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Re: NIGERIA DESIGNATES FIVE AIRPORTS FOR FREE TRADE ZONE

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By Nuhu Adam

The recent announcement of the designation of five international airports – Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, Aminu Kano International Airport Kano, Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu and Portharcourt International Airport Omagwa – by the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirka to support the implementation of both the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) agreements is not only a welcome development but a commendable bold move by the government.

Of the five airports, Port – Harcourt airport has the advantage of a complimentary existing Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone. The logistics hub of this zone should take advantage and set the ball rolling immediately to sustain the gains for Oil and Gas cargo, while building capacity at the airport for agro allied export and others using the aviation logistics hub.

Practice in developed and developing countries indicates the existence of numerous and heterogeneous free zones as well as the different role which they have in the economic development of countries that have implemented them. Different industry-specific economic zones can be created to fill certain business needs with the ultimate goal of empowering the economic potentials of the countries in which they are situated. It is along this premise that we make bold to say the free trade zone would offer a huge potential for continental aviation given the potentials of Nigeria dominant market in the West and Central Africa.

The Nigeria aviation logistics hub is about to experience a game changer if the Free Trade zone is well coordinated and implemented and private sector driven.
Aside the increase in the dynamics of economic activities, it will also encourage the advancement of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in aviation value chain – OEM supply chain, FBO, capacity building and generation of new entrepreneurial opportunities in e – commerce fulfilment, this is in addition to the likely changes in the real estate market in the airport and its environs among other services.

Benefits accruable by the establishment of a Free Trade Zone
There are loads of advantages available to a company operating within a Free Zone including, but not limited, to the following depending on the model approved for the airport free trade zone:
• No pre-shipment inspection and issuance of Bank Form M required prior to shipment of material from the country of origin. Customers with Bank Bonds executed with the Customs can take their goods into the Nigerian territory after examination and within a very short time.
• While importing cargo the traditional way, you’re subject to clear your material and equipment and pay Customs Duty within 30 days. In the Free zone you are enjoying unlimited time to custom clear your consignment.
• This makes for increased shipments and cargo movements.
• Better cash flow management – Customs Duty Scheduling System. With a Bank Bond/Guarantee in place, you will be able to obtain Customs release of cargo required in the Customs territory. Payment of duty/perfection of Customs entries is then scheduled to be completed within 14 days after delivery – thus deferring Customs Duty payment and obtaining a better cash flow…… Not too sure with AfCTA
• This further translates into increased revenue and earnings in the associated private sector (airlines, clearing/forwarding agencies, banking/finance, services and supplies), increased government revenue and earnings (for Nigerian Customs, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Cargo Handling Companies, Federal Inland Revenue Service, among others).
• Creation of job opportunities and entrepreneurial development of budding investors.
• Technology transfer and enhancement of local content participation in the nation’s Aviation industry.
• No VAT and withholding tax chargeable on Free Zone storage facilities, services and activities.
• No corporate and personal income tax payable.
• Easy facilitation of expatriate employees working in the Free Zone. No expatriate quota and residence permit are required for the expatriate staff working and domiciled within the area delineated as the Free Zone territory.

Concluding Remarks
Airport Free Zones have proven to be success stories in some countries of the world. The Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, the Dubai Airport Free Zone, Abu Dhabi Free Zone and Sharjah International Airport Free Zone – all within the United Arab Emirates – are good examples. They have continued to support the economic development of their host nations. All considered, the socio-economic potentials derivable from this development will be felt in a long time to come, especially in Nigeria’s Aviation industry and within the precincts of the neighbouring countries.
More importantly for me, aside the cargo volumes increase is an MRO being championed within a Free Zone to turn Nigeria into the Hub for maintenance, repairs and overhaul of Aircraft in West and Central Africa, while also attracting business from the rest of the aviation and aerospace world will be a catalyst for the new phase of aviation in the region

The MROs in FTZ will result in cost savings to Airlines based in Nigeria and reduce the demand for foreign currency required for Aircraft maintenance.
Labour, which is a major cost item is available locally and at cheaper rates…. More jobs opportunities.
MROs in FTZ would also serve as a platform for capacity building and ensure the development of local labour into highly skilled, certified world-class experts in various aviation related fields.
The aviation logistics value chain will be enhanced in Nigeria and the West and Central Africa Region.

