Travel News

The UK taxi driver still being paid as a Nigerian civil servant - BBC

JULY 01, 2024

BY  Mansur Abubakar BBC News, Kano

  • Published 30 June 2024

If you leave your job, it would seem logical that your salary would stop being paid, but not so for a number of former Nigerian civil servants.

They have managed to be employed elsewhere - sometimes in another country entirely - and yet continue to receive a wage from their former workplace.

News of this has reached the top and last week President Bola Tinubu ordered a crackdown.

“The culprits must be made to refund the money they have fraudulently collected,” he said.

Sabitu Adams, whose name we have changed to protect his identity, has not resigned from his position as a junior official at a government agency and still gets paid each month, despite leaving Nigeria two years ago.

He now works as a taxi driver in the UK, but told the BBC that he was not worried about losing the salary as he sees Mr Tinubu’s comments as an empty threat.

Mr Adams added that the loss of his monthly Nigerian salary of 150,000 naira ($100; £80) would not be a great hardship, as he earns a lot more driving a taxi.

“When I heard about the president's directive, I smiled because I know I am doing better here - and not worried,” the 36-year-old said.

But why not make it clear to the civil service that he had left?

“To be honest I didn’t resign because I wanted to leave that door open in case I choose to go back to my job after a few years.”

Like Mr Adams, more than 3.6 million Nigerians have relocated to other countries over the last two years, according to official statistics.

Many young Nigerians see little prospect of earning a good living in the country - a feeling exacerbated by the collapse in the value of the naira over the past year following the reforms introduced by Mr Tinubu since he became president.

It has become so common for young people to seek their fortunes outside the country, the term “japa” has been coined to describe the phenomenon.

It is a word from the Yoruba language meaning to escape or flee.

Mr Tinubu said he was "struck by the revelations the head of the civil service shared regarding employees who had relocated abroad while drawing salaries without formally resigning".

The president said that not only should the money be repaid but those who were complicit in allowing it to happened should be investigated too.

“Their supervisors and department heads must also be punished for aiding and abetting the fraud under their watch,” he said.

And this may have been the case for Mr Adams.

The UK-based taxi driver admitted that he continued to be paid thanks to those in his department: “I had a good understanding with my boss and he just let me leave."

Often in such cases the salary is divided between the supervisor who keeps quiet and the person being paid, maybe along with an HR representative.

But for Mr Adams it was even easier. "In my case it wasn’t like that as my boss was a relative."

So-called "ghost-working" is a major problem in Nigeria. Despite several crackdowns it is believed that thousands of non-existent workers are still being paid. There appear to be very few checks and balances in place.

But this is the first time it has been suggested that people who have moved abroad are continuing to be paid their salaries on a large scale.

Auwal Yakasai, who retired as a director in charge of finance at Kano state's information ministry in 2021, said he had heard of such cases.

''To be honest I have never caught anyone red-handed,” Mr Yakasai, who worked for the government for 32 years, told the BBC.

“But I have heard numerous stories of such arrangements, where someone would still be receiving [a] salary after relocating or changing their place of work.”

Since he took office in May last year, Mr Tinubu has pledged to reduce the cost of governance and cut wastage.

In January, he directed that all official entourages to state and international events for himself and other government officials be slashed by 60%.

Nonetheless some have noted that there is much talk in Mr Tinubu’s administration without much action.

They cite plans to buy new planes worth millions of dollars for Mr Tinubu and his deputy Kashim Shettima as an example.

Another was when Mr Tinubu earlier this month launched a new official residence for Vice-President Shettima in the capital, Abuja, with a price tag of $13.6m (£11m).

And despite the president's statement about the foreign ghost-workers, he did not say exactly what he was doing to crack down on them and take action against those responsible.

Japa: UK-based Nigerian continues receiving salary in Nigeria two years after relocating - PUNCH

JULY 01, 2024

By Olayiwola Ajisafe

A male Nigerian civil servant who left the country for the United Kingdom in 2022 has revealed that he still receives his monthly salary despite not showing up at work.

The 36-year-old UK taxi driver, who will be referred to as Daniel due to the sensitivity of the matter, told the BBC as reported on Sunday that he receives N150,000 monthly from his place of work in Nigeria, all thanks to a mutual understanding with his boss.

Recently, the Federal Government vowed a crackdown on Nigerian government workers who had relocated abroad but still received salaries.

