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Harmattan grounds foreign, domestic flights in Nigeria 

The recurring harmattan has continued to cause flight cancellation and delay in Nigeria, as domestic airlines are trying to take precaution.

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British Airways resumes flight operations to Nigeria after a two-day strike 

Harmattan hays have caused flight cancellation and delay in the Nigerian Aviation sector grounding foreign airlines throughout the week. The harmattan has led to poor visibility for the planes intending to fly in or out of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos State.

A British Airways flight which was expected to land on Sunday had to divert to Ghana with passengers stranded in Accra since then. The British Airways flight is yet to land in Nigeria as of Wednesday. Cancellations have also affected flights from Qatar Airways, Emirates, Delta Airways and KLM were affected. Flights from Virgin was however not affected.

The delay has negatively affected most business travellers who were rushing to come back to Nigeria to take advantage of valentine sales.

Harmattan grounds foreign, domestic flights, delays takeoff in Nigeria 

Companies like Air Peace and Arik had to issue weather advisory to passengers as the foggy weather worsened on Wednesday, January 12, 2020. The cancellation of scheduled flight and delays in takeoff have been ongoing for the past two days. Air Peace’s Corporate Communications Executive, Stanley Olisa and Arik Air’s Public Relations and Communications Manager of Arik, Adebanji Ola both confirmed the delays and cancellation, stating that the actions were necessary for safety.

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The poor visibility caused by the harmattan also affects foreign airlines as British Airways was reportedly forced to divert its Lagos-bound flights to Accra, Ghana. Also, American carrier, Delta Airlines, also cancelled its 10:30 pm flight on Wednesday as a result of the foggy weather.

The most affected areas are reportedly Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Benin, where harmattan presence has been strong. The Director, Consumer Protection Council of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Adamu Abdullahi, had previously stated that such decisions were inevitable.

[READ MORE: British Airways, FAAN narrate what led to flight diversion)

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Abdullahi said due to safety issues, flight delays and outright cancellation were unavoidable in the aviation industry globally. He cited weather, mechanical failure and Very Important Personality movements as factors that could cause delays in the aviation.

He added that “When safety is involved, we don’t discuss comfort and we even encourage airlines to delay or cancel flights whenever they have technical issues or weather-related issues. So, when an airline can prove to us that it delayed a flight due to safety, they are off the hook.”

Harmattan grounds foreign, domestic flights, delays takeoff in Nigeria 

He, however, said the regulatory agencies should ensure passengers are rewarded for the delay and sanction airlines that don’t fulfill its obligation to passengers in the period of flight delays or cancellation. Meanwhile, the General Manager, Public Affairs for Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Khalid Emele, said, “Our position is that such diversions are in the interest of safety,”.

 

 

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Olalekan is a certified media practitioner from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ). In the era of media convergence, Olalekan is a valuable asset, with ability to curate and broadcast news. His zeal to write was developed out of passion to shape people’s thought and opinion; serving as a guideline for their daily lives. Contact for tips: [email protected]

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Business

Rack Centre to create West Africa’s largest data centre in $100m expansion

Rack Centre’s expansion programme will increase capacity to a total net lettable white space of 6000 square metres.

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Leading carrier neutral data centre operator in West Africa, Rack Centre, has announced an expansion programme that will increase capacity to a total net lettable white space of 6000 square metres, which will pave way for 13MW of  IT power capacity in its Lagos campus.

This was disclosed in a press release by the company, which was seen by Nairametrics.

The expansion is expected to bring carrier neutral scale to West Africa, and this is in response to increasing demand for data centre space from cloud uptake, telecommunication investment and outsourcing of IT facilities by enterprises in the region.

The funding for this expansion will come from a $250m pan-African data centre platform, established by Actis and Convergence Partners, a leading ICT infrastructure investor in Africa.

In addition to the expansion in  Rack Centre, the platform is also actively developing additional buy and build opportunities across Africa, to establish a network of carrier neutral data centres aimed at catering to carrier, cloud and hyperscale customers. 

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Back story:  It is noteworthy that on March 2020, in a bid to pave way for the expansion programme, Actis, a London private equity firm, announced an investment in Rack Centre, taking a controlling stake in the business alongside Jagal.

Why this matters

Nigeria is a key entry point for global telecommunications, content, and cloud players seeking access to the region. Despite the potentials of the country; with 138 million internet subscribers, more than any country in Africa or Europe, and the largest population and GDP in Africa, a lack of cost-effective, energy-efficient IT infrastructure, has been a constraint to doing business in the region. 

However, in a bid to create unrestricted connectivity between customers, telecommunication carriers, and internet exchange points within its data centres in the region, as a unique scale carrier neutral player, Rack Centre brings global best practice to Nigeria, as the first carrier neutral data centre in the region, to achieve Uptime Institute Tier III Certification of Constructed Facility (TCCF).

