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FG suspends Lagos NIN registration over crowd

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The Federal Government may have suspended the National Identity Number registration process in Lagos office of the National Identity Management Commission.

This followed the motley crowd that thronged the office of the NIMC on Monday morning, which prompted the management to shut down the office.

A source at the headquarters of the commission said the decision to put the process on hold in Lagos was because of the embarrassing crowd that came for the NIN enrolment on the first day.

The source added that the fear of COVID-19 spread played a big role in halting the [rocess in Lagos until further notice.

Hundreds of people who visited the NIMC office at Ikeja lamented that they could not be attended to.

They accused the commission of wasting their time as a result of lack of good management.

One fellow claimed to have got to the place as early at 6am said he met over 400 people already in the queue.

PREMIUM TIMES also reported an 85-year-old man, Fatai Akinbile, who was at the NIMC office to correct his date of birth, as expressing how bitter he felt with the entire process.

“I came from Ajah, left the house very early. The issue is they wrote 1953 as my date of birth instead of 1935. I have made attempts to correct it and they referred me to Ikeja,” he said

Akinbile, who claimed he did not understand the announcement that SIM cards would be blocked, said he had been on the process for long and was really fed up.

“I have someone here that offered to help me but when I got here this morning, they say we cannot enter and they are not working,” he said.

Many people said the commission shut down abruptly after distributing forms to some of them.

“They chased everybody saying if we don’t go away, they will call the police. Of a truth, the police arrived shortly,” another person who declined giving his name said.

PREMIUM TIMES said it’s reporter saw police vehicles and some police officers at the entrance of NIMC office with the commission’s doors shut and no official present.

The Federal Government had announced last week that subscribers to all networks in the country are mandated to provide their NIN, else, they would be blocked from using their SIM cards.

The government gave two weeks deadline, after which SIM cards without NIN will be blocked.

Communicating the directive, the spokesperson for the NIMC said the major telephone networks must require all their subscribers to provide their NIN.

“The submission of NIN by subscribers to take place within two weeks (from today December 16, 2020 and end by 30 December, 2020).

“After the deadline, ALL SIMs without NINs are to be blocked from the networks.

“A Ministerial Task Force comprising the Minister and all the CEOs (among others) as members is to monitor compliance by all networks. Violations of this directive will be met by stiff sanctions, including the possibility of withdrawal of operating License,” the statement said.

Despite the short notice and outrage by Nigerians, the government said there would be no extension of the deadline.

In a bid to prevent their SIM cards from being blocked, hundreds of Lagos residents on Monday stormed the NIMC office at Alausa, Ikeja.

The office, which opened officially at 8am, had numerous people waiting at the gate as early as 5am to be registered.

The commission’s office was subsequently shut down and many of the enrollees dispersed.

Business

World Bank, FG move to end fuel subsidy

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The Federal Government and the World Bank have discussed further reforms to eliminate fuel and electricity subsidies in the country.

The Nigerian government had in March 2020 removed petrol subsidy after reducing the pump price of the product to N125 per litre from N145 on the back of the sharp drop in crude oil prices. But it re-emerged this year following the significant rise in oil prices.

The Federal Government’s removal of petrol subsidy and the increase in electricity tariff were in line with reforms being sought by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

“The recent introduction and implementation of an automatic fuel price formula will ensure fuel subsidies, which we have eliminated, do not reemerge,” the Federal Government told the IMF in the letter of intent dated April 21, 2020 with respect to its request for emergency financial assistance of $3.4bn.

The Minister of State of Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, said in July last year that the Federal Government had reached a conclusion that it could no longer bear the burden of petrol subsidy.

The IMF said in February this year that Nigeria had expressed strong commitment to avoid the return of fuel subsidy and to put an end to electricity tariff shortfalls by June this year.

In a report after the conclusion of its Article IV consultation with Nigeria, the Washington-based fund said the authorities highlighted important recent reforms undertaken despite a difficult macroeconomic environment.