On Saturday, June 22, 2024, President Bola Tinubu, while expressing dismay at the revelations by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation regarding employees who had relocated abroad while drawing salaries without formally resigning, ordered that the “culprits must be made to refund the money they have fraudulently collected.”

Tinubu said, “Their supervisors and department heads must also be punished for aiding and abetting the fraud under their watch,” adding that his administration would ensure “those responsible are held accountable and restitution is made.”

Non-government workers have continued to enjoy free money as they get paid without being enlisted in the nation’s civil service.

In some other cases, people who have either quit their government jobs or relocated overseas still receive the tranche.

However, Daniel, a junior official at a government agency, was unbothered by the President’s directive, citing that what he currently earns in the UK is higher than the salary he gets from the government.

He said, “When I heard about the president’s directive, I smiled because I know I am doing better here – and not worried.”

When asked why he refused to resign from his position after relocating abroad, Daniel said he thought he would probably return after spending some years abroad.

“To be honest, I didn’t resign because I wanted to leave that door open in case I choose to go back to my job after a few years,” he retorted.

Daniel is one of several Nigerians who have relocated abroad but still receive their monthly pay from the coffers of the Federal Government.

In June 2022, the Director-General, Bureau of Public Service Reforms, Dr. Dasuki Arabi, disclosed that the Federal Government-backed Integration Personnel and Payroll Information System had exposed and eliminated about 70,000 ghost workers in the civil service system.

Arabi added that the government had saved at least N220 billion, and N10 trillion through the Treasury Single Account since it was fully implemented by the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.

Daniel continues to enjoy the ‘free money’ he hasn’t been working for for the past two years as he said, “I had a good understanding with my boss and he just let me leave.”

In typical situations,  ghost workers usually strike deals with their superiors to conceal the act, and then share the salaries.

But for Daniel, it’s a different ball game as he said, “In my case, it wasn’t like that as my boss was a relative.”

Turkey embassy denies visa ban on Nigerians - BUSINESS INSIDER

JULY 01, 2024


The Turkish Embassy in Nigeria has refuted claims of a visa ban on Nigerian passport holders, calling the reports false and urging the public to disregard them.

  • The Turkish Embassy in Nigeria denies reports of a visa ban on Nigerian passport holders.
  • Turkish Embassy clarifies that there is no visa ban on Nigerians, but e-visa issuance is no longer available.
  • Nigeria holds one of the ten least powerful African passports in 2024.

Reports recently circulated that Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Turkey had revoked previous privileges for Nigerian passport holders, including visa-on-arrival, e-visa, and outright passport issuance.

However, the Turkish Embassy has clarified that there is no visa ban on Nigerians, stating that the reports were false and misleading.

Speaking to journalists, the personal secretary to the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Wunmi Evelyn, clarified that while Turkey no longer allows Nigerian passport holders to obtain its e-visa, which was previously a seamless process, this does not translate to a visa ban on Nigerians.

What the ambassador said:

“There is no visa ban on Nigerian passport holders,” Evelyn said.

“As it is well-known, if there will be any update regarding rules and procedures of the policies and practices of any country, these updates are officially notified to the respective foreign ministries, and statements/announcements are issued by the embassies," she noted.

She stressed that visa applications are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If an applicant has previously been denied a visa, they should correct any mistakes made in the initial application and improve the quality of their application, provided there is no fraud or forged documents detected.

“Besides, he or she should update the documentation and refrain from supplying old versions of required supporting documents,” she added.

Despite being the most populous black country in the world and boasting one of the largest economies in Africa, Nigeria holds one of the ten least powerful African passports in 2024.

FG receives 103 Nigerians deported from Turkey - NAN

JULY 01, 2024

The Federal Government has received no fewer than 103 Nigerians deported from Turkey over migration-related issues such as expired visas and irregular migration, among others.

Alhaji Tijani Ahmed, the Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), stated this on Friday evening during the deportees’ profiling in Abuja.

Represented by Amb. Catherine Udida, the Director Migration Affairs in the commission, Ahmed said that the commission expected 110 deportees but received 103, all males.

“Some of them have been in the deportation camp for some months, and now that they are here, we are hoping to follow up on all the allegations gathered in their profiling.

“We will go through the profiling forms, because some of them have said that their passports were seized.

We are going to follow up with the Turkish authority because the passports are still the property of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he assured.

