Southwest Air Asks Court to Reject Effort to Block Covid Shots - BLOOMBERG
BY Bloomberg News,
(Bloomberg) -- Southwest Airlines Co. asked a federal court to reject a request from its pilots to temporarily block the carrier from carrying out federally mandated coronavirus vaccinations, saying such an order would put the company’s business, employees and customers at risk.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association is seeking to stop the airline from moving ahead with the Nov. 24 deadline for the shots until an existing a lawsuit it filed over alleged U.S. labor law violations is resolved. The union claims Southwest illegally changed work rules during the pandemic instead of negotiating them with pilots.
The carrier set the vaccination deadline to comply with an executive order from President Joe Biden that mandates all employees of federal contractors to be fully vaccinated against Covld-19 by Dec. 8. Southwest, like most major U.S. carriers, holds contracts to carry federal employees and goods, and the U.S. government is its largest single customer, the Dallas-based airline said in a legal filing Saturday.
“The injunction that SWAPA seeks is extraordinary,” Southwest said. If granted, it would prevent the airline from meeting Biden’s order and force the roll back of policies adopted to implement U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to help stop the spread of coronavirus in the workplace.
The possible cancellation of Southwest’s government contracts would cause “substantial harm” to the company and all of its employees, including the pilots represented by group, the airline said.
The union’s original lawsuit, filed in federal court in Dallas on Aug. 30, claimed Southwest has continued to make unilateral changes that violate terms of the Railway Labor Act, or RLA, which governs airline-union relations.
In addition to the vaccination requirement, the union wants to block Covid quarantine rules for pilots and an infectious disease control policy that, it says, significantly altered work conditions, rules and rates of pay, until the two sides agree on a resolution. The changes violate a “status quo” provision of the RLA by not maintaining terms of an existing contract during negotiations, the union lawsuit claimed.
The federal court doesn’t have jurisdiction in the case because it involves a “minor dispute” under the RLA that can be resolved through binding arbitration instead of a negotiation process for larger disagreements that can take years to resolve, the carrier said. The union also can’t show irreparable harm because it is in talks with the airline to establish a process for pilots to request religious or medical exemptions from the mandate.
Pilots are at a unique risk because adverse reactions to a vaccine could affect their ability to pass periodic medical examinations required to maintain their license. The union wants to negotiate, among other things, how such instances would be covered by long-term disability policies. Pilots also are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to not work for 48 hours after receiving vaccinations.
Southwest has engaged with the union to resolve disputes and adjust policies in a way acceptable to the 9,000 pilots represented by SWAPA, and only has taken unilateral actions when necessary, the airline said.
A hearing on the union’s request for a temporary restraining order is set for Oct. 22.
The case is Southwest Airlines Pilots Association v. Southwest Airlines Co., 3:21-cv-02065-M, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).
New York Landlords Seek to Suspend Extension of Eviction Freeze - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- New York landlords sued to block a law extending the state’s moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, warning of “devastating consequences” to small property owners if it’s allowed to go forward.
New York’s biggest landlord group, the Rent Stabilization Association of NYC, and five small landlords are seeking a preliminary injunction to suspend the law, which Governor Kathy Hochul signed last month, while the case proceeds.
The law, which aims to support New Yorkers who have suffered financial losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic, extended the moratorium through Jan. 15, 2022. It also increased the amount of hardship funds available to tenants and landlords to $250 million from $100 million and created a $25 million fund for legal services for renters facing evictions.
“These plaintiffs and other New York small property owners are once again facing devastating consequences that compound with each passing day and can never be remedied later,” the landlord group said in a court filing Friday. The individual plaintiffs claim personal hardship from the inability to evict tenants who won’t pay. One, military veteran Brandie LaCasse, claimed that she and her young daughter are forced to live out of their car, unable to evict non-paying tenants from her property in Rhinebeck, New York.
The New York legislation was intended to address a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in August striking down a federal program that would have provided protection to people who couldn’t pay their rent.
The landlords claim the extension conflicts with the Supreme Court ruling.
The case is Chrysafis v. Marks, 21-cv-02516, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
Bi-Courtney indicates interest in airport terminals concession - PUNCH
BY Adepeju Adenuga
The Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited, operators of the Terminal Two of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos, has indicated interest to bid in the ongoing concession of four international airport terminals by the Federal Government.
The development is coming about two weeks to the deadline for the submission of Requests for Qualifications for the concession.
The Chairman of BASL, Dr Wale Babalakin, made the disclosure during an interactive session with journalists, the News Agency of Nigeria reported.
The four major airports for concession are those in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port-Harcourt.
Babalakin said, “On the ongoing process to concession four of the major airports, in more organised climes, they will check the track records of those who have done it well.
“In advanced countries, they will offer them a right of first refusal before opening the process. Hence, the BASL has within its limited resources operated the MMA2 for 14 years and has run the terminal well despite challenges it has come to face from the government.”
Babalakin called on the Federal Government to implement the approval granted it to commence regional operations from its terminal to ease passengers’ burden.
He added that airlines were being subjected to incalculable loss while passengers were facing untold hardships by making them to transit from MMA2 to the international terminal to connect flights to the West Coast.
According to the BASL chairman, as big as the regional facility of the MMA2 terminal is, only about one-third of the place has been put into operation.
The Federal Government had in June said the four major airport terminals would be on concession for a minimum of 20 to 30 years.
The Ministry of Aviation said although the airports had huge potential, they were currently operating at a sub-optimal level.
The ministry said the concession applied to the non-aeronautic assets of the airports located in the passenger and cargo terminals.
It said these comprised the assets from the entry door of the airport to the point of embarking and disembarking from an aircraft to the exit doors.
The ministry explained that this space commonly referred to as the passenger terminal comprised retail spaces, waiting and seating areas, airport and airline lounges, baggage collection, check-in counters as well as administrative offices.
It added that the cargo terminals were comprised the facilities between the point of entry and up to loading and off-loading points, including administrative offices within said facilities.
