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COVID-19: Evacuation of Nigerians from U.S. Begins May 10

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Evacuation of Nigerians stranded in the U.S. due to the novel coronavirus pandemic is to begin on May 10, according to the Consulate-General of Nigeria in New York.

The consulate-general disclosed this in a notice signed by the Consul-General, Mr Benaoyagha Okoyen, on behalf of the Nigerian Missions in the U. S., on Sunday.

According to the notice, no fewer than 700 Nigerians have registered with the missions in the U.

S. for evacuation, which will be done in batches.

It said that the first batch of 270 evacuees would be transported to Abuja through an Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 509.

The plane is expected to depart the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey at 9.15p.m., and fly directly to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

As earlier announced by the Federal Government, the flight is at the expense of the evacuees, who will all fly economy class, according to the notice.

“The projected cost for the one-way economy ticket is between 1,300 dollars (N488,800) and 1,700 dollars (N639,200) per adult.

“Please note that over 700 Nigerian nationals have registered with our missions in the USA to be evacuated.

“However, only 270 passengers shall be accommodated in this batch of evacuation.

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“Missions will, therefore, attend to applicants on a first come, first served basis and shall prioritise the list of evacuees according to their immigration status.

“This includes the need to consider those stranded with proof of short stay visas, the elderly, families with children and returning students,” it said.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York, Okoyen said that the dates for subsequent batches would be announced in due course.

To curb the spread of COVID-19, the Federal Government on March 18 imposed restrictions on travels from 13 countries with high burdens.

The countries are China, Iran, South Korea, Germany, Italy, U.S. United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, France, Japan, Australia and Sweden.

Consequently, many Nigerians, who were on short-term visits to the affected countries, became stranded. NAN

Aviation

NANTA Records $500m Revenue Loss in 2022

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The National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) on Friday said it  recorded a loss of 500 million as revenue in 2022, due to drop in ticket sales.

Mrs Susan Akporiaye, NANTA’s National President, disclosed this during a media briefing held in Lagos on Friday.

Akporiaye said that there had been an appreciable decrease in ticket sales among its members as Nigerian travellers groan over exorbitant ticket fares.

She said foreign airlines operating in Nigeria had blocked all low ticket inventories on their websites and had continued to sell the highest inventories as passengers find it difficult to buy affordable tickets.

According to her, airfares has risen to over 400 per cent to all international destinations and this is as a result of the $550million trapped funds.

“The situation at hand has made Nigerian travellers to patronise agents in other African countries.

“Only less than 30 per cent tickets sold in Nigeria were done by local agents, with this, the Nigerian government is losing a lot of tax.

“To reduce the amount of money that would be trapped in Nigeria, the foreign airlines have also stopped local travel agents from issuing tickets emanating from other countries into Nigeria,” she said.

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Akporiaye noted that the association was  pained, anxious, and worried, considering the consequences of the job losses recorded.

She said the security risks to Nigerians travelling across borders to connect cheaper flghts was also worrisome.

“Also, the shame of a parallel dollar monetary policy in the travel sector

against established national naira monetary policy.

” We are also worried that none of our poitical parties have deemed it necessary to look at aviation economics, particularly, its homogeneous socio-economic and security opportunities.

“We advise the new government to followup keenly on Bilateral Air services Agreement (BASA) and other extant aviation laws which will open our economy to serious local and foreign investors, we are also remain available for consultation,” she said.

Earlier, Mr Yinka Olapade, NANTA’s National Auditor said that developments in the travel sector had gone so bad that over 720,000 job losses  had also been recorded due to the irregularities in the system.

He said that the travel sector contributed over 3.6 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the nation in 2021 but this dropped drastically in 2022.

He however, urged the federal government to look into the problems in the industry to guide against monumental effect.

“This industry should be taken seriously, it is a goldmine that is capable of repositioning the nation in different capacities,” he said. (NAN) 

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FEC Approves N15.1bn for Aviation Projects

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By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja

The Federal Executive Council (FEC), yesterday approved a whopping N15.1 billion for projects in the Ministry of Aviation, and roads construction in the Ministry of Works and Housing in some parts of the country.

This was disclosed to State House correspondents by the Minister of Aviation Senator Hadi Sirika and his counterpart in the Ministry of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa yesterday in Abuja.

Sirika said the sum of N10,081,177,338.31 billion was approved in the memorandum for the three items we presented for projects in the aviation sector.

One of which is the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Hadejia airstrip at the total sum of N7,482,071,196.56 billion awarded to Messrs CCECC for a period of 18 months, he said.

The minister also explained that “there is the construction or Control Tower and Technical Building in Enugu awarded to Mssrs Mascot Associates Limited at the cost of N1,973,606,141.75 billion, and the third contract is for procurement of utility vehicles, to Mssrs Kaura Motors at the sum of N625,500,000 million; bringing the total cost of the contracts to N10 billion”.

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Also yesterday, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved an additional N1.6 billion being augmentation sum for Manyam-Ushongo-Lessel-Kartyo-Oju-Agila road project in Benue State.