According to him, the NCFRMI is the mandate agency responsible for all returnees, irrespective of their status.

“We equally have a programme where we train them and thereafter reintegrate them into society,” the Federal Commissioner stated.

Similarly, Mr Bashir Garga, the North-Central Zonal Coordinator, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), assured the returnees of the government’s readiness to support them through collaborative efforts of all relevant agencies.

One of the victims, Mr Arinze Stone, said that Turkish authorities arrested and detained him in the camp for about six months.

Stone said he had been living in Turkey for quite some years doing business.

“They were arresting people whose papers are not yet out or have just expired,” he said.

He alleged that it was since the European Union started paying Turkey for illegal immigrants, that the government stopped issuing and renewing resident permits.

“Each day, the European Union pays 120 euros per head of immigrants in the Immigration Camp.

“Ever since I had been in Turkey, I always had my resident permit renewed. It just got expired and Turkish authorities collected 700 euros from me for tax and insurance and then cancelled the renewal,” he explained.

Stone added that the deportation fee of about 2,500 euros that was supposed to be given to each victim was not paid.

Another victim, Mr Moses Emeh, said he had a registered company in Turkey that had been functioning for more than eight years.

“I also have a resident permit, which was forcibly cancelled, but I had earlier planned to convert it into working permit.

”I don’t know where to start from. But I believe this is a diplomatic issue, and I trust our foreign affairs minister to follow it up.

“I also think that they should have a sensitization programme for Nigerians still living over there in Turkey because the Turkish government is not being sincere and transparent with us,” Emeh stated.

He narrated that he was arrested and put in a dungeon for 11 months and three weeks.

“I was told that if I did not sign the deportation documents, I would have to stay in their custody for one to two years, after which I could be released and given immigration documents to sign, then be reintegrated into the system. But, they never fulfilled that.

“I also know that occupying a territory, without a permit is a crime, but mine was forcibly terminated twice, and I took the case to court.

“Since my case was already in court and the court was yet to preside over my case, I don’t think it is right for them to deport me,” he added.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the returnees were given some dignity kits, starter packs, and stipends to enable them travel to their respective places. (NAN)

Europe Set to Get Hot Again With Greece Still Battling Wildfires - BLOOMBERG

JULY 01, 2024

BY Saksha Menezes and Sotiris NikasBloomberg News

<p>Volunteers work to extinguish a wildfire near Stamata, northeast of Athens, Greece, on June 30.</p>, Photographer: Nick Paleologos/Bloomberg

Volunteers work to extinguish a wildfire near Stamata, northeast of Athens, Greece, on June 30.

, Photographer: Nick Paleologos/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Temperatures across most of Europe will rise again next week after a brief respite.

In coming days, cooler-than-average weather will bring relief from the recent heat in northwest Europe. Minimum temperatures in Berlin will drop to 11.5C (52.7F) Wednesday and about 10C in London later in the week. But hot weather will return next weekend, with the southeast in focus again. 

Wildfires are still raging in Greece, where authorities are under pressure to tackle dozens of blazes fueled by strong winds. Conditions are expected to improve Monday, with the island of Crete being the only region still on very high fire alert.

Climate change is adding to the effects of extreme weather globally, with 2024 on track to be the hottest year on record. Severe weather events have affected countries from Saudi Arabia to the US, India to Brazil.

Greece has been at the center of Europe’s heat so far this summer. Firefighters are using planes to try to contain a fire in a forested area on the island of Zakynthos, and a second blaze is still raging in Viotia in the central part of the country. 

Warm weather is expected in Germany and Italy next week, with Berlin seen at 28C and Rome nearing 30C, according to a report by forecaster Maxar Technologies Inc.

In Switzerland and Italy, storms have caused extensive flooding. The Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta regions in the north of Italy were hit by floods, thunderstorms and landslides over the weekend. Tourist destinations such as Cogne and Cervinia remained cut off during the nights, according to Ansa newswire.

In the UK, a flood alert issued on Friday by the Environment Agency was still active, indicating high groundwater levels near Henley outside London. The area remains sensitive to further rainfall and the situation could continue for several weeks. 

--With assistance from Flavia Rotondi.

71,459 Nigerians’ obtain Canadian citizenship in 19 years - VANGUARD

JULY 01, 2024

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, IRCC, has said over 71,459 Nigerians obtained Canadian citizenship between 2005 and 2024.

