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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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No stratification of Northern Christians or Muslims in APC – Keyamo

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The Minister of State for Labour and Productivity Festus Keyamo has said the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) does not have an official stratification of Northern Christians or Muslims in the party.
Keyamo stated this while reacting to trending media reports that Northern Christian members within the party had rejected the party’s Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket for the 2023 election.

He said: “I am not aware that the Northern Christians within the APC family met anywhere to appoint spokespersons on their behalf.”
Keyamo noted that no member of the party is authorised to speak on behalf of every adherent of a particular faith within a party.
“They will vote according to their individual conscience. Nobody has the authority to speak on behalf of every adherent of a particular faith within a party.

“Also and with the greatest respect, I am not aware that we have an official stratification of APC Northern Christians or Muslims in our great party.
“They are all APC members, simpliciter, and they registered as such into the party, not on the platforms of their different faiths,” Keyamo said.

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Babachir, Dogara Convene APC Northern Christian Leaders’ Meeting, Resolve to Vote against Tinubu, Shettima

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*Babachir: The PVC and our prayers will be our weapons, we will massively deploy them in 2023

*Dogara: Tinubu, party made fatal error of judgment on Muslim-Muslim ticket

Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and the former Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, led a meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Northern Christian Leaders in Abuja yesterday, where it was resolved that Christians should vote against the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the ruling party in the 2023 presidential election.

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Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the party picked Senator Kashim Shettima, the former governor of Borno State, who’s also a Muslim, as his running mate for the 2023 presidential election, a development that continues to elicit outrage from APC’s Christians stakeholders.
Speaking at the forum tagged, “APC Northern Christians Political Summit, Abuja 2022”, with the theme, “Righteousness Exalts a Nation, But Sin is a Reproach to Any People”, Babachir alleged that there was an agenda to politically, religiously and economically suppress and oppress Northern Christians, but assured that such agenda would be resisted.
He said Northern Christians were ready to battle the politics of exclusion and oppression, but open to discussions with anyone who wants to engage with them in good faith.

Babachir stressed that northern Christians’ opposition to Muslim-Muslim ticket had some historical basis, adding that there were times in the past when Christians produced the Deputy Governors in Kebbi, Niger and Kaduna States, “and now it is wholly Muslim-Muslim tickets in most places.”
The former SGF said it was worth noting that all these were happening in the APC-controlled states, stressing that they were threatening to do likewise in Gombe, Kogi and Adamawa states.

Lawal said the proof of its anti-Christian agenda was that APC had completely eliminated Northern Christians from its National Working Committee (NWC) and the National Executive Council (NEC), noting that all their protestations as party members have been completely ignored by the leadership.
He emphasised that as members of APC, they have the right to continue to express their indignation at these happenings and would not give up until they secure the justice that is due them.

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Lawal states: “The main purpose of this historical narrative is to let you know that for the APC, a Muslim-Muslim ticket has been a long-term political strategy and not a one-off decision. Thus, all this talk of competence as the reason for the choice of the Muslim VP is balderdash and diversionary. This is a calculated anti-Christian exclusion agenda that is being implemented.

“One might ask: why is the APC itself mute about our rejection of this Muslim-Muslim ticket? And why has none of the other perpetrators of this crisis reached out to Christians for a dialogue? Why are they instead hiring fake Bishops and taking church groups to further embarrass the Church? Why are they embarking on a vicious media war against CAN and the Church instead of seeking reconciliation? Truly, things are not adding up.
“So why are Christians, Northern Nigerian Christians in particular against the Muslim-Muslim ticket? I will try to enumerate just a few more reasons in addition to the ones I have already enumerated above.”

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Babachir stated categorically that they see the Muslim-Muslim ticket as an assent to the current and continuing educational, economic and political marginalisation of Northern Christians.
He noted that Christians all over the country see the Muslim-Muslim ticket as a deliberate and premeditated attempt to introduce and firmly entrench religion into the politics of this country.

“One might ask: why is the APC itself mute about our rejection of this Muslim-Muslim ticket? And why has none of the other perpetrators of this crisis reached out to Christians for a dialogue? Why are they instead hiring fake Bishops and taking church groups to further embarrass the Church? Why are they embarking on a vicious media war against CAN and the Church instead of seeking reconciliation? Truly, things are not adding up.
“So why are Christians, Northern Nigerian Christians in particular against the Muslim-Muslim ticket? I will try to enumerate just a few more reasons in addition to the ones I have already enumerated above.”

