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WTO Chief, Okonjo-Iweala Tasks Nigerians In Diaspora To Find More Ways To Support The Economy

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Ngozi Okonjo Iweala

The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said the contributions of Nigerians at home and abroad could positively impact the nation’s economy to bring about peaceful coexistence.

The DG said this at a webinar to celebrate the National Diaspora Day on Sunday, in Abuja, organised by the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) to commemorate its establishment and its achievements so far.

Okonjo-Iweala applauded the Diaspora for their huge contributions to the nation’s economy, citing in particular how their remittances had brought about the development of the rural areas and the sustenance of the economy.

”Let me applaud fellow Nigerians in the Diaspora because they are contributing so much, in many ways; the remittance that the Diaspora send home is in millions of dollars which have contributed to sustaining our economy.

“It helps people living in the rural areas to get resources to send their children to school, take care of their health, build and run businesses, but we can do more wherever we are in the Diaspora, for there’s no place like home.

“So, what we should be thinking of is how we can help to make things better wherever we are, be it in the village or the town to make things better at home, either through creating employment, business, a civil society organisation, or helping to support what the local government is trying to do.

“This is what helps to create peace and I am not saying that is all of it, but the fact remains that there are so many young people who do not have jobs and the COVID-19 situation had made that worse with the lockdown.

“I think we should be thinking of what we can do to help improve the economic situation of people at home because that’s what helps to bring peace.

“If we did not have so many disoriented and disorganised unemployed youths, some of the activities that we see at home that are detrimental towards peace and security might not happen,” the WTO Dg stated.

Speaking earlier, Zubairu Dada, the Minister for State for Foreign Affairs, stated that the Federal Government was willing to create an enabling environment that would encourage direct investment by the diaspora.

Dada added that Nigerians in the Diaspora had continuously shown great dedication, with their time, skills, talents, resources and global exposure, to the development of the country.

“The theme of this year’s event encapsulates the intention of Nigeria in high engagement with her diaspora, especially in these times when we badly need peace, if any development is ever to take place.

“This celebration is also a networking event intended to showcase the achievements of Nigerians in the Diaspora, particularly our internationally acknowledged surgeons, educationists, world-class athletes, engineers, lawyers and scientists, among others.

“Men and women who have distinguished themselves in their chosen careers for their huge contribution to the peace and progress of their host countries and humanity in general.

“I wish to assure you that the federal government of Nigeria will provide an enabling environment, through policies and programmes tailored to support you and your wellbeing, and in turn encourage you to give back for the upliftment of your country,” he said.

He added that the government had taken a further step by approving and adopting the National Diaspora Policy 2021 and its Action Plan, for a more holistic approach to the nation’s engagement with the diaspora.

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Travel

High Altitude, Higher Prices: Domestic Airfares Jump 150%

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Arik Airplane - Investors King

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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