IRCC is a department of the government of Canada responsible for matters relating to immigration to the North American country, refugees, and Canadian citizenship.

The number places Nigeria in the 10th position on the list of new Canadian citizens by country of birth.

The data released by the immigration office showed that while new Canadians come from at least 196 countries and territories, the top 10 places account for nearly half of all new citizens.\

IRCC said the data highlighted the diversity of Canada’s new citizen population.

Irene Bloemraad, political sociologist and migration expert, told CTVNews that high levels of citizenship were good.

Bloemraad said research showed a correlation between holding citizenship and better economic outcomes.
“Canada stands out among other immigrant-receiving countries in the very high level of citizenship among immigrants in the country.

“High levels of citizenship are a good thing: research shows a correlation between holding citizenship and better economic outcomes, a greater sense of belonging to Canada and, of course, the ability to participate in elections and have a say in policy,” Bloemraad said.

The IRCC data revealed India as the leading source of new Canadians since 2005, with 536,279 individuals obtaining citizenship.

The Philippines follows closely behind with 395,694 new citizens, and China takes third place with 292,325.

Beyond these top three, a diverse range of countries contribute significantly to Canada’s growing citizen population.

Pakistan comes in fourth with 180,999 new citizens, followed by Iran (130,998), the United States (99,652), the United Kingdom (98,837), Syria (72,706), South Korea (71,939), and Nigeria with 71,459 new citizens rounding out the top 10.

Al Parsai, a Toronto-based immigration consultant, said the data underscored Canada’s commitment to multiculturalism and diversity.

Parsai said: “The consistent number of new citizens from countries like India and the Philippines reflects their significant contributions to the Canadian labour market and society.

“The rise in new citizens from countries experiencing conflict, like Syria and Ukraine, highlights Canada’s role in providing refuge and support to those in need.

“The fact that new citizens come from nearly 200 different countries and territories showcases Canada’s global appeal and inclusive immigration policies.”

In November 2023, Canada announced a new immigration-level plan for skilled workers, caregivers, families, and other classes.

In a statement released by the citizenship and immigration Canada (CIC), the North American country will target the admission of 485,000 new immigrants.

“In 2025 and 2026, Canada will look to welcome 500,000 new immigrants in each year,” CIC added.
The Canadian government said the immigration plans will be for economic, family, refugee, and humanitarian classes.

Airlines’ staff, touts cash in on plane shortage - BUSINESSDAY

JULY 02, 2024

…Ticket racketeering booms

Airlines’ staff and touts are making money off the current plane shortage being experienced at airports, BusinessDay’s findings have revealed.

According to findings, tickets of passengers unable to board are sold to highest bidders at terminals during flight departures.

Secondly, staff of airlines block seats on their websites, preventing passengers from making bookings. These unscrupulous staff, in turn, sell the tickets at higher rates at airport terminals.

Also, touts buy tickets from airlines only to resell at higher rates to desperate passengers using fake ID cards to perpetrate their illegalities.

In addition to this, airlines sell business class and premium tickets as one-way economy class tickets to passengers at rates ranging from N350,000 to N450,000. Passengers only to discover onboard that they have been given economy seats and not business class seats.

A visit by BusinessDay to domestic airport terminals such as Murtala Muhammed Airport Two (MMA2) and General Aviation Terminal (GAT) showed that some airline staff connive with touts acting as airport cleaners or trolley staff to pay for tickets using private point of sales (POS) machines, instead of paying across the counters.

As a result, passengers pay between N230,000 to N300,000 for a one-way ticket from Lagos to frequently flown destinations such as Abuja, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Enugu Asaba and Kano.

Also, airlines are being accused of shutting boarding gates 40 minutes to one hour before take-off time, denying passengers their rights to fly, while tickets are still being sold to the highest bidders.

“I was at MMA2 on Sunday by 5.30pm, but my flight from Lagos to Abuja was scheduled to depart at 6.10pm. I was surprised when the airline staff told me I was already late for my flight and could not board. However, right in front of me, tickets were still being issued to other passengers,” Dipo Omoba, an intending passenger of one of the airlines, told BusinessDay.

According to Omoba, when he confronted the airline staff, they said the tickets being sold were for few passengers boarding another flight.

“I confronted the airline but they lied by saying the tickets being sold were for a second flight. When I asked that my ticket be changed to the second flight, they said it was too late to do that,” Omoba said.

