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“Creating Shared Value for the Good of All” — My Awesome Experience Flying with Value Jet By Seun Oloketuyi

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…My Unrivalled ValueJet Experience

For many reasons, I don’t enjoy flying. Most importantly, it puts you at the mercy of another person whom you know nothing about, and just like drivers, there are good and bad ones. With flying, you can never tell which you have, and you do not have the option of deplaning at your pleasure.

When it was time to begin the planning for the Best of Nollywood (BON) Awards 2020, the Ekiti edition, it was the peak of the beginning of the kidnapping season, and many people did not want to travel through the densely populated express towns that littered the road from Lagos to Ekiti.

It was at this point I began to consider flight options from Lagos to Akure. The shorter drive between Akure to Ado-Ekiti would be bearable if we could fly. This realisation brought with it another problem.

Our budget for that edition was very small, and we had a dearth of sponsors, especially because we were just coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic economic shutdown.

Also, even though we had a lot of quality actors and filmmakers on board the project whom we needed to get to Ekiti, we were still a small party, and many would be supporting airlines did not consider our number significant.

As a final effort, I reached out to Mr Kunle Soname, Chairman, ValueJet, and I requested a meeting. He granted my request immediately and I drove down to Ikenne with all hopes to pitch my need.

My hope was not dashed. Not only did Mr Soname solve my logistics problem by immediately putting me in touch with the right people to make an aircraft available on my needed date, he staked his name on the awards by giving us access to use an aircraft and crew to shoot a skit with the hosts, Tana Adelana and Debo Macaroni.

When the skit was released about a month or two to the awards, it gave Best of Nollywood newer credibility and access to even more industry support.

On our departure date, the excitement was palpable as many were excited to be flying with ValueJet. That excitement bled into my subconscious and my fears of flying automatically eased.

From the point of boarding, something felt pleasantly strange about the airline.

While the cabin crew ushered passengers on board, I noticed every one of them, including the captain, had a whole new level of warmth and decorum. I had initially thought it was simply because we had big industry names on the trip, but I noticed the patience and deliberate effort not just to please but to get everyone settled in well and in time.

Then I got comfy in my seat, and my criticism antenna quickly springing up. I began to pay deliberate attention to everything about the airplane and the quality of service to prove my bias that the excellent customer service we enjoyed at boarding was a fluke.

A few minutes later, we were all settled in and right on schedule, the plane taxied for a takeoff and the following 40minutes became an impressionable experience in my years of local travel in Nigeria.

First, the hostesses continued to maintain that high level of professionalism throughout the flight devoid of the ‘owambe’ atmosphere that most local airlines create. You could feel their genuine resolve to be of help and make the flight enjoyable.

I particularly remember a female member of my staff, an intern, who struck up a conversation with one of the hostess before takeoff. The young girl had never flown before and wondered why the hostess had to stand close to her seat at the back. I had expected a standoffish response from the mixed-race hostess, but instead, she bent to whisper in her ears words I could not catch. The less than a minute interaction left my staff grinning from ear to ear throughout the flight.

I realised that this was not a desperate attempt to look good to some spotted ‘big men’ on board. Every single passenger was treated with the highest level of respect. Strangely also, the in-flight announcements and address of the captain were rather less monotonous and audible. It had some modest sense of humour and clarity, not a display by an overzealous hostess trying too hard to pull a British-American-Nigerian accent.

I took time to evaluate the comfort of the seat, how less cramped up they are; the freshness of the headrest covers, which is a departure from those of some airlines that sometimes smell like they need a change. This mid-size aircraft somehow had good enough legroom and my six-foot-self had a truly comfy ride.

Then, refreshment came, and it was an improvement to the handouts of pastries and school-children snacks that I have come to terms with on local flights.

The aircraft itself looked exceptionally clean and smelled even better. I am certain it is not above 15 years and bears resemblance to the class of Europe’s EasyJet.