Heathrow Will Be Allowed to Lift Fees After Clash With Airlines - BLOOMBERG
The U.K. will allow London Heathrow airport to raise ticket surcharges by as much as 56%, setting up a clash with airlines who have denounced higher fees as they try to recover from the coronavirus downturn.
The hub will be permitted to lift charges to a range of 24.50 pounds ($33.77) to 34.40 pounds over a five-year period starting next summer, the Civil Aviation Authority said Tuesday. That compares with 22 pounds per passenger in 2020.
“The CAA will work closely with Heathrow, airlines and other stakeholders to narrow this range over the next few months,” the regulator said. “These proposals will deliver affordable charges for consumers and allow the airport to continue to invest in service quality.”
Heathrow has been at loggerheads with airlines for months after seeking to raise charges by as much as 95% to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Willie Walsh, head of the International Air Transport Association lobby group and a former chief of IAG SA-owned British Airways, branded the airport a “greedy monopoly” and said investors should “step up and feel some of the pain.”
IAG shares traded 3% lower as of 8:52 a.m. in London, while EasyJet Plc slid 0.7%. Air France-KLM declined 2.3% in Paris.
Heathrow said in response to the CAA statement that while the regulator must protect consumers against excessive profits, a settlement must not “shield airlines” from legitimate cost increases. The hub said it will discuss the proposals in detail with the regulator and carriers.
The authority also proposed:
- A risk-sharing mechanism to prevent either the airport or consumers bearing all risk tied to the uncertain return of passenger traffic.
- An interim price cap for 2022 to prevent any “undue” increase in airport charges while the full proposals are finalized.
Chinese Tycoon Takes On Cathay With New Airline in Hong Kong - BLOOMBERG
BY Bloomberg News,
(Bloomberg) -- A new airline with ties to Beijing is trying to muscle into Hong Kong, a patch long dominated by stalwart Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd.
Founded by property magnate Bill Wong, Greater Bay Airlines has ambitions to fly to 104 destinations in mainland China and North, South and Southeast Asia, including Bangkok and Phuket. Scheduled flights haven’t begun yet, with the carrier only receiving its air operator’s certificate at the beginning of the month and an air-transport license still to be procured.
Starting an airline at the tail end of a pandemic that’s decimated travel worldwide may sound unwise. But 62-year-old Wong, dubbed the Li Ka-shing of Shenzhen for his expansive business empire across the border, isn’t a total novice. He already owns one carrier, Shenzhen-headquartered Donghai Airlines Co., which services a raft of Chinese cities as well as a few regional routes.
Greater Bay Airlines’ entry into Hong Kong also comes at a low point for Cathay, the iconic carrier controlled by conglomerate Swire Pacific Ltd., whose parent is U.K.-based private family group John Swire & Sons Ltd. Even before Covid, Cathay was impacted by its association with the 2019 pro-democracy protests in the former British colony, forcing a change in management.
Hong Kong is sticking to a Covid Zero strategy, so Cathay can only watch on as carriers in neighboring places such as Singapore and Indonesia prepare to ramp up international routes. With no domestic market and mainland China’s borders still closed even to Hong Kong, Cathay’s passenger traffic languishes at about 5% of pre-pandemic levels.
“We’re starting from new, so we don’t have the burden or the baggage,” Greater Bay Airlines’ Chief Executive Officer Algernon Yau said, suggesting that Covid has leveled the playing field.
Greater Bay Airlines can be more agile and flexible than a legacy carrier like Cathay, he said. It also has a ready-made traveling public on its doorstep, considering the Greater Bay Area covers Hong Kong, Macau and municipalities in Guangdong province with a population north of 86 million.
“Now we’re all starting from the same line,” Yau said from an interview at his office overlooking a hazy Hong Kong Airport and its new third runway. “When business comes back, we can easily catch up and not be left behind.”
Wong declined to be interviewed.
Cathay, which is almost 30% owned by state-controlled Air China Ltd., seems unperturbed by the potential for more competition. “There’s a wealth of potential for both business and leisure travel as the region continues to develop,” a spokesperson said.
There have already been some setbacks, however.
Greater Bay Airlines, which has three Boeing Co. 737-800 jets on lease and plans to grow its fleet to more than 30 by 2026, had hoped to begin operations on China’s National Day on Oct. 1 with a symbolic flight to Beijing.
That never happened because it didn’t have a license. Also, despite Cathay and Hong Kong Airlines Ltd. not formally objecting to Greater Bay Airlines’ license request, the two have tried to stall the approval process, the South China Morning Post reported, citing people it didn’t identify. A licensing hearing is scheduled for December.
Hong Kong Airlines is the city’s only other commercial passenger airline that doesn’t belong to the Cathay group. It’s been limping along since its parent, Chinese conglomerate HNA Group Co., buckled under a pile of debt at the start of the pandemic.
Greater Bay Airlines is also unable to generate any cash at present because it can’t sell tickets. Wong told the SCMP almost a year ago that he expected to spend around HK$2 billion ($257 million) before obtaining regulatory approvals. Other details surrounding the airline’s financing are scant and Yau didn’t elaborate.
“Investing in an airline is a very costly exercise,” said Yau, an ex-Cathay executive who for a period ran the airline’s now defunct Cathay Dragon unit. “Our investor Mr. Wong is a land developer in Shenzhen, so he has very strong financial support to this airline.”
There’s also the question mark over Hong Kong’s future as an international aviation hub if the city’s strict quarantine measures don’t change. Although Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam pledged the city would retain that title in her annual policy address on Oct. 6, most travelers entering the financial hub still need to spend as long as 21 days isolating in a hotel.
“Demand for flights into Hong Kong remained very weak due to the strict quarantine requirements,” Cathay’s Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said Tuesday, as the company released figures that showed it carried only 131,774 passengers in September.
Read more: Hong Kong Can Retain International Aviation Hub Status, Lam Says
Despite the difficulties of the pandemic and Hong Kong’s Covid Zero approach, Greater Bay Airlines could benefit from its timing, with cheaper aircraft, less congested landing slots and plenty of available pilots, according to Brendan Sobie, Singapore-based consultant at Sobie Aviation.
