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France reintroduces transit visa for Nigerians travelling to UK

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Nigerians travelling to the UK from January 1, 2021 via Air France-KLM will have to obtain an airport transit visa as France has reintroduced this additional travel document for citizens of certain nationalities including those from Nigeria.

An airport transit visa grants access to a traveller to pass through the international zone of an airport without entering the country’s territory.

A statement issued by Air France- KLM said the ATV had become necessary for these citizens to pass through France or the Netherlands following Brexit — which means the UK is no longer part of the European Union.

It also said citizens of the affected countries with British visa, long-stay visa or British residence permit must still have the ATV to pass through France or the Netherlands.

It listed the affected countries as Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Ghana.

Others are Guinea, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Senegal, Syria, Palestinians, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Sri Lanka.

“As from January 1, 2021, citizens of the following countries who are holders of a British visa, long-stay visa or a residence permit issued by the British authorities will need to be in possession of an airport transit visa (ATV) if they transit through France and or the Netherlands,”  the statement read.

But the airline said citizens of the listed countries holding a visa or residence permit from Canada, Japan, the USA or any other European country,  in addition to a UK visa/residence permit  are allowed to travel through France or the Netherlands without an ATV.

On December 24, the UK clinched a Brexit trade deal with the European Union (EU).

The new deal will almost certainly mean lower tariffs and costs for exporters than they would have faced if the UK had left the EU without an agreement.

The UK ceased to be a full member of the EU in January, following the Brexit vote on June 23, 2016.

Aviation

Air Peace set to commence Abuja-Gombe, Yola flights

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Air Peace says it is set to commence scheduled commercial flights into Gombe from Abuja.

The airline has also revealed plans to resume its Yola flight services.

The Chief Operating Officer of the airline, Oluwatoyin Olajide, disclosed this in a statement issued on Sunday.

It stated that the decision to commence the Abuja-Gombe-Abuja route was a reflection of Air Peace’s resolve to open up the North-East as the region was currently underserved.

The airline said, “As part of our strategic route expansion drive and the determination to provide key connections addressing the air travel needs of Nigerians while fostering economic development and unity, we are set to kick off Gombe operations and resume our Yola flight services very soon,” she said.

Already, the airline said it had set up the Gombe station and called on residents of the state to apply for the positions to be filled in the station.

Olajide also commented on the airline’s aircraft maintenance. She said, “We have 17 aircraft undergoing varying levels of maintenance overseas and once they start returning, we shall launch more routes and resume others that we temporarily suspended.”

She added that the two brand new 124-seat capacity E195-E2 jets (of the 13 ordered) recently received from Embraer would soon be deployed to boost domestic and regional flights.

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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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Bayelsa airport gets NCAA approval for commercial flights

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The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has given approval for Bayelsa airport to commence commercial flight operations.

Director-General of the NCAA, Nuhu Musa, presented the approval letter to Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, on Saturday, after an inspection of the airport and its facilities.

Musa said the airport met all airspace standards and is ready for daytime flight operations.

The NCAA DG said the approval followed the report of the agency’s inspection team which, prior to the visit, had certified that out of 29 gaps, the airport had been able to close 26.

He said other requirements were not safety-related and that work was already in progress to achieve night flight operations.

The DG said the agency had to limit flight operations to daytime, as the runway lights were still being installed.

Musa commended the state government for the quality of work done at the airport.

On his part, the Bayelsa State governor commended his predecessor, Seriake Dickson, for executing the project, after it had been on the drawing board of past administrations.

The governor said his administration was determined to ensure flight operations commenced as he set the machinery in motion to get the NCAA approval.

He said, “This is a dream come true for our state and our people. I thank God Almighty because this journey had been a winding one from my immediate past predecessor and I have been in the saddle for over a year waiting for this licence. Today, God made it possible.

“I also thank my predecessor, Senator Seriake Dickson. This airport had been on the drawing board, but he took the bull by the horns by starting the airport and virtually completing it. May I, on behalf of this government and the people of Bayelsa, appreciate him.

“As I came on board, having seen what he did, my administration had to cross the Ts and dot the Is.

“Having been briefed on certain requirements, I wasted no time in approving what was necessary to ensure that the airport was ready for use. Today, we have the approval for the airport to commence commercial flight operations.”

Diri said that other necessary facilities and equipment were in place and would soon be installed for full flight operations.

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