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COVID-19: 230 Nigerians Stranded In Dubai After Paying N242,000 Each For Emirates Flight Ticket

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About 230 Nigerian returnees are stranded in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) following the failure of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get flight clearance for the Lagos-bound Emirates Airlines aircraft.

It was learnt that for three weeks, the ministry has not been able to tidy up the arrangement for the evacuation of the 230 Nigerians.

But most of the evacuees, who allegedly paid about N242,000 per head, could not understand why the ministry allowed them to book Emirates flight without any solid arrangement.

Worried by continued failure to secure flight clearance, the Emirates Airlines on Friday canceled the flight.

Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have however put the blame on the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for not concluding arrangements, including flight clearance, to repatriate the affected Nigerians.

According to an investigation conducted by our correspondent, the 230 returnees had been scheduled for flight EK0783 from Dubai (1020) to Lagos by 1500 on April 26, 2020.

The Nigerian Ambassador to UAE, Mallam Mohammed Dansanta Rimi, had since April 5 issued COVID-19 Travel Advisory to Nigerians on the Emirates.

It was also confirmed that Rimi had also opened a line of communication with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the list of Nigerians willing to return home.

The initial positive response of the ministry made the Nigerian Embassy in Abu Dhabi to ask the 230 returnees to pay for their tickets.

But as at April 22, there was no commitment from the Federal Government on flight clearance for the Emirates aircraft bringing in the stranded Nigerians.

It was gathered that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not complete the three-week process.

In a note to the Nigerian Embassy in the UAE on April 22, the Emirates airline desk officer said: “Based on the list provided by you, our office has been doing the call outs. As of now, we have approximately 230 passengers confirmed to travel. There are some more passengers coordinating through Debbie.

In the meantime, I would like to bring to your notice of a very critical issue to ensure we have this flight operated as planned.

“Our office in Lagos has been notified by a member of the Nigerian Presidential Task Force on COVID -19 (Dr. Haggai) that your good office (Nigerian Embassy in UAE) has to coordinate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nigeria to ensure that the protocol for quarantine and other required measures are in place prior to the flight.

“We are assuming that you have the necessary approvals and arrangements in place in Lagos for us to carry these passengers.

“Could you please confirm back to us that all arrangements as required by the Nigerian government are in order for the flight EK 783/26APR that is scheduled to depart Dubai at 1020AM. Appreciate it if you could confirm this to us by end of 23APR2020. Thank you.”

Based on the concerns of the airline, the Embassy on April 22, 2020, communicated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as follows: “Find an attached letter from Emirates confirming if the Ministry is liaising with the appropriate authorities for clearance/approval for the impending flight amid the lockdown in Lagos. Awaiting your response, please.”

As at Friday (yesterday) when there was no official flight clearance for the 230 Nigerians, Emirates Airlines aborted the trip.

It sent a notice to the returnees, saying: “Flight canceled. The following flight(s) have been canceled in light of current health concerns globally. Flight details: EK0783-Dubai International Airport (Origin), Murtala Muhammed Airport, LOS (Destination) on Sunday, April 26th. Please contact your travel agent for further assistance with your booking. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Although some of the stranded Nigerians have tried to reach out to the Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, she only replied on Twitter as follows: “As I said, the final decision is with the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyema. The mission will reach you once they get directives from the Minister.”

As at the time of filing this report, the fate of the stranded 230 Nigerians was unknown with many claiming that they had spent their savings to buy tickets.

It was learnt that each of the passengers coughed out about N242,000 for the one-way ticket based on the fares contained in the COVID-19 Travel Advisory Update by the Consular and Immigration Section of the Nigerian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

The advisory reads in part: “Sequel to the Mission’s travel advisory notice dated 9th April 2020, this is to inform members of the Nigeria community in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) requiring emergency evacuation during this challenging period of Coronavirus pandemic that Emirates Airlines is making arrangements to operate a special flight to repatriate Nigerians from Dubai to Lagos tentatively on 26th April 2020, and this will be subject to obtaining necessary clearance from the relevant Nigerian authorities.

“In view of the foregoing, ticket fare is still at AED 2,500 for economy class (one-way) and AED 5,000 (one-way) for business class while passenger (s) with existing Emirates ticket will have to pay the fare difference based on the current value of their tickets.

“It should be reiterated that the airline will operate the flight subject to an available number of interested passengers. Enquires can be made directly to the airline call Centre by calling 600 555555. In addition, passengers will be required to undergo the COVID-19 test at Dubai International Airport and on arrival in Nigeria.

“While expressing the Embassy’s readiness to respond to further inquiries, please note, information earlier received are compiled and forwarded to the Nigerian Government for appropriate action. As soon as a firm arrangement has been made, all concerned persons will be notified accordingly. “

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One Year After, Abuja Court Fines Senator Abbo N50m For Assaulting Woman At Sex-Toy Shop

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The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Maitama, Abuja, on Monday, awarded N50m damages against the senator representing Adamawa North, Elisha Abbo, to be paid as compensation to a female attendant at a sex-toy shop, Osimibibra Warmate, whom he assaulted.