The global leaders that the platform has engaged include:

  • Tim Parsonson, Co-founder, Teraco Data Environments – the largest carrier neutral operator in Africa, who joins the Board as Chairperson on the board.
  • Frank Hassett, a veteran of the global data centre industry and previous Vice President of Infrastructure, at Equinix, brings over 1300MW of build and operate experience, to assist with hyperscale expansion.

While speaking on the expansion of capacity, Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Convergence Partners, said;  “Africa is at the start of a critical time in its development, as the 4th industrial revolution offers the chance to leapfrog many of Africa’s challenges, and harness the immense potential of its people. Convergence Partners is delighted to partner with Actis in accelerating the growth of high quality data centre infrastructure, an indispensable part of the foundation of this revolution in the region.”

Dr Ayotunde Coker, Managing Director of Rack Centre, emphasized that the group is proud of the quality and scale bar which they have set in the region.

“We are proud of the quality and scale bar we have set in the region and are scaling to be the de-facto digital data hub for West Africa

“Mass adoption of digital working models and content distribution is driving growing investment in the region and Rack Centre offers a world class location to house these IT and telecoms facilities,” Coker said.

Supporting this ambition, engineering consultancy Arup, have been appointed for the project.  The leadership status of Arup is uncontested,  having designed over 2,000MW of IT capacity for industry-leading tech giants, and co-location providers across the globe.

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Energy

Experts pick holes in pump pricing of petrol, proffer solutions 

Experts give their views as Nigerians grapple with the effects of an increase in petrol pump price.

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Subsidy and PIB, petrol price, PPPRA, We have sufficient PMS stock for 38 days- DPR 

The recent sharp increase in the pump price of petrol has been greeted with shock and condemnations from  Nigerians, as it is coming at a time the global price of crude oil dropped or been static at best. 

This is also happening at a time, where Nigerians are grappling with the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy, leading to a significant drop in the income of Nigerians. 

This price increment is the resultant effect of subsidy removal, and full deregulation of the downstream oil sector by the Federal Government, which has been on the policy agenda of past governments, starting with Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration to the present administration of Muhammadu Buhari. This is further exacerbated by the fact that, the country imports over 90% of its refined petroleum product, athe refineries have not been working optimally. 

While announcing the implementation of the full deregulation of the downstream oil sector, with the removal of the existing cap on fuel prices, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), noted that henceforth the pump price would be fully determined by market forces. 

In response to some comments and innuendos, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, said the deregulation policy, was to ensure economic growth and development of the country. He insisted that it was unrealistic for government to continue to subsidize petrol, as it had no economic value. 

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Sylva explained that subsidy was benefitting mostly the richrather than the poor and ordinary Nigerians. He said the policy is in line with the global best practiceas the government will continue to play its traditional role of regulation, to ensure that this strategic commodity is not priced arbitrarily by private oil marketing firms. 

The importance and critical nature of petrol seems to be what is driving the condemnation and protests amongst many Nigerians. This is because the demand for petrol is not price elasticwhich means, an increase in the price of petrol, does not necessarily produce a decrease in demand, due to the importance of the product in driving different sectors of the economy. 

One of the most critical issues that is generating intense debate on the deregulation policy of the downstream oil sector, visavis the sharp increase in the pump price of petrol is, why the increase?  

Especially, when you consider that there has not been any major increase in the global price of crude oil, which is the main component in determining the pump price of petrol. In fact, the price of crude oil has been on a decline recently.   

Recall that, Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of NNPC, in an internal memo, to oil marketers and stakeholders, increased the ex-depot price of fuel from N138. 62 per litre to N151.56 per litre. Some analysts have suggested that the increase could be attributed to the high exchange rate, following the devaluation of the naira against the dollar, and rising costs in the value chain. But the very critical question is, is the devaluation of the naira enough to drive such increase? 

The Managing Director of 11 Plc (formerly Mobil Oil Plc), Adetunji Oyebanji, who also doubles as the Chairman of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN, had about a fortnight ago, said the retail pump price of petrol should be around N155 per litre 

In his analysis of the development, Professor Adeola Adenikinju, Director, Centre for Petroleum Energy Economics and LawUniversity of Ibadan said, The major drivers of PMS price in a deregulated environment are the price of crude oil and the exchange rate. However, in many countries, governments also levy indirect taxes on petroleum products, to fund government road and other developmental projects, because of their inelastic demand.

“In Nigeria, NNPC gets the exchange rate at the official rate of about N386/$1. At that exchange rate, and given the current crude oil price of about $42.60 per barrel for Bonny Light, the current pump price of PMS of around N151.56 per litre is not justified by this analyst’s calculations, even if other cost components like distribution and marketing margins are included, except if BDC exchange rate or other charges are included. 

He expressed his support for the liberalization of the petroleum downstream sector, that will encompass opening up the sector to all players, not just NNPC. He said we need real competition in the market place, as that is the only way to bring effective competition and allow retail price to reflect marginal opportunity costs of PMS. 

