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Hajj: FG gives Saudi Airline 45% stake

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NAHCON justifies concession

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Indications emerged yesterday that the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) may have given a Saudi Arabian airline Flynas, 45 per cent of the traffic right to fly pilgrims for this year Hajj.

But aviation consultant and former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Group Captain John Ojikutu described as fraudulent, declaration that the Saudi Arabian  government wants over 100 countries participating in hajj to allocate 50 per cent of their nationals (traffic) to one airline, Flynas.

A source in NAHCON who spoke to New Telegraph under condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said Saudi Arabia, being the only country where Hajj is performed, has a royal decree giving Saudi Designated Carriers (not Flynas alone) the right to airlift 50 per cent of Hajj Traffic under government quota from any country coming for Hajj.

He noted that the arrangement is beyond NAHCON and pre-dates the current leadership of the commission. He said before 2010, the Saudi Government collected royalties in lieu of this right.

However, it began to demand for an implementation of this right in 2010 after Nigeria suspended the payment of royalty to Saudi Arabia as a result of its choice not to participate in the airlift of Nigerian pilgrims.

He said that when the Second Board of NAHCON came in 2011, Saudi Arabia re-iterated its demand and Nigeria objected. This, he said, led to a series of correspondences, meetings that almost resulted to a diplomatic row between the two countries, which threatened the performance of Hajj.

“To avoid this, Nigeria sent a delegation in August 2014 under the leadership of the then Minister of State II Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nuruddeen Muhammad. The delegation agreed to give the Saudi carriers 9,500 pilgrims to ensure Hajj 2014 was not affected pending a conclusive resolution of the face-off, which was ongoing for three years,” the source stated.

He further stated that in February 2015, a bilateral meeting involving Nigeria’s Ministry of Aviation, NCAA, NAHCON, Airlines, Saudi General Authority on Civil Aviation (GACA) and Saudi Ministry of Hajj was held in Jeddah.

The Vice Chairman of GACA for Saudi Arabia and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation for Nigeria, signed a Bilateral Air Service Agreement (GACA).

The BASA among other things, provided for a gradual compliance of Nigeria with the Saudi decree. Nigeria would yield 25 per cent of its pilgrims under government quota in 2015, 35 per cent in 2016, 45 per cent in 2017 and ultimately 50 per cent from 2018.

“Nigeria is the only country I know of, that has dragged and later agreed on such gradual compliance. All other countries coming for Hajj are in compliance with policy including those that have strong National carriers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ojikutu labelled the declaration as “beyond belief and a way influential Nigerians are circumventing the system to deny genuine operators market share.”

He also carpeted the reason behind handing foreign airlines multiple designation, stressing that Nigeria has no clearly defined policy for growth of its airlines especially given certain exclusivity as it regards to hajj operations. Ojikutu, in a statement to the media, described current hajj arrangement as a total rip off and called on the government to query the Saudi authorities over this move.

He lamented: “Which existing law allows only Saudi airlines to airlift nationals of other countries for hajj, if such a law is not a conjuncture of NAHCON? Unfortunately, the domestic airlines are not seen championing any of the causes or challenging the government on why there had been preferences for foreign airlines on government aviation policies.

“By the way, how does Adamu Hassan of NAHCON wants anyone to believe his cock and bull story that the Saudi government wants all countries of over 100 participating in the hajj to allocate 50 per cent of their nationals to just one single airline called Flynas?

Where has that airline gotten the capacity?” He noted that some persons have entrenched themselves in NAHCON even when they are out, wondering why they still have influence over the government.

He stated that the way to go about it was to query the Saudi decision to deny the nation the right to fully organise the airlifting of Nigerian nationals or find out those behind Flynas Airline.

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Catholic Church rejoins CAN

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Barely five years after the Roman Catholic Church in Nigeria pulled out of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the church has announced its return to the umbrella organisation of Christians in the country. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria(CBCN) had, in a letter dated September 24, 2012, announced its withdrawal from the organisation. Although the letter was not explicit on the reasons for the action, many believed it was due to some disagreements.

