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Aviation Fuel Crisis: NCAA threatens to Shut down Nation”s Airspace over security of Air Travellers

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**”As Reps Order Regulatory Authorities to end Cartels In Aviation sector

***NNPC assures of Availability of Product

The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority may be forced to shut down the nation’s airspace to ensure safety of Nigerian travellers unless something urgently is done to address the current situation in the industry, the Director General of the agency, Captain Musa Nuhu on told the House of Representatives

Captain Nuhu spoke just as the House directed the Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority to do everything possible to dismantle the cartel growing in the industry

There a sudden hike in the prices of aviation fuel to the current price of N670 per litre from its usual price of N190 and the non availability of the product.

But Executive Director, Distribution Systems, Storage and Retailing Infrastructure of the
Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority, Ogbogu Ukoha insisted that there was enough jet A1 in the country to last for 34 days.

Speaking at a meeting between the Leadership of the House led by Deputy Speaker, Rep. Ahmed Idris Wase over the current scarcity of jet A1, the NCAA boss who expressed surprise at the sudden increase in Jet A1 said the safety of passengers is s key to his mandate, pointing out that with the way things are going currently, he may be forced to shut down some airline and by extension, the airspace to ensure safety.

He said “I don’t want to appear before any committee either here in the House or in the Senate to explain what happened to airline ABCD. So, we must do something fast to address this situation so that things will not get out of hand.”

He said that currently, flights are being delayed or cancelled as a result of supposed scarcity of aviation fuel and the sudden increase in prices which he said has been happening on a daily basis.

He said as a result of the increase in the cost of operation of the airlines, they might be forced to shut down their operation, an action which he said will have adverse effect on the economy of the country.

But the NMDPRA Executive Director who said the role of the agency was to regulate the industry and issue licenses to importers of the product said from his records, there was enough aviation fuel to last the country for 34 days.

Ukoha explained further that aviation fuel was one of the petroleum products that has been fully deregulated and is therefore controlled by market forces, adding that the Authority has issued licenses to about 28 companies to import the product into the country.

He said “from our records, we have enough supplies to last us for 34 days plus. So, when we hear about scarcity, all we can say is that we have enough supplies”.

But his explanation did not go down well with the Deputy Speaker, members of the House present at the meeting as well as the airline operators.

Wase questioned why there should be scarcity of the product if there was enough supply to last for 34 days
He concluded that there must be a cartel working so hard to sabotage the efforts of the government.

He said “this is a political era and elections are coming. We do not want anybody to sabotage the efforts that the government has put into revamping the economy so far because aviation is very important to the economy”.

Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyeama who spoke on behalf of the Airline Operators said they have held back from shutting down the industry because of the impact it will have on the nation and it’s economy.

He said “it is because of this statement that you made now about being in politics era that we have not shut down. We do not want anybody to use us to blackmail the government who has done so much for the industry.

“Our DG has said it succinctly that safety is of concern in this industry.
“He also spoke about the cost of operation and let me say that fuel takes about 30 percent across the world, but in Nigeria, fuel takes about 70 percent of our operation.

“What happened in the last two weeks is alarming. From a price of N190 per litre two weeks ago, the price is now N670 as at today and we don’t know what it is going to be later. The government has done so much for us in this industry with the President granting us waivers.

“We held a meeting and decided to shut down our operations because of the cost of operation. We are owing so much money and we don’t want AMCON to come after us. But we decided not to because we know the impact it will have on the economy.

“We cannot survive like this for another three days. We had to reduce our operations to 30 percent because the product is not even available. So, I am surprised that the Executive Director said they have supplies to last 34 days.

“We are making so much sacrifice here. I am evacuating Nigerians from Poland and I had to pay three times the usual amount and I am not asking for a refund. So, something need to be done and done fast”.

Chairman of Skyjet Aviation, Kashim Bukar Shettima gave an indication of the existence of a black market ring operating within the industry when he said that while none of the known fuel marketers agree to have the product in stock, there were companies which are not known that are selling the product.