Obed Umuenyin, a regular traveller, told BusinessDay that he initially couldn’t board a plane for his Sunday flight from Lagos to Abuja.

“I bought a ticket for N250,000 through a contact within the terminal, despite being initially told the check-in time had closed,” Umuenyin said.

Read also: Airlines cancel, delay flights over heavy downpour

Femi Osunlusi, a traveller who missed his flight, said with fewer flights and high demand, “We feel we are victims of ticket racketeering by officials. I got to the airport around 45 minutes before boarding time, yet I could not get in. They’re reselling tickets at vastly inflated prices, preying on the desperation of travellers,” Femi Osunlusi, a regular traveller who missed his flight on Sunday evening, told BusinessDay.

BusinessDay observed that touts within the MM2 terminal approached unsuspecting passengers for the procurement of air tickets.

“One of the touts approached me and asked if I could sell my seat to a security official sitting on a chair opposite my directions for N300,000. I turned them down, but I was quite shocked when I found the same man on the plane when we landed in Abuja,” Ordola Adeola, a media consultant with ezone-Africa, said.

One of the racketeers, called Clement, told BusinessDay that he was merely assisting the passengers who did not have the patience to go through the rigours of obtaining tickets and boarding passes.

“Some people like things to be done for them, even what they can do by themselves. They have excess money, so let us also share from it,” Clement said.

BusinessDay had, last week, reported that in the last few months, few aircraft have had to feed several passengers on domestic routes as Nigerian airlines struggled with fleet reduction as a result of high cost of maintenance.

Airlines that have sent their aircraft on maintenance are unable to return them due to the skyrocketing maintenance costs fueled by foreign exchange scarcity.

Some airlines have been forced by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to ground their aircraft for inability to send their aircraft for maintenance, BusinessDay’s checks show.

In addition to these, the grounding of Dana Air, a relatively low-cost carrier which had six aircraft in its fleet, has also impacted on the fleet operating the domestic routes.

Data obtained by BusinessDay from NCAA on Thursday showed that 13 domestic airlines operating in Nigeria which include Aero, Air Peace, Arik, Azman, Dana, Green Africa, Ibom Air, Max Air, NG Eagle, Overland, Reno Air, United Nigeria Airline and Value Jet put together operate a total of 91 aircraft. This data includes aircraft that have gone on maintenance.

Sources close to the NCAA told BusinessDay that apart from Dana Air that has been grounded, over half of the 91 aircraft have gone on maintenance, putting a strain on the few operating aircraft.

BusinessDay’s checks show that five years ago, when just 10 domestic airlines operated on Nigerian routes, they had over 120 fleets.

Olumide Ohunayo, industry analyst and director, Research, Zenith Travels, told BusinessDay that there are fewer seats chasing the same number of passengers.

He said passengers have not increased but the seats have reduced by virtue of the shutting down of Dana Air and the foreign exchange crisis affecting aircraft leasing arrangements and maintenance.

“Once fares are high in Nigeria, racketeering both unofficially and officially, comes into play. You see touts conniving with some airport staff to block seats ahead, only to sell on that day at exorbitant prices. Anyone paying for tickets on the counter now will meet a mess because passengers are eager to travel,” Ohunayo said.

He said some airlines send messages to passengers telling them the flight will be going ahead of their scheduled time of departure but the messages come at a time when it is difficult for passengers to meet up.

John Ojikutu, industry expert and the CEO of Centurion Aviation Security and Safety Consult, said: “Whatever is happening now has to do with the negligence of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on the oversight and enforcement of the economic regulations. There is a low level as well as high level of tariffs approved by the NCAA for domestic flights tickets. These are based on the various services provided,” he said.

He noted that these issues are often neglected and the Consumer Protection Department of the NCAA, which pretends not to know what is happening. “This is nothing but institutional corruption,” Ojikutu said.

However, Michael Achimugu, Director, Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, NCAA, said there is no denying the fact that touts exist at the airports, noting that this is why the minister has set up a taskforce to eliminate some of these issues.

“On our part, the NCAA is looking towards enforcing the use of national IDs for checking in passengers. That way, touts who buy tickets from airlines only to resell at higher rates to others (while quickly printing fake ID cards for them at the airport) will be put out of business,” Achimugu said.

