, officials said it will fly without the AOC.

To commence the operations, a transaction note shows that all investors comprising Ethiopian Airline, the Nigerian investors and the minority holder – federal government, should be collectively staking $350 million (about N151.8 billion).

As its operations expand, the investors will grow the airline’s fleet to 30 aircraft and international operation could begin within two years.

It was also learnt that the first aircraft is ready to arrive in Abuja for the further work and NCAA inspection, demo flights and audit as part of the AOC requirements.

Already, Nigeria Air has an interim management team already working. The interim executive team has prepared, with the support of FAAN, the Terminal C at the Abuja Airport and finalized a contract with MMA 2 terminal in Lagos, for the operation of an initial shuttle between Lagos and Abuja.

It was also revealed that a signature-ready contract has been finalized with Ethiopian Airlines for three Boeing 737-800 with a 16 Business Class and 150 Economy Class configuration.

Nigeria Air Limited will work directly with ET to provide three B737, initial crews and engineers, while NAL is recruiting 737 rated experienced captains, first officers and cabin crew, as well as aircraft engineers. 

Nigeria Air considers China-made jet

Another development to note about the new national carrier according to a Reuters’ report is that Nigeria would consider buying China’s newly-certified C919 passenger jet as it grows the country’s fledgling carrier Nigeria Air to 30 planes by around 2025.

On Friday, China hailed the development of its first medium-haul passenger jet as the embodiment of the country’s drive towards self-sufficiency, with safety approval awarded to a plane that aims to challenge Western aircraft giants for orders.

“China and Nigeria have a very cordial and friendly relationship with mutual benefits,” Sirika said.

For decades, China has loaned billions of dollars to Africa to build railroads, power plants and highways as it deepened ties with the continent while extracting minerals and oil.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is the top importer of Chinese goods, hoovering up $23 billion worth in 2021.

Despite cloned portal, recruitment ongoing

Despite reporting a cloned recruitment portal this week, the management of the airline has revealed that over 20,000 applications have been made.

It first announced the recruitment of qualified crew members and other workers on September 23, calling on B737 captains, first officers, senior cabin crew and cabin crew, and engineers to apply for the job in Abuja or Lagos.

In an update through a statement by the special assistant to the aviation minister, James Odaudu, the national airline company said: “Management appreciates the unprecedented level of interest shown by Nigerians in the airline which has resulted in the receipt of over 20,000 applications for positions in the organisation so far, and wish to state that the recruitment process for other positions will begin in due course.”

It also warned about fake recruitment websites. “All those concerned are therefore advised to ignore such announcements or invitations, as responding to, or dealing with them in any way, will be at their own risk.”

For now, candidates should know that no recruitment interviews or tests have been scheduled.

“All such announcements or invitations for such should be disregarded as they are the handiwork of fraudsters and scammers,” NAL noted.

Migrants from Nigeria are bringing the highest number of relatives to the UK - and now face clampdown under Home Secretary Suella Braverman - DAILY MAIL

OCTOBER 11, 2022

  • Migrants from Nigeria are bringing the highest number of relatives to the UK
  • Nigerians accounted for 40% of dependants who accompanied foreign students 
  • By comparison, 114,837 Chinese students brought with them 401 dependants 
  • Home Secretary Suella Braverman is planning to cut net migration 

By JACK WRIGHT FOR MAILONLINE


Migrants from Nigeria may face a clampdown under Home Secretary Suella Braverman's plans to cut net migration as it emerged that citizens from the west African country are bringing the highest number of relatives to the UK. 

Nigerians accounted for 40% of all dependants who accompanied foreign students in the 12 months to June - despite Nigerian students making up just 7% of all foreign students in that period, according to Home Office figures.

Some 34,000 Nigerians were given study visas in the UK, bringing with them a total of 31,898 dependants. A similar ratio was recorded for work visas, with 8,972 Nigerians issued with one in the 12 months to June bringing with them 8,576 dependants.

By comparison, 114,837 Chinese students who came to the UK last year brought with them a total of 401 dependants - while 93,049 Indian students came to Britain with  24,916 dependants, the figures show. 