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this to State House correspondents after the FEC meeting presided over by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Mohammed said that the initial cost of the project was N1.35 billion which was reviewed to N2.9 billion.

“The Minister of Works and Housing presented one of the memos which was an approval for the revised estimated total cost of contract of rehabilitation for the construction of Manyam-Ushongo-Lessel-Kartyo-Oju-Agila in Benue State.

“The contract for this road was actually awarded first in 2012; due to whatever reason, it is still not completed; and of course, if the contract was awarded in 2012, 10 years later, you expect the contractor to ask for augmentation. And that’s what happened today, it was approved.

“The original contract was N1.35 billion is now being augmented with an additional N1.6 billion; so the sum total is N2.9 billion,” he said.

He said that the second memo that was approved for the ministry had to do with the Mabuchi headquarters of the Ministry of Works and Housing.

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According to him, the ministry headquarters does not depend or rely on the national grid for its power because it relies on solar grid.

“And the memo today was to seek approval for the estimated total cost of the contract for the design and installation of solar power plus micro grid system and energy litrofitting of the ministry.

“Sometimes in March 2019, a contract was awarded for the provision of a solar power that would power the entire ministry; it was awarded at the cost then for about N2.7 billion.

“Now, they are seeking for an augmentation of N309 million to bring the total cost to N3 billion.

“The reason for the augmentation is that in the process of executing the project certain works which were not anticipated before were to be taken into consideration.

“And in addition, this augmentation also includes a maintenance contract of the installation.”

Mohammed said it was pertinent to note that the Federal Government was diversifying its sources of energy.

“And this is clean energy and the minister threw an invitation to any ministry that wants to go solar that they will provide the advice for them,” he said. 

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Aviation

Afreximbank, U.S. Eximbank Sign $500m MoU for Revival African Airlines, Others

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The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and U.S. Eximbank have signed $500m Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to boost trade and investment, especially to help revive and strengthen African airlines through re-fleeting.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Afreximbank said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sidelines of the ongoing U.

S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit.

Oramah said through the renewed partnership, the two banks would support trade and economic integration in Africa by helping to support other technical supports and facilitate strategic investments in healthcare.

He said that the MoU would also facilitate power and transportation infrastructure, including rail and road projects, as well as investments in renewable energy projects.

“We will use our platform and relationship to promote the creation of regional supply chains by through supporting transportation, rail and road infrastructure, healthcare, renewable energy.

“We also support diaspora engagements, especially the creative industry, which is something we have as a priority and the U.S. government also has as a priority.

“We expect that this engagement we have had will promote the work we are doing to support the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA).

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“It will make it possible for us to support industries to bring in heavy equipment and capital goods needed to create manufacturing capacity.

“It will also enable us to have access to the kind of infrastructure goods that are required to create capacities for production on the continent,’’ he said.

He described the U.S. market as the largest in the world, saying that by improving relations and creating the opportunities for trade, Africa could have access to help pull billions of people out of poverty, as it did Asia.

“U.S. is the country largest pool of capital.

“By creating the environment to attract this capital, we are going to be able to support the kind of investments that will enable us do value addition in our continent, especially solid minerals and agriculture products.

“It will help us to push ahead as a trade destination hub for venturing in the U.S, given the fracturing of global supply chain that we are beginning to witness. Africa has a large diaspora in the U.S.,’’ he said.

Oramah said it was a good thing that President Joe Biden administration had issued an executive order to strengthen African diaspora engagement.

He said that diaspora sources of foreign direct investment, marginal remittances, and skills were also market for us, noting that the banks would  fully leverage the benefits of a large pool of African diaspora here.

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“Just as the Jews have done, just as the Indians have done; we are the only ones who have not used our diaspora in a way that it is a win-win for both parties,’’ the president said.

Speaking on the benefits of the MoU to Nigeria, Oramah said Nigeria has a large market because of its huge population, noting that the youth population in Nigeria alone is a huge source of labour that could promote production for the U.S. market.

“The U.S. and Nigerian markets are not far apart. Nigeria can be a good destination for the U.S. and that can boost economy and create jobs, create technology transfer and support capacity building.

“Nigeria is the largest source of diaspora in the U.S. So, with this engagement, we are able to leverage the pool of the diaspora we have in the U.S and we are also going to attract more capital for the U.S. into Nigeria.’’

According to him, Nigeria stands the opportunity of gaining so much from the  African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

“So, Nigeria can be industrial base that will attract manufacturing investments from the U.S. apart from also being a potential market for our goods

“We see AFCFTA it as a source of foreign direct investment, and diaspora remittances.

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“Moreover, AFCFTA is a source of skills and also to help us use raw materials efficiently, in terms of adding value, and building strong manufacturing capacity which is what we are fight for.”

NAN reports that Oramah  Ms Reta  Lewis, President and Chair of the Board of Directors, U.S. Exim Bank, signed the MoU on behalf of the two banks. (NAN)

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