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Omicron: Nigeria threatens UK, Canada, others

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The Federal Government has sent a strong warning to the four countries which recently placed Nigeria on their “red list” in the wake of the discovery of COVID-19 Omicron variant.

The United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Argentina recently imposed restrictive measures on Nigeria, specifically barring flights from the country into theirs.

The government also gave further insight into  its plan to place on its red list countries that have placed Nigeria on theirs over the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Government’s clarification came on a day the Daily mail of London reported that the United Kingdom would scrap the travel red list this week, and have it replaced with testing for fully vaccinated people.

Acting Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee PSC on COVID-19 and Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, gave the warning at a briefing in Abuja.

On the diplomatic spat between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates UAE, Sirika said as of 4pm yesterday, he had not received the purported letter from the UAE which barred Air Peace flights to Nigeria.

He said Nigeria took the business of governance very seriously and would rather wait to receive the UAE’s letter through internationally recognized diplomatic channels, rather than the social media.

As part of its principle of reciprocity with other countries, the Federal Government had at the weekend concluded plans to retaliate discriminatory measures put in place by those countries against Nigeria.

Nigeria currently has 11 cases of the Omicron variant, a far cry from what obtains in the four countries which have higher figures.

At Monday’s briefing of the PSC, Sirika said if the affected countries failed to heed calls to reverse the restrictive measures, the PSC would meet again to respond appropriately.

He said; “With the emergence of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, now spreading very fast globally, Nigeria has continued to study developments and has deployed science and data to measure the risks to our citizens, especially, the dangers of importation.

“The PSC wishes to assure Nigerians that it has escalated all surveillance and control measures around our country. It has similarly ramped up vaccination of eligible citizens and residents, while making provisions for booster shots for those fully vaccinated.

“The PSC is working with mandate Ministries to address the issues surrounding the restriction imposed by some countries on travelers from Nigeria on account of the Omicron variant. While each country is entitled to put in place measures to protect its citizens. Nigeria has similar responsibilities.

‘’However, based on existing relationships, Nigeria has initiated diplomatic steps to make these countries reverse their course. This is on-going in the interest of all parties concerned and we expect that positive results would emerge within the next one week.

“The PSC also evaluated the developments on the relationship between Nigeria and the UAE and we are pleased to inform you that the position of the Federal Government is in line with established International Civil Aviation Organization ICAO Protocols and the spirit of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement, BASA, signed with the UAE.

‘’Our sovereignty remains paramount and mutual respects shall be our guiding principle in as much as it should be in the best interest of Nigeria.

“If UK, Canada and others do not delist Nigeria from the red list, the truth is that COVID-19 is scientific and its management is scientific. We believe science is factual and we are deploying measures to save humans from dying.

‘’We strongly believe that they will respond and delist Nigeria. If not, it doesn’t make any sense for us to continue to put our citizens at risk. We will take the necessary steps to protect our citizens. After all, the Federal Government of Nigeria under Buhari’s administration has done extremely well in the management of COVID-19 till date”.

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Google set to invest $9.5bn in US

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Google has announced plans to invest $9.5bn in its US offices and data centers around the country in 2022, up from more than the $7bn it spent in 2021.

According to CNN, the big bet on office space was coming at a point Google was embracing a hybrid work model. The Alphabet-owned company has called for many of its employees to work in an office three days a week after two years of being fully remote.

The Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet and Google, Sundar Pichai, said, “It might seem counterintuitive to step up our investment in physical offices even as we embrace more flexibility in how we work.

“Yet we believe it’s more important than ever to invest in our campuses and that doing so will make for better products, a greater quality of life for our employees, and stronger communities.”
Google said it would open an office in Atlanta this year and continue to develop and expand office space in Austin and New York. It added that it planned to continue investing in data centers in Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee, among other states.

As part of the announcement, Google said it expected to create at least 12,000 new full-time jobs at the company this year.

Google and other tech companies were among the first businesses to shift to remote work when the pandemic hit in early 2020. But that shift always appeared to be temporary. Like others in Silicon Valley, Google had previously invested billions in expansive campuses and lavish office benefits for workers.

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European markets pull back amid doubts over latest Russian pledges over Ukraine

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European stocks retreated on Wednesday following the latest round of talks between Russia and Ukraine, aimed at finding a solution to the conflict.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 0.8% in early trade, with autos shedding 1.9% to lead losses, while oil and gas stocks gained 1.7%.

In terms of individual share price movement, Finland’s Nokian Tyres fell 6.6%, while Sweden’s Lundin Energy added 4.7%.

Investor sentiment was boosted on Tuesday following negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian officials in Turkey, at which Russia’s deputy defense minister claimed Moscow had decided to “drastically” cut back its military activity near Ukraine’s capital.

Alexander Fomin, who spoke following the talks in Istanbul, said Russia would slow its military operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv in order for peace talks to progress. Russia previously claimed that it would reduce military operations in other parts of Ukraine but then continued its advance.

Growing hope for a cease-fire appeared to boost investor sentiment Tuesday, as Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 200 points, or 0.6%. S&P 500 futures also climbed 0.6%, while Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 0.7%. Meanwhile, the price of U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil, which spiked on the heels of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fell more than 4% to $100 per barrel.

Doubts have set in over the pledge, however, and while the Russian military has begun moving some of its troops in Ukraine away from areas around Kyiv to positions elsewhere in Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby warned the troop movements do not amount to a retreat.

Shares in Asia-Pacific were mixed in Wednesday trade as investors watch for developments surrounding the war in Ukraine. Stateside, traders are keeping tabs on a slew of key economic reports, while also monitoring the Federal Reserve’s planned interest rate hikes.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey on Tuesday showed 11.3 million job openings, higher than the 11.1 million expected. The ADP will also release its private payrolls data ahead of the closely watched monthly jobs report, on Friday.

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Lagos Assembly kicks against harassment of residents by police

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Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, yesterday, cautioned police in the state against harassment, intimidation and extortion of residents.

Obasa said this on the floor of the House when lawmakers honoured outgoing Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, who has been promoted to Assistant Inspector-General, and is due to retire in January 2022.

Obasa said Odumosu was honoured as the first Commissioner of Police in the state to stand before the lawmakers and address Lagosians on his experience policing the state.

The Speaker thanked Odumosu for his openness and responsiveness to issues affecting the peace of the state.

“It is important to call on those behind you to know that the relationship between the police and the people need to be constantly improved upon,” Obasa said, adding that men of the Nigeria Police Force need to build more trust among the people.

“Everybody must be treated with respect, dignity and honour. And that is how we can earn respect. Policing should not be about harassment and extortion but building trust among the people and making them comfortable,” Obasa said.

The Commissioner of Police, who led a team of officers to the House, thanked the lawmakers for their support. According to him, nothing could have been achieved in terms of security and peace in the state without assistance of the House.

He said he would remain grateful to Lagosians for making it possible for him and his team to effectively manage the security of the state.

Odumosu, who described Lagos as ‘mini-Nigeria’, said proactivity of the Assembly led to the creation of laws that helped the police remain successful in the state.

He said the Cultism Prohibition Law also helped to reduce illegal associations in tertiary institutions in the state and enlightened property owners and residents.

“We promise to continue to excel in providing watertight security for people of the state,” he told the lawmakers. He also promised he would encourage his successor to sustain the relationship between the police and the House, while urging the lawmakers to extend their support to his successor.

“Policing Lagos is not a tea party. Without the laws in Lagos, it would have been difficult to police the state. Don’t get tired, don’t relent in making laws that would make Lagos maintain its place as the most peaceful state in Nigeria,” he said.

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