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FG awaits official memo as UK removes Nigeria from red list

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Effective this morning, the United Kingdom (UK) will remove Nigeria and 10 other African countries from its travel red list, allowing free entry of flights and travellers with minimal conditions into the UK.

The reversal comes just a day after Nigeria said it had initiated diplomatic steps to make the UK and the UAE reverse the restrictions imposed on the country rather than impose its own travel ban in retaliation.

Similarly, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has modified its stance on welcoming Nigerian flag carrier, Air Peace airline, into the country, with an approval of seven weekly slots into the Dubai International Airport, Dubai.

Air Peace, may, however, not warm up to the offer as it runs contrary to its desire to operate into Sharjah Airport, in avoidance of head-to-head collision with Emirates Airline at its Dubai hub.

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But as at last night, The Guardian learnt that the parties had met in Abuja with “fruitful deliberation” towards an amicable resolution of the row.

The UK government had recently reintroduced the red list as a precaution after the emergence of the Omicron variant. Affected were: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

But Health Secretary Sajid Javid, yesterday, said the variant had spread so widely the rules no longer had much purpose.

“Now that there is community transmission of Omicron in the UK and Omicron has spread so widely across the world, the travel red list is now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad,” Javid told UK Parliament.

“While we will maintain our temporary testing measures for international travel, we will be removing all 11 countries from the travel red list effective from 4a.m. Wednesday morning.”

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Currently, all UK arrivals from red list countries must pay for and self-isolate in a pre-booked, government-approved hotel for 10 days. Some travellers have already paid thousands of pounds to stay in government-approved quarantine hotels, and there have been complaints of chaotic organisation and inedible food during their stays.

Javid said he had asked for urgent advice on whether those currently in managed quarantine would be able to leave early.

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“The point of putting countries on the red list was to act quickly to slow the spread of Omicron. Now it has spread in the community, the government doesn’t think putting people from a limited list of countries in hotels is useful.”

Head of trade group, Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade, said emptying the red list made “complete sense” but that the government should also scrap the remaining travel restrictions.

Currently, all arrivals, regardless of where they fly from, must take COVID-19 tests within 48 hours of setting off for the UK and PCR tests within two days of their arrival.

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“If the red list isn’t necessary, given that Omicron is established here at home, then neither are the costly emergency testing and isolation measures imposed on even fully vaccinated travellers, which again put us completely at odds with the rest of Europe,” he said.

REACTING, the Federal Government has welcomed the removal of Nigeria from the UK red list of countries banned from operating flights to Britain as a result of the outbreak of the Omicron variant. The government’s position was noted by the Director of Public Affairs, Federal Ministry of Aviation, Dr. James Odaudu.

He said the ministry is yet to receive any official communication from Britain on the withdrawal of Nigeria from the red list.

Odaudu said: “The news of the withdrawal of Nigeria from the red list is a welcome development. It is a relief to the aviation industry. However, we are yet to receive any official communication from Britain on the new development.”

The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, in a letter to the Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, stated that the relationship between the two countries dated back in time and pledged to “facilitate easy and safe travel for the people, between our two brotherly countries.”

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The letter, signed by its Director General, Mohammed Ahli, showed seven slots a week, with a proviso that Air Peace reaches out to Dubai Airports on its intentions to operate by Thursday December 16, and accordingly confirm the blocked slots.

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THE Omicron variant is spreading at a rate not seen before, and there is concern that people are dismissing it as mild, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, yesterday, during a news briefing in Geneva.

Tedros noted that 77 countries have now reported cases of Omicron, and “the reality is that Omicron is probably in most countries, even if it hasn’t been detected yet.

“It is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant,” he said. “We’re concerned that people are dismissing Omicron as mild. Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril.

“Even if it does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems,” he said.

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Tedros stated that vaccines alone won’t get any country out of this crisis. “Countries can and must prevent the spread of Omicron with measures that work today,” he said.

