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COVID-19: Air Peace evacuates 274 Israelis from Abuja; Lagos to Tel-Aviv

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Air Peace boss, Allen Onyema

AIR PEACE Sunday evacuated 274 Israelis from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja (NAIA) to Tel-Aviv, Israel.

The flight, which airlifted 65 passengers from Lagos and proceeded to Abuja to airlift another 209 was operated by Air Peace Boeing 777-300 with registration number 5N-BWI.

The Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema described the flight as historical because it is the first time Nigeria and Israel would have a direct flight and expressed hope that subsequently the two countries would have scheduled direct flight between Lagos and Tel-Aviv.

“It is a historic day for both Nigeria and Israel. History has been made today. 60 years of diplomatic relations, no direct flight has been conducted between Nigeria and Israel till today. So this is the first time Nigeria and Israel will have direct air connectivity. So it is a historic day and it is going to portend greater things that will come. Both countries have a lot to gain by having direct flights. Nigeria is a land of huge potential, which Israel may be willing to tap into, while Nigeria will want to tap into science and technology, which Israel is known for.

“I really want to thank the federal government of Nigeria for making this possible. Previous administrations were unable to pull this through, but this government did it. We have a compassionate government; that I can tell you. It is difficult to get flight permits even during this critical period of emergencies from other countries, but Nigeria did not waste a second to approve this flight. The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika approved the request the moment it was presented to him. All the heads of aviation agencies gave their support, which made the flight possible. So it is the federal government that made the evacuation possible,” Onyema said.

He said the Israel government also gave its support and allowed for the first time a Nigerian airline to operate direct flight to the Israel, noting that this is something good for both countries, good for our diplomatic relations.

“So I feel proud, I fell privileged to be part of this history and I thank God almighty for it. We have to build from here now going forward,” the Air Peace Chairman said.

He also said, “This COVID-19 storm will be over someday. When it is over we look forward to do scheduled direct flight to Israel; at least twice a week to Tel-Aviv; this will help boost business relations between both countries. So there is a lot to be gained instead of people going through different countries before getting to Israel. For Israelis to get their country they spend about 18 hours for just about five hours flight from Nigeria. They were happy and clapping for the Nigerian government and for the Israeli government for making this happen today. So I say kudos to the Buhari administration for making this come through.”

The Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Shimon Ben-Shoshan expressed happiness for the successful evacuation of his country’s citizens from Nigeria and commended the Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema for his invaluable contribution in making the airlift possible.

“Thank you so much for this cooperation with us. We will work together. During this operation I will work with you hand by hand. I can say that you are the darling of the Nigerian people but you are my hero. Thank you so much,” Ben-Shoshan.

An Israeli official who superintended the airlifting process from Lagos and who wished not to be named, said it was because of the Coronavirus pandemic that Israel decided to evacuate its citizens because they would have access to better medical facilities and personnel in Israel than in Nigeria.

“We are evacuating because of the coronavirus and the situation in Nigeria, which could become serious. You see what is happening all over the world. So for us to protect our citizens better we take them home to get a better health service. If something happens to you here you go to private hospital, not government hospital but in Israel we have government hospitals. By God’s grace we hope to have direct flight subsequently,” the official said.

The Air Peace Station Manager at MMIA, Lenard Olisakwe expressed happiness that Israel chose Nigerian airline to evacuate its citizens to Israel.

It is not easy to be patronized by Israelis who are highly security conscious, having to say, yes I am handing over the lives of my citizens to a particular airline is a big one. I was excited too because for them to choose Air Peace they must have done a lot of homework because they are not frivolous people. We are operating from both Abuja and Lagos. It is a transit flight. We will take them to Abuja international where the other passengers will join and from Abuja to Tel-Aviv. It is about five hour’s flight. We are using one of our B777-300 BWI. It is one of the best we have,” he said.

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Nigeria lauds improved collaboration in AFI Region, signs MoU with Sierra Leone, Rwanda

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MINISTER of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has commended International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) stressing that it’s leadership stance in collaboration has led member states of the African Indian-Ocean ( AFI) region to pool resources in resolving challenges and enhance safety in the Sub-region.

Sirika made this known at the 7th AFI Aviation Week in Abuja, Nigeria holding from 16th – 20th May where the nation signed Memorandum of Understandings, (MoUs) with Sierra Leone and Rwanda for technical support to enhance safety and security of Civil Aviation in the region.

According to him, ICAO’s leadership has set the bar for Member States to collaborate in resolving challenges particularly in the area of enhancing safety in our Sub-region.