It said, “They expressed strong commitment to prevent fuel subsidies from resurfacing and to fully eliminate electricity tariff shortfalls by mid-2021.

“They believe that lifeline tariffs and other relief measures are adequate to protect poorer households from increases in electricity prices and highlighted the benefits from higher and more predictable availability.”

The President, World Bank Group, Mr David Malpass, met with the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, on April 8 and discussed Nigeria’s ongoing COVID-19 response, and the need for fast deployment of vaccines.

The president and the minister ‘also discussed further reforms to phase out energy subsidies, noting the importance of compensatory measures for the poor and vulnerable’, the World Bank said on its website.

The World Bank had said in October that the Nigerian government had ‘taken important steps to reform its subsidy regime’.

It noted that the Nigerian government had eliminated petrol subsidy and established a market-based pricing mechanism with no price ceilings.

“The gasoline (petrol) price is set monthly by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency from market-based costs. When international petroleum product prices start to recover, the PPPRA will allow price increases accordingly,” it said in its Africa’s Pulse report.

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FG suspends Adeboye’s jet over expired documents

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The Federal Government through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has grounded a private chopper belonging to Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God at the Lagos airport, investigations by Sunday PUNCH has revealed.

It was learnt that the aircraft, AgustaWestland AW139 chopper, with registration number 5N-EAA, was suspended from flying over two weeks ago, following the expiration of some of its papers and spare parts.

The suspension, officials said, would also allow the regulator to conduct vital safety checks on its safety-critical components, especially some spare parts that are due for replacement.

Adeboye had last Saturday during a special meeting with all ordained ministers of the mission at the RCCG, Region 21, in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, called for drastic action against corrupt practices in all facets of Nigeria.

The RCCG leader, who flew a chopper to the venue, said he arrived late for the meeting because someone had requested a bribe from him to fly his chopper.

He said he had decided to embark on the trip via his chopper to avoid a possible gridlock on the busy Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

The 79-year-old mathematician-turned-preacher said, “I don’t give excuses because I have discovered long ago that only failures give excuses. But you must pray for Nigeria.

“Something must be done about corruption in this nation. All I can say is that I am this late because somebody wanted a bribe. And you know if you are expecting a bribe from me, you have to wait forever.

“But the devil has failed. And the devil will continue to fail. I decided to come by helicopter so that there won’t be a traffic jam that would tie me down on the expressway because I know what the devil could do.

“Then, I ran into something else. But by the grace of God, we are here.”

Although Sunday PUNCH could not ascertain who requested the alleged bribe from the revered servant of God, investigations by the paper revealed that the cleric’s chopper was suspended from flying by the regulatory authority over safety issues.

Multiple aviation sources confirmed that Adeboye could not fly his chopper with registration number 5N-EAA to the Ibadan programme but had to fly another aircraft reportedly belonging to Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel).

A top official of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, who is close to the operations of the two choppers belonging to the servants of God, said, “The team relating directly with Daddy G.O. should have told the man of God on time that his chopper had not been cleared by the NCAA and, as such, it couldn’t go on the Ibadan trip. They shouldn’t have waited till the last minute. The NCAA (aviation regulatory agency) that we have now is different from what it used to be. There is a new man in charge who always insists that things must be done properly as far as the safety of lives is concerned. The church’s protocol team should have told him that the NCAA has not cleared the aircraft and it may not clear it within a short time because certain procedure must be followed. As such, an alternative arrangement should have been made.”

The NAMA official, who chose to speak on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, further said, “On that last Saturday morning, when it later became obvious that the jet was not cleared to fly, they had to make an alternative arrangement with Bishop Oyedepo’s chopper. They had to quickly begin that process by filing the flight plan, etc. It was Bishop’s aircraft that Pastor Adeboye later flew to the event. He could not use his own.”

A top official of Omni-Blu Aviation, the airline operating the chopper for Adeboye, confirmed the development.

