Ease for travellers as US lifts suspension on ‘drop box’ visa applications in Nigeria - BUSINESSDAY
BY Hope Moses-Ashike and Ifeoma Okeke
Respite is here for passengers travelling to the United States as the United States embassy in Nigeria has lifted the restriction on drop box service or interview waiver for those renewing visas in the country.
The U.S. Mission on Tuesday announced that it will expand Visa services to assist nonimmigrant Visa applicants in Nigeria who qualify to renew their Visa without interview.
Susan Tuller announced this during a press conference at the U.S. embassy, Lagos. She said the new application procedure will begin in February at the U.S. Consulate in Lagos and will be extended shortly thereafter to the U.S. Embassy in Abuja.
The number of qualified applicants who can apply using the new procedure will be limited initially, she said.
Arik Air begins daily flights to Sokoto, Kano, Yola, Jos - TODAY
Capt. Roy Ilegbodu, the Chief Executive Officer of Arik Air said the airline has introduced daily flights to Sokoto, Yola, Jos and Kano
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Arik CEO said that the affected routes are Abuja-Sokoto, Abuja-Kano, Abuja-Yola and Lagos-Jos.
He said the decision to add more frequencies to the scheduled flights on those routes was informed by the need to give customers more choices on the destinations.
“Similarly, Arik Air is making its tickets more affordable by introducing N23,000 promotional fares across the network.
“The promotional fares which became effective on Jan. 17, 2020, are available in all modes of sales, particularly online at www.arikair.com and Arik Air’s airport/city ticketing offices.
” We want to give our customers on the Sokoto, Kano, Yola and Jos routes more choices of flights to ease their travels.
“Also, we want to further stimulate air travel among Nigerians by introducing promotional fares, ” he added.
BREAKING: US Consulate begins ‘no-interview’ visa renewals - THE NATION
The US Mission has commenced expansion of its visa services to assist non-immigrant visa applicants in Nigeria who qualify to renew their visa.
It stated that this new application procedure will begin in February at the US Consulate in Lagos.
But it explained that the number of qualified applicants who can apply using the new procedures will be limited at this first phase.
It however stated that the processing may take up to two months.
The US Mission further disclosed that the application procedure will also be extended to the U.S. Embassy in Abuja at a later time.
It said: “Applicants who meet the criteria may apply in Lagos until the service is extended to Abuja.
“Please note that only one member of the family unit is required to drop-off the application documents; children are not required to come drop-off in person.
“Processing may take up to two months. Although we anticipate most cases will be processed within a few weeks, once you submit your travel documents, we will be unable to return these to you until your case has been completed.”
Ukraine woos Nigerian students with low-cost education - THE NATION
12,000 studying in Kiev
Olga Krasnopera of International Relations Department, Ukrainian Lviv University for Business and Law has advised Nigerians seeking quality education to visit Ukraine.
She said Ukraine has a strong educational background with low prices.
Krasnopera spoke in Abuja during the maiden lecture/award organised by the Ukraine Ministry of Education and Science.
She said: “Our universities have well-trained staff and good facilities. So, we can provide education of higher quality for a lower price. We invite everyone who is looking for a good opportunity to come to Ukraine and get education in different fields.”
Krasnopera urged the Federal Government to invest more in the education sector.
“Every country should invest more in education now, not only Nigeria, because you can see how we are growing fast; our economy, internet and everything are developing fast. So, that’s why investment is necessary all around the globe, not just in Nigeria, in United States, Ukraine and Kenya; everywhere,” she said.
Chairman of FTAISA, Skills and Entrepreneurship Development Centre, Dr. Cliff Ogbede, said Ukraine has offered affordable university admission to Nigerian students with 12,000 presently studying in the country.
He hailed the robust diplomatic relations between both countries.
The event also witnessed conferment of doctorate degrees on selected eminent Nigerians by Lviv University for those that have made outstanding contributions in academics, politics, business administration, cultural exchange, traditional institution, religion and humanitarian services.
