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Hotel investor counts losses, as COVID-19 threatens worker’s retention 

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By Ebere Chibuzor
Hotel owners and investors in Nigeria are reportedly battling with the frustration of surviving the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic since early March 2020, as they are beginning  to count their losses  while muting the idea of relieving  most of their workers to keep business afloat.
They lament that hotel patronage has significantly  dropped to a record low thereby affecting their earnings. Owners of some of these tourism establishment in the country have sought all means of keeping their businesses  alive while retaining staff but the negative impact of the pandemic has dealt a huge blow on them.
Blessing Clifford, an investor in the industry, in a chat with our correspondent recently told  The Trending News that hotel business in Nigeria,  especially in the cities,  have suffered  tremendous hit, thereby suggesting that government  at all levels should come to the aids of investors by offering them tax break  and other major incentives so that they can gather enough momentum to effectively run their businesses.
She expressed worry over government officials’ attitudes towards tax collection from hotel operators. She noted that since patronage has dropped significantly, the government at all levels need to show some sympathy towards operators.
 Clifford who is also  the General Manager, Britannia Hotel and Suites, Lagos claimed that  such development would support hoteliers to remain afloat in this difficult times. She specifically charged the government to reduce Consumption  Tax and Value Added Tax (VAT)  so as to enable the sector  retain sizable numbers of  workers, according her, it is the responsibility of the government to  offer tax rebate and palliatives to these private sector at a period of global pandemic.
Discussing how she has managed to survived the aftermath of the pandemic, she disclosed that her  background as a scientist gave her an  edge  over  other competitors. She said, “As soon as the management team got hint about the arrival of covid-19 pandemic in the country, we quickly shutdown the hotel  even before  instruction from the  Lagos state government on closing business establishment within the state. We were fast about doing the needful and so as not to expose our guests  to the pandemic.
“We observed  and still observing all  precautionary measures as directed by the government. As its currently stands, we are doing rooms spacing. This is how it works, among the 31 rooms, we intentionally do not use the whole 31 rooms due to  the love  for our guests and  we  do not want them to be exposed to the virus, every staff were taken to the Government approved test centres and were certified safe,  they were employed and deployed them to various departments.
She however noted that the prospect of hospitality industry  in Nigeria is high because Nigerian are in the look out for good hotels. So the business is lucrative but had recently been affected by the recent outbreak of the novel pandemic.
“Today,  we are recording low occupancy, this has joined other numerous challenges including epileptic power supply.
She advised the government to focus more on maintaining  tourism facilities spread across the country including the National Arts Theater and reputable cultural festivals including the Argungi fishing festival that have continued to serve as income earner.
Speaking about some of factors that made Britannia Hotel a delight  Clifford  said, “Britannia hotel offers  wide range of  services such as laundering, internet, sight seeing and also have facilities like VIP bar, bush bar, restaurant as well.
” With its serene environment in Ajao Estate, Lagos, our hotel uniquely offers in-house guests and fun seekers touch of home away from home services.
“We train and retrain our staff. And in Britannia we do not joke with our staff welfare.
“Security is paramount and we have both internal and external security and so there is zero tolerance for any  form of crime or criminality activities.
In a concluding  chat with our correspondent,  she revealed that tourism industry must be given topmost priority due to its ability to generate more revenue for the country.

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166 nations to attend UN tourism conference in Lagos

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Delegates from 166 member countries of the United Nations (UN) World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) are billed to participate in its 2022 conference scheduled to hold in Lagos between November 14 and 16.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made this known on Saturday in Lagos.

National tourism and culture organisations, international organisations, destination management organisations and stakeholders from the public and private sectors are expected at the conference.

Also expected to participate are civil society organisations working on tourism, cultural and creative industries and the media.

Mohammed told a news conference that delegates would include the UNWTO top executives, officials and experts led by the secretary-general, ministers and officials of tourism, culture and arts ministries of member states.

There would be two parallel experts’ workshops, a seminar on tourism and the creative industry and a conference on linking tourism, culture and the creative industry.

The minister noted that there would also be exhibitions on gastronomy, fashion, movie, music, visual arts and more, as well as a special programme on the creative industry tagged “A Day with Nollywood.’’

“According to the UNWTO, tourism is an activity in which the visitors’ essential motivation is to learn, discover, experience and consume the tangible and intangible attractions and products in a destination.

“It has positive socio-economic impact, preserves cultural, historical heritage and facilitates harmony and understanding among people.

“The organisation described the creative industry, which includes advertising, architecture, arts and crafts, design, film, video, photography, music, performing arts, and publishing, as the lifeblood of the creative economy.

