INEC Approves 146,913 Election Observers, Warns Against Interference in Electoral Process
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced that a record-breaking 146,913 election observers have been approved for the 2023 general elections.
The announcement was made by the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at the commission’s briefing for election observers in Abuja on Tuesday.
According to Prof. Yakubu, this year’s number of accredited observers is the highest in Nigeria’s history. The observers were approved from 196 national and domestic organizations, which registered 144,800 observers, and 33 international organizations, which registered 2,113 observers, Investors King reports.
Prof. Yakubu charged the observers to maintain impartiality and to refrain from interfering with the electoral processes.
He emphasized that international observers must respect Nigeria’s sovereignty and urged all observers to abide by the election observation code of conduct.
He stated, “I wish to remind observers that there is a code of conduct for election observation. You are, by definition, observers. Do not interfere with the process or show partisanship. In addition, international observers must be guided by the fact that the election is conducted by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, whose sovereignty must be respected. I urge you all to keep to the rules, listen to the presentation that will be made shortly, and ask questions where you require further clarification.”
The Regional Director, Africa, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Clara Cole, also addressed the gathering, highlighting that election observation helps to identify areas that need improvements in elections and boost public confidence in the electoral process.
She urged both domestic and foreign observers to abide by the laid down rules and regulations of the electoral body and perform their duties diligently.
“As we are aware, election observations contribute to public confidence, expose irregularities, and improve elections,” she said.
The Stranded Traveller: A Tale of Trapped Funds and Soaring Airfares in Nigeria
Nkechi had been saving for months to take her dream trip to London. She had researched everything from flights to hotels, and had finally settled on a good deal with Virgin Atlantic. But just as she was about to make the payment, she noticed that the price had gone up significantly.
She couldn’t understand why the exchange rate had suddenly skyrocketed from N462 per dollar to N551 per dollar, as she had been keeping up with the news and hadn’t heard of any major changes in the forex market.
Nkechi soon found out that the increase was due to a recent move by foreign airlines to block their inventory of cheaper tickets in order to cushion the effects of the rising amount of trapped funds. Nigeria had the highest amount of foreign airlines’ trapped funds globally, with about $743m as of January that year. This had led to a backlog of unremitted funds which the airlines were unable to repatriate, resulting in the increase in the exchange rate for ticket sales.
Nkechi felt frustrated and helpless. She had saved diligently and now her dream trip seemed to be slipping away. She wondered why the government hadn’t done more to release the trapped funds and make things easier for travellers like her. She reached out to her travel agent, who explained that the increase in the exchange rate had led to an over 20 per cent increase in international airfares. This meant that the promo price for her Virgin Atlantic ticket had gone up from N800,000 to N1.1m.
Nkechi was devastated. She had to either pay the higher price or forfeit her trip. She decided to explore other options and eventually found a cheaper deal with a less popular airline. The trip wasn’t exactly what she had envisioned, but at least she was going to London.
As she boarded the plane, Nkechi couldn’t help but think about how the situation could have been different if the government had acted faster to resolve the issue of trapped funds. She knew that many travellers were still stranded and unable to afford the high airfares. She made a mental note to write to her representatives and urge them to take action.
Nkechi’s trip was filled with mixed emotions. She was grateful for the opportunity to travel, but also saddened by the knowledge that many others were unable to do the same. She hoped that the situation would improve soon, and that travellers like her would not have to suffer the consequences of bureaucratic delays and economic uncertainty.
FG Assures Kick-off of Nigeria Air Operations Before Buhari’s Administration Ends
The Federal Government has reiterated its readiness to commence the operation of the national carrier, Nigeria Air before the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika gave the assurance during the 2023 National Aviation Stakeholders Forum in Abuja.
Investors King recalls that in November 2022, a Federal High Court in Lagos issued an order of interim injunction directing the federal government to discontinue the establishment of the national carrier. However, in February, Sirika said in an interview that he was not aware of such a court injunction, noting that the Nigerian Air had come to stay
Sirika stated that efforts have been intensified and consultations made to deliver the national carrier for use before May 29, 2023.
He said, “Operation of local and international flights will commence soon. Before the end of this administration, before May 29, we will fly.
“Negotiation meetings with the Ethiopian Airlines Group Consortium and the Federal Government of Nigeria is ongoing. Next step: Federal Executive Council approval of the Full Business Case.”
The minister noted that the Nigeria Air will reduce capital flights and improve the nation’s aviation industry.
According to him, the national carrier will also increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the industry. The impact would also be felt in tourism, agriculture and economic sectors as it will expand its shores, aid smooth transportation and provide more jobs.
Speaking on the development so far, Sirika said that the federal government had begun transactions to foreign airlines’ whose ticket sales funds were held up by insufficient dollars.
He said Qatar Airlines had $201 million trapped while for IATA airlines, $216 million was held.
He however, assured that efforts are ongoing to get the money released, adding that some of Emirates Airline funds have been returned and now left with $35 million.
Nigerian Students Studying in UK Reaches New High: What’s Driving This Trend?
According to official data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the number of Nigerian students studying in the United Kingdom (UK) rose to a record high of 44,195 in the 2021/2022 academic year. This represents an increase of 107.4% from the previous year.
With Nigeria ranking third behind China and India in the top ten international students list, experts attribute this growing trend to the UK’s intellectual capacity and its need for affordable labor to grow its economy.
Jennifer Oyelade, director at Transquisite Consulting, noted that UK universities get funding based on the performance of their students, which means that the more Nigerian students come and excel, the more money the universities receive.
Meanwhile, Adewale Adetona, co-founder at Menopays, argued that the UK sees attracting global talent as a significant way to further develop its economy.
The UK has become a global talent magnet by being a top study choice for Nigerian students. When compared to other countries, an analysis of Nigerian student enrollment data shows that the UK has a higher number of Nigerian students than the US, Canada, and Australia combined.
The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union in 2020 created a lot of job vacancies at the middle and low levels of the economy, leading the country to focus its attention on other countries with large youth demographics, including India, Brazil, and Nigeria.
To attract these countries, the UK updated its International Education Strategy in 2021, which aims to increase the value of its education exports to £35 billion ($48 billion) and host at least 600,000 international students annually by 2030.
The strategy includes the Graduate route, which allows eligible students to stay in the UK to work or look for work for up to two years (three years if studying at the PhD level) after completing a degree in the UK. Other strategies include high potential individual visas, global talent visas, and scale-up visas.
Despite the slow growth in international student numbers in the past due to migration restrictive policies, the British government’s updated education strategy has resulted in achieving the minimum 600,000 target in 2021, as the total number of international students reached 605,130 and 679,970 in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
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