The entire flight was seamless. Take-off, mid-air turbulence handling, landing, and all, only point to the fact that we must have been piloted by experienced professionals.

At no point did I remember that I did not like flying.

Shortly after we landed, I started making further enquiries about the airline. I figured they were new and I garnered some more pleasant information about their business model, which makes reason for the level of excellence that we were served with on that flight.

I stumbled on a report that the airline was founded in 2018, in the middle of the aviation crisis, which saw some major airlines closing up. It was started as a virtual airline brokering flights through other airlines. I immediately spotted the ace factor, which is the fact that the business is founded on the resolve to solve the industry’s core challenges, not some big-budget illicit-money cleanup business kind of thing.

The carrier’s business model seeks to make aviation accessible to all Nigerian citizens through competitive pricing, according to local media. ValueJet comes on the heels of a dire situation with the outrageous flight cost, where one-way flight from Lagos to Abuja costs around $227, almost twice the average monthly salary in the country.

One of ValueJet’s management staff, Temitope Ajijola captures their essence in an interview, “ValueJet’s vision is ambitious. We see a world where everybody can fly. Our aim is to add value from the very first flight once we are set for business operations. Currently, only about 5% of Nigeria’s population can afford a flight ticket, according to available statistics, and ValueJet is looking to increase this number significantly through creative fare pricing.”

Adding the exceptional quality of service that I enjoyed on my flight with ValueJet to the laudable mission to build a formidable low-cost carrier, I realise that we are about to witness the explosive growth of a Nigerian aviation company that will easily become passengers’ favourite. The value of this kind of brand is that success will no longer be measured in monetary terms, but in the numbers of happy, loyal customers, and the entire economy will be better for it.

This singular experience made it a tradition for me to always look out for Valuejet whenever I’m doing my local runs by air.

Their dedication to passengers speaks of an organisation that is less focused on the bottom-line business objective of profit maximisation and is driven towards providing excellent value that in turn makes them the preferred team.

Seun Oloketuyi is Executive Producer
Best of Nollywood Awards

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19-Yr-Old Endurance Arrested After Defrauding A British Lady Of £450K And Using The Money To Buy Cars, Gold Chains, Others

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A 19-year-old  man, Iredia Endurance has been arrested by the operatives of Benin Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for alleged fraud.

According to a statement released by Wilson Uwujaren, spokesperson of the anti-graft agencym says Endurance was recently arrested by the Commission following a petition by one Chrstine Brown, a British citizen, alleging that the suspect defrauded her of £450,000.00.

“Upon arrest, the suspect confessed he received £250,000.00 from the complainant in Bitcoin, FedEx and gift cards. On what he did with the money, the suspect averred that they were expanded on cars, gold chains, and landed properties, among others.

Some of the items recovered from the suspect include mobile  phones, laptops, sim cards and landed property.” He added that the suspect will be charged to court as soon as investigations are concluded.

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Customers, PoS Operators, Companies Panic As CBN Slashes Withdrawal Limits

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The Central Bank of Nigeria has imposed fresh cash withdrawal limits on individuals and organisations, which will become effective on January 9, 2023.

According to a memo issued by the CBN to banks on Tuesday, individuals will only be able to withdraw N100,000 per week (from over-the-counter, point-of-sale machines or automated teller machines), while organisations can access N500,000 per week.

The memo signed by the CBN’s Director of Banking Supervision, Haruna Mustafa, directed banks to load only N200 and lower denominations into their ATMs. This means Nigerians will only be able to withdraw N20,000 per day from ATMs when the directive becomes effective.

The memo read, “The maximum cash withdrawal over the counter by individuals and corporate organisations per week shall henceforth be N100,000 and N500,000 respectively. Withdrawals above these limits shall attract processing fees of 5 per and 10 per, respectively.

“Third-party cheques above N50,000 shall not be eligible for payment over the counter, while extant limits of N10,000,000 on clearing cheques still subsist.