Another factor going in Wong’s favor is his ties to the mainland. The businessman is a member of China’s key political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Yau said Hong Kong-Beijing would be a fitting first route.
“Greater Bay Airlines will probably be looked at by the regulators relatively favorably,” said Richard Harris, founder and CEO of Hong Kong-based Port Shelter Investment Management. “Cathay is partly owned by British interests, partly by a Chinese airline and partly by Qatar. But what it isn’t, it’s not linked to China as much.”
Yau said Greater Bay Airlines will be a “value carrier,” somewhere between a budget airline and a full-service one. Planes won’t have seat-back televisions and customers will be encouraged to use an app to customize their journey before boarding, including ordering food from McDonald’s, for example, or premium whiskey to be served in-flight.
Most pilots and cabin crew are Hong Kong citizens who used to work for Cathay, Dragon or Hong Kong Airlines, he said, adding that Greater Bay Airlines aims to have about 150 employees by December.
“We’re quite aggressive with our plan,” Yau said.
(Updates with Cathay Pacific’s latest passenger figures, share price.)
New U.S. Travel Rules Bar Foreign Covid Survivors With One Shot - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- The new U.S. travel policy will block entry to foreign nationals who have recovered from Covid-19 and then gotten one dose of two-dose vaccines -- a standard that France and the European Commission consider full vaccination.
The U.S. announced on Friday that it would open its borders to vaccinated travelers beginning Nov. 8, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that would include “any combination of two doses” from two-shot vaccines. An agency spokeswoman confirmed that people with just one dose would be excluded, regardless of whether they’ve also recovered from Covid-19.
That distinction could hobble travel plans across Europe, where people who’ve recovered and gotten one shot are considered fully vaccinated by some countries, at least for now. That standard is also one of the eligible scenarios for the EU digital Covid certificate, the bloc’s widely accepted vaccine passport.
The U.S. has never considered recovery from Covid-19 in its domestic definition of vaccination. U.S. residents are required to have both shots of a two-dose vaccine or Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine to be deemed fully vaccinated, regardless of whether they’ve contracted the virus.
The Biden administration’s plan to reject foreign travelers who’ve recovered but haven’t received two shots, regardless of whether their home country considers them vaccinated, may become a fresh point of tension in the relationship between Washington and Europe -- and with France in particular.
Ties were strained last month by Australia’s announcement that it would abandon a deal to purchase French diesel-powered submarines to enter into a partnership with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear-powered subs.
U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Sept. 22 to try and move past the eruption, pledging to “open a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating the conditions for ensuring confidence and proposing concrete measures toward common objectives.”
Varied Vaccination Rules
Abroad, the definition of “fully vaccinated” varies. France and Norway each consider someone fully vaccinated after recovering from Covid-19 and receiving a single dose of a two-dose vaccine. Macron is among the residents of his country who are in that category.
In Greece, people who get a first dose within six months of recovering from Covid-19 are considered fully vaccinated. In Austria, people who’ve recovered from Covid and then received one shot can wait a year for their second shot and still be considered vaccinated in the interim.
Italy will issue what’s known as a “green certificate,” which is required to work and access most indoor venues, to people who have recovered from Covid and received one dose of a vaccine within a year of testing positive. The certificate lasts for one year.
The U.S. policy accommodates some scenarios that haven’t yet been authorized by domestic regulators. For example, foreigners who’ve had two shots of any World Health Organization-authorized vaccine, including shots that haven’t been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, can fly directly to the U.S. as of Nov. 8.
That includes the AstraZeneca Plc shot, widely used around the world but not yet authorized in the U.S., and Chinese vaccines.
The U.S. also plans to admit travelers who’ve received shots of two different vaccines -- an approach now under consideration by the FDA for Americans but not yet authorized.
The new U.S. travel policy will replace an existing pandemic ban on direct travel from certain regions, including Europe, for non-Americans, regardless of vaccination status. Other restricted regions, such as India and South Africa, require both doses of two-dose vaccines for residents to be considered fully vaccinated.
NRC Resumes Cargo Movement From Lagos To Kano, Kaduna Dry Port - INDEPENDENT
LAGOS – The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), has resumed movement of cargoes in containers to Kano and Kaduna Inland Dry Port.
Ismail Yusuf, Managing Director of Inland Containers Nigeria Limited (ICNL), who confirmed the resumption to journalists in Lagos, said about forty containers have been moved in the first instance.
He also said an additional forty empty containers have been returned through same mode to Lagos from the Kano and Kaduna Dry Port, which is a subsidiary company of ICNL.
Yusuf added that the movement by rail will contribute to cost reduction, time saving and further ensure safety of the consignments being moved by rail.
According to him, it will now cost half of what is presently spent on road haulage to move containers by rail.
He added that ICNL is still in talks with NRC to deploy additional coaches to the port operation because his company has cargoes on ground to be moved.
“As you know that Federal Government is encouraging the Nigerian Railway Corporation to ensure movement of cargo from the sea port to the hinterland and this is very critical to our Kano bonded terminal and Kaduna Inland Dry Port, which is our subsidiary company.
“The management of ICNL and Kaduna Dry Port has led to the management of the railway corporation to discuss the modalities of how they can come back to life. We thank God that our request has been acceded to and this is the outcome of our discussion.
“It has been fruitful and the railway corporation had commenced movement of cargo from the sea port to the hinterland, which is to ICNL and Kaduna Dry Port.
“Presently, they have supplied us two rails for the last two weeks. We have moved about forty containers, and this will continue every fortnight until we attain maximum capacity.
“The number of containers being moved also depends on availability of locomotives, and as long as we have enough cargos to load. We have started from somewhere, from one to two rails, and from there we can increase it to four or five rails.
“We are talking with NRC on how we can increase the capacity to meet the yearnings of customers who want to use the services of the rail corporation. Time spent on the movement is a minimum of forty eight hours and maximum of seventy two,” Yusuf said.
