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NEMA Launched Disaster Risk Tools Donated By Japanese Government

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The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) yesterday launched disaster risk reduction equipment for search and rescue operations across the country.

The agency, which described 2020 as a year of disasters, said it responded to 148 incidents based on the assessment carried out, adding that over 2 million Nigerians were affected by banditry, flooding, building collapse and other disasters last year.

The agency said the equipment donated by the Japanese Government would enable it to mitigate the impact of disasters in Nigeria.

The equipment is worth N1.8 million (500 million Japanese Yen.)

NEMA’s Director General AVM Muhammadu Muhammed said: “NEMA is inducting comprehensive disaster risk reduction equipment for search and rescue across the federation. Some of these equipment were donated by the Japanese Government. They include nine units of rescue vehicles with rescue equipment, four units of mobile water purifier systems with vehicles.”

He said NEMA workers had been trained on the usage of the specialised vehicles by experts from Toyota Tsusho Corporation of Japan, adding that the agency added value to the specialised equipment by attaching a unit of floodlights for illumination during night operations.

“This is to ensure a one-stop shop for search and rescue operation in assisting the primary response stakeholders,” he said.

On how the equipment would be deployed, Muhammed said: “One response vehicle and alternative lighting each to NEMA zonal office in the Northwest (Kaduna), Northeast (Maiduguri), Northcentral (Jos), Southwest (Ibadan), Southsouth (Port Harcourt) and Southeast (Enugu).

“Also, each would be stationed at NEMA Territorial Office in Lagos, Kano and at Abuja operations office.

“The mobile water purifier vehicles would be stationed in Abuja for deployment to any part of the country whenever the need arises to assist people in distress with clean drinking water.”

Commenting on the agency’s performance in 2020, he said: “The Year 2020 was very significant as the world was ravaged with the novel COVID-19 pandemic. This led to a complete lockdown of activities throughout the globe.

“Nigeria was not exempted from the negative impact of this pandemic. Amidst this global crisis, the nation was not spared from other devastating incidents, ranging from flooding, fire, insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, road accidents, pipeline/gas explosions, herders/farmers clashes, communal clashes, cattle rustling, building collapse, etc.

“In all of these, the nation also experienced the EndSARS protest, which led to human induced crises (destruction of public and private properties, conflict and looting). All of these resulted in the displacement of persons across the country.

“The agency constituted and activated the Emergency Operation Centres (EOCs) with stakeholders like the State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMAs), security operatives, Local Government Areas for data gathering and analysis that enhanced relief response to the devastating flood of 2020.

“Our advocacy and engagement with stakeholders in 2020 led to a reduction in the negative impacts of the flood on the people. A total of 2,353,647 people were affected by the 2020 flood disaster.

“The agency delivered humanitarian supports for 148 incidents where assessments were carried out, approved and distributed relief materials to the affected persons. These are in addition to the monthly distribution of relief materials to Internally Displaced Persons living in camps in Borno and Adamawa states.”

Also, the representative of the Embassy of Japan in Nigeria, Mr. Shinozawa Takayuki, said the donation was part of its pledge of $4 billion financial cooperation and training of 40,000 government officials and local leaders in four years.

He said: “Japan hosted the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai City of Miyagi Prefecture in Japan in March 2015. At that conference, the international community reaffirmed their resolve to enhance the effort to strengthen disaster risk reduction in order to minimise loss of lives and assets, due to disasters, worldwide.

“On that occasion, the Government of Japan pledged $4 billion financial cooperation and training of 40,000 government officials and local leaders in four years. Hence, this project we are inaugurating today, which is worth a total of JPY500 million, is meant to support Nigeria’s efforts to equip NEMA and other emergency operation centers with disaster reduction related products of Japanese enterprises, is part of the fulfillment of that pledge for Nigeria.

“There is one obvious fact, which is that Japan and Nigeria have many things in common, one of which is the occurrences of natural disaster. Readily coming to mind are the past earthquakes that devastated parts of Kansai region and the tsunami in Tohoku region, all in Japan. While Nigeria has to constantly deal with natural disasters, such as flooding and erosion.”

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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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