Abuja Airport Closure: Fashola Calls for Careful Driving to Avoid Accidents
By Dipo Olowookere
Ahead of the planned reconstruction and repair of the Abuja Airport runway, which would lead to a diversion of air traffic and passengers from Abuja to Kaduna, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola at the weekend, inspected progress of work on the Abuja-Kaduna Highway.
The Minister, who stopped at several points on the road to ascertain the quality of work being done in company with the Minister of State, Mr Mustapha Baba Shehuri, and other senior officials of the Ministry, said the Federal Government through the Ministry was effecting the emergency repair work to ensure that the road was safe and motorable even as he called for careful driving to avoid accidents during the period of closure and on the nation’s roads generally.
In an interactive session with newsmen after the inspection, Mr Fashola said although government has embarked on the emergency repair of the road to make it safe by removing the potholes , a lot depended on the users of the road to ensure that they remain safe and avoid accidents while the closure lasted.
The Minister, who said he would wish a day when no accidents would be reported on the nation’s roads, expressed regrets that such a wish remained farfetched adding that apart from the condition of the roads, human error constituted, from available reports, a very significant factor in road accidents.
Recalling an accident that occurred on the same day on the road involving a heavy truck, the Minister said the accident most likely happened in the night advising that those who drive heavy trucks in the night must try and get as much as sleep as they could during the day.
Also advocating training and retraining for drivers, Mr Fashola declared, “I think that it is fair to say that not many people who manage vehicles on our roads are actually trained to manage vehicles on the roads; many people are auxiliary drivers for want of something better to do”.
“There are rules in the operation and utilization of automobiles”, he said adding that the FRSC has continued to address the problem in terms of education, enlightenment and the introduction of a speed limiting device while his Ministry was also looking at how to assist them in the short to medium terms by introducing some speed cameras to deter people and support the efforts of the Corps.
Pointing out that the wish to stay alive rested ultimately it in the hands of drivers themselves, Mr Fashola said such a wish must be matched with abstention from substance abuse that some vehicle operators subject their bodies to adding that such abuses make their bodies vulnerable.
He, however, said the effort to prevent or limit accidents on the nation’s roads was an obligation on the government which, according to him, must not be given up adding that there was need to also go back to the primary schools and begin to teach road traffic behaviour from the foundation while also enlightening the older generation “that they must begin to prepare the younger generation to make sure they become better road users in future”.
On the purpose of the inspection, the Minister, who clarified that the work being carried out on the road was an emergency repair, and not the real reconstruction of the road, essentially to remove the potholes and reduce the risk of accidents, added that the purpose was to see the progress made on the repairs as the date for the closure of the airport was drawing near.
He told newsmen that, “The work that is being done here, you must understand this is a road of more than 160 kilometres. We are at kilometre 130 from Abuja. So the work that is being done as I said is an emergency intervention essentially to remove the dangerous potholes and eliminate potential hazards that could cause accidents for motorists on this road”.
According to the Minister, there is a major contract provision that is going through Procurement for the essential reconstruction of the road, which he recalled, was constructed in the early 1990s when it was expanded from a single carriageway to a dual carriageway adding that no record indicated that there has been any major repairs ever since.
“So the road needs to be rebuilt because it has been subjected to a lot of axle load. But what we are doing right now is emergency repairs to remove the potholes to make the road safe for commuters ahead of the planned reconstruction and repair of the Abuja Airport runway which will lead to a diversion of air traffic and passengers from Abuja to Kaduna which will start on the 8th of March”, he said.
The Minister, who noted that the role of his Ministry was to make the road motorable and safe for commuters reiterated that he just came to inspect the place to see the progress of work first hand, promised that the Ministry would deliver the road and hoped that the Aviation counterpart would also deliver the runway in six weeks as scheduled by it.
He told the newsmen, “You can see that some sections have been resurfaced completely but that is not the main reconstruction of the road; let us be clear about what is happening here”.
“The whole purpose of this contract is to cover the potholes on the 160 kilometres road two lanes on one side and two lanes on the other side; so that is really to cover 620 kilometres of potholes; that is a contract for N1 billion,” Mr Fashola said, adding that the amount was not what would be needed to rebuild the road.
The Minister reiterated, “So let’s be clear about that. This is emergency short term. When the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) gives the no objection contract, we will start when the airport runway would have been completed”.
Emirates Forward Bookings Remain Robust on Strong Customer Demand
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Chief Commercial Officer of Emirates, Mr Adnan Kazim, has said the airline’s forward bookings have remained robust amid a strong customer demand, spurring the company to ramp up its operations across continents.