A new WHO pandemic assessment, published yesterday, showed an 83 per cent surge in new COVID-19 cases during the past week in Africa, driven by the Delta and Omicron variants, though it is causing fewer deaths than previous surges. The pandemic assessment was released during a virtual press conference organised by WHO and facilitated by APO Group.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said Africa recorded more than 196,000 new cases for the week ending on December 12, up from around 107,000 in the previous week, bringing the total cumulative number of recorded cases during the pandemic to 8.9 million. The number of new COVID-19 cases is currently doubling every five days, the shortest reported this year. While the speed of the spread is fast, deaths remain low and even dropped by 19 per cent last week compared with the previous week.

Moeti noted that there were a little over 3,000 deaths reported during the first three weeks of the current pandemic wave, which is Africa’s fourth. About half as many cases were reported in the same time frame during the third wave, which was fuelled by the Delta variant.

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According to WHO, vaccination coverage remains highly variable across the region. As of December 13, only 20 African countries had vaccinated at least 10 per cent of their population—the global target WHO had set for September 2021.

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Only six African countries have hit the year-end target of fully vaccinating 40 per cent of their population, while only two countries—Mauritius and Seychelles—have reached the 70 per cent coverage seen as essential for controlling the pandemic.

At the current pace, WHO estimates that it will take until May of 2022 before Africa reaches 40 per cent coverage and August 2024 before it reaches the 70 per cent mark.

CONCERNED with the dramatic rise in COVID-19 positive cases seen in the evolving fourth wave, the Lagos State government has commenced prosecution of inbound international passengers who fail to submit themselves for Day Two and Day Seven PCR tests as mandated by the Federal Government’s COVID-19 protocols and guidelines.

Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, who made this known, yesterday, noted that the prosecution of defaulting inbound passengers has become necessary to mitigate the evolving fourth wave of COVID-19 infection in the state.

He said: “Lagos State is concerned with the dramatic rise in cases seen in the evolving fourth wave. Identifying that our previous waves are associated with non-compliance of inbound passengers with the testing guidelines, we have commenced prosecution of inbound international passengers who fail to submit themselves for Day Two and Day Seven PCR tests as mandated by the Federal COVID-19 protocols and guidelines.

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“In addition, unvaccinated inbound passengers and anyone testing positive for COVID-19 are mandated to self-isolate at home for seven days. We will be sanctioning anyone found to be disregarding these guidelines, which are designed to minimise the community transmission of COVID and its variants.”

The Commissioner further disclosed that the state government has started contacting the defaulting passengers and patients for arraignment before a mobile court for special offences.

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Excitement as court reinstates Bwacha, Binani as APC guber candidates for Taraba, Adamawa

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The Appeal Court sitting in Yola, the capital of Adamawa State has set aside the judgement of a Federal High Court, that earlier nullified the victories of the All Progressives Congress (APC) guber candidates for both Adamawa and Taraba States.

The candidates Aishatu Binani and Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, it would be recalled were recently warned by the Federal High Courts in both states to desist from parading themselves as the party’s governorship flag bearers for their respective states.

While that of Bwacha was necessitated by the suit filed by one of the aggrieved aspirants, David Sabo Kente, that of Binani, as noticed by TheHeute , was instituted by the former boss of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu.

In the ruling, the presiding judge, was observed to have also ruled out the request by Malam Nuhu Ribadu for the conduct of another fresh primary in Adamawa.

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Wondering why the appellate court had earlier nullified Binani’s victory, the judge immediately directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to as a matter of urgency recognize Binani, as the gubernatorial candidate of APC in Adamawa State.

The same ruling was observed to have been implied to Bwacha, who is the incumbent Senator representing Taraba South.

When reached via a telephone, the elated Bwacha told our state correspondent that the court ruling is a victory for all Tarabans who have been yearning for a change in the state.

Describing the judiciary as the last hope of the common man, he beckoned to all the aggrieved members of the party to put their personal interests aside for the growth of the party.

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Also speaking, Bawacha’s campaign Director General of Media and Publicity, Aaron Artimas, said with the court ruling, the party’s guber candidate is now at liberty to flag off his campaign.

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Lauding the sense of maturity displaced by the teaming supporters of Bwacha and the party at large, he urged them to close ranks and work as a family for the party’s victory in the forthcoming elections.

