Okowa Calls for Patronage of Park Vega Waterpark
By Ahmed Rahma
The Governor of Delta State, Mr Ifeanyi Okowa, has appealed to residents of the state, especially those in Agbor, to patronise the newly commissioned Park Vega Waterpark.
On Friday, December 4, 2020, several dignitaries from all walks of life converged to witness the opening of the park, which is regarded as the largest in West Africa.
The commissioning was done by Mr Okowa, who was represented by the Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, a veteran journalist.
In his speech, the Governor said Park Vega Waterpark will boost tourism not only in Delta State but in Nigeria because of the facilities in the place.
He further said, “Park Vega Waterpark is in line with the Delta State development agenda that includes strategic wealth creation and transforming our environment by developing facilities.
“Those who will work here will no longer be classified as unemployed because they have created jobs for our unemployed children.
“I commended the Dein of Agbor for upholding our culture and thank the initiators of the Park Vega Waterpark vision for sighting it in Delta State as they could have taken it anywhere.
“I want to encourage others to start setting up complementary businesses near the Park to make Ewuru, Agbor to become a major town and urban centre.”
He added that, “The success of the park can only be guaranteed if we all patronise [it] by bringing our family, children, and encourage friends to also visit the park even if they live in Asaba.
“The good thing is that there is no place you will find a park as well built as Park Vega Waterpark that we are looking at in the country.”
Also speaking at the event, the Dein of Agbor, Mr Benjamin Ikenchukwu Keagborekuzi, thanked the initiators of the park for locating it in Agbor.
The traditional ruler prayed that “the project will grow from strength to strength,” appealing to residents of Agbor to “support the park.”
In her speech, the Managing Director of Park Vega waterpark, Mrs Nancy Orji, noted that the unveiling marks the beginning of a shift in the economy of Agbor and the state from an agrarian, oil, and government-funded economy to a private sector-driven economy.
“Park Vega Waterpark is a world-class waterpark, a member of IAAPA (International Association of Amusements Parks & Attractions) and WWA (World Waterparks Association), is set to be Nigeria’s and indeed, West Africa’s first International Standard Waterpark.
“We have already begun to receive commendations from these International associations for our dedication to pioneering the attraction industry in western Africa,” Mrs Orji said.
She added that “this waterpark is a tourist attraction and is, therefore, a core element of the tourism value chain because it’s a great motivator for tourism trips and expenditures and by extension, is capable of revitalizing local economies by pulling tourists across west Africa and Nigeria.
“Thus, increasing revenue for the government, local businesses and residents, in addition to providing direct and indirect jobs as professionals now come to Agbor look for work.”
Foreign Airlines’ Unrepatriated $812m in Nigeria Worries IATA
By Adedapo Adesanya
Fresh data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has revealed that the total amount of foreign airlines’ trapped funds in Nigeria has risen to $812.2 million from the $802 million reported in April.
The updated figure came as IATA warned all owing governments that the blocked airline funds could threaten airline connectivity in the affected markets.
This was noted on the sideline of the ongoing IATA Annual General Meetings and World Air Transport Summit ongoing in Istanbul, Turkey.
According to a statement seen by Business Post, the industry’s blocked funds have increased by 47 per cent to $2.27 billion in April 2023 from $1.55 billion in April 2022.
Speaking on this, Mr Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, said, “Airlines cannot continue to offer services in markets where they are unable to repatriate the revenues arising from their commercial activities in those markets. Governments need to work with industry to resolve this situation so airlines can continue to provide the connectivity that is vital to driving economic activity and job creation.”
Nigeria led the top five countries that account for 68.0 per cent of blocked funds comprising Nigeria ($812.2 million), Bangladesh ($214.1 million), Algeria ($196.3 million), Pakistan ($188.2 million), and Lebanon ($141.2 million).
IATA urged governments to abide by international agreements and treaty obligations to enable airlines to repatriate these funds arising from the sale of tickets, cargo space, and other activities.
The IATA had recently said it would continue discussions with the incoming government, which was inaugurated in May.
Although President Bola Tinubu did not allude to the airline funds in his speech, he, however, announced that his administration would move towards unifying the country’s exchange rate, adding that this would help divert funds away from arbitrage into productive endeavours such as investment in plant, equipment and job creation.
IFC Invests $13m to Support Ecotourism, Conservation in Sub-Saharan Africa
By Adedapo Adesanya
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has announced a $13 million investment in the Africa Conservation and Communities Tourism Fund (ACCT Fund) to support the post-pandemic recovery and sustainable growth of sub-Saharan Africa’s ecotourism sector.
The investment will support ecotourism businesses in and around conservation areas in East and Southern Africa, with a focus on South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zambia.
The ACCT Fund will invest in operators of safari camps, hotels, and lodges, helping them address liquidity shortages while recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fund will also help them refurbish, renovate, and expand their operations, especially where the businesses can achieve meaningful conservation and community development impact.
Impact investment and advisory group, ThirdWay Partners, and The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental non-profit organization, established the ACCT Fund, a structured debt vehicle, in 2021 in response to COVID-19-related challenges affecting the ecotourism sector.
Based on IFC estimates, the ACCT Fund is expected to contribute at least $530 million to economies where it invests through direct, indirect, and induced effects in the agriculture, retail, transportation, and recreational sectors. IFC expects the investment to also save about 21,200 full-time jobs.