He said passengers also have a responsibility not to accept to be part of the fraudulent ID situation.

Qatar Airways Says Excess Capacity Putting Pressure on Fares - BLOOMBERG

JULY 02, 2024

Benedikt Kammel and Leen Al-RashdanBloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- Qatar Airways Chief Commercial Officer Thierry Antinori said the carrier is experiencing some pressure on airfares as rivals particularly in southeast Asia and Australia pump more capacity into the market and the post-pandemic travel rebound begins to moderate.

“The seat factor has stayed high, so we’re able to generate traffic in line with our seat growth, but we have pressure on yields because we have more capacity in the market, and maybe a bit less of a catch-up effect in general,” Antinori said in an interview in Hamburg, a day after the airline began its daily direct service to the northern German city from its hub in Doha. 

Antinori said the pressure points are most noticeable in business that’s eastbound from Doha, while operations into the western hemisphere are “quite stable.” Business is also steady into Africa, where Qatar Airways has opened several new routes, including to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last month. 

Part of the yield pressure is down to some major carriers in southeast Asia showing growth of as much as 40% that’s adding capacity at a time when the post-Covid pent up demand for travel is “normalizing,” Antinori said. Still, capacity is partly being kept in check as airlines are not getting new aircraft at the rate that they’ve ordered, he said, because jet manufacturers Airbus SE and Boeing Co. are struggling to ramp up output. 

The company continues to do very well in its cargo operations, Antinori said. 

Business into markets like Paris has remained strong, Antinori said, with close-to-full occupancy on the four daily flights the airline operates into the French capital. Air France-KLM said earlier this week that it’s noticing a drop-off in its French operations this summer because passengers are avoiding Paris to skirt possible disruptions and high prices during the Olympic Games. 

Antinori spoke on the same day that state-owned Qatar Airways announced earnings for its fiscal year, achieving what it said was the strongest financial performance in its 27-year history, with a profit of about $1.7 billion. Like larger regional rival Emirates, Qatar Airways has leveraged its geographic position at the crossroads of global flight paths, connecting more than 170 destinations from its Doha airport.

The Hamburg destination gives Qatar Airways a fifth access point into Germany, Europe’s largest economy. The carrier has also sought to gain more landing rights into Australia, though the local government has denied the airline more slots for the time being. Now Qatar Airways is in talks to acquire about 20% of Virgin Australia Airlines Pty, people familiar with the matter said last week. 

Antinori declined to comment on any discussions regarding an investment, which would require Australian government approval.

Closer to home in Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich kingdom is building a new airline with Riyadh Air that will seek to take back more business from established competitors like Qatar Airways and Emirates once it starts operating next year. Antinori said he’s not concerned about ceding some of the lucrative regional business to the startup because his airline is not “overexposed” in that part of the world. 

Besides, the new airline will help put the region on the map with more tourists, he said. 

“We wish them well,” Antinori said of Riyadh Air. 

FG insists on Nigeria Air suspension - PUNCH

JULY 02, 2024

By Damilola Aina

The Federal Government has said the controversial Nigeria Air project remains suspended as the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, awaits President Bola Tinubu’s decision on the contentious project.

The Special Assistant to the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Tunde Moshood, who reiterated the government’s stance on Monday, spoke while reacting to Ethiopian Airlines’ latest comment on the matter.

“They can say, whatever they like, but as far as we are concerned the project is under suspension and the Honourable minister is awaiting Mr President’s verdict on it. They can say what they like but our current position on the matter is what I just said to you,” Moshood said while reacting to the Ethiopian national carrier’s comment on the matter.

The Ethiopian Airlines Group Chief Executive Officer, Mesfin Tasew, had told a news outlet, Ethiopian Tribune over the week that the Nigerian government was no longer interested in the project.

“The Nigerian government has lost interest in partnering with a foreign airline,” Tasew said.

The announcement by Ethiopian Airlines came barely two months after the Federal Government reaffirmed the indefinite suspension of the controversial Nigeria Air project.

Keyamo had previously criticised the deal with Ethiopian Airlines as unfair to Nigerian airlines, stating it would be irresponsible for the Federal Government to allow a foreign entity to monopolise Nigeria’s aviation industry, thereby compromising the growth of local businesses.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration announced the Nigeria Air project on July 18, 2018, aiming to revive the defunct Nigerian Airways.