Some 34,000 Nigerians were given study visas in the UK, bringing with them a total of 31,898 dependants. By comparison, 114,837 Chinese students who came to the UK last year brought with them 401 dependants - while 93,049 Indian students came with 24,916 dependants+3

Miss Braverman and Cabinet Office minister Nadhim Zahawi are considering imposing a cap on the number of children that foreign students can bring in a bid to cut unskilled migration.

However, the Home Secretary's moves appear to have split the Cabinet and seem to be at odds with public opinion - with a survey carried out by Ipsos Mori finding that only 29% of Conservative voters support a reduction in student immigration.

The polling also found that the public remains divided over the Government's controversial policy to send migrants to Rwanda, with 21% strongly opposed and 21% strongly supportive. 

Dependants can work without the same level of criteria that other migrants must meet. 

In August it emerged that Nigerian students have become the third largest foreign student group in the UK, following in the footsteps of India and China - after a seismic 686% increase since before the pandemic.

Home Office figures reveal 65,929 Nigerian nationals were granted a sponsored study visa in the year ending June 2022 - a rise of 57,545 (686% ) compared to 2019, when 8,384 were given.

Home Office figures reveal 65,929 Nigerian nationals were granted a sponsored study visa in the year ending to June 2022. This is a rise of 57,545 (686%) compared to 2019+3 View gallery


Home Office figures reveal 65,929 Nigerian nationals were granted a sponsored study visa in the year ending to June 2022. This is a rise of 57,545 (686%) compared to 2019

Overall, international student numbers have risen by 71% over that period, with 486,868 student visas granted to main applicants and their dependents in the year up to June - 202,147 more than 2019.

A Home Office spokesman said: '[This] is the highest on record in our time series, with the substantial increase representing both a recovery from lower numbers during the Covid-19 pandemic but also an increase on the pre-pandemic period.'

There were 117,965 grants to Indian nationals this year, an increase of 215% compared to 2019. 

Chinese nationals were the second most common nationality with 115,056 visas granted, albeit 4% lower than 2019.

Non-Russell group universities now make up 56% of all CAS used in study visa applications. This is the highest proportion of Non-Russell group CAS seen since the Sponsorship time series began in 2010.

The head of student processing group Ucas has said more students from Nigeria, Ghana and Vietnam should be recruited, amid a row about international admissions - with accusations that some universities are seeking to benefit from the higher fees overseas students pay.


Study visas: UK mulls restrictions as Nigerian migrants account for highest number of dependants - THE CABLE

OCTOBER 11, 2022

Migrants from Nigeria to the United Kingdom (UK) may face restrictions following the country’s plans to cut net migration.

According to Home Office figures, Nigerians accounted for the highest increase in the number of dependants accompanying persons with study visas for the year ending in June 2022.

“In the year ending June 2022, there were 486,868 Sponsored study visas granted (to both main applicants and their dependants), 71% (202,147) more than 2019,” the report reads.

“The number of Sponsored study visas granted in the year ending June 2022, is the highest on record in our time series, with the substantial increase representing both a recovery from lower numbers during the Covid-19 pandemic but also an increase on the pre-pandemic period.

“There were 117,965 grants to Indian nationals in the year ending June 2022, an increase of 80,569 (+215%) compared to 2019. Chinese nationals were the second most common nationality granted Sponsored study visas in the year ending June 2022, with 115,056 visas granted, 4% lower than the number seen in 2019 (119,825).

“In the other top 5 nationalities, Nigerian nationals saw the largest relative increase in Sponsored Study grants compared with 2019, increasing by 57,545 (+686%) to a record high of 65,929, making them the third largest nationality group in the latest year.”

Source: Entry clearance visa applications and outcomes Vis_D02/www.gov.uk

According to Daily Mail, the country represented 40 percent of the total number of dependants between June 2021 and June 2022, and “some 34,000 Nigerians were given study visas in the UK, bringing with them a total of 31,898 dependants”.

“This is the highest on record in our time series, with the substantial increase representing both a recovery from lower numbers during the Covid-19 pandemic but also an increase on the pre-pandemic period,” a home office spokesman told Daily Mail.

