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Second Niger Bridge completed, for inauguration Dec – Fashola - PUNCH

OCTOBER 20, 2022

The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has confirmed that the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge is now completed and may be released to commuters by December.

He stated this at a press briefing to unveil an end-of-term series entitled “PMB Administration Scorecard 2015-2023.”

The scorecard is designed to showcase the achievements of the  President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, retd,’s administration.

According to him, the only factor delaying the inauguration of the road is the construction of the link road which the recent surge of flooding has impeded.

He said, “I can confirm that the Second Niger Bridge itself is finished. People can walk through the bridge now unimpeded. What remains is the four-kilometre link road on the Asaba side.

“Right now, our dredger is in place, we have to rebuild the road by reclaiming sand, the recent surge of flood has slowed us down. On the Onitsha side, there is a seven-kilometre road that links the bridge and the Onitsha-Owerri interchange.”

“The commitment I made about the second Niger bridge at the retreat was that before this administration goes, it will be fully operational.”

The minister who showed reels of footage from the bridge reiterated his promise to ensure that the bridge is opened in December due to the high influx of commuters during festive periods.

“What I am targeting is to see if the road can be opened to the public before Christmas and I hope this will be achieved. Opening the road before Christmas will give relief to a large number of travellers who embark on journeys during that period.

Speaking on the impact of the projects, the former Lagos State governor noted that about 339,955 jobs were created in the built sector in the past seven years with 8,352.94km of roads completed while 250,583 road signs have been installed.

Amid visa delays, Air Peace cuts capacity on Lagos-Jo’burg route - THE GUARDIAN

OCTOBER 20, 2022

By Wole Oyebade

•Nigerian airlines missing in top 10 African carriers

Nigerian flag carrier, Air Peace airline, has restored operations on the Lagos-Johannesburg route, though with reduced capacity of the operating aircraft.

Contrary to the massive Boeing 777 aircraft erstwhile flown on the route and other international corridors, the airline resumed the South African operations this week with the medium range 124-seater Embraer195-E2 airplane.

The Guardian learnt that the choice of regional aircraft and attendant smaller travellers were due to the yet unresolved delays in issuance of travel visas by the South African Embassy.

The biggest Nigerian carrier, by fleet capacity and passenger traffic, in August announced a 60 days break from the Lagos-Johannesburg route. It cited low patronage on account of the South African Embassy’s delay in granting approval to visa applicants in Nigeria, among other operational reasons.

At the end of the 60-day hiatus, spokesperson of the airline, Stanley Olisa, confirmed the resumption of flight services last Sunday.

The resumption, it was learnt, may not be unconnected with the coming year-end travels, though the fortune of Nigerians travelling to South Africa has not improved as the visa application protocol is still hectic due to a backlog at the Embassy.

But Air Peace’s use of an Embraer195-E2 124-seater airplane on the route is a tough choice. At 2,803 miles (4,511km), it’s the longest scheduled route by an Embraer aircraft. It’s just shy of the 3,000 miles (4,828km) often considered long-haul, and it’s longer by distance than Boston to San Francisco or London Heathrow to Dakar.

According to Flightradar24, flight P47563 left Nigeria at 02:44 and arrived in Johannesburg 5h 52m later at 09:36 local time. Returning, P47564 departed at 12:09 and arrived back home at 17:25 after some 6h 16m.

It is currently by far the longest scheduled passenger flight by an Embraer aircraft. It was operated by 5N-BYG, a 1.9-year-old E2 delivered in March 2021. It has 124 seats: 12 in business and 112 in economy.

In a related development, Air Peace and other Nigerian carriers have missed out on the log of 10 best African carriers in 2022, according to Skytrax World Airline survey.

Skytrax, which yearly evaluates best performing airlines globally, recently released its award list for the year. Indeed, it is the world’s largest, yearly airline passenger satisfaction survey, as it uses a value for money metric system to determine the methodology for its surveys.

A total of 13.42 million eligible survey entries were counted in the final results. The customer survey was carried out from September 2021 to August 2022.

In the African category, Ethiopia Airlines comes top again after emerging first in 2021. In the second position is Royal Air Maroc, the Moroccan national carrier and also the largest airline in the country. Third is the South African national carrier, South African Airlines (SAA).

Others, in order of their ratings are: Kenya Airways; Air Mauritius; EgyptAir; RwandAir; Safair from South Africa; Fastjet, a subsidiary of Fastjet Limited UK, operating primarily in Zimbabwe, and lastly, Air Seychelles, the national airline of the Republic of Seychelles.