The official, who chose to speak on condition of anonymity, said a letter from Italy-based Leonardo, the manufacturer of Adeboye’s AW 139 helicopter, requesting the NCAA to grant a time extension on some spare parts that are due for replacement came late.

The spare parts due for replacement have been ordered from the manufacturer but they have yet to be shipped into Nigeria because they are usually produced on demand, according to Omni-Blu Aviation.

As such, the NCAA could not immediately grant the requested extension. Instead, the regulatory agency requested that comprehensive safety checks be conducted on the aircraft in line with standard aviation safety practice.

He said, “The NCAA that we have now is different from what it used to be. It always insists on standard. We don’t want any disappointing situation for anybody, especially for a globally reputed servant of God like Daddy G.O. It appears the man of God was not properly briefed. But we thank God an alternative arrangement was made to rescue the situation. Safety is first and paramount. No life is worth toying with, how much more that of a servant of God like Daddy G.O. As an airline, we won’t compromise safety no matter the pressure.”

The Omni-Blu official denied knowledge of any bribe request, either by the airline or aviation officials.

He, however, said it was not impossible that some people might have cashed in on the situation to demand a bribe.

“You know some people don’t fear God no matter what. They can even go to the extent of asking a servant of God for a bribe. So, it is not impossible. But on our part, I am not aware of such.”

As it stands, it is uncertain when Adeboye’s chopper will be allowed to fly.

However, findings revealed that NCAA had directed maintenance and safety checks to be conducted on the aircraft.

As such, the operator has secured a date for this at Aero’s maintenance hangar.

When contacted for comments, the Director-General, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, confirmed that the regulatory agency had suspended flights on the aircraft for safety reasons.

According to him, the NCAA does not often deal directly with individuals or owners of aircraft but the operator.

In this case, he said the NCAA only had business with the operator of the aircraft, Omni-Blu Aviation.

Nuhu said, “There are safety-related issues that must be resolved before the aircraft will be approved for resumption of flights. Safety is the paramount consideration in all approvals given by the NCAA. No matter what, we must not sacrifice safety for flights; that is the whole idea.”

When contacted, the spokesperson for RCCG, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, said the matter was being resolved already.

On the bribery allegation, he said the church would not want to take issue with the aviation authorities on the matter.

Olubiyi said, “We will not want to take issue with the aviation authorities but I can assure you that an amicable solution is being found to the issue.”

-Sunday PUNCH

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Business

Uber, Bolt drivers want fares increased, threaten strike

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The e-cab operators, under the aegis of Professional E-hailing Drivers and Private Owners Association (PEDPA), have threatened to embark on an industrial action from Monday April 19 over low fares and condition of service.

National President of PEDPA, Idris Shonuga, who spoke at a news conference in Lagos, called for immediate upward review of e-cab fares to reflect the current economic reality in the country.

He also demanded adequate welfare package for drivers and compensation for the families of those that lost their lives or are permanently disabled in the line of duty.

He said over 95 per cent of e-hailing transactions were done through Uber and Bolt platforms.

Shonuga also said that more than 15 drivers had lost their lives, while some had been permanently disabled in accidents in the course of the service.

More than 20 others had also lost their lives through kidnapping or killed by ritualists without any compensation from the operators, the association said.

Shonuga said that the association was considering taking legal action to seek remedies against the e-hailing companies if their demands were not met.

He said that the companies had refused to review its pricing despite unprecedented increases in the price of fuel, vehicles spare parts, food items, and other essential commodities in the country.

“In a quest to work and harmoniously at resolving some issues, the association wrote several letters to the companies which were not attended to, showing nonchalant attitude towards our plight.

“Your companies have failed, refused and neglected to honour our request for a meeting to discuss issues beneficial to all e-hailing drivers in Nigeria.”

“Instead of fixing a new and reasonable fare in line with inflation, the companies have recklessly continued to maintain the low fare, thereby, impoverishing hard-working young Nigerians who are diligently and lawfully trying to make a decent living,” Shonuga said.

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