Rep SADA Soli said from all indications, there was an emerging cartel in the industry that is responsible for the current scarcity, while also blaming those saddled with the responsibility for not living up to their responsibility.

He said marketers were using the current war between Russia and Ukraine to exploit airline operators believing that there might be a possible increase in the price of the product.

Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Rep. Nnolim Nnaji also alleged that there now exist a cartel in the industry who are using psudo companies to sell the product because of the realization that they can not directly increase the price

House Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa said what is happening in the industry is a clear sign that the Petroleum Industry Act was not working as it should, asking the operators of the law to make it work.

He said there was fire on the mountain and every thing possible must be done to ensure that Nigerians get the desired benefits from the PIA.

Deputy House Leader, Rep Peter Akpatason said the NMDPRA must bring to book all those who are involved in hording of the product and subjecting airline operators and Nigerians to severe hardship.

He said since they have told Nigerians that the product was available to last 34 days, they must immediately direct the marketers to release the product immediately.

In his intervention, Group Managing Director of the NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari assured that they will do everything possible to address the issue of supply of jet A1, while also collaborating the statement that there was enough supply of the product in the country.

He said “I can confirm that there is enough supply. Yes, it might be in the wrong hands or in the wrong places. We are going to do everything we can to address the situation.

“However, regarding the request by the Airline operators to bring down the price to N200, let me say that will not be possible. It is not possible because the landing cost of jet A1 now is N480 per litre. Except if we are going to subsidise it, the price cannot come down to N200”.

Marketers of the product were not present at the meeting necessitating an adjournment to Monday to enable them attend the meeting, while the NMDPRA is to provide details of all companies licensed to import the product into the country.

The meeting however resolved that the NCAA should take steps to regulate those who sells the product within the nation’s airports before adulterated jet A1 find its way into the airports, thereby creating issues of safety for airlines.

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Legislature

Kogi Assembly, CSO partner on HIV/AIDS anti-stigma legislation

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By Friday Idachaba, Lokoja

Kogi State House of Assembly has assured that the bill for a Law to provide for the prevention of HIV and AIDS Based Discrimination and stigmatization will be accorded smooth and accelerated passage for full implementation in the state.

Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Rt Hon. Comfort Nwuchiola Egwaba, disclosed this at a One-day Capacity Building And Media Round Table on the Proposed Anti-stigma Bill For HIV With Kogi State Assembly members.

She said that the partnership between the House and Initiative for Grassroots Advancement in Nigeria (INGRA), a Civil Society Organization (CSO,) had yielded fruits with the resounding support of members for the bill.

The meeting aimed at building capacity of Kogi State Assembly members and Media personalities on the issue of HIV stigma and discrimination among others, was organized by INGRA with support from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in Lokoja.

The Deputy Speaker said that the private member Bill before the House had had its first and second readings and was being primed for Public Hearing and Third Reading by the House Committees on Health and Judiciary.

Nwuchiola-Egwaba said, “We have done more than justice to the Bill. This bill will scale through and will see the light of day. We are not living any stone unturned. We are doing this for our people.”

Also speaking, sponsor of the Bill, Hon. Bin Ebaiya Shehu-Tijjani (APC-Lokoja I) thanked his colleagues for the fervour with which they rallied support round him for the Bill to scale through the legislative mills and urged them to sustain the tempo until it is finally assented to by the governor.

Chairman of the House Committee on Health, Ochidi Usman (APC-Idah) decried the spate of discrimination and stigmatization against people living with the virus saying that they did not bargain for it.

He described them as victims of circumstances as he thanked the sponsor of the Bill and pledged to stand by him to provide support for the Bill to have accelerated passage.

Speaking earlier, Mr Hamza Aliyu Executive Director of INGRA who described the bill as a “Policy Bill” said it was not just for HIV/AIDS alone but against every form of discrimination and stigmatization against affected persons in the state.

He hinted that available statistics showed that over 28,000 persons are living with the virus in the state adding that they could be more as many are not aware of their status and are quite unwilling to get tested for fear of discrimination and stigmatization.