Those, who were awarded honorary degrees include, Abdullaziz Suleiman( an engineer), acting MD of Transmission Company of Nigeria, Ambassador Zanna Tarpaya Asarya, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Govt and Chieftaincy Affairs, Borno State, HRM Eze Sir Uzo Nwosu, Traditional Ruler Umukabia Ohuhu Abia State, Mr. Adebayo Fagbemi, Managing Director of Nigeria Electricity and Liability Management Company and Dr. Reuben Atabo (SAN) and others.
Nigerian professionals appeal work permit restrictions in UAE - PUNCH
BY Oluwafemi Morgan
Nigerian professionals who live in the United Arab Emirates have embarked on an ongoing online narrative campaign to appeal to the work permit restrictions placed on Nigerian citizens by the UAE.
President of the group, Professional Nigerians in UAE, Kayode Ogungbohun, said this on Channels TV‘s Sunrise Daily on Monday.
Ogungbohun, who led the IamNigerian campaign, speculated in the interview that the restriction may be a response to the unlawful behaviour of some Nigerians resident in the UAE.
He also said it was an avenue for Nigerians to caution one another and to present a positive outlook for Nigeria in the UAE.
The President also urged the UAE to remove all restrictions placed on all job categories in the country.
Ogungbohun explained, “We saw the problem, although we don’t have any official reason why UAE took the decision. We speculated that some things were done by Nigerians in terms of not obeying the law of the host country.
“So, we came up with the solution to speak to ourselves to be law-abiding, to appeal and pacify the UAE government to allow all categories of jobs to be given to Nigerians. Because these jobs that they are not giving to Nigerians are being given to people of other nationalities.
“The #iamNigerian campaign is aimed to project us positively. Nigerians are now aware that there is a problem in our hands. We have left the stage of denial and realised that there is a problem, and it is everyone’s responsibility to play a role.”
However, Esther Adedokun, a resident of Fujairah in the UAE, has debunked claims that atrocities caused by Nigerians may have led to work permit restrictions.
Adedokun urged the Nigerian government to resolve the diplomatic row between Nigeria and the UAE.
She also lamented that the work restriction has left her stranded in Dubai.
“My situation is so critical that I have spent all my savings. I don’t want us to have the impression that because of the atrocities committed by some Nigerians, that is why we have this problem. Nigerians are not the only citizens in UAE that commit worse crimes, so are there no restrictions on their work permits on citizens of other countries?
“I am against crime and criminality, but the diplomatic issue if resolved will ease the problem of this restriction,” she said in the interview.
The PUNCH had earlier reported that the work restrictions were placed on the permit of Nigerians living in Dubai recently. This had resulted in great uncertainty for many Nigerians in the country, as well as others who had planned to migrate to the UAE for better opportunities, and careers.
Many Nigerians who travel to the UAE have become illegal migrants due to their expired and upturned work permits. The new work restrictions have also rendered many Nigerians jobless and homeless due to the abrupt change in diplomatic relations with Nigeria.
Why domestic airfares are crashing, by experts - THE NATION
Experts in the aviation sector have attributed the sharp drop in domestic airfares to increased competition among airlines and the relative slowdown in passenger traffic.
From the end of year high traffic when fares on some routes were offered for as high as N65, 000 on a one-way rotation, investigations by The Nation have shown that fare offerings on some routes as of last week had dropped to as low as N23, 000.
A survey of air fares charged by local carriers last December, which oscillated around N40,000, N65, 000, N50,000 and N120,000 on Lagos-Calabar, Benin, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Warri, Anambra Owerri, Enugu has dropped significantly.
Experts attributed the decline to market forces, choice of operational equipment, operating environment, the regime of charges and marketing strategies deployed by carriers struggling to harvest from the pool of available passenger traffic.
They said the lower fare offering might be due ostensibly to low passenger traffic on some routes and the prevailing load factor for the beginning of the year when air travel experiences low activity.