The UK home secretary and Nadhim Zahawi, minister for intergovernmental relations and minister for equalities, are also reportedly considering limiting the number of children that can come with international students as part of efforts to reduce the number of unskilled migrants.

For work visas, Nigeria recorded the second highest figure on the list of nationalities who got approval for the latest year.

Meanwhile, Suella Braverman, the UK home secretary, had earlier announced her “aspirations” to cut the overall migration figure amid a growing clamour from party activists for the government to take control of immigration levels.

She had also said she would change the law to stop migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats.

Lagos gets Nigerian govt approval for Lekki airport - DAILY POST

OCTOBER 12, 2022

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has received the Federal Government of Nigeria letter of approval for the construction of the Lekki airport.

The presentation was made on Tuesday by Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika at the Ehingbeti Lagos Economic Summit.

Sirika expressed confidence that the new airport will link Nigeria to the world, and open Lagos to more international economic partnerships.

Work on the facility is expected to begin in 2023 and would be constructed on 3,500 hectares of land on the Lekki-Epe corridor.

Last week, Ope George, Special Adviser to Governor on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) announced the Nigerian government’s approval.

George also confirmed that the master plan and aeronautical designs were already in place.

Studies are ongoing about strategies and funding, after which the project will be taken to the marketplace, he added.

Retired Group Captain John Ojikutu said he was elated about the Lekki airport, recalling its conception more than decade ago.

The aviation expert revealed that the project came to light during the tenure of former Lagos Governor Babatunde Fashola, the incumbent Works and Housing Minister.

Nigerian doctors in UK lament exploitation, slave labour - VANGUARD

OCTOBER 12, 2022

By Biodun Busari

Nigerian medical doctors and their counterparts from developing countries working in the United Kingdom have lamented exploitation in the course of their work.

This was revealed by BBC on Tuesday adding that an investigation proved that Nigerian doctors recruited by a British healthcare company are expected to work in private hospitals under conditions not allowed in the National Health Service (NHS).

While the British Medical Association (BMA) has described the situation as “shocking”, some of the hospitals denied the allegations as claimed by Nigerians.

BBC spoke to several foreign medical practitioners and one of them was a young Nigerian doctor, Augustine Enekwechi who worked at the private Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital in 2021.

Enekwechi said his working hours were extreme – on 24 hours a day for a week at a time. He claimed he was unable to leave the hospital grounds, adding that the working environment looked like “a prison.”

Travel agencies to storm National Assembly over $300m trapped fund - THE GUARDIAN

OCTOBER 13, 2022

By Wole Oyebade

Airplane

How govt’s negligence enhances foreign airlines’ exploitation of Nigerians’

Worried by the chaotic status of international travel in the country, travel agencies, will next week, take complaints to the National Assembly to seek legislative intervention on the foreign airlines’ protracted stuck fund crisis rocking the air transport sector.

Over 2000 travel agencies, under the aegis of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), will protest the Central Bank’s withholding of about $300 million, seemingly nonchalance of the Federal Government to finding a lasting solution, and attendant exposure of Nigerian travellers to exploitative fares.

The Guardian, yesterday, learnt that about two months after the CBN released $265 million out of the $464 million trapped in Nigeria, there has been no reprieve in the crisis.

Affordable travel tickets that were earlier withdrawn by the foreign airlines in the wake of the crisis have continued to elude the Nigerian market, even as the stock funds continue to accumulate and are now more than $300 million.

President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, earlier, said the consequence of the stuck fund was the misfortune of Nigerian travellers buying an average six-hour Economy Class ticket for between N1.5 to N2.7 million.

The Business Class variant sells at an average of N4 to N5 million – over a 250 per cent spike from the rate sold in other parts of the world.

Sources told The Guardian that the matter has almost gone out of hand, with travellers, travel agencies and the entire industry in distress.