Aliyu said the Bill had been passed in 16 states of the Federation and would only be fair for the Act to be domesticated in Kogi through the legislation to ensure that affected persons are not unnecessarily discriminated against.

Executive Secretary, Kogi State Agency for Control of AIDS (KOSACA), Dr Sheidu Yunusa, who explained some of the provisions of the law, the offences and punishment said stigmatization and discrimination had the potency to destroy all the efforts being made to end the HIV scourge.

Dr Yunusa gave examples of stigmatization and discrimination against Persons Living with HIV (PL-HIV) to include health care professionals refusing to provide care or services to an affected person, Refusing casual contact with someone living with HIV.

It also include among others, socially isolating a member of a community on account of HIV positive status, referring to people as HiVers or Positives, Unlawful disclosure of an affected person’s status.

Amb. Idris Ozovehe Muraina, Chairman, Kogi NGOs Network (KONGONET) said, “we should not see this law as draconian but an attempt to squelch discrimination against out affected brothers and sisters.”

Comrade Jimoh Audu, Kogi State Coordinator of Persons Living With HIV AIDS (PLWHA) commended INGRA and the House of Assembly for their determination to get the Bill passed.

“We appreciate the meeting of our leaders, we believe in you. All we are asking it to reduce to the barest minimum the issue of discrimination against us. The medical practitioners should be more professional in their conduct”, he said.

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Legislature

Senate moves to probe 11, 856 abandoned projects across Nigeria

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***sets up ad-hoc panel

The Senate has pun in place an ad-panel to investigate the number of viable projects abandoned across Nigeria in all sectors.

The committee is also to recommend appropriate actions to be taken to reduce project abandonment in Nigeria and how most of the projects can be recovered.

The member Ad-hoc committee comprised Senators Lola Shiru (chairman), Jimoh Ibrahim, Mpigi Barinada, Abdullahi Yahaya, Victor Umeh and Isah Jibrin, members.

This came following the adoption of a motion on “Urgent need to look into the 11, 856 mega projects abandoned by the Federal Government” sponsored by Senator Jimoh Ibrahim (Ondo South).

The Senate noted that in 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan set up a Presidential committee on federal government- abandoned projects in Nigeria and the committee visited the 36 states in Nigeria and identified 11,866 projects abandoned by the Federal Government since Nigeria’s independence in 1960.
According to Senator Ibrahim, reports have it that about 63% of the entire projects since independence were abandoned, adding that the 63% of projects abandoned in Nigeria is worse than any country under comparison”.

“The abandonment of the project is of significant concern because of project costs which constitute a significant part of the GDP. While spending on a public project in the UK is now about one trillion British pounds Nigeria has no idea of the total amount spent on public projects either successful or unsuccessful since independence,

He observed, for instance that in the investigation carried out at the University of Cambridge doctorate in management science between 2018 and 2022, the value of the 38 projects investigated cost Nigeria over $40 billion”.

“What is now key to this investigation is the need to look inward at our infrastructural development as Foreign Direct investment declined from$8.8b in 2011 to $3.3 billion in 2019, and the current account balances in that year from $10.6 billion to 5-17 billion, while the population was growing around 5% about 86% of the citizen, were living under $2 between 2011 and 2019. Public debt increased from 17% of the GDP in 2011 to 29% in 2019.

According to him, government has the responsibility to set up a professional system that will deliver the critical value from major infrastructure development for its citizens, adding that for 66% of projects to be abandoned since 1960 is “nothing less than a calamity that reduces our pride as a ‘Giant of Africa’ if we are still one”.

He said three abandoned projects out of the 11,886 projects such as Ajaokuta Steel Company, where billion of dollars was spent without any production, Second Niger Bridge, etc are over 30% of the national debt.

In his contribution, Senator Orji Kalu (Abia North) said Nigeria cannot industrialize without steel production.

The former Abia governor said “we should face steel production. If we don’t face it, we are wasting our time. If you check our debt repayment, it is coming on this project.

“Why would Nigeria be suffering on what ought to have been done? We supposed to convert that our money and build these industries for debt repayment on them and save the interest we pay?

