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Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano Airports To Reopen In ‘Few Days’

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Major airports in the country will in the “next few days” roar into life after weeks of inactivity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

The airports are the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja; Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja; Aminu Kano Airport, Kano and the Port Harcourt Airport, Choba, Rivers State.

The Federal Government on March 16 placed a travel ban on 13 countries, including China, the United States, and Italy that had recorded over 1,000 cases of Coronavirus.

On March 13 it shut all airports for one month and later extended it by two weeks. On May 6, the government further extended the airports’ closure by four weeks until June 7.

The decision to commence flights at the airports, according to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), is to avoid chocking the “system.”

NCAA Director-General, Captain Musa Nuhu stated this at a virtual event organized by the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ART) titled COVID-19: The Challenges and Opportunity for Nigeria’s Aviation Value Chain, During and Post.

Nuhu said the NCAA worked with representatives of airlines and ground handling companies before forwarding a proposal to the Minister of Aviation for approval.

The NCAA boss said: “We may resume domestic operations with four or five airports and we hope to expand as we get better. We don’t want to rush everything at the same time and get it choked up….

“Every money is important and we cannot achieve the two-meter physical distance. We are hopeful in the next few days we can resolve those issues and allow the airlines to commence operations.

“We have made our suggestion and recommendations and we are awaiting feedback from the Ministry of Aviation.”

Nuhu said air transport must be safe and not become part of the ways of spreading Coronavirus. He stated that physical distancing was an issue as discussions were still on leaving the middle seats in an aircraft vacant.

Chairman, Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, urged the government to provide intervention for local carriers.

He said such intervention should be specific in order to enable the airlines to retain their workers.

Onyema however disagreed with plans to leave the middle seats of aircraft free as that could further affect the revenue of the airlines.

He said: “The world is on break and nothing is happening. The authorities have reeled out things and these things come with a huge cost. How will airlines manage them and still be able to pay about 37 charges?

“I do not want free money that I cannot account for. This is not an opportunity to ask for money to buy new planes. In fact, intervention should be for the workforce. I have over 3, 000 staff members at Air Peace. These people’s livelihood is endangered and we must do everything possible to keep their jobs.

“We should be asking the government for specific things that would help retain jobs. Job retention should be first and foremost.”

NCAA has however released COVID-19 protocols as approved by the Federal Ministry of Health for the aviation industry.

The protocols are for Nigeria-based crew operating international flights.

The crew members are now required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and observe Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) measures for the duration of their flights.

Nuhu, who announced the approval of the new protocols in a letter to airline operators, airports, and other service providers, added that the crew members would not be quarantined but would undergo mandatory testing for COVID-19 every 14 days at the expense of their employers.

According to the letter, the new protocols replace the current practice where Nigeria- based international flight crew members are quarantined for 14 days upon their return to Nigeria.

Nuhu added that in the new protocols the airliners must ensure among others, orientation and sensitization of their crew on Infection, Prevention, and Control (IPC) measures.

The protocols also state that airlines must have adequate stock of PPE, a minimum of 70 percent alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and Universal Precaution Kits (UPK) onboard every aircraft.

The letter reads in part: “Onboard the flight crew will request passengers wash their hands after using the lavatory, apply the disinfectant spray in lavatory every 60 minutes during the flight and maintain a safe distance between passengers and themselves; avoid direct physical contact and serve only pre-packed meals to passengers.

“Flight deck crew must wear non-medical face masks and gloves but can remove face masks when the cockpit door is closed.

“They must also ensure the safe removal of gloves after performing specific tasks and avoid touching their face and eyes with unclean hands.”

BIG STORY

JUST IN: Ebonyi Governor Tests Positive For COVID-19

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Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus disease.

This was contained in a statement personally signed by him on Saturday.

Details later…

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BIG STORY

Heritage Bank Shuts Branch For Disinfection Over Suspected Coronavirus Case

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Heritage Bank Plc said it has closed down an Experience Centre- EC (branch) at Allen Avenue; Ikeja over the “unconfirmed case” of Coronavirus for deep hygiene clean up after an employee took ill last week.