“Government’s negligence is the biggest worry for all of us. Not only has the government failed to engage the airlines and other stakeholders concerning the stuck fund, but most disappointing is the Central Bank’s comment that foreign airlines are not its priority. Really? Then, something is fundamentally wrong with us as a people and NANTA has decided to take the matter to the National Assembly next week Monday,” one of the sources offered.

Travel expert, who also doubles as the Chairman of the Airlines and Passengers Joint Committee (APJC) of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Bankole Bernard, also blamed the government’s negligence for the worsening crisis.

Bernard said the CBN’s refusal to release stranded funds or engage with the business partners amounts to an act of sabotage of the travelling public.

He said: “There is a contractual agreement with airlines to sell in Naira and get dollar equivalent in return. But the CBN is now saying that the airlines are not her priority after the carriers had sold in Naira. Even among thieves, there should be an honour.

“Yet, while CBN is not giving dollars to airlines to repatriate their sales, the government’s aviation agencies keep collecting taxes and charges in dollars from the airlines. Where are the airlines supposed to get it? Why can’t the government resolve that, by ensuring that agencies collect their dues in Naira, which is 45 per cent of each airfare, to reduce the burden of stranded funds? Unfortunately, the ripple effects are all passed to the air travellers that are punished by the foreign airlines with exorbitant fares,” Bernard said.

Akporiaye earlier explained that the currently available tickets in Nigeria are premium because most of the airlines have withdrawn the affordable layers.

“Some foreign airlines are blocking travel agencies from selling their tickets on the Global Distribution System (GDS) platform. The inventories are blocked on the platform, meaning travel agencies and even airline offices cannot issue because the inventory was blocked for Nigeria.”

“The ones that have not closed inventories are restricting sales to the highest fares in each cabin (Economy, Business and First Class). You don’t even want to know what the prices are. It is just crazy and totally out of reach,” she lamented.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) earlier warned that Nigeria and other countries withholding airline funds risk a 200 to 300 per cent spike in airfares. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently released $265 million out of the $464 million trapped in Nigeria as of July 2022.

Over 5,000 Nigerians studying in Ghana – High Commission - VANGUARD

OCTOBER 13, 2022

.Assures of their safety, shops for more

By Adesina Wahab

Ghana High Commission in Nigeria has said there are over 5,000 Nigerians studying in tertiary institutions in Ghana and has given the assurance of their welfare and safety in the country.

Officials of the high commission, Ghana Export Promotion Agency and the University of Ghana stated this while briefing the press in Lagos on the coming International Students Recruitment Fair slated for Lagos.

Nicolas Qyansah of the High Commission said the country would be happy to give access to Ghanaian education to more Nigerians.

“We realized that universities in Ghana come to Nigeria to recruit students but we are want to streamline that and before now, the High Commission had been involved in the recruitment of international students here in Nigeria as we started  participating  in the Lagos International Trade Fair in 2017. 

“This year, we are bringing 16 universities from Ghana to Nigeria. They include public and private ones. Some of them offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses. We do a lot of collaboration and we have a seamless transition for Nigerian students going to study in Ghana,” he said.

Also speaking, Banda Abdallah, Deputy Director of GEPA, said the exercise is part of the broader mandate of the Authority to promote goods and services. 

On the ease of securing necessary documents for intending students from Nigeria, Abdallah said the ECOWAS protocols allow free movement within the region and that intending students would only be given residence permit as soon as they have been registered as students.

An official of the University of Ghana, Yaw Dankuah, added that students from Nigeria would be able to enjoy quality education in the country.

He explained that Ghana is not taking advantage of the incessant strikes by university workers in Nigeria to come and poach students, but that societies benefit when they learn for each other, adding that there are also some foreign students in Nigeria. 

Eurowings says majority of passengers to reach destinations despite strike - REUTERS

OCTOBER 16, 2022

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Lufthansa's budget division Eurowings said on Sunday that more than half of its passengers will reach their planned destinations despite a pilots strike planned for this week.

For Monday, the first day of the three-day strike, more than 230 of the some 400 planned Eurowings flights will take place, the airline said.

More than half of flights will also take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, Eurowings said.

(Reporting by Tom Sims, Editing by Louise Heavens)

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