Lagos Railway District Manager, Mr. Jerry Oche, in September, 2020, said that that the suspension of the rail service was to pave way for the resumption of laying of tracks on the ongoing standard gauge rail project.
He explained further that the period would also enable the contractor to meet up the December deadline to complete the project.
According to Oche, “We have to stop the operation on Tuesday to enable our contractor handling the standard gauge to have access to the whole line because they are trying to meet the December handover date.
“They are also expected to rehabilitate the old narrow gauge and work on the new narrow gauge, the one entering the port and if we continue to run trains that will be difficult.
“The idea is for us to get a better service by the time we resume and the only way for us to get that is for us to shut down now.
“By the time we will be resuming, we expect to get a rehabilitated narrow gauge as well as a brand new standard gauge all entering the port.
“Even if the standard gauge is not ready, definitely the narrow gauge is not going to be in the same condition. “We are leaving it now. It will be in a better form and issues of accident and derailment will be a thing of the past. So it is a sacrifice we all have to make,” Oche said, last year.
Pitch-Dark Lagos Airport! - NEW TELEGRAPH
Arriving in the country at night through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, gives you a false sense of illumination everywhere around the Lagos airport.
Driving from the international wing of Lagos to Oshodi equally gives a first-time traveler of a false sense of electricity everywhere around the airport. The newly built expressway from the airport to Charity Bus stop in Oshodi is a beauty to behold.
The stretch of that road is not only well lit at night, but the aesthetics on the road occasioned by flowers planted by the sides of the roads also makes first-time travelers to be truly proud of work done on that road, which for many years had been described as a shame of a nation.
The sad reality hits hard when travelers have to travel to Ikeja using the domestic airport link road. From the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) training school down to Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Base leaves much to be desired. The darkness around the area makes one wonder what happened to the street lights, which bulbs need just replacement.
Some of the street light poles are begging for replacement. Some have been knocked down by vehicles and had remained like that for months. Light from the billboards of MMA2 terminal and light from the terminal, the Presidential Wing of the airport, and Arik Air provide illumination from Strabag bus stop to interception roads to Agege Motor Road and Ikeja under bridge.
The functional street lights along the long stretch of the road could only provide insignificant lighting to the area. I think FAAN management should take a cue from Lagos State for the type of lighting it is providing for major streets and roads in the state.
The blurry red lights have been replaced with brighter white lights that not only provide beauty to most roads at night, but has also helped to reduce criminal activities of bad people who hide the cover of darkness to perpetrate all kinds of atrocities.
Not a few believe that the relocation of all the aviation agencies to Abuja under the policy of the Federal Government may have led to the abandonment of Lagos airport. Doing that would be detrimental not only to FAAN, but the aviation industry in general. The Lagos and Abuja airports generate 80 per cent of total aviation revenue.
As a matter of fact, all other airports managed by FAAN rely on revenue from these aerodromes for survival as virtually all other airports are run at a loss. They survive on these two and the support the Federal Government may extend to them.
One only needs to visit the airport at night to understand fully, the danger of throwing many parts of the airport into darkness at night. It is a sorry sight to behold.
A well-lit airport and environment could help to track criminals who may want to escape into the dark after committing crimes with the aid of Close Circuit Television/ Camera if truly the multi-million dollar facilities allegedly installed in 2011 and 2012 are working.
The Abuja airport CCTV project was reportedly awarded to a Chinese firm, ZTE Communications, for $47 million, an equivalent of N76 billion, in 2010, after then Finance Minister, Olusegun Aganga, led a delegation to Beijing, China, where the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed.
It is unknown the amount that of Lagos gulped. On the team was the then Minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Waziri, and the then Inspector-General of Police, Hafiz Ringim.
The Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera project was to be financed with a $600m financing portfolio, which was secured as a soft credit loan, with three percent interest repayable in 10 years, after an initial 10 years of grace.
People are getting more exposed to alternative sources of power like solar, and in a place like Lagos, where the sun helps in no small measure for the maximum functionality of solarpowered energy, those who know the worth of the equipment are carting them away in bits, and it is, therefore, a common sight in Lagos airport to see fallen poles that were used to erect the panels with the batteries and other accessories removed. Interestingly, the vandalised panels are located in the heart of the airport and city, areas where people in positions of authority drive through on a daily basis.
Bad Roads Everywhere Despite N1.12trn Allocation In 5 Years - LEADERSHIP
*We suffer frequent vehicle breakdowns, attacks at failed spots – Transporters *Our roads are now deathtraps, kidnappers’ havens, say passengers *Government doing its best to fix highways, controllers of works declare.
The state of Nigerian roads has raised concern about the safety of citizens. In fact, most of the roads have become deathtraps and kidnappers’ havens.
And despite the present administration’s insistence that it was keen to leave behind a legacy of world class infrastructure – a key explanation for its continuous borrowing – the sorry state of road infrastructure across the country points to the contrary.
LEADERSHIP investigation reveals that the federal government has budgeted about N1.2 trillion for roads in five years: N169.88bn in 2020, N280.44bn 2019, N344bn in 2018, N107.38bn in 2017, and N260.08bn in 2016, for a total of N1.12trn. Yet the roads seem to have defied government effort to provide succour to road users.
In Kwara State, paucity of funds has stalled the ongoing rehabilitation and reconstruction of thirteen federal roads.
Consequently, the roads have become a death trap for motorists and passengers alike.
Investigation by LEADERSHIP showed that there are a total of 16 federal roads in Kwara State. Out of this number, only three are in good motorable condition.
The remaining 13 roads are either undergoing rehabilitation or total reconstruction.
The roads include the dualised Ilorin-Ogbomosho single carriage, Ilorin-Ogbomosho, Ilorin-Jebba expressway, Ilorin- Share junction-Bode Saadu (Old Jebba road), Share-Patigi, Patigi- Kpada, Etchi- Sanyagi, Gbugbu- Lafiagi, Ilorin- Omu-Aran- Egbe and Ajase-Ipo- Offa- Erin- Ile (Osun State boundary road) .
