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Air Peace Acquires New Aircraft to Boost Operations

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Nigerian airline, Air Peace has acquired a B737- 800NG to boost its domestic and regional operations in line with its expansion plan.

Mr. Stanley Olisa, Corporate Communications Executive of the airline, confirmed the development to the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos. Olisa said the aircraft arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at 8 p.m. on Thursday from Europe.

According to him, the new arrival is a 160 seater aircraft comprising 16 Business Class and 144 economy class seats.

“Air Peace, West, and Central Africa’s largest airline, last year became the first airline in sub-Saharan Africa to place a firm order for 10 B737 Max. The airline earlier this year made an order for 20 brand new 124 seater E195-E2 jets from Embraer, thereby making history as the launch customer of this new aircraft in entire Africa” he said.

He added that the airline has successfully started operations on the Sharjah-Dubai route on July 5, and it would soon begin services on international routes such as London, Houston, Johannesburg, Mumbai, and Guangzhou.

Olisa said the airline was grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for creating the enabling environment that made it possible for the airline to achieve this feat within a very short time of its existence.

“Our Chairman, Mr. Allen Onyema, is eternally grateful to President Buhari for making it possible for Air Peace to become what she is within the four years of the President’s regime. This is through the zero tax regime on imported commercial aircraft and aircraft spares introduced by his administration.”


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NDDC Spent N1.5Bn on COVID-19 Palliative for Staff— MD

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Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), has reportedly spent some N1.5 billion on staff as ‘COVID-19 relief funds’.

NDDC Spent N1.5Bn on COVID-19 Palliative for Staff— MD

Kemebradikumo Pondei, acting managing director, made the investigative hearing on the N40 billion corruption allegation against the commission.

The Senate had on May 5 set up a seven-man ad-hoc committee to investigate the “financial recklessness” of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the commission.

The lawmakers said, within the last three months, the commission has spent over N40 billion of the commission’s fund ”without recourse to established processes of funds disbursement which has opened up further suspicion among stakeholders of the Niger Delta Region.”

They also faulted the IMC’s ”arbitrary use of executive power in an alleged wrongful sacking of management staff without recourse to established civil service rules and practice with the aim of allegedly concealing the fraudulent financial recklessness they have committed.”

Mr Pondei and other delegates from the commission appeared before the committee on Thursday for the hearing.

Part of the audit report read out by Olubunmi Adetunmbi, chairman of the committee, said N3.1 billion was spent as COVID-19 funds between October 2019 and May 2020.

In the report, the lawmaker said ”N10 million was paid to one person, N7 million to two people, N5 million to three people, 148 people took N3 million each, 157 people got N1.5 million each, 497 people got N1 million each and 464 people were paid N600,000 each.”

Another N475 million was given to the police to purchase face masks and hand sanitisers, he added.

Responding to questions regarding the COVID-19 Relief Fund paid to NDDC staff, the MD said ”only N1.5 billion was used to take care of staff” despite being paid their salaries.

He explained that part of the fund was for the youth of Niger Delta.

”The youth were given palliatives to help cushion the effect of the pandemic on the people. The youth were idle and to avoid violence, they were paid,” he said.

“Five million for youths and five million for women and five million for people living with disabilities in each senatorial district,” he said.

He said ”the remaining fund was spent on staff of the commission.”

“We used it to take care of ourselves. We are NDDC, we need to take care of ourselves too,” he said.

He further explained that the IMC inherited debts upon assumption of office ”that needed to be cleared on time.”

He said the previous management owed hotels and had unpaid electricity bills of about N26 million.

When asked why the police was given N475 million, Mr Pondei said a request was made from ”the high command of police and the management took a look at it and approved it.”

He explained that the money ”was an intervention and the NDDC is expecting a report as to how the money was spent.”

Meanwhile, Cairo Ojougboh, acting deputy director, projects, added that the money given to police is for nine states of the Niger Delta region.

The investigative hearing will continue on Friday, the chairman said.


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NIPOST Workers Threaten Strike Action over Stamp Duty

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Workers of the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) have given 21 days for the federal government to intervene on the alleged “usurpation of her function and duties” by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

NIPOST Workers Threaten Strike Action over Stamp Duty

The workers under the auspices of Senior Staff of Statutory Corporations and Government Owned Companies (SSASCGOC) in Abuja Thursday, said printing of stamp duties by FIRS, a statutory duty carried out by NIPOST, is unacceptable.

