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ICRC Incorporates 158 Projects Into PPP Pipeline in 2020 – Report

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The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) said 158 projects from different sectors were incorporated into the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project pipeline in 2020.

This is according to the 2020 Annual Report and Accounts of the organisation.

According to the report which was obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja, the projects went through various stages of development, procurement and implementation.

It also said the Federal Executive Council (FEC) gave approvals for some vital projects, which were earlier granted the Full Business Case (FBC) Compliance Certificates by the commission to pave way for eventual contract signing and commercial close.

The projects included the development of the Bonny Deep Seaport in Rivers, the development of Ibom Deep Sea Port in Akwa Ibom and an automated ticketing portal for the Nigerian Railway Corporation.

Others were upgrading, expansion and operation of the Nigerian Correctional Services shoe/garment/leather factories in Aba-Abia and Janguza-Kano State and renovation of the students’ hostel at Kaduna Polytechnic.

It also said that Outline Business Case (OBC) Compliance Certificates were granted for some key projects in the transport sector of the economy, adding that some of them had proceeded to the procurement stage while others would soon follow.

They were the development of the Truck Transit Parks in Obollo-Afor, Enugu State; Aviele and Benin Bye-Pass, Edo; Lokoja, Kogi; and Illela, Sokoto State.

Others were concession of the four International Airport Terminals in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt and the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing Highway Development and Management Initiative (HDMI) for 12 selected routes.

The ICRC said that within the year under review, it began the process of regularising all PPP projects by whatever name they were called and brought them under the commission’s custody to enable their subjection to its regulatory oversight.

“An important reason for the regularisation is to ensure revenues accruing to the government go into a Special Concession Account (SCA) set up for this purpose.

“The approval for the implementation of the SCA was given through a circular issued by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning in June 2020.

“Already, N2.4 billion has accrued to the government as the concession fee for the development of the Gurara Dam II Project.”

The report, however, identified a lack of dedicated funding to develop, promote and implement PPP projects as a setback that slowed the development of some projects.

It also said that strong political will and commitment were needed to strengthen the PPP framework and ensure the process was not undermined or truncated due to adverse interests.

The report also said there was a lack of adequate enforcement powers over PPP contract agreements and disputes.

It added that there was a bill to address identified gaps in the existing law of the commission pending before the National Assembly.

“The proposed amendment seeks to rename the ICRC as PPP Regulatory Commission to accommodate other forms of PPP and expand its powers to impose appropriate sanctions to ensure compliance with provisions of the Act and regulations thereof.

“The urgent passage of the bill will help ICRC to establish its independence, improve its regulatory oversight and exercise adequate control over the process.”

While proposing to ensure accountability in PPP revenue in 2021 through the SCA, the commission said it would effectively monitor revenue accruing to the government from PPP projects and add more projects to the PPP pipeline.

It would also strengthen the capacity of PPP units of government agencies to structure transactions and monitor the progress of projects which were awarded or completed to ensure that contractual obligations were being met.

NAN recalls that ICRC was established to regulate PPP activities in Nigeria to address the physical infrastructure deficit which hampered economic development.

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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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