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FG SHIFTS RESUMPTION OF INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS TO SEPTEMBER 5

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FG SHIFTS RESUMPTION OF INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS TO SEPTEMBER 5

By Captain Musa Nuhu

• To reduce duration for COVID-19 diagnosis to one hour
•. Launches two dashboards to enhance accountability

ByOlawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Chinedu Eze in Lagos

The federal government Wednesday announced a shift in the resumption of international flights to September 5.

According to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the federal government postponed the resumption date, earlier fixed for Saturday, because of its inability to put in place non-aviation logistics for flights resumption.

The government has also said it has deployed a Gene Expert machine at the National Hospital Abuja and University of Abuja Teaching Hospital Gwagwalada (UATH) to reduce the turnaround time for COVID-19 diagnosis to one hour.

It has also unveiled two transparency dashboards to enhance accountability in national COVID-19 response.

Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had said international airports in the country would reopen effective August 29 to resume international flight operations.

But at a press briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 yesterday in Abuja, NCAA Director General, Capt. Musa Nuhu, said there were non-aeronautical logistics that needed to be put in place before the country’s airspace could be reopened to international flights.

He said: “Since the announcement by the honourable minister of aviation a few weeks ago that international flights will resume anytime from 29th of August, the aviation sector has worked assiduously to be ready for this date.

“The aviation sector, including the airports, is ready to resume on the 29th. However, we have other non-aviation logistics we are still working on mostly to do with the COVID-19 protocols, tests and online platforms. We need to get this in place so that we will have a smooth and efficient resumption of international flights without difficulties for all the passengers.

“So, for this reason, unfortunately, I have to let you know that the resumption date has been shifted by one week to the 5th of September, which is now a sacrosanct date. “The initial announcement was anytime from August 29. Now we have fixed a date – 5th of September– ensure that resumption of international flights.

“In due course, once these logistics are done, we will be announcing the protocols for the resumption and also we will be giving further details on the principle of reciprocity we have mentioned. So, hopefully, early next week, we will release this.”

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, also said the federal government had deployed a Gene Expert machine in the National Hospital Abuja and University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, to shorten the turnaround time for COVID-19 diagnosis.

He said with the new development, cases of suspected COVID-19 emergencies could now be diagnosed on-site, thereby “reducing the turnaround and waiting time to one hour.”

Ehanire added that a new state molecular laboratory is currently being optimised in Kebbi and Bayelsa states.

He said: “A Gene Expert machine has been set up at National Hospital Abuja and University of Abuja Teaching Hospital Gwagwalada, as was announced some weeks ago.

“This means that suspected COVID-19 emergencies can now be diagnosed on-site, which will drastically reduce turnaround and waiting time and allow better utilisation of observation rooms.”

According to the minister, the deployment of the testing device is a major advancement in handling distress experienced by patients arriving as emergencies in these hospitals.

Before now, patients and those who submitted their blood samples for COVID-19 test have to wait for at least three days and in some cases up to a week in order to get their results.

Ehanire said UATH had also found access to supplementary medical oxygen supply, courtesy of the Nigeria Air Force, which has a plant in Yola.

Also yesterday, the federal government unveiled two transparency dashboards for the national COVID-19 response.

PTF Chairman, Mr. Boss Mustapha, identified the two dashboards as the Incidence and Response Tracker Dashboard developed by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the COVID-19 Resource Tracking Dashboard developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

He said both dashboards corroborated government’s focus on a data-driven response, which it has consistently maintained from the onset of the pandemic.

”The dashboards are transparent living and very interactive portals for all our resource mobilisation activities, donations, needs and disbursements. We will continue to collaborate with the private sector in creating models that ensure all our activities are easily accessible by the public in line with the Freedom of Information Act,” Mustapha said.

He commended the task force’s funding partner, the Africa Initiative for Governance (AIG), for ensuring that the dashboards became a reality.

In his address at the press conference, the Chairman of the NESG, Mr. Asue Ighodalo, said NESG and the private sector were making history with the launch of the COVID-19 Incidence and Response Tracker and Dashboard.

He said the creation of the dashboard and the joint collaboration by all enablers typified achievable successes whenever the private and public sector actively collaborate.

Also, Mrs. Ofovwe Aig-Imoukhuede of Africa Initiative for Governance (AIG) expressed pleasure in the partnership with NESG and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) towards the development of the Nigeria COVID-19 Incidence and Response Tracker Dashboard.

She described the initiative as a demonstration of what the Nigerian public sector in partnership with the private sector could achieve.

She said beyond improving the transparency, accountability and governance of resources sourced from public, private and development sectors, the Predictive Analytic Model embedded in the platform would allow PTF on COVID-19, and NCDC predict and project the rate of infections, deaths and the resources needed to tackle them.

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APPOINTMENT OF WTO CHIEF IN DOUBT AFTER KEY MEETING CANCELLED

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APPOINTMENT OF WTO CHIEF IN DOUBT AFTER KEY MEETING CANCELLED

• Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had been expected to be confirmed as leader on Monday

By Richard Partington

The race to find a new leader of the World Trade Organization has been thrown into renewed uncertainty after the cancellation of a key appointment meeting following the US presidential election.

The Geneva-based WTO, which acts as an international arbiter for trading disputes, said it had put off a meeting scheduled for Monday that had been called to appoint Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as its next director general.

Donald Trump’s administration opposed her selection in one of its final acts before the US election, despite the former Nigerian finance minister securing the overwhelming backing of the WTO’s 164 members.

