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OMAA Rolls Out First Gas-Powered Buses in Nigeria

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An indigenous energy firm, OMAA has rolled out Nigeria’s first locally assembled natural gas-powered buses and is already producing in volumes.

The rollout took place at its facility in Igbo Ukwu near Nnewi, Anambra, in the presence of Dr. Ishaku Abner, Technical Assistant (Downstream) to the Hon. Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Pat Igwebuike, Special Adviser to the Anambra State Governor on Legal Matters and Dr. Mohammed M. Ibrahim, Chairman of the National Gas Expansion Programme (NGEP).

OMAA manufactures factory-fitted dual-fuel vehicles to meet the growing demand for vehicles that run on cleaner energy sources within Nigeria and across Africa. The company showcased its facility and demonstrated its ability to cater to energy demands for the transportation and energy industry with natural gas.

The event is coming on the heels of the Federal Government’s declaration of the decade of gas, a commitment to diversify the economy and see Nigeria develop and commercialize its gas resources.
According to the NNPC, domestic demand for natural gas will rise from current levels of 1.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf) to 7.4 Bcf by 2027.

Mr. Chinedu Oguegbu, Founder and CEO of OMAA, said at the event “This is the beginning of a trend that will revolutionize not just the transportation industry but the energy industry in Nigeria, by accelerating utilization of the abundant natural gas resources we are endowed with”.

He noted that the buses are rugged and more durable because they are adapted to Nigerian roads; the company is also expanding its network nationwide to ensure quality aftersales and availability of
spare parts.

Speaking at the roll-out, Dr. Mohamed M. Ibrahim mentioned, “OMAA has been a robust partner of the National Gas Expansion Program and there is no doubt that the company is on track to make a tremendous impact in the energy and transportation industries”

In her remarks, Mrs. Pat Igwebuike stated “it is delightful to see such innovative developments take place in Anambra state. With this technology, I believe that OMAA will eventually become a staple
brand in the industry”.

Taking advantage of the African Union’s latest charter on free trade, Oguegbu noted “with AfCFTA already in force we hope to expand our service beyond Nigerian borders, exploring opportunities in Africa’s 54 countries and 1.2 billion population”.

“Whatever the need for our development and industrialization as a people today, we should be sustainable in our approach and think of the livelihood of future generations.

“Whether we like it or not, climate change is real and the use of gas as a transition fuel reduces the damage done by biomass, not just to the environment but to human health”, he noted.

World Health Organisation (WHO) had recently released a report that showed that 3.8 million people die yearly from illnesses attributed to household pollution arising from inefficient use of solid fuels
and kerosene for cooking.

Oguegbu further stated that OMAA was also committed to job creation and in due course will have a phased migration in its operations when it transits from semi-knocked down (SKD) to completely
knocked down (CKD) operations. That way, it will be “localizing more components, up-skilling staff and contributing to the burgeoning automotive ecosystem”.

He claimed that “by switching to CKD, we will end up creating more jobs for the teeming youth population in the country. It is a part of our overall policy where we commit to training and retraining
our people. Sourcing components in-country also has a positive impact on the local supply chain as capacity utilization, jobs, value addition all move in the right direction”.

The company plans to introduce within the next year a wider portfolio of solutions to address the energy demand in the residential, commercial and industrial markets, using natural gas.

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Travel

High Altitude, Higher Prices: Domestic Airfares Jump 150%

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Nigerian air travelers are reeling from a dramatic increase in domestic airfares with prices skyrocketing by 150% over the past year.

This surge has forced many passengers to reconsider their travel options, opting for road transport despite the risks involved.

Passengers like Dare Adepoju, who frequently commutes between Lagos and Abuja for business and family visits, have expressed frustration.

“It’s unsustainable,” he lamented. “With flights nearing N200,000 for just an hour, I’m exhausted.”

Social media is abuzz with similar sentiments. Akinloa Adejuwon tweeted about the tough choice between costly flights and unsafe roads, highlighting the dire situation many Nigerians face.

The fare increase is attributed to a limited number of operational aircraft. Airline Operators of Nigeria revealed that many planes are grounded due to maintenance needs and lack of access to foreign exchange for repairs.

The current situation sees airlines like Ibom Air and Air Peace charging up to N238,000 for a one-way ticket between major cities.

This price jump, from about N51,000 last year, reflects the severe challenges the industry faces.

Capt. Roland Iyayi, a senior member of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, pointed to the shortage of aircraft as a primary cause.