The re-union which reportedly took place at the weekend, saw a delegation of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, led by Rev. Fr. (Prof.) Cornelius Omonokhua, attending an expanded two-day National Executive Committee meeting of CAN for the amendment of its constitution. President of CAN, Dr. Samson Ayokunle, expressed delight at the new development, describing it as one of the best things that has happened to CAN in recent times.

In a statement issued by Adebayo Oladeji, his Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Ayokunle said bringing the Catholic brethren back to the fold was part of his vision for CAN. “I must acknowledge the support and understanding of my brother in Christ, Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria and his team.”

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Ogboni fraternity renews commitment to protect African culture

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The All African Students’ Union (AASU) has decorated the Olori Oluwo (Supreme Leader) of the Reformed Ogboni Fraternity (ROF), Otunba Francis Meshioye, with the prestigious African Leadership Award. Performing the investiture into the students’ body Hall of Fame yesterday in Lagos, AASU Country Representative, Comrade Lawal La’pounds said the continental student body arrived at the choice of Meshioye for the prestigious award after a meticulous observation of his impactful and dutiful commitment to the betterment of the society.

The AASU team, which comprised representatives and executives from Ivory Coast, Cameroun, Guinea, Central Africa Republic, among others, said the union was convinced that the ROF leader deserved the recognition for his meticulous impacts in the development of African culture and beliefs. Responding, Meshioye, who is a seasoned administrator and chartered accountant, expressed delight at the recognition, saying he is poised to do more with the investiture. He said: “We are Africans and we should be proud of our culture. Our organization is committed to fostering good leadership in Africa.

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If Buhari re-contests, Nigeria will sink –Primate Ayodele

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Founder and spiritual leader of INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church, Primate Elijah Ayodele, has warned that the much anticipated second term bid of President Muhammadu Buhari in next year’s general election will not be favourable to the country, especially should he win.

Primate Elijah Ayodele subsequently appealed to him to do away with such an ambition and rather urged Buhari to step down for the Senate President, Bukola Saraki to contest the presidential election under All Progressives Congress (APC).

According to the Primate: “President Muhammadu Buhari’s time is over in 2019. If Buhari re-contests, Nigeria will sink and there will be problems which may even result in bloodshed. In order to avoid such, we have three options: we either operate a regional system of government; we separate, or Buhari steps down for Senate President, Bukola Saraki, for peace and security in the country.

 

“A lot of things have gone wrong under Buhari in the present administration. If the All Progressives Congress (APC) presents Buhari as its presidential candidate, he will fail. He is no longer Nigeria’s ‘Messiah.’ There is trouble ahead of 2019 if clerics and Nigerians do not seek divine intervention. We need prayers to sustain Nigeria beyond 2019.”

 

Primate Ayodele made these prophecies during the church’s Annual Yearly Appreciation Week which ended with a big celebration on Valentine’s Day where gift items of various kinds, ranging from food items to cash gifts to start businesses, were shared out to the less privileged in the society – both Christians and Muslims.

 

He also spoke on the expectations of the recently launched Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM), as well as issues affecting the polity, economy, forthcoming elections in Ekiti and Osun States and state police among others.

“Yes, it is true that Nigeria needs state police but the country is not matured yet for such else there will be serious cracks in the system of our government.

“I also believe Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s coalition force is just going to be an ordinary discussion of the day. This is because Obasanjo is playing his last politics and he has to be very careful with the kind of politics he is trying to play or else people will no longer take him serious. For the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM), it will be tough. I see a kind of amalgamation of some parties coming together.

 

“There will be trouble in Buhari’s cabinet. Unemployment will be a tough issue for the present administration, despite attempts to improve the situation. The government should also guard against the outbreak of cholera in some states, I see that coming soon. Only if the APC picks the right person, can they win in Ekiti State. APC in Osun State must embrace unity,” he prophesised.

 

While stating that he had nothing personal against President Buhari, he noted that: “Buhari will take various steps to balance all the accusations against him, but the point is that his government is weak and a ‘cabal’ has held his government to ransom.”

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