He explained that one of the outcomes of such collaboration is the Comprehensive Regional Implementation Plan for Aviation Safety in Africa, which metamorphosized in the West Africa region into the Banjul Accord Group Aviation Safety Oversight Organization (BAGASOO), in Abuja, which is hosted and substantially funded by Nigeria stating that this organisation has continued to support the Member States in improving their safety oversight capabilities and human resource development.

On the MoUs, Sirika said they will aid to strengthen safety and efficiency of the sector as well as cooperation in the region.

The Aviation Minister stated that, aviation being an enabler and a positive factor for growth, development and robustness of the economy, informed the sector to enter into partnerships with other countries.

From left, Commisioner Banjul Accord Accident Investigation Agency (BAGAIA), Engineer Charles Irikefe Erhueh with Minister of Aviation, Nigeria, Senator Hadi Sirika and Commissioner Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) Nigeria, Engineer Akin Olateru at the opening ceremony of the 7th AFI Aviation Week in Abuja, Nigeria holding from 16th – 20th May

“This is the only way to continue to make these initiatives relevant and sustainable, while contributing to the strengthening of safety, security and facilitation in the region, bearing in mind that a safe, secure and efficient air transport system is a natural impetus for socio-economic development of the region and a means to support trade and tourism”.

The MoUs were signed by the Nigeria’s Director General, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu and representatives of the two countries at the opening ceremony of the Conference in Abuja.

Explaining further, the NCAA Director General, Captain Nuhu said, the partnership with the two African countries is to assist each other where there are gaps or deficiencies in the system, adding that no civil aviation authorities globally have the capacity to do everything.

The experience of the last two years, Captain Nuhu emphasized has underscored the fact that overcoming challenges and achieving meaningful growth in the industry, can only be done through cooperation, collaboration and co-ordination amongst stakeholders.

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BREAKING: Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, Arrested Over N80 Billion Fraud

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Nigeria’s Accountant-General, Ahmed Idris, has been arrested over alleged money laundering and diversion of public funds estimated at N80 billion.

Those familiar with the development said Mr Idris was intercepted in Kano by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday evening and is being flown to Abuja, the nation’s capital, for interrogation.

Our sources said the EFCC has for sometime now been investigating a case of diversion of at least N80 billion in public funds which was allegedly laundered through some bogus contracts.

The companies used in laundering the funds have allegedly been linked to family members and associates of the accountant-general, investigators said.

Our sources further said after progress was made in the investigation, Mr Idris was summoned repeatedly for interrogation but he failed to honour the invitations.

“We kept inviting him but he kept dodging us,” one of our sources said. “We were left with no choice than to keep him under watch and arrest him.”

The spokesperson for the EFCC could not be reached to comment for his story. One of his subordinates said he is travelling in the United Kingdom at this time.

However, a top EFCC official confirmed the development but asked not to be named because he had no permission to discuss the matter with the media.

Mr Uwujaren later issued a statement saying, “Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Monday, May 16, 2022 arrested serving Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Ahmed Idris in connection with diversion of funds and money laundering activities to the tune of N80billion( Eighty Billion Naira only).

“The Commission’s verified intelligence showed that the AGF raked off the funds through bogus consultancies and other illegal activities using proxies, family members and close associates.

“The funds were laundered through real estate investments in Kano and Abuja.

Mr Idris was arrested after failing to honour invitations by the EFCC to respond to issues connected to the fraudulent acts.”

President Muhammed Buhari appointed Mr Idris accountant-general on June 25, 2015.

The position became vacant at the time after the former Accountant General, Jonah Otunla, left office on June 12, 2015.

President Buhari reappointed Mr Idris for a second four-year term in June 2019, amid criticisms from labour groups who said the accountant-general should retire after turning 60.

Mr Idris, a native of Kano State, North-west Nigeria, was born on November 25, 1960, and was until his appointment in 2015 the Director of Finance and Accounts, Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.

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Abuja-Kaduna Train Services to Resume May 23rd

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The Federal Government says train services will resume along the Abuja Kaduna train rail line on Monday, the 23rd of May, 2022.

In a statement by the Deputy Director, Public Relations, Mr Mahmud Yakubu said the Federal Government gave the directive for the resumption.

According to the statement, plans are still on to ensure that those abducted on the 28th of March along the same route due to bandits’ attack are released unhurt.

It emphasises that security would be adequately provided for would-be passengers and that every potential commuter must present a valid Id card, National identity number, NIN and proof of ticket purchase at entry and exit points.

The first train would depart the Idu end of the rail line at 9.50 am.

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