According to him, in the past months, the airline has planned and executed the rapid growth of its network operations, reintroducing services to five cities, launching flights to one new destination (Tel Aviv), and adding 251 weekly flights onto existing routes and continuing the roll-out of service enhancements in the air and on the ground.
It was disclosed that Emirates has continued to scale up its A380 operations with the reintroduction of the iconic double-decker across its network: Glasgow (from 26 March), Casablanca from (15 April), Beijing (from 01 May), Shanghai (from 04 June), Nice (from 1 June), Birmingham (from 1 July), Kuala Lumpur (from 01 August), and Taipei (from 01 August).
“Emirates is working hard on several fronts – to bring back operating capacity as quickly as the ecosystem can manage while also upgrading our fleet and product to ensure our customers always enjoy the best possible Emirates experience.
“So far, four of our A380 aircraft have been completely refurbished with our new cabin interiors and Premium Economy seats, and more will enter service as our $2 billion cabin and service enhancement program picks up pace,” Mr Kazim added.
He noted that in the coming months, established routes to Europe, Australia and Africa would be served with more Emirates flights, while in East Asia, more cities are seeing route restarts.
Emirates had upcoming route enhancements by regions, including in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, East Asia, as well as in Africa which covers Cairo: from 25 to 28 weekly flights by 29 October; Dar es Salaam: from 5 flights a week to daily flights starting 01 May and Entebbe: from 6 flights a week to daily flights starting 01 July.
Mozambique Okays Visa Exemption for 28 Countries, Snubs Nigeria
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
A number of African countries are focusing on promoting extensively inbound tourism. They are luring potential external investors to the tourism industry.
The latest in the southern African region is Mozambique, which has approved a visa exemption for 28 countries for tourism and business.
As the Council of Ministers approved the decree in mid-March, the exemption applies to visitors holding ordinary passports and allows for a 30-day stay, renewable to an additional 60 days.
The model adopted by the Mozambican government is similar to the United States visa waiver program in the sense that it requires travellers to register on a platform for pre-screening at least 48 hours before travelling and to pay a processing fee of MZN-650 (equivalent £8.50).
In the list released, Nigeria, which prides itself as the giant of Africa and the largest economy on the continent, was missing.
The approved countries for this programme are Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The visa exemption is a follow-up to the launch of a platform last December that allowed prospective visitors to apply for an electronic pre-authorization to travel into the country. The introduction of e-visas has seen an increase of over 30 per cent in the number of travellers entering the country compared to the same period in the previous year.
The e-visa platform commits the country to respond to applications within five days, but general feedback places an average response at 24 hours, and the few issues reported are usually created by users not uploading the required documentation.
President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, since August 2022, has taken steps containing 20 reform measures aimed at delivering to visitors and potential investors a path for a more competitive and more accessible country. Mozambique, with an approximate population of 30 million, is one of the 16-member Southern African Development Community.
Foreign Airlines Unable to Repatriate $743.7m from Nigeria
By Adedapo Adesanya
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said that foreign airlines’ blocked funds in Nigeria have risen to over $743.7 million.
In a letter dated March 14, 2023, and signed by the Area Manager for West and Central Africa, Dr Samson Fatokun, it was disclosed that the blocked funds rose from $549 million in December 2022 and $662 million in January to $743.7 million.
IATA noted that for over a year, Nigeria had been the country with the highest amount of airlines’ blocked funds in the world.
According to the association, the increasing backlog of international airlines’ blocked funds in Nigeria is a potential threat to foreign direct investment into the country and could affect the operations of airlines leading to job losses.
While appealing to the Minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, to intervene in resolving the issues, the association also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to clear all airlines blocked funds before leaving office.
Meanwhile, at a meeting with the IATA and foreign airlines operators in Abuja to discuss the issues, Mr Sirika said the issue of blocked funds sits with the Central Bank of Nigeria and is not what the ministry can handle alone.
He urged international airline operators to be very considerate when dealing with the issues bearing in mind the effects of COVID-19 and the recession the country had experienced.
Recall that in August 2022, IATA’s Regional Vice-President for Africa and the Middle East, Mr Kamil Alawahdi, expressed his disappointment with Nigeria over the amount of airline money blocked from repatriation by the Nigerian government, which was around $464 million then.
“IATA is disappointed that the amount of airline money blocked from repatriation by the Nigerian government grew to $464 million in July.
“This is airline money, and its repatriation is protected by international agreements in which Nigeria participates. IATA’s many warnings that failure to restore timely repatriation will hurt Nigeria with reduced air connectivity are proving true with the withdrawal of Emirates from the market,” he said.
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