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Relief For Dubai Travellers, as UAE Succumbs To Nigeria’s Conditions

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* Emirates resumes Services June 23rd

After months of despair, relief may have come the way of travellers on Lagos/Abuja-Dubai routes as the United Arabs Emirates (UAE), on Saturday, succumbed to Nigeria’s position on COVID-19 travel protocols and relaxed its COVID-19/travel requirements for Nigerians.

As a result, Emirates airline has said it will resume lifting passengers from Niger on June 23, 2021.

A twitter message from the Dubai Media Office said passengers from Nigeria are expected to have received a negative result for a PCR test taken within 48 hours before departure.

It added that passengers are also expected to present a negative PCR test certificate with a OR code from laboratories approved by the Nigerian government, while also undergoing the same test upon arrival at the Dubai airport.

The two countries had been at loggerheads, and have suspended flights, over travel requirements for travellers as part of measures to contain COVID-19 spread.

The country’s airline, Emirates Airline had directed that Nigerian travellers at the Lagos and Abuja airports must conduct rapid COVID-19 tests before departure. This led to a ban on Emirates flights in Nigeria. The ban was lifted after the airline agreed to stop the rapid antigen tests.

But the federal government reintroduced the ban on March 15, explaining that Emirates had continued to conduct rapid antigen tests for passengers before departure from Nigeria.

Meanwhile, an Emirates airline spokesperson in Lagos said: Emirates welcomes the latest protocols and measures announced by Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management to allow the safe resumption of passenger travel from South Africa, Nigeria and India to Dubai and onwards. We look forward to facilitating travel from these countries and supporting various travelers’ categories. We will resume carrying passengers from South Africa, Nigeria and India in accordance with these protocols from 23rd June. We thank the Supreme Committee for their continuous efforts in monitoring the development of the situation and announcing the appropriate guidelines and protocols to protect the community and safeguard travel sector.”

(With reports by Travelport)

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Hopes Rise For Vaccinated Travelers In Europe, But Global Restart Still Stalled Says IATA

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said it has welcomed the relaxation of COVID-19 border measures for vaccinated passengers, and the broader use of affordable antigen testing adopted by Spain and France this week. This is tempered by ongoing disappointment at the failure to implement harmonized measures across Europe and deep frustration at the lack of coordination among governments worldwide for a data-driven risk-managed approach to re-establishing the freedom to travel.

As of 7 June, Spain opened its borders to most vaccinated travelers from around the world and allowed EU travelers to enter the country with a negative antigen test. Furthermore, passengers coming from low-risk countries (including the UK) can enter without any restrictions, IATA said.

IATA also added that from 9 June France opened to vaccinated travelers from all but those countries assessed as “high risk”. Vaccinated travelers from “medium-risk” countries will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen or PCR test, and unvaccinated people must still self-isolate for seven days.

“It’s encouraging to see more European countries taking steps to reopen borders. They recognize the opportunity created by vaccination and are making travel more affordable with the use of antigen testing. But this approach is not universal across the continent. Many European states have yet to significantly relax borders at all. This fragmentation should be replaced with a unified approach that is consistent with the recommendations of the EU to which they belong. People, businesses and economies would all benefit from greater alignment across Europe in relaxing measures and restoring the freedom to travel,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

A consistent approach across Europe is required if the EU Digital COVID Certificate is to be implemented effectively by 1 July. And around the world, governments need to allow digital certificates to be integrated in passenger applications such as IATA Travel Pass, in order to relieve pressure on airports and at borders from more complex passenger processing as the number of travelers ramps up.

IATA Urges a More Global Approach

These moves by Spain, France and other European states are a step in the right direction, but restoring global connectivity requires far more than regional or individual state initiatives. The G20 endorsed a data-driven approach to managing the risks of COVID-19 while re-opening borders. The upcoming G7 Leaders’ Summit on 11-13 June provides an important opportunity for these governments to use their leadership to kick-start a data-driven coordinated approach to re-establishing global air connectivity, IATA stated.

“Connectivity needs countries at both ends of the journey to be open. Many of the world’s largest air travel markets, such Australia, China, the UK, Japan, and Canada remain essentially closed with no clear plans to guide a reopening. Data should help these and other countries to introduce targeted policies that keep populations safe while moving towards a normality in world with COVID-19 for some time to come. The G7 has an opportunity later this month to set a risk-managed framework for re-establishing the freedom to travel in a way that is both affordable and practical. It’s critical that they take up the challenge,” said Walsh.