UK property market defies economic gloom as average house price rises to £296,000 - YAHOO FINANCE

OCTOBER 20, 2022

UK house prices slowed in August but growth remained in double-digit levels as the property market remains resilient to inflationary pressure and turmoil in the wider UK economy.

Fresh figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Wednesday show property prices increased by 13.6% year-on-year in August.

That was down from 16% in July, which reflected how prices in the same month last year were hit by the end of a tax break for home-buyers.

The average cost of a home stood at £296,000 in August, which is £36,000 higher than in the year before.

James Forrester, managing director of Barrows and Forrester, said: "While the UK government may be a laughing stock, the UK property market is far from it and continues to move forward at pace despite the chaos that has unfolded across the wider economy.

"A commitment to cutting stamp duty will certainly act as the cherry on the cake for many homebuyers, but it’s their continued ability to borrow in order to buy that will keep the cogs of the property market turning.

"As it stands, they remain more than able, with the majority of lenders still offering a great level of products at what remain favourable rates. With stability now returning to the gilt markets, we can expect the mortgage sector to level out after what has been a rough few weeks and this will ensure the market remains in good health over the coming months."

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Average house prices increased over the year to £316,000 (14.3% annual growth) in England, to £220,000 in Wales (14.6%), to £195,000 in Scotland (9.7%) and to £169,000 in Northern Ireland (9.6%), according to the ONS.

London registered the lowest annual house price growth, where average prices increased by 8.3% over the year to August, down from 10.1% in the month prior.

But the capital remains the most expensive region to buy a home, with a record average price of £553,000 during the month.

Prices grew at the fastest rate in the south west of England at 17%, down from a growth rate of 21.1% in July 2022.

"House prices increased slightly on the month, with the fall in the annual rate of growth due to the large price rises seen at this time last year at the end of the stamp duty holiday," Matt Corder, deputy director of the prices division at the ONS said.

Meanwhile, rental price growth continued to increase, driven by London, Corded added. Although let rates were still "showing relatively low growth", it was the strongest increase in six years.

Rents climbed to 3.6% in the 12 months to September, up from 3.4% in August.

It comes as the government last month announced a stamp duty tax break for homebuyers as the cost of living surges.

Stamp duty land tax (SDLT) is a lump sum payment you have to make when purchasing property over a certain threshold.

Under the plans announced in September as part of the mini-budget, no stamp duty needs to be paid on the first £250,000 of a property – up from the previous £125,000 threshold.

First-time buyers do not have to pay any stamp duty on property up to £425,000, up from £300,000.

The value of a property on which first-time buyers can claim relief also increased, from £500,000 to £625,000.

500 stranded Nigerians in Dubai to arrive Abuja Saturday - THE SUN

OCTOBER 21, 2022

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), has announced the evacuation of 500 Nigerians stranded in United Arab Emirate, Dubai.

In September, a viral video surfaced online in which some Nigerians were reportedly stranded at the Dubai international airport and their passports seized.

Chairperson of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, had said despite being warned, some Nigerians who were sent back from Dubai tried to circumvent the new visa rules of the United Arab Emirates.

To this end, the Head of Press Unit, NEMA, Manzo Ezekiel, in an invitation preceding their arrival, said the evacuees are expected to arrive at the Hajj Terminal of General Aviation Terminal (GAT) private wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, in Max Air, on October 22, at about 7: 30am

He said: “About 500 stranded Nigerians in Dubai and are being evacuated back home by the Federal Government are expected to arrive Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Saturday early morning 22nd Oct 2022.

“I am directed to request you to cover reception for the returnees at the Hajj Terminal of General Aviation Terminal (GAT) private wing NAIA, Abuja.”



BY Ajiri Daniels

Existing-Home Sales in US Extend Decline to Longest Since 2007 - BLOOMBERG

OCTOBER 21, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- Sales of previously owned US homes fell for an eighth straight month in September, underscoring how soaring mortgage rates are punishing the housing market. 

Contract closings declined 1.5% to an annualized pace of 4.71 million last month, the slowest since May 2020, according to data from the National Association of Realtors on Thursday. The figure was in line with the median projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

The stretch of monthly declines is the longest since 2007, when a housing market collapse swept the economy into the Great Recession. Home sales this year have deteriorated rapidly as the Federal Reserve kicked off an aggressive campaign to crush inflation with huge interest-rate hikes. 

“We are not yet at the bottom,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist said on a call with reporters. Yun expects the figures to keep deteriorating given the current data is not reflective of where mortgage rates are now.

