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Omicron: Airline, tour operators lament losses as S’Arabia bans flights from Nigeria

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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has barred all flights from Nigeria effectively ending all hopes for those planning to attend the lesser hajj.

The Saudi Arabia authority was the latest country to slam its doors against Nigeria over the outbreak of Omicron variant of COVID-19.

An official statement issued by Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) directed to all airports and private aviation operators in the Kingdom ordered suspension of all flight coming “directly or indirectly” from Nigeria.

Incidentally, Saudi came with the restriction order barely seven days after the country recorded her index case of Omicron from a passenger returning from North Africa into the country.

The statement said: “The Kingdom is suspending all incoming flights and entry for non-nationals coming directly or indirectly from Nigeria, except those who have spent a period of not less than 14 days in another country from which they are allowed to come.

“Home quarantine will be applied for a period of five days to Saudi citizens coming from the mentioned country, provided PCR examination on the first day and the fifth day, regardless of immunisation status, turns negative.

“Failure to comply with the circular issued by GACA is an explicit violation of government’s orders. Legal procedures shall be initiated against violators who will be held responsible.”

A source from the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), who confirmed the suspension of passengers coming into the Kingdom from Nigeria, said NAHCON is still expecting official communication from Saudi authority regarding the new travel restriction. The Commission, however, insisted that the measure would not hamper its preparation for 2022 Hajj.

Meanwhile, the suspension of passengers into Saudi Arabia will hamper thousands of Nigerians who have already made preparations, including payment, to perform lesser Hajj.

A source from Azman Airline revealed that over 400 passengers who are set to depart Nigeria on Sunday for lesser Hajj would be left stranded by the restriction order.

The source said local airline may be compelled to refund over N160 million air ticket fare to passengers whose journey to the holy land has been abruptly aborted.

“The sudden notice will cause the airline a lot of economic loss. While our flight scheduled to depart on Sunday has been aborted, we have similar number of passengers returning home from Saudi.

“While the airline is restricted from taking passengers, it is allowed to come with empty large body aircraft to ferry our passengers back to Nigeria. This will cost about N30 million to fuel the aircraft. It is really a huge loss,” he lamented.

Vice President, National Travel Agency of Nigeria (NATAN), Northern zone, Alhaji Abdulrazaq Ibrahim, noted over 600 members of the association would suffer huge losses to the Kingdom’s action.

He said the order came when the association with over 400 subscribers in Kano State alone, have invested huge amount on passengers’ airlines, visa and accommodation ahead of the lesser Hajj at the holy land.

Though Abdulrazaq regretted that the action is coming when members were just recovering from major economic crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, which saw the cancellation of Hajj, he hoped the suspension would not last longer than necessary.

President Muhammadu Buhari had last month performed the Umrah (lesser Hajj) at Makkah, Saudi Arabia, while on a trip to the country for the Future Investment Initiative Summit.

Recall that earlier in the year (June), Saudi Arabia had cancelled hajj for all foreign pilgrims. NAHCON had decribed it then as an act of God.

A statement by the Head, Public Affairs, Hajia Fatima Sanda Usara, had said no matter how painful the cancellation was, the commission respects the decision of Saudi Arabia and have accepted it as Allah’s divine design.

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Nigerian students’ association threatens to shut down all international airports over prolonged ASUU’s strike

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ASUU to begin fresh strike

The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Southwest Zone D has threatened to shut down all international airports over the failure of the Nigerian government to address the lingering strike action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities and other staff unions.

Coordinator of the NANS Zone D, Adegboye Olatunji in a statement said the students had waited long enough for the government to resolve the crisis.

He added that students would take the bull by the horns and no longer keep quiet, pointing out that President Muhammadu Buhari’s position on the crisis could ruin their future.

The statement read, “It is timely and urgent to address this press conference today with a view to putting an end to the long lingering strike action of ASUU and ASUP (Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics), a total reformation of the educational sector.

“The Leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students Southwest (Zone D) in conjunction with the National Association of University Students Southwest (NAUS) has taken it upon herself to categorically stand against the dilapidated state of the educational sector in Nigeria.

“We are at a time when Nigerian Students have lost hope and do not know what’s next on the radar. ASUU strike has been on for over 3 months without forgetting the ASUP warning strike of 2 weeks.