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Babachir stated categorically that they see the Muslim-Muslim ticket as an assent to the current and continuing educational, economic and political marginalisation of Northern Christians.
He noted that Christians all over the country see the Muslim-Muslim ticket as a deliberate and premeditated attempt to introduce and firmly entrench religion into the politics of this country.

“For how do they expect Christians to keep silent when a Northern state governor publicly states that they pressured Tinubu to get a Northern Muslim VP because they did not believe him to be a good Muslim? Is the VP going to be the National Deputy Imam?
“How do they expect us to keep silent when another Northern state governor goes to Osun State and urges them to vote for someone just because he is a Muslim? Was he there for the election campaign or ‘dawah’? What can be a better example of religion in politics than demonstrated by these governors?
“Clearly, there is an agenda to politically, religiously, and economically suppress and oppress the Northern Christian. But we are up to the task. We will protect ourselves. The PVC and our prayers will be our weapons of choice and we will massively deploy them in 2023.”

On his part, Dogara said the adoption of a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket by APC was capable of leading Nigeria to disintegration like Yugoslavia.
He said the opposition of Northern Christians to all Muslim ticket should not be understood to be objecting to Muslims or that they don’t want Tinubu to be president, “neither is it about Senator Kashim Shettima. It is about what is right and what is wrong, it is about justice, fairness and equity.”

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Dogara continued: “It is about Nigeria; its diversity and how it can be harnessed in an inclusive manner for the greater good of all of us. Be that as it may, some of us really wanted Asiwaju to be president because he has sacrificed much for our party, the APC and for what he represents to so many people. So, our position cannot be against Muslims or Islam. That fact cannot be denied in any way.”

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“For how do they expect Christians to keep silent when a Northern state governor publicly states that they pressured Tinubu to get a Northern Muslim VP because they did not believe him to be a good Muslim? Is the VP going to be the National Deputy Imam?
“How do they expect us to keep silent when another Northern state governor goes to Osun State and urges them to vote for someone just because he is a Muslim? Was he there for the election campaign or ‘dawah’? What can be a better example of religion in politics than demonstrated by these governors?
“Clearly, there is an agenda to politically, religiously, and economically suppress and oppress the Northern Christian. But we are up to the task. We will protect ourselves. The PVC and our prayers will be our weapons of choice and we will massively deploy them in 2023.”

On his part, Dogara said the adoption of a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket by APC was capable of leading Nigeria to disintegration like Yugoslavia.
He said the opposition of Northern Christians to all Muslim ticket should not be understood to be objecting to Muslims or that they don’t want Tinubu to be president, “neither is it about Senator Kashim Shettima. It is about what is right and what is wrong, it is about justice, fairness and equity.”

Dogara continued: “It is about Nigeria; its diversity and how it can be harnessed in an inclusive manner for the greater good of all of us. Be that as it may, some of us really wanted Asiwaju to be president because he has sacrificed much for our party, the APC and for what he represents to so many people. So, our position cannot be against Muslims or Islam. That fact cannot be denied in any way.”

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PDP UK names Segun Sky Akinyemi as caretaker chairman

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Consequent to the end of tenure of the outgoing executives, the People’s Democratic Party United Kingdom South West caucus has appointed a new caretaker chairman in the person of Hon. Segun Akinyemi, a.k.a SKY.

Akinyemi, who hails from Modakeke in Ife East Local Government Area of Osun State, is a founding member of the South West caucus in the UK and has contributed immensely to the growth of PDP both in the UK and his community in Nigeria.

A very loyal party man, according to a release made available to the media, Sky worked assiduously with previous chairmen like Late Mobolaji Walker and Otunba Yomi Fakorede and also played major roles in terms of fund raising in support of PDP candidates in Nigeria.

He will be taking over the mantle of leadership from Hon Babatunde Akinbami, the incumbent chairman and has promised to re-unite all aggrieved members while repositioning the party pending the time new elections would be conducted.

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Segun Sky, as he is fondly addressed by friends and associates, attended Buckinghamshire New University UK where he studied Advertising and Promotions management.

An astute businessman and entertainment mogul, he also practises in the UK as an independent publicist where he presides over a public relations outfit, DE-SKY Multimedia.

Correspondents were informed that his new appointment takes immediate effect while an inauguration date would be announced soon.

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