But, a new trend is emerging in the sector, as some carriers are capitalising on the situation to unveil flash fares, which are lower than the offerings available at airlines’ counters.
To drive this initiative, some of the carriers put for sale some seats at a ridiculously low rate compared to what other passengers would pay as regular fare, which they have described as yield management.
But, some industry experts have described such development as a threat to air safety urging the regulatory body – Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), to step up its oversight duties by urgently carrying out an air transport economic audit on such carriers.
In an interview, President Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Dr Olowo lower fares calls for concern.
He said: “Local carriers charging the equivalent of $42 fare for a one on one flight on jet airplanes to me calls for attention. Please let us watch it. Let us not plan for an accident. This is a concern.”
But, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Centurion Securities Limited , Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd) said it was wrong for carriers to charge less than $100 on any local route.
Ojikutu said it was strange that air fares were dropping when the cost elements for airlines, their revenue management principles or choice of aircraft fleet had not altered much to achieve break-even operations with the kind of new tariff they were charging.
Justifying the new move, a spokesman of one of the domestic carriers, who pleaded not to be named, said what many industry people were describing as drop in air fares could best be regarded as ” flash sale”.
According to him, there was nothing unusual about airlines unveiling such fares.
He said: “Let me state here that there is nothing wrong with keeping 10 to 15 seats cheap for those who plan their trips. This is a flash sale not actual fare.”
An analyst, Mr Tunde Oke, said given many parameters, it would be difficult to legislate on the pricing model to be adopted by airlines in fixing air fares.
He said: “The art of pricing is democratic, not autocratic. The aviation industry in Nigeria is an open market with flexible or no price control by the regulators. Let market forces determine and exert the prices. And let regulators be concerned about safety. If an airline has not violated any safety standards, its pricing model should not be a cause for concern. Or pricing has any direct nexus with floundering safety standards? I don’t think so.
“The issue of airlines offering seats for as low as N20,000 should not be controversial. This marketing gimmick is used all over the world. Can we divorce the health of the airlines from the health of the national economy? Operators will deploy any strategy that can help get a share of the market. At the end of the day, however, there will be a systematic attrition that will reduce the airlines to the number the industry can accommodate.”
Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu said domestic carriers were reducing air fares due to over capacity.
As intriguing as it may appear, Nuhu said it is not in any way affecting safety of flight operations.
He, however, said the NCAA was on top of airlines’ economic regulations warning that if any operator is caught jeopardising air safety by cutting corners, the industry regulator would take the necessary step to invoke a full economic audit on such airlines.
According to him, airlines reappraise their finances and operational economics to determine a reduction of airfares based on a number of factors.
He said only airlines which have done their own business analysis could explain the reasons behind their slashing of airfares.
On the impact on air fares to safety, he said: “I believe these airlines have done their proper analyses to reduce those airfares and there are many factors, they only can explain the reasons behind their slashing of airfares.
“Maybe they have excess capacity and instead of leaving that excess capacity to go to waste they rather make some money out of it, so there are many reasons. Airlines may slash their fares; maybe they want to relate to a particular market segment after which they will adjust their fares accordingly.
“Airline finances and economics are interesting subjects and airlines have their reasons for doing that.”
On the safety level, vis a vis reduced fare he continued: “It is our responsibility to ensure they comply with all our standards and regulations and I don’t think and business will intentionally undercut themselves to the point they will not break even, I mean, let’s understand, these people have invested millions of dollars in their business, to me, it will be fool hardy to shoot yourself in the leg by cutting your airfares to the point that you are no longer profitable or break even.
“So, it is the airline that can decide and knows the internal workings, efficiencies and deficiencies that can really determine and explain the reduction in airfares.
“For us, if we see trends or indications of them trying to cut corners, then we will do a full economic audit of the airline to ensure they comply with that. So far nothing, there are many indications to show an airline has issues.”