Mortgage rates now stand at a two-decade high, and applications to purchase or refinance a home have crumbled to levels not seen since 1997. 

“Despite weaker sales, multiple offers are still occurring with more than a quarter of homes selling above list price due to limited inventory,” Yun said in a statement. “The current lack of supply underscores the vast contrast with the previous major market downturn from 2008 to 2010, when inventory levels were four times higher than they are today.”

The median selling price rose 8.4% from a year earlier to $384,800. Even so, that’s the lowest since March.

Separate data out earlier this week showed builders are pulling back as well. Beginning construction of single-family homes dropped to a two-year low, and homebuilder sentiment has fallen every month this year. 

The number of homes for sale declined from August to 1.25 million. At the current sales pace it would take 3.2 months to sell all the homes on the market, up from 2.4 months in September 2021. Realtors see anything below five months of supply as indicative of a tight market.

Properties remained on the market for longer in September, and 70% of homes sold were on the market for less than a month, down from 81% in August.

Hurricane Ian

Sales fell in three of four regions, including a 1.9% drop in the South. The Fort Myers and Tampa regions of Florida saw a marked drop in purchases in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Yun said. He described the disruption as temporary.

Sales in the West were unchanged from a month earlier, though down more than 31% from a year ago. 

First-time buyers made up 29% of purchases in September, the same share as a month earlier. Yun noted distressed sales are inching higher, though they remain historically low.

Digging Deeper

  • Properties remained on the market for an average of 19 days, up from 16 days in August
  • Cash sales represented 22% of total sales. Investors, who often purchase with cash and are therefore less sensitive to mortgage rates, made up 15% of the market
  • Sales of single-family homes dropped 0.9% from a month earlier, while existing condominium and co-op sales fell 5.8>#/li###
  • Existing-home sales account for about 90% of US housing and are calculated when a contract closes. New-home sales, which make up the remainder, are based on contract signings, and will be released next week

--With assistance from Jordan Yadoo.

(Adds graphic)

Ontario, B.C., Quebec to be ‘squeezed particularly hard’ as economy weakens: CIBC - YAHOO FINANCE

OCTOBER 22, 2022

Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia will face the strongest economic headwinds next year and through 2024. That’s according to economists at CIBC expecting high household debt, real estate downturns, and tight labour conditions to strain Canada’s three most populous provinces.

The bank sees real GDP growth slowing to 0.6 per cent nationwide next year, following a 3.1 per cent gain in 2022. Ontario’s economic growth forecast for 2023 is the weakest among the provinces, at 0.3 per cent year-over-year. Saskatchewan is predicted to be strongest, at 1.6 per cent.

“The Canadian economy is facing plenty of headwinds at the moment,” economists Andrew Grantham and Karyne Charbonneau wrote in a report. “However, not all provinces will be impacted equally by these risks.”

For Ontario, they say 2022 was supposed to show above average growth as pandemic-led supply chain problems faded for key sectors like the auto industry. However, rapidly rising interest rates are now weighing on the province’s sizeable housing sector, pushing up borrowing costs for highly indebted households.

It’s a similar story in B.C., where the economists also note a “rapid adjustment” in home sales and the level of prices, in concert with rising interest rates.

“After years of chasing higher house prices by taking on larger mortgages, households in B.C. and Ontario have higher debt levels, and by extension pay the most interest to service that debt,” Grantham and Charbonneau wrote.

“With interest rates now rising on revolving debt, and with term debt coming due having to be refinanced at higher rates, households in these provinces will find their ability to spend on other items being squeezed particularly hard.”

CIBC says labour markets have tightened in all provinces compared to conditions three years ago, led by Quebec. Atlantic provinces were found to have the most favourable conditions, partially due to a high proportion of seasonal jobs.

The bank expects the strongest real GDP growth to come from the commodity-rich provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, owing in part to higher global oil and gas prices driven by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

CIBC says Atlantic provinces continue to benefit from an influx of new residents fleeing unaffordable housing markets in Ontario and B.C. Ontario recently recorded the largest outflow of residents since Statistics Canada started collecting the data.

“This trend, which started during the pandemic, shows no sign of slowing,” Grantham and Charbonneau wrote. “The work-from-home revolution has opened up options to many people across the country, who are no longer tied to a location because of work.”

Diplomatic Face Off: FG Evacuates 542 Nigerians From Dubai - NEW TELEGRAPH

OCTOBER 23, 2022

The Federal Government has brought back 542 citizens who were stranded in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The returnees arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja through a Maxair charted flight early Sunday morning at about 4:30 am.