“We should appeal to President Bola Tinubu, may be 2026, 2027 budget we dedicate all these industries. They are our own. If we do not do it we will not move forward”, he said.

Senator Isah Jibrin said the abandoned projects should be properly profiled and the viable ones be sold to bring return on investment.

In his remarks, the Senate President Godswill Akpabio said Nigeria cannot be using over 90% of its resources to pay interest on loans.

The committee was given one month to report back to the Senate.

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Convert Oloibiri Shell Airstrip to Airforce Base, Senate tells Aviation Ministry, Airforce

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Senate has urged Ministry of Aviation, Nigeria Airforce to take possession and convert the abandoned Shell Airstrip at Oloibiri oil well in Bayelsa state to modern Airforce base.

This followed adoption of a motion on urgent need for transformation of the abandoned Shell Airstrip at Oloibiri Oil Well 1 in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State to an Air Force Base.
The senator representing Bayelsa East SundayAgadaga (PDP) who sponsored the motion said Shell airstrip was constructed in 1958 following the first discovery of crude oil in 1956 at Oloibiri Oil well one.
According to him the airstrip, sitting on over 25 hecters of land has long been abandoned.
Agadaga said that the airstrip, while in effective operation, was a very valuable asset in the company’s oil exploration and exploitation activities in airlifting of personnel and equipment.
He said during the years of its functionality, heavy duty equipment, company workers, captains of Industry, top government functionaries and diplomats resorted to the route for easy access to the Niger Delta region.

He expressed regret that since the gradual decline of Shell’s operations in the area and final departure from Oloibiri oil field, the airstrip and the land where it operated has been abandoned and left desolate.

“The land itself appears to have been sentenced to perpetual condemnation as no agricultural activity which is the economic mainstay of the local dwellers can be carried out anymore due to the concretized topography of the soil.”

According to him, the abandoned airstrip poses environmental challenges and serious ecological complications to the Host Community as Shell has left the people in deprivation, squalor and lamentation after decades of operation.

He observed that upgrading the abandoned airstrip to an airforce base would bring renewed hope to the people, restore life to the area and attract the following benefits to the country:

“It will strengthen the security architecture of Nigeria as the creeks of Bayelsa up to Brass Island and the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the gulf of guinea where the oil export terminal is located will be easily monitored and protected.”
Agadaga
said its evental upgrade would reduce the rate of oil theft and pipeline vandalism.

This, he said would enhance surveillance activities in the numerous oil producing communities that constitute hub of oil industry activities in Nigeria.

He said the airstrip ,if converted to an airforce base would attract more business opportunities in the area thereby creating additional jobs to boost economic growth of Nigeriaa and ease the cost of living of the people.

Senator representing Kogi East Isah Jibrin (APC) said he was neither in support or against the motion pointing out that the cost implications of converting the airstrip to an airforce base would be huge, adding that government may not be dispose to consider the cost involved.

He said government may decide to confine the project on a long term basis, saying that he do not see the urgency in converting the airstrip to an airforce base at this period.

Sen. Adams Oshiomole (APC-Edo) said the conversion of the airstrip to an airforce base holds great benefits for Nigerians and people of the region especially on quick intervention on insecurity issues.

Sen. Maidoki Garuba (PDP-Kebbi) said the conversion would help strengthen security of the nation, check crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism.

Sen.Victor Umeh (LP-Anambra) said there was need to preserve certain historical monuments like Oloibiri, adding that the conversion of the airstrip to an airforce base would make Oloibiri a national monument, given its contribution as the first oil well in Nigeria.

He said the conversion would also ensure further economic prosperity for the nation.

President of Senate, Godswill Akpabio said efforts should be made to preserve historical monuments, like the Oloibiri Shell airstrip via its conversion to an airforce base.

He also said the conversion to an airforce base would also ensure improved security in terms of emergency, given its closeness to the golf of guinea.

Akpabio expressed hope that the government would see the need for the reconstruction of the airstrip to an airforce base to forestall challenges in the event of any mishaps.

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