Supporters of the party from both states who also bared their minds to DAILY POST through a telephone interview, thanked the judge whom they described as a courageous judge.

At the time of filing this report, it is not yet clear whether Nuhu Ribadu and David Sabo Kente, would proceed to the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling.

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Osun: Don’t betray youths -Adeyanju writes Ademola Adeleke

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A socio-political activist, Deji Adeyanju, has cautioned the Osun State governor-elect, Ademola Adeleke, ahead of his inauguration on Saturday.

Adeyanju cautioned Adeleke against betraying youths and the people of the state in the running of his government.

He reminded Adeleke that youths and people of the state used their platforms to resist the attempt to thwart his emergence “through rigging which led to your eventual emergence.”

The Abuja-based lawyer described the governor-elect as a “man in touch with the realities of the time and one committed to doing right by his people and state.”

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He stressed that Adeleke can “build a transcendental legacy, train the leaders of tomorrow and sustain the trust of the young demographic who are now driving political portends and conversations more than at any other time in our political history.”

The activist maintained that no government bereaved of quality youth representation can be taken seriously.

Adeyanju stated this in an open letter to Adeleke titled: “Open letter to Governor Elect Adeleke as history beckons on him.”

Read the full letter below…

Dear Governor Adeleke,

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Mr. Governor-Elect, in a few days time, a moment in history will be made with your swearing-in ceremony as you officially transit from a Governor-Elect to the sitting and serving Governor of Osun state. I must extend my congratulations once again to you for the uncommon feat of unseating an incumbent even as your emergence epitomizes a victory for democracy and a reflection of the preference of the good people of Osun State.

This is a testament of your grit, resilience, forward planning and clinical execution over the uninspiring leadership of the outgoing governor. The people of Osun state spoke in one resounding voice and rewarded your resilience with the highest stewardship in the land. It now behoves on you to reciprocate the support of the people by justifying their choice at the poll through people-driven governance, accountability and accessibility by those who have invested their trust and confidence in you.

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The task before you is one of great enormity but not impossible with the right team and political will. It will exert on you the usual temptation of the glitz of public office that overwhelms those with a simple mind and those given to the hubris of their whims. But it is, however my belief, one shared by the overwhelming number of the people of Osun state who gave their votes to you, that you are a man of focus who will not betray the aggregate hopes of those who have put their confidence in you and that you will not renege on your campaign promises nor stray from the noble path.

In particular, the young men and women of Osun state were at the forefront of your campaign and emergence, overcoming the pecuniary temptations of the opposition to hand you a resounding victory. The measured metric of any government is largely how it carries its young populace along not just in tokenized gestures but in entrusted positions of authority as parts and parcel of government. I will strongly advise that you make young people the cornerstone of your government.

This is how to build a transcendental legacy, train the leaders of tomorrow and sustain the trust of the young demographic who are now driving political portends and conversations more than at any other time in our political history. Indeed, no government bereaved of quality youth representation can be taken seriously in these times.

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One can vouchsafe that Osun state is blessed with youths of uncommon competence who have proven themselves in public or private service. It is your job to discover them and give them roles to rebuild the state. The choice of such youths must not be made lightly, and much must be taken into consideration, such as ideology, personal competence, popular acceptance, and capacity and integrity. It is to these ones that the overwhelming young men and women of Osun state will look up to in a measure of their relevance to you and your government. I have no doubt that you will act right by them as this is at the heart of the support you enjoy amongst many of us in the civil society space.

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To betray the people of Osun state, particularly the youth population would be to betray the trust of people like us who have used their platforms to resist the attempt to thwart your emergence through rigging which led to your eventual emergence and one which will regrettably catalyse a reversal of that wide trust and support. We, however, stay avowed to your government as we share the conviction that you are a man in touch with the realities of the time and one committed to doing right by his people and state.

Congratulations once again, Your Excellency, the In-Coming Governor of the Great State of Osun, may God’s wisdom and knowledge guide your path.

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Stalemate: Aggrieved PDP govs weigh fresh options

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The five aggrieved Peoples Democratic Party governors on Sunday met with other party heavyweights where they discussed fresh options as the hopes of reconciling with the camp of the PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, seems to be fading.