Among the evacuated persons are 79 males, 460 females and three infants.

They were received by a Federal Government team led by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and airport officials, security agencies including National Commission for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), NAPTIP, Nigerian Diaspora Commission, NDLEA, Nigerian Correctional Service, Nigerian Customs service, Port Health Services, NCDC and others.

On arrival, the returnees were screened by health officials, profiled by various relevant agencies and cleared by Nigerian Immigration Service before being given a token of transport fare by NEMA before leaving the airport.

Speaking earlier, NEMA Director General, Mustapha Habib Ahmed who officially received the returnees on behalf of the Federal Government admonished them to learn from their experiences and be law abiding citizens that promote economic growth and positive image of Nigeria.

The NEMA boss, who was represented by the Director of Finance and Accounts, Alhaji Sani Ahmed Jiba, said the Federal Government had approved the evacuation and provision of the token for the returnees to support movement of the returnees back to their homes.

In her remarks, the Consul General of Nigeria in Dubai Ambassador, Atinuke Taibat Mohammed, who accompanied the returnees back on the flight, appreciated the Federal Government for the special intervention in safe evacuation of the stranded citizens back home.

Dubai detains lady over Twitter posts, family protests - PUNCH

OCTOBER 23, 2022

The family of a Nigerian lady, Dinchi Lar, who was allegedly detained by the Dubai authorities over a Twitter post on the ill-treatment of some Nigerians at Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates, has hit the streets of Abuja to protest her detention seeking the Federal Government’s intervention in the matter.

One of her tweets.

Lar, had in a series of tweets alleged the highhandedness of the authorities of the airport, saying, “I’m at Dubai international airport, myself and some other Nigerians with valid visas are being held in a room hours after arriving with no explanation and no information on what we can do. Please help me. There’s more than 20 of us, here.

“My sister had to go through immigration to get me released. It was a tedious process. Others are still there and I don’t know their status (sic).

“What happens if you have no family here? Nobody knows what is going on,” she added.

In a response to her tweet, the Federal Ministry of Foreign affairs, issued a statement dated Thursday, September 14, 2022 and signed by the spokesperson of the ministry, Mrs Francisca Omayuli, it read, “The attention of the Federal Government of Nigeria has been drawn to a video on the social media, showing purportedly stranded Nigerians, who arrived the Airport in Dubai, UAE on August 29, 2022, but were denied entry into the country, despite having valid visas.

Another tweet.

“The Nigerian Mission in Dubai has clarified that most of the supposedly stranded Nigerians were issued with family visas, only to arrive Dubai alone without any family member.

“Consequently, they were denied entry and advised to return to their country and apply for the appropriate visas.

“However, those persons allowed entry into the country have their family members in the UAE. While those who claimed their family members were on another flight, were told to wait at the airport, pending their arrival,” the statement added.

The ministry further advised travelling Nigerians to note and be guided that the Government of the UAE has introduced a new visa regime and has stopped issuing tourist visas to persons under the age of 40 years, except for those applying for family visas.

Following the statement by the release, the reportedly picked the lady up and detained her since September 6, 2022.

Another tweet.

According to a graphic illustration posted by the family members and friends who protested in the early hours of Sunday, October 23, 2022, “Dinchi Lar has been detained in Dubai since the September 6 by Dubai Authorities for speaking out (on Twitter) against the bad treatment of Nigerians in Dubai airports…we stand for your release!”

Another tweep, jerrydoubles, tweeted, “It is sad and regrettably heartrending to tell you all that Dunchi was sentenced on 12th Oct 22, to 1yr in jail in Dubai. Her family are devastated and Nigeria didn’t save her.”

Meanwhile, The PUNCH conducted a research about the social media laws of UAE, and a website, Dubai OFW,  expressly stated that, “ranting or sharing hate posts could lead to serious punishment in the country.

“Six months jail term and a fine of AED 25,000 await those who use social networks for the purpose of defamation of or offending another person or attacking or invading one’s privacy.

Another section of the law on the website is Article 29 of the country’s law which spoke on the damage of reputation of the UAE president, Vice President and emirate rulers which attracts the fine of AED 1 million fine plus temporary imprisonment.

Airlines expect smooth half-term getaways from England after summer disruption - THE GUARDIAN

OCTOBER 23, 2022

The chaos affecting international air travel in the summer has been firmly stowed away, according to UK aviation firms, with a smooth getaway expected in the busiest weekend before Christmas.