“It says it is also a growth driver for sustainable development,’’ the minister said. (NAN)

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FG: We’re investigating airport officials helping travellers evade COVID-19 requirements

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The federal government says it is investigating reports of corrupt airport officials who take bribes from travellers and help them evade COVID-19 quarantine requirements.

Speaking on Monday during the national briefing of the presidential steering committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), said the government has taken note of the challenges facing travellers with regards to COVID-19 requirements.

There have been recent reports of corrupt airport officials who help passengers travelling of the country evade COVID-19 test and also procure fake vaccine cards for the travellers.

In December,  undercover investigation at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, had exposed how government officials forged COVID-19 test results in exchange for bribes.

“The PSC has taken note of the challenges raised by travelers that visit the National International Travel Portal in compliance with travel protocols,” Mustapha said.

“It has similarly noted with dismay, fraudulent activities perpetuated at our international airports by on-duty staff, who extort money out of those who equally wish to evade quarantine requirement. The authorities are conducting necessary investigation in to various reports received.

“Notable progress is still being made in the area of vaccine. Over 3.5m doses of Pfizer is being expected from the US Government this month while about 4m doses of Astrazeneca is being expected early next month. Nigeria will be receiving over 1m doses of J&J shipments on a monthly basis. The PSC is committed to access enough vaccines for the 70% eligible persons in the country in record time.”

Mustapha, who is also the chairman of the presidential steering committee on COVID-19, said there’s need for more caution among Nigerians despite the declining global COVID-19 cases.

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Buhari to world leaders: Reject coups in West Africa

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President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday tasked the international community to stand up against the recent trend of power hijack by the military in some African countries.

President Buhari, who spoke at the 76th Session of the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York, the United States of America (USA), warned that rising cases of coup in West Africa were eroding the democratic gains of the past decades.

According to the President, the unconstitutional takeover of power had sometimes been in reaction to unilateral change of constitution by some leaders, admonishing those elected to lead countries to reject the temptation of staying beyond their constitutional term of office.

He affirmed Nigeria’s support of efforts by ECOWAS, AU and the UN to address this growing challenge, saying “as leaders of our individual member states, we need to adhere to the constitutional provisions of our countries, particularly on term limits. This is one area that generates crisis and political tension in our sub-region.”

The President urged the international community not only to deal with the symptoms of conflict but also the immediate causes that fuel conflicts in the first place.

“These include poor and undemocratic governance, human rights abuses, poverty, ignorance, injustice and inequalities.

“There are no easy solutions to these conditions. They require long term investments and more effective international cooperation.

“In this connection, my delegation underscores the importance of promoting peaceful, unfettered, and inclusive participation of states in global actions towards conflict prevention.

“This will facilitate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union Agenda 2063,” he said.

The President’s speech, delivered from the podium of the General Assembly hall, addressed other matters on the international agenda of interest to Nigeria, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Arms Trade Treaty, climate change, terrorism, anti-corruption, debt suspension, international trade, UN Security Council Reform, Palestinian Question and racial discrimination, among others.

On international trade, President Buhari called for reforms that will engender recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, build resilience to future shocks and pursue transformative development strategies that can deliver the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

He said: “Nigeria reaffirms that international trade is an engine for development and sustained economic growth, as well as the global eradication of poverty.

‘‘My delegation would like to reaffirm the critical role that a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system can play in stimulating economic growth and development.

‘‘Fair and equitable trade would eventually eliminate the need for aid.

‘‘My country and indeed all African countries do not intend to stay indefinitely looking for aid. All we need is a fair and equitable system of international trade.”

On the issue of debt in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian leader urged G20 countries to extend its debt suspension initiatives to all developing countries, least developed countries, small island developing states facing fiscal and liquidity challenges.

The President also called for outright debt cancellation for countries facing the most severe challenges.

“Developing countries have been faced with unsustainable debt burdens even before the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of new wave of deepening debt, where vital public financial resources are allocated to external debt servicing and repayments at the expense of domestic health and financing for critical developmental needs.

“I must commend the current initiatives by the international financial institutions and the G20 aimed at significantly mitigating the economic situation of the indebted countries and urge for more efforts in this regard.

“Therefore, there is an urgent need to consider expansion and extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to include all Developing, Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States facing fiscal and liquidity challenges.

“In addition, a review of the eligibility criteria for debt suspension, including outright cancellation, is needed for countries facing the most severe challenges.’’

The President also used the occasion of the speech to renew his advocacy for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, outlining steps Nigeria has taken to achieve “moderate success” in containing the virus and halt its deadly onslaught in the country.

“Nigeria remains grateful for the assistance received from our partners and friends all over the world.

‘‘Vaccination is the key to our safe emergence from the pandemic.

“We fully support the COVAX initiative from which we have benefitted. We also thank the United States of America, Turkey, India, China, European Union and others for the vaccines provided.