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Going further he said, We found ourselves in an embarrassing position as a major oil exporting country, that is also a major importer of refined products. A substantial part of what constitutes the costs of refined products now, including taxes in importing countries, shipping, finance costs, ports charges, lightering charges etc., are all avoidable costs, if we have a thriving and efficient domestic refinery sector. 

“There is currently some opaqueness in the activities of the NNPC in the current subsidy system. The government is losing out on how much the NNPC transfers to the federation accounts for handling the government share of crude oil. NNPC is charging the government and Nigerians, not just the under-recovery amount, but also nebulous charges like costs of pipeline repairs, and estimates of crude oil losses.’’ 

On his own part, an Oil and Gas Expert, Olumide Ibikunle, disclosed that the global crude oil prices are majorly linked to the price of the final product, which are refined products like petrol, diesel, kerosene, and then foreign exchange. However, he admitted that there are other elements in the pricing template.  

He said, You need to realize thatthere are other elements of the pricing template. I just mentioned 2 of the most important ones, which are the exchange rate and the crude oil prices. There are other items like international shipping cost, which is also a key part of itlithering costs; freight costs, also depending on the availability of tankers for instance, if tankers are not available in the international market to ship refined productsthe cost of moving refined products also increases. 

He said that at best, what we have is partial deregulation, as government is trying to guard against the volatility of the global crude oil priceswhich changes on a daily basis. He pointed out that, it is not good to have prices of petrol fluctuate every day at the retail stations. Hence, the introduction of price modulation mechanism by government, to manage those volatilities. 

Olumide also said, These products are ordered in advance. I don’t need PMS today and place the order today. I place the order 2 or 3 months in advance. You must realize the dynamics at that time versus what it is now, might be different. so that consideration is also something that fits into the price consideration, and we must also factor that in.”

“So, if prices are N160 today, perhaps it is reflective of the $46 or $45 per barrel, that we saw 2 months ago. Hence, what you see in October or November, will be reflective of what you see in September,he concluded. 

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It does seem the recent increase is driven mostly by the exchange rate, but inability to get our refineries working at optimal capacity, government taxes, and the inefficiencies in the system, which is superintended by the Federal Government. 

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Coronavirus

Smartphone to be used for daily tracking of first set to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Essential workers would get daily text messages on their smartphones enquiring about the side effects.

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Smartphone to be used for daily tracking of first set to receive COVID-19 vaccine

The first set of Americans who get the doses of the first Covid-19 vaccines will be closely monitored by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through daily text messages and emails from their smartphones.

This disclosure was made by a federal advisory group on immunization practices during a meeting.

A CDC immunization expert, Tom Shimabukuro, at a meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, said that essential workers, who were expected to be the first recipients, would get daily text messages on their smartphones enquiring about the side effects in the first week after they get the shot, and then they would be contacted weekly for 6 weeks.

READ: Polio Debt: Gates Foundation agrees to repay Nigeria’s $76m debt.

Shimabukuro disclosed that those essential workers could be as much as about 20 million people.

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Janell Routh, a CDC medical officer revealed that the advisers also discovered that the CDC and the US Defense Department have set up technical assistance teams to help state and local jurisdictions develop and implement distribution plans, which are due for review and approval by October 16.

While addressing the panel, Routh said, “We are asking states to think broadly. In their plans, I think they should have contingencies for whether there’s an ultra-cold product only or whether there’s more than one vaccine available.”

READ: Official: Japaul confirms it is pulling out of Milost deal

This meeting is coming up at the time when some prominent voices like Bill Gates have expressed their distrust for CDC under its current leadership over their rush for vaccine development which has political undertones.

This is as polls conducted in the past 2 months revealed that majority of Americans expressed worry over the rush in vaccine development and a third wouldn’t get inoculated.

Shimabukuro said the quick detection of safety signals was of paramount importance, while also noting that the data gathered could provide reassurance if no safety concerns were detected.

READ: NCC sanctions Airtel, 9mobile for misconduct

While responding to a question over public safety concerns, Shimabukuro said there would be a chance to opt out of the smartphone program. He, however, pointed out that those who had opted out could also decide to opt back in at a later time.

The head of the panel’s Covid-19 vaccines working group, Beth Bell, said that the advisory group would counsel Robert Redfield, the CDC Director, on how best to get a Covid-19 vaccine to Americans. A vote on specifics though, won’t occur until after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration takes action on a vaccine.

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READ: How the proposed minimum wage will affect those earning above N30,000

The committee is made up of 15 voting members, who are mostly medical experts and academics, as well as government and medical industry representatives.

Every jurisdiction is “heavily involved right now in planning” and have been for some time, Routh said. It’s unclear whether states will know which vaccine could be first available. Each has different storage requirements with some needing extremely cold storage.

READ: China’s Covid-19 vaccine may be ready for general public in November 2020

Kathleen Dooling, a CDC epidemiologist who presented to the immunization panel last month, said 10 to 20 million vaccine doses would be available in November if a vaccine is approved before then.

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