“The maximum cash withdrawal per week via Automated Teller Machine shall be N100,000 subject to a maximum of N20,000 cash withdrawal per day. Only denominations of N200 and below shall be loaded into the ATMs. The maximum cash withdrawal via the point of sale terminal shall be N20,000 daily.”

However, there is an exemption that allows up to N5m for individuals and N10m for corporate organisations once a month with certain requirements.

The CBN warned banks that any bank that would aid and abet the circumvention of this policy will attract severe sanctions.

PoS operators kick

Following the new directive, the National President, Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents of Nigeria, Victor Olojo, has said that point-of-sale operators would plan to protest as the policy was targeted at killing their source of livelihood.

Olojo said that the newly announced policy would have a negative impact on their business as it translated to the shutting down of PoS terminals.

He said, “This news is just breaking and a lot of PoS agents are already complaining bitterly. Some are calling for protests as this policy, which limits PoS transactions to N20,000, sends them out of business. Hence they have to return to their villages.”

Speaking on the impact of the new policy on individuals and the economy, the president said it would be really tough as Nigeria was still a cash-dominant society.

He said, “Nigerians should brace up, as this is a challenge that CBN is putting out to Nigerians to embrace technology. However, the difficulty would be felt as we still have a lot of transactions done with cash, especially those that are below the pyramid such as the market women and men who are petty traders, because this in essence means that once a bag of rice or flour is to be bought, which is above N20,000, it has to be via e-banking. Looking at it, how many of these people are technology-savvy?

“The CBN wants to achieve an agenda which is not exactly bad. However, a longer notice should have been given to those at the bottom of the pyramid. I believe that, eventually, the adoption would scale and people would have to get acquainted irrespective of the difficulty, embracing it in the long run.

“However, it is still very difficult because the technological infrastructure is still not there yet, and there are those who have had bad experiences with technology as well. The implication of this policy would slow down a lot and affect a lot of things, particularly those earning more than N20,000 daily.”

Olojo noted that his fears and concerns were that the policy was coming at a harsh period when the Nigerian economy was ill-prepared for it. He added that  there should be an adequate alternative before any process would be scrapped.

Also, a PoS operator, simply identified as Christian Onyema said, “The new CBN policy will affect our business because pegging daily transaction limit to N20,000 is not helpful for us. For instance, a customer who wanted to transact business came to withdraw N500,000 today, I made my gains and he was able to do his own business. This will no longer be possible by January when the policy takes effect. The economy will suffer and insecurity will rise too because some operators will definitely go out of jobs.”

Another operator who gave his name only as ‘Small’ said, “This will really affect PoS business, a situation where customers can’t withdraw more than N20,000 daily means those who withdraw more than that normally will be limited.”

Transporters react

The Deputy Managing Director of ABC Transport, Jude Nneji, however, lauded the project.

He said, “At least, it will limit some of these crimes. If somebody knows he can’t get cash from you, he won’t bother to attack you. If you also consider the cost of printing this money, you’ll want to use electronic means.”

When asked if this would not affect his transport business, he said, “No doubt, it’s going to encourage people to hoard funds but for people like us whose customers pay through electronic means, we don’t have a problem. However, we hope that government has good intentions too.”

The Chief Executive Officer, Rivers Link, Mr Obinna, said, “This will affect our business, some of us are businessmen and there may be things you want to buy that will be more than N20,000, and some of us may prefer cash, so it will surely affect businesses.”

Businesses lament

The Lagos State Chairman of the Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprise, Dr Adebayo Adams, said the policy would hit businesses, especially MSMEs.

“If other channels are well-organised, then it is good. However, every other thing is going to affect us because, as from December 15, 2022, most people will be skeptical about accepting old notes.

“Most people will not like to discard old naira notes with them because there is no point in taking away the one I have to the bank and find out the new naira notes are not yet available.