Others are Offa by-pass, Afon-Aboto (Oyo State boundary road), Ilorin- Igbeti ( Oyo State boundary road), dualised Michael Imoudu- Ganmo- Amoyo, NITEL- Yidi praying ground road, Offa and Oba Charles Oladele Ibitoye road in Omu-Aran.
The three roads that are in good shape are the single carriage way Ilorin-Ogbomosho, Ilorin-Share junction-Bode Saadu (Old Jebba road) and Gbugbu-Lafiagi.
Findings by LEADERSHIP showed that the contractors had partially suspended work on the 13 roads undergoing rehabilitation or reconstruction due to non-release of the needed funds by the concerned authorities.
Transporters and residents of the affected areas have called on the federal government to hasten the completion of the road projects by releasing funds to the contractors.
Those who spoke with our correspondents include a driver plying the Share-Patigi road, Malam Ganiyu Abdul; Kwara State chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW, AbdulRasaq Ariwo- Ola and president of Ilorin Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU), Aliyu Otta- Uthman
Both the NURTW chairman and IEDPU chairman lamented that the state of disrepair of the roads, especially the Oko-Olowo section of the Ilorin- Jebba expressway, pose serious threats to life and property.
When contacted, Federal Controller of Works in Kwara State, Engr Wasiu Atitebi confirmed that 13 federal roads “have ongoing contracts for rehabilitation while some are undergoing total reconstruction. Only three of the 16 federal roads in Kwara have no existing contracts on them and are motorable.”
The controller of works who spoke through an assistant chief civil Engineer, Babatunde Tajudeen, said that the federal government” is doing its best in the face of competing demands, to maintain the roads across the country.”
While urging Nigerians to help government in maintaining the roads, Atitebi cautioned transporters against overloading their vehicles and indiscriminate parking of vehicles on the road, noting that “asphalt and engine oil are not friendly. When engine oil spills on asphalt, it damages the roads.”
Millions Disappear in Failed Bauchi-Gombe Road Rehabilitation
In just three tranches, the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) collected the sum of N271,404,839.64 for the rehabilitation of the failed sections of the federal government road linking Bauchi to Gombe State.
Data from Open Treasury portal (the official portal of the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation) obtained by LEADERSHIP showed that on the 30th March, 2020 for instance, the sum of N58,434,345.58 was released to Luxious Synergy Limited for the repair of the failed section of the Bauchi-Gombe Road in Bauchi State. On December 28, 2020, Universal Touch Nigeria Ltd was paid the sum of N104,922,205.81 for the maintenance of the same road, just as Dari Investment collected N 108,048,288.25 on 12th February, 2021, for the renovation of the same Bauchi Gombe Road.
There are several releases amounting to hundreds of millions of naira to different companies by FERMA for the renovation of Bauchi-Gombe Road.
The releases analysed by LEADERSHIP were part of the N32 billion awarded by the federal government to rehabilitate the 84km failed section of the Bauchi-Gombe Road.
However, a visit to areas that ought to be rehabilitated by the agency shows negligible progress on the road. Motorists and commuters plying the road continue to groan, just as many have perished due to the terrible conditions of the road.
Several other federal roads connecting Bauchi to other states also got huge allocations by the federal government, but their conditions remain deplorable. Although there has been some level of progress on the rehabilitation of Bauchi-Kano road by FERMA, many portions of the roads are still in bad shape despite the huge amount of money released to the agency to fix the road.
In Ondo State, residents and travellers, especially on federal roads across the state, have lamented the terrible condition of the roads.
Roads like Akure-Owo expressway, Owo-Benin expressway, Ikare-Ikaram Akoko-Ajowa Road, Oka Akoko–Epinmi Road, Ipele-Ido Ani–Isua Akoko Road, and Akure-Ado Ekiti Road among others are in terribly bad shape.
Although, some of the road users say that heavy traffic poor and quality road construction contributed to its bad state, they however lamented that the bad portions on the federal roads are currently aiding criminal activities as kidnappers now utilise the areas as a trap to kidnap travellers.
Some motorists, who spoke to LEADERSHIP, called on government at all levels to find an urgent and lasting solution to the problem.
One motorist, Akinlade Abayomi, accused FERMA of neglecting its primary responsibility.
Akinlade said it is the job of FERMA to maintain and rehabilitate these roads regularly, but that most of these roads have been abandoned for almost four years without any attention from the agency.
Another commercial driver, Mr Ladi Adegoke, said, “The government says it wants to fight insecurity and when you have a road that is as bad as what we have on the Ido-Ani-Isua Akoko road, how would you fight insecurity – because when you stay at one point for a long time due to the bad road, hoodlums would take the advantage to attack commuters.”
A traveller who does not want his name mentioned said, “These roads need government attention. It has got to the point that when you want to travel on Nigerian roads, you need prayers, especially for God’s protection against banditry and accidents which are mainly aided by bad roads. We live in this country as if there is no more government. It is very unfortunate.”
The Federal Controller of Works and Housing, Akure, Olubakinde Olajide, however, said he could not comment on the matter.
There are several federal roads in Rivers State which connect the state to others parts of the country, especially states in the South-South and South-East geopolitical zones of the country.
Some of the roads include the East-West Road, the Port Harcourt-Aba Road and the Port Harcourt-Owerri Road as well as the G.U Ake Road, Tam David-West Boulevard and Rufus Ada-George Road
LEADERSHIP observed that the Rivers State government has dualised the Port Harcourt-Owerri up to the state boundary with Imo State, as well as some sections of the Port Harcourt-Aba Road.
It was also observed that it reconstructed other federal roads in the state, of which the federal government recently refunded the sum of N78billion to the state government.
The Eleme Junction-Imo Rivers section of the Port Harcourt-Aba Road was recently reconstructed by the Federal Government under the SUKUK Fund.
However, some sections of the East-West Road in Rivers State, which is under the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, has remained a nightmare for motorists more than 10 years after the contract for its repair was awarded.