Tesla to recall nearly 54,000 vehicles that may disobey stop signs - REUTERS
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) will recall 53,822 U.S. vehicles with the company's Full Self-Driving (Beta) software that may allow some models to conduct "rolling stops" and not come to a complete stop at some intersections posing a safety risk.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said the recall covers some 2016-2022 Model S and Model X, 2017-2022 Model 3, and 2020-2022 Model Y vehicles. NHTSA said the feature also known as FSD Beta may allow vehicles to travel through an all-way stop intersection without first coming to a stop.
Tesla will perform an over-the-air software update that disables the "rolling stop" functionality, NHTSA said. Tesla did not immediately respond to a rquest comment.
Last week, Tesla said the number of FSD beta vehicles in the United States increased to nearly 60,000 from a few thousand at the end of September. Tesla has been testing the improved version of its automated driving software on public roads, but the carmaker and the regulator have said the features do not make the cars autonomous.
Tesla said as of Jan. 27 it was not aware of any warranty claims, crashes, injuries or fatalities related to the recall.
Tesla told the auto safety agency it released on Oct. 20 an updated version to introduce the "rolling stop" functionality. The automaker said to use the feature vehicles must be traveling below 5.6 miles (9 km) per hour and no relevant moving cars, pedestrians or bicyclists are detected near the intersection.
The feature, which appeared to violate state laws that require vehicles to come to a complete stop and required drivers to opt-in for what it dubbed "Assertive" mode, drew attention on social media and prompted NHTSA to raise questions with Tesla.
According to a defect report filed with the auto safety agency, Tesla said it met with NHTSA staff on Jan. 10 and Jan. 19 "to discuss the functionality, including operating parameters" and the automaker on Jan. 20 agreed to the recall.
In November, Tesla recalled nearly 12,000 U.S. vehicles sold since 2017 for another software update because a communication error could a cause a false forward-collision warning or unexpected activation of the emergency brakes.
NHTSA said last week it had sought additional information from Tesla in its probe into 580,000 vehicles over the automaker's decision to allow games to be played by passengers on the front center touchscreen.
In December, NHTSA opened a preliminary evaluation into 2017-2022 Tesla Model 3, S, X, and Y vehicles over the vehicle's "Passenger Play" feature the agency said "may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash."
In August, NHTSA opened a formal safety probe into Tesla's Autopilot driver assistance system in 765,000 U.S. vehicles after about a dozen crashes involving Tesla models and emergency vehicles. That investigation also remains open.
Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Louise Heavens and Tomasz Janowski
New MMA Immigration Comptroller Assume Duty - INDEPENDENT
Kemi Nandap has assumed office as the new Comptroller Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos Command.
Nandap replaced Abdullahi Dalhatu, the immediate past Comptroller of the command who retired from service earlier in the year.
A statement by Louisa Amadiokoro, the Public Relations Officer (PRO), MMA Command said that until her appointment, CIS Nandap served as Comptroller in charge of Plateau State Command where she left indelible marks of infrastructural and human capital development.
The statement hinted that the new Comptroller served as the Assistant Comptroller General (ACG) in charge of zone C.
CIS Nandap was born on June 3, 1966 in Zaria Kaduna state and had her undergraduate studies in the University of Ilorin where she bagged a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry.
The statement added that Nandap had previously served in many Commands and in different capacities including Officer-In-Charge (O/C) Investigation and Compliance, O/C Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and African Affairs, Second in Command Nassarawa State command.
Others are Lagos, Ogun, and Anambra states Commands, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the service headquarter, Abuja.
Amadiokoro stated that Nandap is coming with wealth of experience to further position the MMA Command as the leading command in the country, adding that the new Comptroller had promised to entrench professionalism in the system.
Air Peace Apologises to Passengers over Flight Delays - THISDAY
Air Peace has apologised to passengers over flight delays, acknowledging that customers are kings, but insisted that the airline would never compromise on safety standards no matter the situation.
The airline made this known in a statement made available to THISDAY, explaining that airlines do not benefit from flight delays or cancellations, but that such delays always emanate principally from safety considerations more than any other factor.