Comrade Ayo Olorunfemi, general secretary of SSASCGOC, , told journalists in Abuja that the federal government must bring together all the stakeholders to resolve the issue to avert the industrial action at the expiration of the ultimatum.

Olorunfemi frowned at the situation whereby FIRS has decided to take over the production of stamps which led to many Nigerians to stop purchasing adhesive stamps from NIPOST.

According to him, the union may seek legal redress on the situation which he said could cause about 15, 000 workers to lose their jobs.

“To this end, we are calling on the federal government to facilitate an urgent meeting between NIPOST, FIRS, SSASCGOC, and other stakeholders in order to arrive at an amicable resolution. Failure to do this within 21 days from Thursday, July 9, 2020, we shall have no other option than to direct all our members in NIPOST to withdraw their services.

“It is very painful that while other nations are protecting and developing their postal services and making maximum use of the services for advancement, Nigeria is busy doing things that will kill its own.”


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Nigeria Develops Diagnostic Kit for COVID-19

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Nigeria’s efforts at developing solution to the challenge of non-availability and high cost of coronavirus diagnostic kits have finally paid off with the development of RNASwift Extraction kit.

Nigeria Develops Diagnostic Kit for COVID-19

This was disclosed by Prof. Alex Akpa, director-general of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), on Thursday during a news briefing held at the conference room of Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Abuja.

He said the RNASwift test kit would not only revolutionalise Africa’s PCR-Based COVID-19 testing, but will also expand the capacity by 50 times at least.

Akpa also said it would equally reduce cost by over 500 per cent as compared to the conventional kit in use.

“This meets the demands of the Test Africa Initiative. The kits will be produced in Nigeria, which is great news considering that it will enable preference to be given to the testing needs of Africa.

“The need for the invention was conceived by the request from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), to test five million farmers and farm hands.

“This was to ensure that our food security chain was not compromised by COVID-19,’’ the D-G said.

According to him, the RNASwift test kit is an indigenous diagnostic test kit designed, developed and validated in Nigeria for the identification of the causal agent, SARS-Cov-2, which causes COVID-19.

He noted that the diagnostic kit is “very accurate and sensitive’’ and competes favourably with conventional and commercially available kits for the diagnosis of COVID-19.

“This is in addition to a careful choice of reagents that are human and environmentally friendly in the development of the protocol for the diagnostic kit.

“In fact, the attributes of the RNASwift kits make it a game changer in the design and production of diagnostic kits for infectious diseases in the face of an epidemic or a pandemic,’’ Akpa said.

He further said that the project was made possible due to the scientific collaboration between the NABDA, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).

Prof. Akpa added that the technical support team of University of Sheffield, led by Dr Alison Nwokeoji, also made the project successful.

In his speech at the briefing, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, minister of Science and Technology, recalled that the first index case of COVID-19 was recorded in Nigeria on Feb. 27.

Onu said he had tasked Nigerian scientists to come up with a solution with the sum of N36 million pledge.

The Minister said Nigerians were creative and talented enough to develop home grown solutions to major challenges confronting the country, Africa and the world, with the RNASwift test kit as an example.

“Today, the RNASwift extraction kit developed by Nigerian scientists has capacity in an accurate, sensitive and affordable cost to detect SARS-Cov2, the causative agent of COVID-19.

“With the RNASwift test kit, we are going to test five million farmers, and the new test kit will reduced cost drastically,’’ Onu said.

He hinted that the African Development Bank was interested in it, not only as Test Africa Initiative, but that Nigeria should be the rallying point.

Similarly, he said the other African countries stood to benefit from the test kits due to the low cost.

The minister commended NABDA and said the agency had not only made the Ministry proud but Nigeria as a whole.

Alhaji Sabo Nanono, minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the test kit invented and developed was very critical to the present situation of insufficient test kits.

He said the FMARD was in the forefront when it came to food security, adding that with the invention and successful validation of the test kit, it was time for Nigerians to look inwards.

“We have talents and we need to develop and build on these talents, we will realise our target of testing five million farmers and Nigerians would be proud of this test kits,’’ Nanono said.

He applauded NABDA for the project, saying the success of the test kit was a milestone recorded in the FMST.

Speaking to newsmen on the sideline of the briefing, Dr Rose Gidado, Scientist and Deputy Director at NABDA, said the day was remarkable and historic for the agency, the ministry as well as Nigerians.

She said the new test kits could test more than 20,000 people a day but if more testing centres were set up, it could go up to 50,000 with automation.

The Scientist added that the need to test more Nigerians was necessary in order to isolate and treat.

 

 


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