This is happening as the camps of the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, expressed willingness to seek the support of the governors to actualise their aspirations.

However, speaking after their closed-door meeting in Lagos, the governors said the window of reconciliation with Atiku was still open.

At the meeting were governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Seyi Makinde (Oyo); Samuel Ortom (Benue); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia); former deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George; former governors Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti); Donald Duke (Cross River), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), and Jonah Jang (Plateau).

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Also present were a former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke; Deputy National Chairman, South of the PDP, Taofeek Arapaja; Senator Nasif Suleiman; Senator Sandy Onor and Senator Sam Ohabunwa.

The meeting was held days after the governors unveiled the PDP governorship candidate in Rivers State, Siminalayi Fubara.

They had earlier held meetings in Enugu, Benue and outside the country.

The governors are at loggerheads with Atiku over the refusal of the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, to resign.

Speaking at the meeting, Makinde said though he and his colleagues were the face of their struggle, it had the backing of the leaders and elders of the party who were present.

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He stated, “We are here this morning to hold a meeting of the Integrity Group within our party, the PDP. We have been of the G5 – that is, the five PDP governors. The G5 is all about the Integrity Group.

 “You can see us, five serving governors, as the face of this struggle, both the leaders and elders of the party that you see here are the people behind those faces. We are in the South-West to review the situation within our party, to review where we are and to also look at what is going to happen in the coming elections.’’

Shortly after the closed-door meeting, Jang reiterated that they were still maintaining the stand they took at their last meeting in Port Harcourt.

 “After a careful review of developments in our party, we have decided to stand on the decisions we took in our Port Harcourt meeting. And we hereby reiterate that the window for reconciliation in our great party, PDP, remains open,” he said.

The governors then proceeded to George’s house in Ikoyi where Wike addressed the party faithful with promises of support for the candidates in the coming election.

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Our correspondent gathered that the Integrity Group would soon take a decision on the presidential candidate they intended to support if the expected truce with Atiku fails. Already, sources at the meeting said the group had reached a point where a major decision would be taken

Tinubu, Obi camps

Meanwhile, the Chief Spokesman of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, has said hat Tinubu is focused on consolidating his stronghold but will not mind exploiting the festering crisis in the PDP.

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This is even as Emeka Obasi, the media aide to the LP candidate says there is a chance that his principal could work with the PDP Integrity Group.

Keyamo and Obasi spoke in separate interviews with The PUNCH.

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Keyamo said, “I don’t know of any talks between APC and the G-5. At least, not to my knowledge. However, despite their quarrel with the PDP, as of today, they are still members of the party.

“Let me repeat it for the umpteenth time. For us, we are proceeding from the position of calculating our strength, without thinking of the quarrel or weakness of the PDP. We are not depending on it

“If after calculating our strength and the implosion continues in the PDP by the end of the day, we can then consider it as an added advantage, but not a factor to tilt the scale to our victory. It may make victory easier if they come through the door we have opened for them. Anything can happen. But we are not looking out for that possibility. We are just saying in politics, anything can happen.”

In the same vein, Obasi told The PUNCH that there is a chance Obi may be willing to work with the PDP governors if it will benefit the Nigerian people.

He noted, “There is nothing stopping that. It is a possibility. They can work together only if they are willing to work for the Nigerian people. But if it is not for the benefit of the Nigerian people, you will see him not aligning with it.

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“It is still three months to the election for anybody who wants to support him to do so. It is a democratic process. Nothing stops somebody from jumping camps any time anywhere. So they are free.

“There are things we don’t force. If somebody will support you, he is going to support you wholeheartedly. These are not anyhow politicians. They are governors who have their say, they are not people you force to support you. That is something that ought to be done wholeheartedly in line with their conscience.’’

“If you know my principal, he is somebody who likes to be open. He won’t promise you skyscrapers when he already knows what he can offer. For him, he can only offer what is good for the Nigerian people.

“Whoever wants to join him based on that principle is free. But to go and start doing political lobbying for somebody to him is a promise he can’t fulfil. It is not his style,” he maintained.

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