“We have also waited for long to see if the Federal Government will dance to the music of Nigerian students who have been clamouring for an end to the ASUU strike but the reverse is the case. We’ve had several press conferences, granted several interviews, and held several meetings to plead with both ASUU and Federal Government. Our future is been jeopardised. We’re in a country where age is a key factor in labour market.

“Aviation unions gave a 2-day warning strike on shut down of flight operations. A meeting was scheduled by the Federal Government and strike action was called off in less than 24hours because the first-class citizens would be affected. But it is so obvious that none of them is affected by ASUU/ASUP Strike. They have their children all over the world enjoying a smooth educational system.

“On Monday, May 16th, 2022, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris was arrested over alleged money laundering and diversion of public funds of at least N80 Billion by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Where is the integrity of the government preaching against corruption? How much of the public funds would have settled the educational sector and put an end to the yearly ASUU/ASUP Strike action.

“For so long, ASUU/ASUP strike has been ongoing and the Federal Government has not been showing concern through the Minister of Education.

“We are ready to take the bull by the horns as Nigerian students will not keep silent and watch our future being ruined by the prolonged ASUU/ASUP Strike.

“According to the Commandment of Solidarity, we’re on the last C of ALUTA which is Confrontation. This is the time to call on all Nigerian students across all zones to come out in mass to take over all international airports in the country. Nigerian students are tired of the long-overdue strike action.

“The leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students Southwest (Zone D) in conjunction with the National Association of University Students (NAUS) hereby declares a massive protest to shut down all international airports in Nigeria. We must state categorically to the Federal Government that all activities shall be shut down by over twenty-two million five hundred and twenty-seven (22,575,000) Nigerian students across Southwest Nigeria until ASUU / ASUP Strike is called off totally.”

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VIDEO: Tension as Okada riders, policemen clash in Lagos

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There is tension in the Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos over an attempt by policemen to enforce the state government ban on the operation of commercial motorcycle operators also known as Okada riders.

The state government had on Wednesday issued a total ban on the activities of the Okada riders in six local government areas of the state over the killing of a sound engineer, David Imoh, at Lekki.

Policemen from Onireke Police Station, Ojo, had impounded some commercial motorcycles for operating along the Mile 2 – Badagry expressway, an action which the riders resisted.

The riders attempted to overrun the station and possibly set free some of their members who were arrested by the policemen.

The riders set fire in the middle of the road, while the owners of vehicles abandoned them by the side of the road due to the chaos.

The crisis led to a stampede as pedestrians fled for fear of being caught up in the crossfire.

Moreso, the incident created heavy vehicular movement on both sides of the road.

While the policemen fired several shots into the air to disperse the commercial motorcycle operators, the riders themselves pelted the officers with stones, daring the policemen to come after them.

A yet to be ascertained number of persons sustained different wounds as they tried to run away from the trouble zone.

Presently, a combined team of anti-riot policemen and some soldiers have been deployed to return normalcy to the area.

WATCH THE VIDEO OF THE CLASH BELOW:

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Army Major commits suicide 3 days to court-martial verdict

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A former Battalion Commanding Officer who led the fight against Boko Haram in the North East, Major UJ Undianyede, is said to have committed suicide.

According to sources, he killed himself less than 72 hours to the verdict of a court-martial trying him for alleged military infractions during the war.

The sources, who confirmed the incident last night, said the Major killed himself on Monday on the premises of the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna, with his service pistol.

“I think he killed himself because of the judgment of the court-martial which has been fixed for tomorrow (today, May 19). We only learnt about his death today (Wednesday).

“In prosecuting the war, the Major with some of his colleagues allegedly committed some infractions for which he was being tried at the 1 Division in Kaduna,” one of the sources said.

The offences listed against the deceased officer by the court martial in the 1 Division included misappropriation of funds, abandonment of military post, insubordination, and desertion, among others.

Another source attributed the Major’s death to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), noting that he had been in the North East for some time battling Boko Haram terrorists.

The Major, a Course 55 Regular Officer and other members of his class, were said to be due for promotion to the rank Lieutenant Colonel this September.

When contacted, the spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, said he had not been briefed.

However, the Public Relations Officer of the NDA, Major Bashir Jajira, dismissed the report, saying no officer of the academy was involved in suicide.

“No personnel of the academy was involved in suicide as reported, and in fact, our cadets are presently in Kachia for combat shooting training, they are not in the academy. So, no such training took place.”

In the same vein, the Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, 1 Division Headquarters, Kaduna, Major Musa Yahaya stated that he was not aware of any court-martial taking place in the division as earlier reported.

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