“How can you say I can’t access more than N100,000 in a week? What do I do with N100,000? So, it is going to have a serious effect on the local market. These people are selling on a daily basis at Ketu , Igboyi, Oyigbo market, most of them do not have PoS or ATM. So, it will affect the speed of transactions and movement of goods.

“Now, it is people with cash that will be able to buy goods. Because if I say I want to transfer and no one is taking the transfer from me, they will tell you they cannot accept that mode of payment because they have no bank account.

“Now, CBN is talking about N100, 000 a week, but how will that work when a bag of rice is N45,000? So, if I buy a bag of rice, won’t I buy something to eat? It is a very bad policy and will affect every small business owner because they won’t have money for transactional purposes.”

Wrong timing

The President of the Bank Customers Association of Nigeria,  Dr Uju Ogunbunka, said that the cashless policy’s intentions were understandable but the execution and timing were not right, stressing that these were areas where severe problems would emerge.

“From the cashless policy point of view, we should appreciate that, as much as possible, the government is trying to limit the use of cash for transactions, more so, now that they are redesigning the currency. And they may not have enough in print, so for it to go around, they have to find a way to limit us from using cash.

“The second thing is that the government wants to drive the use of online banking, which is good for our economy.  Unfortunately, there have been so many complaints about failed transactions.

“At least, to the best of my knowledge, there is hardly any week without complaints in the banking hall. You will see people shouting with regard to transfer failures. Have we put enough structure to take care of some of these things? The answer is, we are yet to, we are making progress, yes, but we should give enough room and time for some of these things to play out rather than short-circuit the system.

“If all of us, including market women and men, have to go online today, can the infrastructure carry all of us through successfully? This question should be able to deal with some of these things.

“Some of us do not need too much cash to operate. For instance, if I go to the bank in a week and withdraw N100,000, what will I be spending that money on? I mean that should be enough to use for one week. If I can do other transactions online, why not? But it is not everybody that can do this, particularly those who are trading. Most of them still depend on people coming with cash and, then, they will carry the cash to the bank to pay in. This means there will still be a need for people to have cash; otherwise, what we are going to tell people is that you have to hold on till you have cash to do your transaction if you cannot do online banking.

“And the aforementioned can stall businesses. For example, the market woman going to buy food stuffs needs physical cash. Where will she  do online banking with that? And can N20,000 today solve that problem for one week for a family? That’s not possible, so there might be a need for a rethink unless you are targeting people in the towns.

“Even in towns, I do not see the effectiveness of this policy let alone in the rural environs. It is a good policy, but we should streamline to see what is possible in the kind of economy we operate, especially with inflation at double- digit. The practical situation on ground does not support this policy.”

Good policy

A former President of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, Dr Sam Nzekwe, said that the CBN, in limiting withdrawals, was trying to reduce cash in circulation and drive financial inclusion, which was not a bad thing to do.

He said, “They are trying to limit cash in circulation so that people will have little cash. I think they are trying to drive financial inclusion with the policy.”

Nzekwe also said that with more money in the banks, the institutions would be able to provide financial interventions to those who needed it to boost the economy.

“With more money in banks, the banks can use the money for their financial intervention role in the economy,” he said,

He, however, urged the banks to ensure that Nigerians could trust their systems enough to keep their money there.

He noted the issue of people losing money in their bank accounts to cyber-attacks and fraudsters could discourage them from keeping money in banks.

Nzekwe urged the banks to address this issue and build more trust with Nigerians to drive financial inclusion and security in the country.

Credit: The Punch

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After Chatham House Outing, Tinubu Meets With UK Minister For Africa [PHOTOS]

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Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), met with Andrew Mitchell, the UK minister for Africa, Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office, on Tuesday.

The private meeting was held a day after the APC standard bearer spoke at the Chatham House in London.

Nasir el-Rufai, Kaduna state governor; Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house of representatives, and Kayode Fayemi, former governor of Ekiti state, were among those present at the meeting.

See the photos below;

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