In August 2023, Keyamo announced that the national carrier project was suspended till further notice stressing that he owed it to the government and Nigerians to give an honest assessment.

The project unveiled three days before the end of Buhari’s administration had elicited concerns among stakeholders nationwide over the ownership arrangement which gave Ethiopian Airlines a 49 per cent equity stake.

The Federal Government had a five per cent equity, while a consortium of three Nigerian investors had 46 per cent.

However, two months later, it was suspended due to concerns about its relevance and sustainability. The airline was projected to incur $8.8m in preliminary costs and $300m in take-off costs.

In 2022, Ethiopian Airlines won the bid to manage Nigeria Air, agreeing to a structure where they would hold a 49 per cent stake, the Federal Government five per cent, SAHCOL 15 per cent, and other investors 31 per cent.

Reacting to the deal in June 2023, the House of Representatives asked the Federal Government to suspend the Nigeria Air project, describing it as a fraud.

In an interview last year, Tasew said the airline would reject any decision by the Federal Government to either suspend indefinitely or resume the national carrier project.

Tasew, who stressed that the East African carrier did not initially show interest in participating in the Nigeria Air project, said the decision to submit a bid for the national carrier venture came after the Federal Government officially wrote the Ethiopian Airlines seeking its partnership to establish Nigeria Air.

He, therefore, said the airline would comply with whatever decision the Nigerian government reached on the suspended national carrier project.

He said, “In the first place, the national carrier project was not our initiative, it was the initiative of the Nigerian government. Now if the government wants us to cancel the project, it is fine with us. We have no problem. If the government wants to continue with the project, then the government has to resolve the legal case in court.”

However, the airline has continued to develop its multi-hub strategy in Africa.

Tasew emphasised the setback would not stop Ethiopian Airlines, a Star Alliance member, from developing JVs to establish sister airlines in Africa where Ethiopian Airlines has equity stakes.

“We have been approached by several airlines in Africa for support, and we are evaluating them,” Tasew said.The countries include the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Equatorial Guinea.

Meanwhile, the airline official said Togo-based ASKY, in which Ethiopian holds a 40 per cent share, and Malawi Airlines, which was Ethiopia’s first JV, continue to do well. Zambia Airways—in which Ethiopian Airlines holds a 45 per cent share—is also continuing to develop.

N296m refund: Travel agents drag Qatar Airways to FG - PUNCH

JULY 03, 2024

By Olasunkanmi Akinlotan

The ongoing battle between 13 travel agents and Qatar Airways has taken another dimension as the agents have written a letter to the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, appealing for his prompt intervention.

The agents in their letter obtained by The PUNCH are appealing to the minister to help secure a refund of unused Hajj tickets cumulatively put at N296m in the last two years.

The PUNCH had exclusively reported how 13 travel agencies and their clients drew a battle line with Qatar Airways for allegedly refusing to implement N296m ticket refund since 2022.

The hajj agents had purchased tickets from Qatar Airways for the 2022 hajj exercise, but the clients could not fly as planned because the Saudi Arabian Embassy refused to issue visas to the intending pilgrims.

Following the development, the Hajj operators demanded their ticket refunds.

Pilgrims had dragged some of the Hajj operators to the police and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over failure to effect the ticket refund.

When the situation was reported to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, the agency noted that it was already mediating in the matter.

    The spokesperson for the NCAA, Michael Achumugu, said the airline had refused to pay the agent.

    In the agents’ latest letter to the minister, through their legal counsel, the agent complained that all efforts made for amicable resolution on the matter had hit brick walls.

    The lawyer, however, appealed to the minister to use his “good office at ensuring their grievances with Qatar Airlines are favourably resolved with refunds to our clients”.

    The lawyer further said, “Despite our numerous engagements, no refund has been made by Qatar Airways since 2022 while our people have continually suffered humiliation, harassment, intimidation, blackmail and prosecution by Nigerian Law enforcement agencies sequel to complaints from their respective depositors and clients whose monies are being stashed in the coffers of Qatar Airways.

    “All related agencies of the government have been reached on our clients’ plight and we believe that your office being the major regulator of the aviation industry would aid our clients, being stakeholders in the Nigerian travel and tours industry in line with the extant regulatory legislation and provisions to protect the economic interest of the nation.”

    The letter by the agents also expressed optimism in the leadership of the minister, praying that he help ensure all within his power to save them from humiliation


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