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NIGERIA RECORDS ANOTHER MILESTONE, AS NIMET GRADUATES GAMBIAN TRAINEES

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Senator Hadi Sirika with the Gambian President HE Adama Barrow during the Minister's visit

The Federal Government through Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) will continue to support Gambia and other needy nations in the training of meteorological technicians to highlight the importance attached to the contribution of meteorology to sustainable socio-economic development, as well as safety of citizens.

The Honourable Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika stated this at the inaugural graduation ceremony of middle level meteorological technicians trained by the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet) held in Banjul, The Gambia.

He noted that “Aviation is a serious business with critical safety requirements and socio-economic impacts. Hence, personnel working on this sector must be highly skilled and competent”.

A statement by the Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu quotes the Minister as saying that one of the instruments of the partnership was through the World Meteorological Organization Regional Training Centres and affiliated training institutes which W.M.O. encouraged member countries to close the gap through increased cooperation and collective partnership such as the ongoing one between Nigeria and Gambia.

Hadi Sirika disclosed that the Niigerian Meteorological Agency (Nimet) has done this due to huge support from Federal Government of Nigeria through the Ministry of Aviation via robust budgetary provisions. As most of the operational funding for the Agency were derived from allocation from the contributory service basket provided to the Aviation Industry by the Agencies under the ministry.
Sirika gave kudos to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) fir championing and supporting countries to effectively engage in Public Private Partnerships (PPP).

“This is because the future of service provision and user interface should effectively move from a linear type of value chain to an interactive environment where systems, data, solutions, and end users are iteratively engaged, and users are contributing significantly toinformation management and weather & climate service-level products. These will contribute to capabilities towards meeting global targets of the sustainable development goals”.

“This vision is realisable where regular meetings with vulnerable sectors to promote interaction and strengthen the provision and utilisation of meteorological services exist. As a strategy to further strengthen the expansion of weather and climate services to vulnerable sectors and the user community, NiMet therefore realizes that partnerships and engagement with the private sector cannot be overemphasized”.

The Nigerian Government, the Minister said, has the appropriate Legal Framework that enables the NiMet to participate in collaborative and effective Public-Private-Engagements (PPEs).

“In the phase of dwindling revenue by Governments worsened by the COVID￾19 pandemic, the importance of PPE cannot be overemphasised. Once, Trust has been established with appropriate legal document such as Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that is clear on the role of individual parties and sharing formula of all expected benefits, PPE is the way to go. This is another area; Nigeria can be of help”.

He equally commended the Government of The Gambia for taking the initiative to conceive the concept that led to the graduation ceremony, and the Minister of Fisheries and Water Resources for making excellent arrangements to ensure the success of the capacity development initiative.

“The presence of dignitaries here today is a testament to the critical value of the training programme and its impacts on the people and the developmental process in The Gambia. This goes to highlight the importance attached to contributions of meteorology to sustainable socio-economic development, as well as safety of citizens
of this great Country”

Senator Sirika, Prof Matazu (DG NiMet) and other members of the Nigerian delegation during a courtesy visit to President Adama Barrow in Banjul

On his part, the Minister, Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources, Gambia Hon. James Furmus Peter Gomez, commended the Federal Government of Nigeria, saying the training partnership will further strengthen the cordial and fruitful bi-lateral ties that exists between the Department of Water Resources and NiMet and by extension the two countries.

“The challenge of improving the resilience of communities to climate vulnerabilities, risks and disasters is a key element in the strategies and solutions envisioned by the Government of The Gambia, as stated in the National Development Plan(NDP) as well as in both the Agriculture & Natural Resources and National Climate Change Policies. While the answer seems to be the existence of dedicated structures with an organizational system, the provision of adapted sectoral services to cope with extreme weather and climate risks is becoming increasingly important”

He added that Gambia authority noted the efforts Nigeria was making towards the capacity development of its personnel in fundamental aspects of meteorological observations and forecasting, as well as quality management system, all geared towards meeting the standard set by WMO and ICAO.

“On behalf of the Government and People of the Republic of The Gambia, I once again extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Government of Federal Republic of Nigeria for the bi-lateral assistance it has been rendering in many ways to help improve the standard of the Meteorological servicesin The Gambia. We particularly note the efforts you have been making towards the capacity development of our personnel in fundamental aspects of meteorological observations and forecasting, as well as quality management system, all geared towards meeting the standard set by World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)”.

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