Bad sections of the road include the Emohua-Mbiama axis and the Eleme Junction-Onne axis of the road, which protesting Ogoni youths recently blocked for seven days.
LEADERSHIP gathered that even though the contractor handling the project, Setraco, did more repairs on two sections of the road, the measures have not reduced the number of accidents recorded on a daily basis.
A visit to Setraco Camp near Trailer Park in Onne showed that it had already mobilised to site but work was yet to start. However, there was no person in the camp to speak with.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP, a passenger of Eket-bound commercial bus, Effiong Aniekan, said the equipment had been on that site since July after the seven-day protest by Ogoni youths.
Aniekan said it was regrettable that a journey that usually takes him less than two hours now takes up to three hours due to the bad state of the road.
According to the chairman of Ahoada-Mile One Unit of the NURTW, Uwoh Unukani, the deep potholes on the Emohua-Mbiama axis of the road have led to a lot of accidents and loss of lives.
Unukani said, “The potholes on the road had been causing accidents and damaging vehicles, especially from China Junction to C4i. Ahoada people find it difficult to come to Port Harcourt.
“Due to potholes, vehicles have been falling and somersaulting on that road. If you watch well, from Choba to Ahaoda, you see a lot of accidents. The double lanes have not been useful. We manage just one lane until we get to Ahoada.”
Also speaking with LEADERSHIP, a commercial driver, Gerald Andiwudo said: “The Eleme Junction-Onne section of the East-West Road is very bad. You cannot programme yourself on when to arrive at your destination.
When contacted, the Federal Controller of Works and Housing in Rivers State, Engr. Johnson Faderi, said he was on transfer out of the state and promised to send the contact of the new controller.
In an interview with LEADERSHIP in Jos, the Plateau State capital, the federal controller of works, Engr. Usman Abubakar Majin, said federal government was doing its best to ensure the maintenance of these roads but was constrained by paucity of funds.
According to him, the federal government had started the construction of Akwanga Road to Jos, Bauchi to Gombe while the construction of Panbegwa Road in Kaduna State which will pass through Saminaka to Jingir in Plateau State would soon commence.
Chief Audu Onoja who just arrived from the Eastern part of the country to Jos described his experience on the road from Forest in Kaduna State to Jos as horrible. He said the roads are a death trap to drivers and their passengers.
He appealed to both the federal and state governments to maintain the road.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the inter-state road from Jingir Plateau State to Saminaka and Panbegwa in Kaduna is almost unmotorable. There are so many potholes, and kidnappers cash in to abduct innocent motorist using the road.
Also speaking to our correspondent, the chairman of the popular NTA motor park in Jos, Alhaji Maikudi Ibrahim lamented that the inter-state roads from Jos to Kaduna passing through Kafanchan was in very bad state.
According to him, sometimes the drivers pass through the bush to avoid potholes.
In Cross River State, the roads, particularly those constructed by the federal government four to five decades ago, have become death traps due to the increasing number of bad spots on them.
However, the multi-million naira Ikom-Calabar Highway bridge in Ikom local government area under construction by the President Muhammadu administration is about 90 percent completed.
Apart from Calabar-Ugep, Ikom-Ojoja to Benue state road that has been in bad shape in the last three decades, the popular Calabar-Itu Road which links Cross River and its sister Akwa Ibom State is unmotorable.
The chairman of Cross River State branch of NURTW, Barr Efa Edet Essien said, “A situation where you make repairs today and tomorrow the same vehicle breaks down due to bad road and you keep making repairs on daily basis, a situation which leads to price hike on transport fare retards one’s business and leads to business breakdown.
“If you look around our roads, you will see many vehicles which belong to our members abandoned due to frequent breakdowns caused by the deplorable state of the roads.”
Federal highways undergoing rehabilitation in the state includes 60km Calabar-Uban Road project awarded to Setraco, 330km Calabar-Ugep, Ikom-Ogoja-Makurdi Road, Odukpani–Itu otherwise known as Calabar-Itu Road which has two contractors: Sematech Nigeria Ltd and Julius Berger.
The Controller, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing in Cross River State, Engr. Bassey Nsentip, averred that the government is working on all federal roads in Cross River State which include the 330km Calabar Ugep,Ikom Ogoja road which extends to Benue State borders.
He said there are four rehabilitation contracts which the federal government had engaged construction firms to make repairs in Cross River State.
“Although rains are not giving the contractors opportunity to work at full blast, as soon as the rain subsides, the contractors would come out in full force to work,” Nsentip said.
A resident of Akparavoni community along Calabar-Ugep Road, Solomon Edet who expressed happiness over the road repairs by federal government, said before now, road crashes had been high due to the bad roads, stressing that the rehabilitation had brought succour to the communities.
In Benue State, there has been unceasing outcry over the state of federal roads as the roads continue to collapse day by day.
Although Benue State is blessed with many federal roads, which span hundreds of kilometres leading into and outside the state, the roads are, however, in very deplorable shapes.
Farmers, who need to transport their farm produce from one point to the other, are the worst hit because thousands of trader, who usually thronged Benue State daily to make large purchases of food crops, are not coming again owing to Insecurity and bad roads.
Some of the farmers who spoke to our correspondent including the chairman of all Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in the State, Aondongu Saaku, said many farmers are farming at a loss because there is no market for their products.
According to him, “Criminals are now using the bad portions of the roads to rob traders, farmers and other commuters. This combined with other security challenges have made traders to shy away from coming into the state to purchase food crops.”
The implication is that a large percentage of the food crops produced in the state cannot be conveyed to other parts of the country for sale. For this reason, they are abandoned in the barns to rot away. It has now become a common sight in parts of the state to see trucks carrying these food crops tumbling over on roads and spilling their contents due to the dreadful state of the roads.
Some of the federal roads in the state which are in bad shape are the Katsina-Ala-Abaji-Tordonga-Harga Road, Makurdi-Gboko Road, Yandev-Ugbema Road, Aliade – Otukpo Road, Otukpo – Enugu Road and Gboko-Lessel Road, Ihugh- Tse- Maker Vandeikya roads, Aliade-Oju road, Aliade-Gboko road, Ihugh-Korinya road and Ogobia-Oyangede Road.