“Making forex available to airlines is crucial for resolving this crisis,” he stated.

As the industry grapples with these challenges, passengers continue to hope for relief. The aviation sector’s future hinges on addressing these issues, ensuring safe and affordable travel for all Nigerians.

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Education

Southern States Skeptical as NELFund Disburses First Loans

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The National Education Loan Fund (NELFund) officially launched on Wednesday, a significant step in providing financial aid to students across Nigeria.

However, the initiative faces skepticism, particularly from the southern states.

President Bola Tinubu inaugurated the first tranche of funds, amounting to N32 billion, aimed at empowering Nigerian youth and breaking financial barriers to education.

The NELFund portal has registered 164,000 students, with 103,000 applying for loans.

Despite the promising start, many southern states remain doubtful about the fund’s implementation.

Akintunde Sawyerr, NELFund’s Managing Director, acknowledged these concerns, citing data challenges in verifying indigent applicants as a primary hurdle.

Sawyerr highlighted the lack of comprehensive data needed for credit assessments. The fund relies on bank verification numbers (BVN), National Identification Numbers (NIN), and educational institution data to determine eligibility.

More applications have been received from northern states, where students have shown greater confidence in the fund.

Sawyerr pointed out that skepticism in the south might stem from uncertainty about the program’s viability.

NELFund offers two types of loans: educational fees paid directly to institutions and upkeep loans for student stipends.

The focus is currently on government-owned institutions to ensure a smooth rollout.

President Tinubu emphasized education as a critical tool against poverty and insecurity, linking the nation’s challenges to a lack of educational opportunities.

He reaffirmed his commitment to inclusive growth through education.

As NELFund continues its rollout, efforts to address data issues and regional skepticism will be crucial. By building trust and ensuring transparency, the program aims to support more students nationwide and foster a fairer society.

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Travel

UAE Lifts Visa Ban on Nigerians, Introduces N640,000 Non-Refundable Application Fee

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has officially lifted the visa ban imposed on Nigerian passport holders, effective July 15.

However, this positive move comes with a substantial caveat—a new non-refundable visa application fee of N640,000.

The announcement, made following bilateral discussions between Nigerian and UAE authorities, ends a prolonged period of restricted travel between the two nations due to diplomatic disputes and financial issues.

New Visa Regulations

Under the new guidelines set forth by the UAE government, Nigerian passport holders seeking to travel to the Emirates must adhere to several stringent requirements:

  1. Application Fee: Applicants are required to pay a non-refundable fee of N640,000 for visa processing. This fee represents a significant increase compared to the previous $100 fee before the ban.
  2. Document Verification Number (DVN): Before applying for a visa, applicants must obtain a Document Verification Number (DVN). This number is valid for only 14 days from issuance or until the visa application is processed, whichever comes first.
  3. Application Process: The application process for UAE visas remains stringent, emphasizing the importance of meeting all specified criteria to enhance the chances of approval.

Public Reaction and Outcry

The introduction of the N640,000 visa application fee has sparked widespread criticism and public outcry among Nigerians, particularly on social media platforms. Many have expressed their discontent, labeling the new fee as exorbitant and financially burdensome, especially in light of economic challenges facing the country.

Social media users have taken to various platforms to voice their concerns:

  • @firstladyship: “It is obvious the UAE don’t want Nigerians. They reluctantly unbanned the Nigerian passport, but slammed a hefty N640,000 on Nigerians. Guess what? The money is nonrefundable & has expiration date. This is see finish.”
  • @Peco3D: “This is just extortion in fine words. Shameless.”
  • @Comr_lucky1: “This is exploitation and shameful if allowed by Nigeria government.”

Government Response

Mohammed Idris, Minister of Information and National Orientation, announced the lifting of the visa ban and emphasized that Nigerian passport holders are now eligible to apply for visas to the UAE.

The government has acknowledged the concerns raised by citizens and assured them of continued engagement to address the issue.

Background

The UAE had imposed the visa ban on Nigeria approximately two years ago amid diplomatic tensions and financial disputes.

Efforts to resolve these issues included discussions and negotiations between the Nigerian and UAE governments, leading to the recent breakthrough in visa restrictions.

Despite the imposition of the N640,000 visa fee, the lifting of the ban represents a step forward in diplomatic relations between Nigeria and the UAE, potentially paving the way for enhanced bilateral cooperation and economic ties.

As Nigerian travelers navigate these new visa regulations, reactions continue to pour in, reflecting the broader impact of international relations on individual mobility and economic opportunities.

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