“We are very grateful for IFC’s support of this innovative and very important initiative,” said Mr Maarten Weehuizen, Managing Director of the ACCT Fund. “The ACCT Fund is an impact investment vehicle which balances financial goals with a clear conservation and community impact agenda.”
“Tourism is critical to the long-term survival of conservation landscapes across the African continent, to the benefit of the people and the wildlife who depend on them,” Mr Weehuizen added. “Even prior to the COVID pandemic, these areas were under significant pressure; tourism provides jobs in rural areas, funding for nature protection and its activities with guests in these landscapes significantly reduce the risk of poaching, deforestation, and land conversion.”
Ecotourism businesses are committed to protecting the environment and wildlife where they operate.
“As part of this innovative blended finance approach, IFC has partnered with the Nature Conservancy, a global environmental conservation organisation, to support sustainable ecotourism and deliver impact to small tourism operators,” said Mr Sérgio Pimenta, IFC Vice President for Africa. “IFC’s investment in the ACCT Fund will help financially affected ecotourism businesses to preserve jobs and contribute to the local economy. The partnership aligns with IFC’s strategy to support the revival of domestic and regional tourism markets and to use a blend of financing tools to support countries’ development priorities.”
With the financing from IFC and other investors, the fund has now reached a final close with a total of $70 million raised. The ACCT Fund is structured using a blended finance approach with three tranches of capital: grant funding, junior equity, and senior equity funding.
In addition to financing, IFC will also provide non-commercial risk mitigation and capacity building by supporting the development of climate guidelines that will contribute to setting standards for the sector and help operators improve their environmental performance by reducing energy and water use and improving waste management.
Group Begs EFCC to Probe Sirika Over N15.9bn Nigeria Air Project
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been urged to probe the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, over the controversial Nigeria Air, which it said it gulped N15.9 billion.
Last Friday, as promised by Mr Sirika, a Nigeria Air-branded aircraft landed at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, but hours later, it returned to Ethiopia after it was discovered that the aeroplane had a registration number of Ethiopia Airlines.
There have been controversies surrounding the proposed national carrier for more than six years but the Minister promised that it would become a reality before the end of the administration of Mr Muhammadu Buhari, who handed over the country to his successor, Mr Bola Tinubu, today, Monday, May 29, 2023.
A Nigerian-based anti-corruption group, SecureWorld and Liberty Initiative for Peace (SELIP), wants the EFCC to investigate Mr Sirika for allegedly committing fraud and economic sabotage.
In a petition to the anti-money laundering agency, the group said the unveiling of the national carrier was against a directive of a court, which stopped the process.
In the notice addressed to the EFCC Chairman, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, the organisation, through its Executive Director, Mr Mark Adebayo, averred that the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos headed by Justice A.L Allagoa, in a suit filed by the Airline Operators of Nigeria, had granted three separate orders of injunctions, restraining the federal government from taking any step about the Nigeria Air project “but the Minister in a desperate bid to cover up the monumental fraud in the deal elected to flagrantly disobeyed an order of a court of competent jurisdiction and produced a sham called unveiling of Nigeria Air flight last Friday.”
“We are compelled to bring to your attention that the aircraft purportedly unveiled on Friday, May 26, 2023, by Minister Sirika, as the first flight of the national carrier, Nigeria Air, is still in active service of Ethiopia Airlines. We can confirm that the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 with the registration number ET-APL, has since left the country this weekend for Turkey according to a check on the flight radar; it only transited Nigeria for the farce of a show put up by the minister.
“The flight landing in the country with Ethiopia Airlines’ registration number means Nigeria Air has no Air Operator Certificate. No aircraft can be registered in Nigeria without the carrier having an AOC, which means that the aircraft does not belong to Nigeria Air either as leased or owned equipment. So, Sirika should not be allowed to fool Nigerians,” the group said in the petition.
The group urged the anti-graft agency to make Mr Sirika account for N15.9 billion that has been committed so far to the project by the federal government, alleging that the desperation by the minister is geared towards covering up the misappropriation of funds and monumental fraud.
“The unveiling was a desperate attempt to justify the N15.9 billion appropriated by the federal government to Nigeria Air since 2016.
“The phantom project has continued to lick up budgetary provisions; N1.3 billion was allotted to it in the 2023 budget with an additional N700 million as ‘working capital’ and N200 million as consultancy fee; so, the minister must not be allowed to hoodwink Nigerians with the ‘importation of a rented aircraft into the country and pass it off as a step to the commencement of the operation of the airline days to his exit from office. This act of fraud and economic terrorism must not be allowed to go unpunished,” the petition read.
The group countered Mr Sirika’s claims that Nigeria Air Limited is a private sector-led airline, with only five per cent of the company owned by the Nigerian government, a consortium of entrepreneurs in Nigeria with 46 per cent, and the Ethiopian Airlines with 49 per cent.
“There’s no agreement with the stakeholders in Nigeria, so on what basis has a painted plane be brought in to deceive Nigerians?
“The lack of transparency on funding and alleged zero consideration for local players and national interest is frightening as the proposed Shareholders’ Agreement which is yet to be signed the, reserves all Executive Directors positions for the Ethiopians with Nigerians as deputies,” the group said.
“We have confidence that the EFCC will do justice and timely, too, to get to the bottom of this scam and save Nigeria’s Aviation Industry from the impending doom,” it noted.
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