The airline added that it has reached out to many passengers whose flight were delayed recently as it also feels their pains when the situation arises.
It added that a recent case of a dissatisfied passenger, which went viral on social media, was due to weather and sudden breakdown of aircraft on the Sokoto, Akure, Ibadan and Kano routes.
The statement said: “Our attention has been drawn to a publication in the social media in which a dissatisfied customer, whose flight was delayed, among many other uncomplimentary remarks, labelled Air Peace a ‘vicious operator’.
”We wish to firstly apologise once again to all our passengers, including this particular passenger, who may have experienced flight delays on the day in question, and indeed at every other time of our operations, for any inconvenience they may have incurred as a result of that. We feel their pains when such occasions occur.
“Air Peace, as a responsible business concern, and in line with business ethics, would normally reach out to dissatisfied customers at any given time to placate them irrespective of whether we are at fault or not. This, we have done. The customer, we believe, is king. Such gestures are never an admission of any wrongdoing but a recognition that one’s customers need to be happy always.
“No airline benefits from flight delays or cancellations. Flight delays emanate principally from safety considerations more than any other thing else. We wish to reiterate our resolve to zero tolerance to unsafe operations. Air Peace will never succumb to deliberate negative commentaries, intimidation or blackmail to fly when it is unsafe to do so and neither shall we, out of fear of negative publicity from anyone or quarter, take to the sky in order to look good when it is absolutely unsafe to do so.
“Flights are delayed as a result of many factors beyond the control of the airline, and these include but not limited to bad weather, sudden aircraft malfunctioning, among others. On the day in question, we had bad weather that led to the diversion of flights and sudden aircraft breakdown during and in the middle of operations. We had flight delays in Sokoto, Akure, Ibadan and Kano occasioned by bad weather. These factors led to multiple delays and outright cancellations, which was never wished by the airline. It happens all over the world.”
Air Peace reiterated that it would never endanger the lives of its passengers by operating a faulty aircraft, and also exonerated the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), saying the agency is efficiently regulating the industry, and that airlines observe best safety practices.
”We will never endanger the lives of our innocent passengers and our staff by flying an aircraft that suddenly develops snags nor fly when the weather is adjudged unsafe just to avoid deliberate negative publicity. We would rather go out of business peacefully than to have blood in our hands. Yet, we are still sorry for every inconvenience caused any of our passengers as a result of delayed operations. Those delays are always borne out of safety considerations more than anything else,” the airline said.
5G Rollout - NCAA Allays Fears On Flight Operations - DAILY TRUST
By Abdullateef Aliyu
Amidst growing global concerns to safe flight operations over the fifth generation (5G) mobile network rollout, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has allayed fears in Nigeria, saying there is no cause for alarm.
This is coming against the backdrop of the recent massive cancellation of international flights to the US after the country rolled out the mobile network.
Daily Trust reports that the 5G network, which provides a more user-friendly experience for internet users is said to conflict with aircraft.
Experts say the frequency C-band used in 5G is almost the same as the frequency used in modern aircraft and the radio altimeter installed onboard aircraft that alerts the pilot the height above the terrain when he is approaching to land or take off.
But the Director General of the NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu told newsmen at the weekend on the planned deployment of the 5G network in Nigeria, he said the challenge is not of concern yet to Nigeria.
He said, "For us in Nigeria, we don't have auto landing authorisation, our flights don't do auto-landing. So, for now, it is of no concern to us, but we are still monitoring the situation, see the development if there are issues that might affect us, then we will take the necessary action."
According to him, it was not true that the US had suspended the rollout of the 5G but was restricted away from airports.
Nuhu also explained that a critical component is called radio altimeter; the spectrum by which this equipment operates is close to that of the 5G.
"So, they are afraid of interference from the radio altimeter and giving aircraft erroneous indication and during aircraft approach landing when they are about 2,500ft or so above the ground. Usually, it is for flights that are put to land.",