‘‘Despite the acknowledgement, however, I would like to reiterate my call for a fairer and more equitable distribution of vaccines to all countries so that, together, we can fight and contain the pandemic.

“The rising wave of newer and more contagious strains makes this even more urgent. No country can afford the socio-economic implications of prolonged shutdown. It is imperative to underscore that no one is safe until everyone is safe.’’

On Nigeria’s intervention to halt the pandemic, the President said: ‘‘At the outset, we recognised detection and contact tracing to be important tools in combating the virus.

‘‘In this connection, from a mere four laboratories with testing and detection capacities, we ramped up the facilities to over 140 centres today.

‘‘Similarly, we built isolation centres and emergency hospital wards in record time all over the country. We carry out genomic sequencing in designated laboratories across the country with a view to detecting variants in circulation.

‘‘In addition, over 40,000 health care workers have recently been trained on Infection, Prevention and Control measures with the support of various partners.

‘‘Through the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, we have established 16 infectious disease treatment centres located within our Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres.’’

On the fight against terrorism, the President told the UN General Assembly that the Nigerian security forces have recorded considerable success.

‘‘As a result of the renewed vigour of Nigeria’s military, many terrorist fighters are voluntarily surrendering to our security forces,’’ he said.

The President noted that while terrorism continues to dominate security discourse worldwide, in Nigeria, the Boko Haram terrorists group, though fragmented by internal strife and weakened by our defence forces, is still active and preying on soft targets.

‘‘Nigeria will continue to work closely with UN Counter-Terrorism bodies and entities with a view to bringing this scourge to an end, ’’ he said, adding that the country would spare no effort in addressing the challenges of terrorism posed by the activities of Boko Haram in North-East Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, as well as banditry in the North-West and North-Central Nigeria.

‘‘I and three other Nigerian Heads of State served actively as peace keepers and Nigeria continues to support peacekeeping efforts. We know the sacrifice involved; we also know how important peacekeeping is for those in vulnerable situations.

‘‘Nigeria will continue to play its part fully in supporting United Nations peacekeeping operations within Africa and beyond,’’ he said.

The Nigerian leader also renewed the call for the reforms of the UN Security Council, stressing that intergovernmental negotiations on the issue was taking too long.

‘‘No reform of the United Nations system is more urgent than that of the Security Council. Stakeholders around the world are asking how such power could be concentrated, with scant representation.

‘‘The intergovernmental negotiations have taken too long, some 15 years.

‘‘We must avoid going in circles. Consensus has been achieved in some of the elements of this reform, especially that of the representation of Africa on the basis of the Elzuwini consensus and the Sirte Declaration.

‘‘It is unreasonable to expect unanimity in this matter. The issue, indeed, is about justice, not unanimity. Without justice, the legitimacy (even efficacy) of our Organisation is called to question.

‘‘We can and must make substantial, irreversible progress on Security Council reform in the current session,’’ he said.

On the Palestinian question, the President encouraged Israel and Palestine to re-engage in dialogue based on relevant UN resolutions and Initiatives.

‘‘The two-state solution has the support of the international community and is widely acknowledged as the path to lasting peace,’’ he said.

President Buhari expressed deep concern at the devastating effects of small arms and weapons, calling for accountability in conventional arms trade.

“Nigeria remains deeply concerned over the illicit trade, transfer, and circulation of small arms and light weapons. Their excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread in many regions of the world are having devastating humanitarian and socio-economic consequences, especially on the continent of Africa.

“It is on this note that my delegation calls for the worldwide application of the Arms Trade Treaty to codify accountability in conventional arms trade, which is critical to the security of nations. This is in recognition of the need for a broad-based global partnership in the ongoing battle against trans-border crimes, including terrorism and piracy.”

President Buhari concluded his UN speech at the 76th annual general debate with praise for the outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He also pledged Nigeria’s unalloyed support for multilateralism and faith in the UN as the pre-eminent body for solving current and emerging global challenges.

‘‘Our organisation is at the peak of the multilateral system.

‘‘It is also the pre-eminent body for solving our current and emerging challenges, and for developing norms that are protective of us all. We need to re-commit to it, rejuvenate it to better serve us.

‘‘Nigeria re-affirms its faith in the United Nations and is further resolved to continue to work with all Member-States for peace and security, development and the protection of human rights.

‘‘In the current moment, hope for these, is dependent on how we assist each other to get Covid-19 out of all countries, regardless of their classification. We can and must do so.

‘‘In this regard, let me close my statement by paying special tribute to a great and humane internationalist, and an exemplary practitioner of multilateral cooperation. I am speaking of Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Federal Republic of Germany. As she exits the stage, we wish her well,’’ he said.

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