Passenger numbers for the biggest carriers and airports will peak at the start of what is for many the October half-term holiday, with easyJet and British Airways confident of fulfilling their schedule, and Heathrow to lift its passenger capacity cap later this month.

Shortages of staff across the aviation sector, particularly in security and ground handling positions, resulted in flight cancellations and delays multiplying in the first half of 2022.

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Airline and union sources said they were expecting a busy week but did not anticipate the overstretch of earlier this year.

Chaotic scenes at airports and various other problems pushed BA and easyJet to pre-emptively cancel thousands of flights during summer, with BA making cuts to the schedule until the end of October.

London Heathrow has warned that aviation’s recruitment challenges will not be resolved before next summer, should pre-pandemic demand return in full, although the airport does not expect passenger numbers this week to near the 100,000 daily limit it imposed on departures.

The cap angered some airlines, notably the Gulf carrier Emirates, when it was announced in July. It will be lifted on 29 October. A spokesperson for Heathrow said: “We have got the resources in place to meet the schedule that we have.”

Discussions are ongoing between the airport and airlines over a potential reinstatement of the cap for a small number of days over the Christmas period but sources said they were hopeful that any limits could be avoided, with an announcement expected at the start of next month.

BA, the biggest airline at Heathrow, declined to comment. Flights to South Africa and Dubai are expected to be among its busiest services this week.

EasyJet said it would operate 900 flights a day from the UK, with Málaga, Palma, Faro, Geneva and Amsterdam the most popular destinations. London Gatwick, easyJet’s main base, is running at about 85% of its pre-Covid capacity, and the airport said it had taken on about 400 security staff in the last three months to ensure a quick passage through its terminals.

Manchester airport, which experienced some of the biggest queues and worst delays earlier in the year, said it was not expecting any problems, after recruiting more than 700 people to work in security and “huge improvements” in the performance of contractors working for airlines in baggage handling.

The AA predicted a quiet half-term on the roads, with traffic peaking on Friday evening and Saturday morning but only a marginal impact from people seeking a getaway. Relatively few people are expected to drive for an autumn break in the UK, with bad weather predicted for much of the week, and many households trying to cut expenditure with the cost of living crisis.

The RAC forecast 11.5m leisure trips by drivers until the end of Sunday – compared with almost 15m for the same holiday weekend in 2021.

No national rail strikes are planned until 3 November, after the end of the half-term holiday, although an RMT strike on Avanti West Coast on Saturday will further slow and disrupt its reduced intercity timetable.

Supreme court declines to stop Biden’s $400bn student debt relief plan - THE GUARDIAN UK

OCTOBER 23, 2022

The US supreme court declined on Thursday to stop the Biden administration implementing its $400bn student debt relief plan, a move that will allow the program to start as soon as Sunday.

A federal judge in Wisconsin dismissed the case on 6 October, saying the challengers, a group called the Brown County Taxpayers Association, lacked the standing to sue.

Related: ‘A patronisingly small amount’: Guardian readers on Biden’s student loan relief plan

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On Thursday, the conservative justice Amy Coney Barrett, who oversees emergency appeals from the seventh circuit, which includes the federal judge, declined a request to halt that ruling.

Barrett did so without comment or referring the request to her colleagues for consideration – a signal that the request was not a particularly strong one.

It was a second win for the Biden administration on Thursday. In St Louis, a federal district judge dismissed a challenge to the student debt program filed by six Republican-led states. That US district judge, Henry Autrey, ruled that the states lacked standing to bring the suit.

The Wisconsin case will now follow the normal course of an appeal and head to the US court of appeals for the seventh circuit. It could wind up at the supreme court for the justices to decide on a full briefing.

Biden’s plan cancels $10,000 in debt for anyone making less than $125,000 ra year or $250,000 in a household. Those who received Pell grants are eligible for up to $20,000 in debt relief.

The program, which will cost nearly $400bn, will affect roughly 43 million borrowers, the White House said earlier this year.

The Brown county association, which describes itself as a group of individuals, businesses and organizations dedicated to conservative economic policies, argued Biden acted outside his presidential authority when he created the program this summer.

The group, represented by lawyers from the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (Will), also claimed the program had an “improper racial motive”, violating the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under law because it was designed to assist Black borrowers and “narrow the racial wealth gap”.

Observers say that kind of view of a color-blind constitution is not supported by history.

Earlier this month, the senior US district judge William C Griesbach, a George W Bush appointee, dismissed the group’s request. He rejected the argument that the group had standing to sue because they were taxpayers and said a “substantial question” existed as to whether the group would suffer harm from the program.

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