Our Correspondent observed that the Keffi- Akwanga-Lafia- Màkurdi road, Màkurdi- Naka- Adoka- Ankpa roads and Màkurdi Gboko roads are under construction.
Although work has now commenced on the Màkurdi side of the Keffi- Akwanga-Lafia- Màkurdi road, the Federal Government attributed the suspension of the ongoing dualization work on the Keffi- Akwanga-Lafia- Màkurdi road within the Benue state axis to threat to the lives of construction workers.
This is even as the Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola disclosed that the federal government has commenced compensation to communities on the Benue section of the road whose properties were affected by the construction to pave way for the dualization.
Niger State is said to have the longest federal road routes, but apart from Minna to Suleja and Mokwa to Bida that are fair, all federal roads in the state are in bad shape.
Recently, articulated vehicle drivers blocked Bida to Lambata federal road, protesting its bad state.
Already, the Mokwa -Bokani-Tegina-Birni Gwari road has been abandoned by motorists and this has diverted traffic to state roads, making the state government to close her roads to articulated vehicles.
Similarly, Mokwa-Jebba Road is in bad shape while Mokwa-New Bussa Road is almost collapsing .It is the same for Wawa road linking Kwara State.
In Jigawa State there are nine major federal roads that linked the state with other neighbouring states and Niger Republic.
Most of the road are in good shape, some renovation works are in progress while some have been completed.
These roads include Danbatta Kazaure Daura road, Wudil Birnin Kudu Gwaram Kari road, and Kano- Gumel Malammmadori -Hadejia road. All these are in good shape but have some potholes that require minor renovation.
The Kwanar- Dumawa- Babura –Babbban Mutum -Niger republic boarder 52km road and Gaya-Jahu- Kafinhausa- Azare road are in bad shape but contract for their reconstruction was awards in 2020 and work is progress at the site.
Renovation work was completed on Hadejia -Nguru 70km road and Shuwarin – Dutse Kwanar Huguma road, while work has reached an advanced stage of over 80 percent completion in Kano-Wudil-Shuwarin and Shuwarin-Azare road under the Kano – Maiduguri 500km road renovation and dualization project.
All efforts to reach the Federal controller works in Jigawa state, Engr Akiyonla Oladele failed as he was said to on official assignment in Abuja.
Federal roads across the three Senatorial districts of Edo state are begging for urgent attention as motorists plying the busy roads have lamented their deplorable state.
The Benin/Lagos highway drainage is filled with sand which have caused flooding especially at Ogbowo axis of the road; there is also serious flooding issue at S % T Barracks, immediately after the University of Benin gate section of the road.
In Iruekpen/Ifon highway, the section between Ozalla and Uhonmora has failed completely because of the heavy traffic on the route owing to the poor state of Auchi-Benin highway.
Similarly, Uzebba-Ifon section of the road has also been in a bad state. The Ose Bridge has become obsolete.
The Ekpoma section of the road has defied every means of palliative work on the section of the highway. As a result of the poor state of the Ekpoma section of the road, it has become a common occurrence to see gridlock of over 2km of articulated vehicles.
Also, the Benin/Sapele highway section, popularly called RCC, has given motorists hell of a time, so also is the section shortly after the by-pass area of the same road.
The Auchi/Okene highway section between Okpella and Okene has given challenging time to motorists to the extent that they have an alternative in the Auchi/Ibillo highway. For the fact that it has become an alternative route as a result of the failed section of the Auchi/Okene highway, the Auchi/Ibillo has also failed, especially from the section between Igarra and Ibillo and also from Ibillo down to Okene.
In Enugu State, federal roads witnessed many years of neglect by previous administrations but the President Muhammadu Buhari led government has commenced moves to reverse the situation.
The deplorable condition of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway especially at the Ugwuoba area attracted the attention of the state government.
During the last Yuletide celebrations, travellers were stranded as they stayed for several hours because of the deplorable condition of the road.
Perturbed by the development, the state government intervened at some portions of the old Enugu/Onitsha Road.
Ugwuanyi embarked on the rehabilitation of the roads. It is also believed that the federal government may reimburse the state.
Until recently, the Enugu/Okigwe- Umuahia road was a death trap to travellers but investigations revealed that the federal government has fixed almost every part of the road.
It was also observed that the Enugu-Nsukka Expressway is currently receiving remedial works by both the federal and state governments.
It was also discovered that Enugu has over five federal roads in the state and that the state government has been assisting the federal government to fix some of them.
For instance, the Enugu/Abakiliki road is currently being rehabilitated by the Enugu State governor. The Governor, it was gathered, is planning to build a flyover at the Enugu portion of the road to reduce traffic congestion.
The governor is also trying to dualize the Enugu portion of the road to cover many potholes that made the road almost a death trap.
Commenting on the state of federal roads in Enugu, Engineer Ibekwe Nnadi commended the federal government for intervening on the roads.
Engineer Nnadi also appealed to state governments in the South East to assist the Federal Government to repair federal roads especially those within their states, saying only the federal government cannot make all the roads motorable.
The Bayelsa section of the East/West Road and two others have been identified as Federal roads in a state of disrepair.
The Kolo Road project, awarded in 2009, is yet to be completed with 19.5km done and 33.5km remaining.
Officials of the Federal Ministry of Works however told LEADERSHIP that the Yenagoa-Kolo-Otuoke-Bayelsa Palm federal road project embarked upon by the federal government is near completion.
They said the Bayelsa State Government intervention on the resolution of compensation issues for the Yenagoa-Kolo-Otuoke-Bayelsa Palm federal road allowed the contractor to cover 10 kilometres out of the 20 kilometres dual carriageway of the project.
When the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), was in Bayelsa three weeks ago to inspect the state of Federal roads, he applauded the Bayelsa governor for his state’s collaborative efforts with the federal government on projects sited in the state.
Fashola also confirmed that refunds had been made to states on federal roads between 1999 and 2015.