The special meeting of the trade body’s general council had been convened to take a formal decision on the appointment. Officials had been set to put forward Dr Okonjo-Iweala as the candidate most likely to attract a majority, after most countries expressed a preference for her over South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee.

Okonjo-Iweala had moved a step closer to becoming the first woman and the first African to be director of the global trade watchdog after securing backing from the EU, China, Japan and Australia. Liam Fox, the leading Brexiter and former international trade secretary, had run as the UK government’s preferred candidate but failed to win enough support from other countries to reach the last two in the process.

Trade experts said Joe Biden defeating Trump in last week’s election may have led to countries calling for a delay in the WTO leadership race, with the aim of securing the Biden White House’s backing for Okonjo-Iweala after he takes charge in January.

The delay in selecting a new WTO director general comes at a fragile moment for the world economy amid the second wave of Covid-19, and after years of criticism of the WTO and calls for reform from Trump.

The WTO said the meeting would be postponed until further notice, during which time the organisation would continue undertaking consultations with delegations from countries around the world to pick a new leader.

It said in a statement: “For reasons including the health situation and current events, delegations will not be in a position to take a formal decision on 9 November.”

  • TheGuardian

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES LIFTS VISA RESTRICTION ON NIGERIANS, SAYS GOVERNMENT

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UNITES ARAB EMIRATES LIFTS VISA RESTRICTION ON NIGERIANS, SAYS GOVERNMENT

BY SAHARAREPORTERS, NEW YORK

The United Arab Emirates has agreed to resume visa issuance to Nigerians, the government has said.

Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, announced this via his Twitter handle on Wednesday.

He disclosed that the move was to allow Emirates Airlines resume operations in Nigeria

He said, “UAE has written to state that they agree to issue visas to Nigerians, consequently decision has been reached to allow Emirates to fly into Nigeria.

“Commencement of the Visa issuance is condition precedent. Please bear with this unusual situation. Many thanks.”

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UK RETURNS $100,000 CONFISCATED FROM DUPED NIGERIAN BUSINESSMAN

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UK RETURNS $100,000 CONFISCATED FROM DUPED NIGERIAN BUSINESSMAN

Mr Danu had protested the seizure of the money saying it was his legitimate earning and that he declared it with customs.

The United Kingdom has returned the sum of $100,000 confiscated by airport security from Nigerian businessman, Nasiru Danu, after a court gave judgment in his favour in a confiscation suit.

Court documents and banking details seen by this newspaper showed that the money was paid with interest that accrued in the last one year as ordered by a magistrate court on September 7.

Mr Danu was intercepted by officials of the United Kingdom Border Force and Immigration officials on arrival at the London airport on September 13, 2019 after his then newly-acquired Maltese passport with which he travelled there turned out to be fake.

The businessman, PREMIUM TIMES gathered, was duped of $35,000 by a ‘travel agency’ which offered to help him obtain a Maltese passport. Unknown to him the passport delivered to him by the agency was fake.

On returning to Nigeria, Mr Danu petitioned the State Security Service (SSS) over the passport fraud and his resultant arrest and deportation from the UK.

The SSS later referred the case to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which is now pressing charges against one Rabbi Okpara.

PREMIUM TIMES had in December reported how Ms Okpara was docked by the EFCC before an FCT High Court for allegedly defrauding Mr Danu and other unsuspecting Nigerians.

Ms Okpara is the owner of Green Valley Concept Limited, a purported travel agency.

EFCC investigators said Ms Okpara used her travel agency to lure unsuspecting members of the public to buy into a sham travel/residency arrangement in Malta.

The EFCC said Ms Okpara in her statement to the agency admitted to liaising with a third party, one Mr Ugbaja, in obtaining these fake travel document for her clients.

Count one of the charges reads: “That you Rabbi Okpara and Jude Ugbaja(at large) sometime in August 2019, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court conspired between yourselves to do an illegal act, to wit; causing to be used as genuine forged documents, thereby committed an offence contrary to section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, CAP, MI7 laws of Federation Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same act.”

Count two reads: “That you Rabbi Okpara, Jude Ugbaja ( at large), Green Valley Concept Ltd and Palmary Travels and Tours Ltd, sometimes in August 2019 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court forged a maltase passport with the name Nasiru Haladu Danu with number 9647443 dated 27 April/AVR 2018 with intent that it be used as genuine; thereby committed an offence contrary to 320(a) of the Penal Code, Law of the Federation 1990 and punishable under section 322 of the same law.”

Seized cash returned

Aside deporting Mr Danu to Nigeria on his arrest at the airport in September, the UK authorities also took possession of $100,000 found on the businessman.

The businessman had protested the seizure of the money saying it was his legitimate earning and that he declared it appropriately with customs authorities in Nigeria before travelling with it to the UK.

Mr Danu also explained that he travelled with that amount of cash because his credit card had failed him repeatedly, leaving him stranded on a number of occasions.

But despite his explanations, the UK authorities seized the cash and approached a court for confiscation hearing.

However, the legal team for Mr Danu challenged the UK Border agency’s move to permanently confiscate the money. They succeeded.

“The court found that the security officials were wrong to seize the money as the money was from legitimate income which was not intended for an unlawful purpose and should therefore be returned to the owners,” said Mr Danu’s lawyer, Femi Joshua.

Mr Danu’s Nigerian Bank account was credited with the money with interest in two tranches of $50,471 on September 23, according to documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES.

When contacted Tuesday, Mr Danu said he was pleased that the court noted that he was a victim of crime by a syndicate which swindled him and sold him a fake passport.

“The court saw that I am a legitimate and honest businessman and that the cash found on me were legitimately earned and properly declared,” Mr Danu said.

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