The bank in a statement made available to the press and customers noted: “in line with our emergency response plan and following regulatory practices, we have taken immediate steps to close down Allen Avenue, Ikeja Experience Centers- EC (branch) for thorough disinfection of the affected location.”

Contrary to rumour, the bank disclosed that whilst the suspected staff awaits her medical test from the Covid-19 Test Centre in Yaba, she had not exhibited any symptoms related to the virus.

“Neither of the suspected person or others in the EC had exhibited any symptoms,” the bank said in the statement.

Specifically, the bank stated that staff were advised to self-isolate for 14days forthwith which was in consonance with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The bank stated that the EC will undergo “thorough disinfection,” further affirmed, “Customers and staff safety remains paramount; hence we will recommence business with a new set of relief employees, as the current staff self-isolate.”

In the interim, the bank advised customers, “please visit other ECs or branches in Ikeja where you can conduct your daily transactions. Otherwise, you can use our alternate e-channels for seamless service deliveries.

“Heritage Bank remains resolute to continually serve you seamlessly despite prohibitions imposed on physical contact through our bouquet of electronic products which have been made available on notable mobile stores and our website (www.hbng.com).”

The bank noted that it would continue to intensify ongoing efforts via its intranet and other channels to keep staff and customers up-to-date with the latest COVID-19 information and provide clear direction and guidance expected of workers and customers.

“We have set up a COVID-19 Support Centre to offer COVID-19 safety tips to all our customers during this period, in support of the efforts of the Government and relevant bodies. Please send any information relating to the COVID-19 pandemic via these channels: E-mail: [email protected] and contact number: 01-2369099,” the bank stated.

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BIG STORY

Hushpuppi Conspired To Defraud Premier League Club Of $124 Million

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United States authorities on Friday said an English Premier League club was among the victims the suspected Nigerian fraudster Igbalode Ramoni Abbas, also known as Hushpuppi, conspired to defraud.

US Department of Justice said Hushpuppi will face criminal charges, alleging he conspired to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from business email compromise (BEC) frauds and other scams, including schemes targeting a U.S. law firm, a foreign bank and an unnamed English Premier League soccer club.

“Abbas and others further conspired to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from other fraudulent schemes and computer intrusions, including one scheme to steal £100 million (approximately $124 million) from an English Premier League soccer club, the complaint alleges,” the Department of Justice said in a statement on Friday.

Abbas, popularly known as Huspuppi was arrested earlier in June along with Olalekan Jacob Ponle, also known as Woodberry and 10 others.

The 12 suspects were arrested in six simultaneous raids carried out by the e-police unit of the Dubai Police.

The gang was responsible for Dh1.6 billion (about N169 billion) fraud involving over 1.9 million victims. Items worth N15.845 billion (Dh 150 million) were also seized.

13 luxury cars worth N2. 640 billion (Dh 25 million), 21 laptops, 47 smartphones, 15 memory storage devices, 5 external hard drives, and 800, 000 emails of potential victims were also recovered from the gang.

Their arrest in an operation codenamed Fox Hunt 2 came after about four months of painstaking investigations into their activities., during which their social media activities were monitored by the highly trained police unit.

The video posted by the Dubai Media Office said their police were able to track the locations of the suspected fraudsters using their social media activities.

The Dubai Police said the Hushpuppi and his gang specialized in hacking corporate emails and then send fictitious messages to the clients of the companies whose email accounts they have hacked to redirect financial transactions and bank details to their own accounts.

“This was a challenging case, one that spanned international boundaries, traditional financial systems and the digital sphere,” said Jesse Baker, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Los Angles Field Office.

The DoJ affidavit alleges that Abbas and others committed a BEC scheme that defrauded a client of a New York-based law firm out of approximately $922,857 in October 2019.

DoJ said Abbas and co-conspirators allegedly tricked one of the law firm’s paralegals into wiring money intended for the client’s real estate refinancing to a bank account that was controlled by Abbas and the co-conspirators.

The Dubai Police said he and Woodberry were extradited to the United States this week to face charges of money laundering. If convicted, Hushpuppi would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

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