Justice Samira Bature gave the order in her judgment on the fundamental rights enforcement suit instituted by Warmate against the senator.

The video clip of the alleged assault of the woman by the senator had gone viral.

The police had in 2019 charged before a magistrate court in Zuba, Abuja with one count of assaulting Warmate at a sex-toy shop in Abuja.

But the presiding magistrate, Abdullahi Ilelah, had dismissed the case after upholding the no-case submission filed by the senator.

Warmate, through her legal team including Esosa Omo-Usoh and Nelson Onuoha, went on to sue Abbo in a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed before the FCT High Court and marked FCT/CV/2393/19.

Justice Bature upheld the plaintiff’s case in a judgment on Monday by ordering the senator to pay N50m to the applicant.

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War Of Words: Amaechi Fights Wike At Supreme Court Justice’s Burial

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Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi, on Saturday engaged in a verbal fight at the burial of a former Justice of the Supreme Court, Adolphus Karibi-Whyte, in the Abonnema, Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of the state.

Amaechi, who is the Minister of Transportation, while speaking at the funeral service, lamented what he termed the rising insecurity and political intimidation in the state, saying the state was back to the time of Ateke Tom, a former militant leader, who is now the traditional head of Okochiri town in Okrika LGA of the state.

“You have lost your voice. The sage (the late justice) has gone under and nobody is speaking. When I was governor, I gave people voices, but they have blocked those voices.

“Everyone is scared. We are going back to when Ateke held sway. We are going back to the period where we run away from our people. We are back to a period when nobody could speak. But from next year, I will begin to speak, if nobody wants to speak.

“We are all here because we need to bury a man God has blessed. I have stopped traveling because of bad weather, but I told myself I must be here because of Justice Whyte.

“If you knew Justice (Karibi-Whyte) very well, you will know I was close to him. I was one of the few people he mentored,” Amaechi stated.

Wike on his part described the late Karibi-Whyte as an epitome of unshakable integrity, civility, and dignity, but noted that comments credited to Amaechi were embarrassing.

Responding to Amaechi, Wike who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Chief Emeka Woke, said the minister had lost touch with developments in the state, adding that since the launching of Operation Sting by his administration, the security situation had improved greatly.

Wike said, “It is unfortunate for Amaechi to come to Kalabari land and accuse former President Goodluck Jonathan of not developing the area six years after he had left office.

“I wonder why the former governor will choose to make such embarrassing remarks at the funeral of late Justice Karibi-Whyte, a man he (Amaechi) claimed to be his mentor.”

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Nationwide Strike: Nigerian Govt Releases Details Of Agreements With Labour Leaders

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The Federal government on Monday made public the details of its agreements with organised labour.

A statement on FG’s Twitter handle said officials held consultation meetings with leaders of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) on September 15, 24 and 27, 2020.

The resolutions reached included establishment of Technical Committee on Electricity Tariff.

It is chaired by the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, and comprises ministries, agencies, NLC and TUC.

They will work over the next two weeks.

They are to examine the justification for the electricity tariff review; review the deployment of meters, and advice FG on issues hindering implementation.

During the two-week period, DISCOs will suspend implementation of the electricity tariff adjustments.

The statement reiterated that the petrol subsidy regime has stifled downstream sector growth.

“In addition, the dire financial circumstances of the Federation preclude the ability to sustain any subsidy on PMS, and thus makes the deregulation of the sector inevitable. NNPC will expedite the rehabilitation of its Refineries, with a 50% completion target for Port Harcourt by December 2021.

“NNPC will integrate national leadership of NUPENG and PENGASSAN into the Steering Committee established to oversee the Rehabilitation Exercise. A Validation Team comprising of Reps of @NNPCgroup, @nigeriaeiti, @icrcng, NUPENG and PENGASSAN will be established to monitor the progress of the Rehabilitation of Refineries, Pipelines and Depot Networks.

“The Federal Government will continue to facilitate licensing and delivery of new modular and regular refineries. FG will ensure delivery of 1 million CNG/LPG Autogas Conversion Kits, Storage Skids and Dispensing Units under the Nigeria Gas Expansion Programme, by December 2021.

“A Governance Structure for this project will be established and will include Labour Representatives. FG will work to facilitate the removal of tax on minimum wage. FG will make available to Labour 133 CNG/LPG-driven Mass Transit Buses immediately, for use in major cities nationwide, and thereafter extend to all States and LGAs before December 2021.

“Ongoing FG Housing Initiatives will have 10 per cent allocated to Nigerian workers. Moribund National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) will be revived before the end of 2020, to institutionalize dialogue and engagement on socio-economic and labour issues to forestall future crises,” it disclosed.

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