The Federal Government has revealed that the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) will begin skeletal operations on the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail line from the middle of September with 16 trips every day.
This was disclosed by the Managing Director of NRC, Fidet Okhiria, on Saturday, August 15, in Ibadan, during an inspection tour of the project by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Okhiria said that since the track laying had been completed between Ebute-Metta Junction in Lagos and Ibadan with the stations under construction, the operation would start between Yaba in Lagos and Ibadan.
“We will start by the middle of September from Yaba to Ibadan while the other construction finishing will continue. We already have 24 coaches and a set of DMUs (Diesel Multiple Units) made of eight coaches. With that, we intend to have 16 trips a day,” he said.
It should be noted that the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) announced that the track laying work for the 312km long double-track standard gauge Lagos-Ibadan railway line project would be completed in April.
The $1.5 billion project was slated to be completed earlier, but was moved forward due to the disruptions caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Okhiria also disclosed that NRC will not wait for all the stations to be ready before starting operations so that Nigerians will begin to enjoy the dividends of the tracks and coaches that have arrived.
The rail tracks on the 156km modern rail line from the Ebute Metta Junction to Ibadan have been completed while the 10 major and minor stations are at various stages of completion.
The stations along the corridor include Apapa, Ebutte Metta Junction, Agege, Agbado, Kajola, Papalanto, Abeokuta, Olodo, Omi-Adio and Ibadan.
On his own part, Rotimi Amaechi said that baring any further delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, they were looking at the January 2021 completion date for the project. He said:
“Before Covid-19, for every station, we have between 150 to 200 workers but now we have 10 to 20 workers on the sites. We have told them now to increase the number of workers and manage COVID very well. Covid-19 has come to stay but government has to run.
“We have to deliver our promises to the people because that is why we are elected, so, let us hope that by January next year, the project will be ready,’’ he said.
He asked the Chinese contractor handling the project to speed up the construction work for the timely delivery of the project.
US imposes $15,000 visa bond on 15 African countries, others
The US has issued a visa rule requiring tourist and business travelers in some countries to pay a bond of up to $15,000 in addition to the visa fees.
The outgoing administration of US President, Donald Trump, on Monday, November 23, 2020, issued a new temporary visa rule that requires tourist and business travelers from 15 African countries and others to pay a bond of up to $15,000 in addition to the visa fees, which ranges from $16 to $300, in order to visit the United States.
According to TheCable, the US State Department said the visa bond pilot programme, expected to take effect from December 24 and end on June 24, 2021, is targeted at countries whose citizens have higher rates of overstaying B-2 visas for tourists and B-1 visas for business travelers.
The Trump administration said the six-month pilot program aims to test the feasibility of collecting such bonds and will serve as a diplomatic deterrence to overstaying the visas. Hence, overstay places significant pressure on Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security.
The visa bond rule will permit U.S. consular officers to request tourist and business travelers from countries whose nationals had an overstay rate of 10% and above in 2019 to pay a refundable bond of $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000.
The countries whose tourist and business travelers fall into this category and subjected to the bond requirements are 24 countries, including 15 African countries. While these nations had higher rates of overstays, they sent relatively fewer travelers to the United States.
The countries include Afghanistan, Angola, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa), Djibouti, Eritrea, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Laos, Liberia, Libya, Mauritania, Papua New Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen,
Nigerian travelers escaped paying the temporary visa rule, as their overall score was below the threshold of 10% and above overstaying rate.
KLM, Air France to resume flight operations in Nigeria from December 7
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Air France have announced they will gradually resume flight operations to Abuja and Lagos.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Air France have announced they will gradually resume flight operations to Abuja and Lagos from December 7.
According to a report by Punch, the airlines in a statement on Monday disclosed that international passengers can now fly Air France and KLM from Nigeria (Abuja and Lagos) to Paris and Amsterdam, with the possibility of further transfers to other European and North Atlantic destinations.
In a piece of travel advice, the airline asked customers to ensure they are well prepared for their trip and check the entry and travel requirements for their destination and transit countries in line with travel restrictions and governmental authorizations before making any travel plans. This is as the entry requirements may change with short notice.
General Manager Air France KLM Nigeria and Ghana, Michel Colleau, was quoted to have said, “Flights to and from Lagos and Abuja will be operated in strict compliance with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and international health protocols, adhering to the highest standards of health and hygiene.”
What you should know
It can be recalled that in September 2020, the Federal Government barred Air France and KLM airlines and some other foreign airlines from flight operations into the country.
The Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, said that Air France and KLM were not granted approval for flight operations because tourist visa holders were not allowed entry into their countries.
Nairametrics also reported about a week ago that the Federal Government had given go-ahead to Lufthansa, Air France/KLM, and Qatar Airways to resume flight operations into the country.
Reps to support total reforms in aviation industry through legislation – Speaker
The House of Reps has pledged to support total reforms in the aviation industry through legislation
The House of Representatives has promised to support total reforms in the aviation industry through legislation, as it appeals for active participation of stakeholders in public hearings.
This was disclosed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, via his Twitter handle on Tuesday.
According to him, the House has identified that the aviation industry is a key contributor to the growth of the country’s economy and through legislation it would do all it can to develop the industry.
During the opening of a 3-day public hearing session on six aviation-sector bills by the Committee on Aviation, he explained that the draft legislation would make the sector more effective and efficient.
He said, “It is imperative to note that the development of our aviation industry is an added advantage to the growth of our economy. It is in this vein that the House of Representatives will continue to support total rehabilitation and upgrading of our airports and allied services.
“The consideration of these Bills during this Public Hearing is a testament to our commitment to give new life to the aviation sector and make our airports to be a better non-oil revenue-generating sector as is witnessed in other advanced economies.”
The Speaker appealed to the public and interested parties to honour invitations to House committee public hearings so that they can share ideas on how to make critical sectors deliver optimally.
The House of Representatives will continue to support total reforms in the aviation industry, a key contributor to the growth of the country's economy, through legislation, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila has said.
— Speaker of the House of Representatives (@SpeakerGbaja) November 17, 2020
Why it matters
The total reform is important for the industry as it is not out of question that the establishment laws for the service-provider Aviation agencies like Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Nigerian Meteorological Agency, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology and the regulatory body: Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority are far from meeting up with the international best practices hence the need to amend and bring them in conformity with the international best standards.