According to him, the first tranche of N447.783 billion was shared among 24 states between 2018 and 2019 while the second tranche of N148.141billion was approved for five states between 2019 and 2020 with N38.4 billion allocated to Bayelsa.
An official of the Federal Ministry of works, who did not want his name in print said before President Buhari assumed office, many contractors who were mobilised to work on the Federal roads abandoned the roads and ran away.
“They only came back to the sites when they heard that Buhari has won and they were afraid that they will be probed and that was why they came back,” he stated.
Ogun Commuters, Resident Beg FG To Fix Highways
Motorists, residents as well as members of different transport unions have continued to lament the sorry state of federal roads across the Ogun State corridors which they termed as an eyesore.
The also continue to count losses in terms of the man-hours lost to traffic gridlock caused by potholes.
This development, which also attracted anger of members of the trade unions, particularly the State chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), has continued to deny the traders their deserved profits in addition to making them spend extra money in the cost of transporting wares to their respective stores.
An instance of this was the demonstration staged by the Ogun State chapter of NLC penultimate Monday, when its members gathered under the popular Sango – Ota bridge along the Lagos – Abeokuta express road in the Ado – ODO/Ota Local Government in protest against the state of the road as well as the one leading from Sango – Ota to Idiroko Border.
At a demonstration held in Ado Odo Ota area of the state however, NLC, led by its state chairman, Emmanuel Bankole, issued a 21-day ultimatum to both the federal and Ogun State government within which to fix the deplorable road or risk the state being shut down by Nigerian workers.
The federal roads in terrible state are Sango – Ota – Idiroko, Lafenwa – Aiyetoro – Imeko Afon, Lafenwa – Oja Odan, Ilaro Owode as well as Papa Alanto – Ilaro in the Ogun West Senatorial districts, while Abeokuta – Sango Ota – Lagos expressway, Papa Alanto – Sagamu Interchange, Abeokuta – Ibadan highway, Sango Ota – Ijoko highway, as well as Abeokuta – Ajebo – Foursquare Camp expressway, terminating at the Lagos – Ibadan expressway in the Ogun Central Senatorial districts are also dilapidated.
In the Ogun East Senatorial districts are Ijebu Ode – Ibadan expressway, Ijebu Ode – Ilishan, Ilisha – Ago Iwoye, Sagamu – Mosinmi Depot – Ikorodu expressway to mention just few.
The few ones that are motorable across the state include: Abeokuta – Sagamu Interchange; Ijebu Ode – Epe expressway and the Abeokuta – Ibadan highway, rehabilitated by the incumbent Dapo Abiodun administration.
As of the time LEADERSHIP visited the Ogun State office of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), none of the three staffers met was ready to speak with the press on the ground that they lacked the capacity to do so.
The federal roads in Ekiti State are also in deplorable condition.
The most affected parts are the Ado-Ikere-Akure road, Igede-Aramoko-Efon road.
A collapsed bridge on Ijan Ekiti road connects Iluomoba, Agbado, Aisegba, Imesi and Ode Ekiti in the state to Ondo and Kogi states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Portions of Ado/Iworoko/Ifaki and Isinbode/Omuo road are also in bad state.
Over a year after the reconstruction and dualisation of Ado Ekiti/ Akure road was awarded by the federal government, nothing has been done on the road.
The dualisation of the road connecting Ondo and Ekiti states was awarded at the sum of N23.751 billion in June 2020 by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
The state of the road has been a source of concern to both motorists and passengers over the years with the journey of just 30 minutes becoming that of agony and bitterness.
A transporter, Oladotun Ajayi who said that he travels on the road almost every day decried the condition of the road.
He said, “I spend 40 percent of the money received as transport fare on repairing my vehicle, because there will always be one thing or the other fix after returning from any journey to or from Akure, so we beg the federal government act fast on the reconstruction of the road”.
When contacted, the Federal Controller of Works and Housing, (Works Section) Ekiti state, Mr Ishaq Lawal said his colleague in Ondo state was in charge of the project.
According to him, “My counterpart in Ondo is the one handling it.
The contractor even reports directly to him.
“He is in the best position to give you the information you need about the road project.”
U.K. Rules Out Another Lockdown Even With Cases on the Rise - BLOOMBERG
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said there won’t be a fresh lockdown of the U.K. economy even as Covid-19 cases tick upwards and Prime Minister Boris Johnson warns of a difficult winter ahead.
In a bullish round of interviews with U.K. broadcasters, Kwarteng said the government is monitoring coronavirus data by the hour, and pointed out that while case levels are high, hospitalizations and deaths are much lower than at the start of the year due to the country’s successful vaccination program.
He told LBC radio “I categorically rule out” new lockdown measures.
“We’ve worked really hard to get to the point where we could actually open up the economy; we’ve got a fast growing economy; people are getting back to work, getting back to normal life,” Kwarteng said. “Any talk of lockdowns is just not at all helpful and it’s not going to happen.”
Johnson’s government is trying to avert a fourth Coronavirus shut-down even as new daily cases have persisted above 30,000 since early September. Admissions to hospital and deaths are also creeping up.
Last month, ministers unveiled a winter Covid plan that keeps in reserve a “Plan B” under which measures including mandatory face masks, vaccine certificates and advice to work from home could return if cases surge. The National Health Service Confederation, which speaks for the health care system, on Tuesday called for the government to enact that plan “without delay,” but Kwarteng pushed back against that.
Asked if was time for that Plan B, Kwarteng told Times Radio: “No, I don’t.”
“We are learning, I think, to live with the virus,” Kwarteng said. “It’s still a difficult situation, but it’s a much, much better situation than we were in just 4 or 5 months ago when we were in the middle of a lockdown.”
Efforts for now are focusing on a booster vaccination program for vulnerable people and the over 50s. Asked about the slow rollout of those shots, Kwarteng told Sky News: “that’s something that we really need to address.”
“We’re confident that with the vaccine rollout, with the extra booster takeup, the situation can be managed well,” he said. “We could always do better, we can always improve.”