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FEC approves N49bn revised sum for Enugu-Anambra link road

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The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the sum of N49 billion being the revised sum for the old Enugu-Onitsha road project.

The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, briefed State House correspondents after FEC meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Fashola said his ministry sought and obtained two approvals from the council.

“We presented two memoranda to council; both were approved; the first is with regards to contract cost revision by way of augmentation for the old Enugu-Onitsha road from Opi junction all the way to Udi-Oji to Anambra border in Enugu State.

“The augmentation was in the sum of N17 billion which revised the contract sum to N49 billion with an additional completion time of 42 months.’’

The minister said that the second contract was a fresh contract for the maintenance of the pavement of the third mainland bridge.

He said that maintenance would address public concerns on the presence of potholes on the bridge.

“And this was approved in the sum N6.3 billion for a period of 24 months.

“This is consonance with the Executive Order 11 signed by the president for the continued maintenance of public infrastructure.

“This contract responds to the questions on potholes that have become manifest on the entire pavement of the deck of the bridge spanning 11 eleven kilometres and the interchanges—Adeniji Adele, Adekunle and Gbagada ramps that all link the bridge; this is for the resurfacing of all that.

“Those who are familiar with the bridge will recall that all of these failures were not this manifest on the bridge as at the time we did some work; and the work that we did concentrated largely on the sub-structure of the bridge—the piles, the underwater piles; the pile caps and also the replacement of the expansion joints and the bearings.’’

According to him, the maintenance works are critical to the structural integrity of the bridge.

He said that the maintenance work would restore the driving surface and the aesthetics.

“Some of the rails that have been stolen; some of the planes that have misaligned at the ramps that lead you on and off the bridge.

“So, this is the work that is being done now; so all the experience, avoiding potholes on the bridge; this project will tackle that,’’ he said.

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Student loan for all public institutions – NELFUND

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The management of the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND) has described reports that the student loan programme is exclusive to federal institutions as false and misleading.

NELFUND clarified in a Tuesday statement titled, “Clarification: State Institutions Included in Student Loan Programme” that the narrative pushed across social media is incorrect.

PUNCH Online reports that this new position corroborated what the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Fund, Akintinde Sawyerr, said on Monday at a Pre-Application Sensitisation Press Conference in Abuja.

He noted that the first batch will be for students in federal schools and the next for state schools.

“The loan application process has been streamlined to ensure easy access for all eligible students in federal tertiary institutions,” he had said.

However, in the new statement, signed by the Media and Public Relations Lead for Nigerian Education Loan Fund, Nasir Ayitogo, NELFUND confirmed clearly that state schools’ students would also benefit.

“State institutions are unequivocally by law included in our student loan programme. The programme is designed to roll out in phases to ensure effective and efficient management of the process.

“The first phase for a start will focus on students attending federal institutions.

“The second phase, which will be launched shortly after the initial rollout, will extend the programme to students at state institutions.

“NELFUND is fully committed to providing financial support to all eligible students, regardless of whether they attend Federal or State tertiary public institutions,” the statement read.

The mission of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda is to ensure that all desirous students have access to the financial resources necessary to pursue their educational goals and aspirations, NELFUND posited.

PUNCH Online reports that NELFUND is a pivotal financial institution established under the Student Loans Act, 2024.

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Reps seek waiver of airport, train station tollgate fees for Armed Forces

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Members of the House of Representatives have called on the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, to waive tollgate fees in all Nigerian airports for members of the nation’s armed forces.

Coming under Order 8 Rule 5 of the House Standing Orders, sponsor of the motion of urgent public importance, Abdulsamad Dasuki, said there’s the need to exempt members of the armed forces given their unique duties of keeping the nation and citizens safe and secured.

Keyamo, on May 14, 2024, announced the cancellation of exemptions on all airport access payments for VIPs due to the huge revenue losses they cause to the Federal Government.

Speaking on the motion, Dasuki noted, “Men and women of the armed forces honour our nation with the highest form of service and without reservation; keeping us safe from harm, protecting our wealth and territorial integrity, ensuring safe navigation on our territorial waters, protecting our borders including the Gulf of Guinea, creeks, Sahara Desert and forests, and fighting armed bandits who invade our communities.

“It is important to show gratitude by honouring our brothers and sisters who are voluntarily serving under our flag, putting in their active years to keep our nation safe with some losing their lives, and some becoming disabled from the battlefield amidst other effects.

“Honouring these men and women in uniform, and also encouraging fellow citizens to acknowledge their service to the nation is the right step to take as a way to appreciate the immeasurable sacrifices they make.”

He further justified his call for the exemption of airport tollgate fees for the armed forces on the premise that it is capable of inspiring young ones to enrol in the military to serve the nation.

“Honouring those who fight for our survival, will also inspire our youths to enrol in the military not as a means of escaping the web of unemployment, but as a valuable call to higher service to the nation.

“Members of the armed forces are subjected to paying for access to our airports where they are also expected to protect citizens and foreigners alike whether or not they are on duty and even while they are passengers themselves.

“Their services though remunerated cannot be quantified especially when the risks to them and their dependents are considered, we should not be hesitant to show them in our little way that we see them and we acknowledge their sacrifices,” he added.

He stressed that “Unless we are intentional in showing our appreciation to them by extending privileges like the proposed exemption, our nation would appear to underrate their services and lack knowledge of the value that they bring.”

Before putting the prayers to vote, the motion was amended to include exemptions of payment of toll gates at train stations and seaports.

Following its adoption, the motion was referred to the House Committee on Aviation to ensure compliance.

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Dana Air staff protest mass sacking, breach in payment of salaries

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The staff of Dana Air expression of grievances over alleged non-payment of salaries and undue sack of large numbers of workers, over 500 staff members of Dana Air on Tuesday trooped to the streets, blockinh the entrance of the aviation company in the Oshodi area of Lagos State.

The workers matched in protest against their sacking as well as the refusal of the airlines to pay their April salary.

Dana aircraft was involved in a runway skidding incident last month, a development that prompted the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority to withdraw its operation licence.

NCAA said it had initiated an in-house compliance assessment of the occurrence taking into account Dana’s track records in related occurrences.

The regulator added that it would ensure a safety audit that will entail a re-inspection of the organisation, procedures, personnel, and aircraft as specified by Part 1.3.3.3 of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations, while the economic audit will critically examine the financial health of the airline to guarantee its capability to sustain safe flight operations.

Barely two weeks after the suspension of Dana Air operations, the aviation company laid off its staff based on claims that their disengagement was in respect of the ongoing audit, by the aviation regulators.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the staff, during a protest in front of the company, threatened to explore every mechanism to fight what they called “an injustice.”

The staff members who were armed with placards with inscriptions such as; ‘Give us our money’, ‘A airline owing it staff can’t be safe’, and ‘Systematic thieving’, among others, stated that aside from being unjustly sacked, the airline has refused to pay workers contributory pension as well as their April salary among other entitlements.

Speaking with journalists at the protest ground, the Training Manager of the airline, Magdalene Onyeukwu, noted that the staff members will not relent until the management pays all that is owed.

Onyeukwe, who claimed to have worked with Dana for 15 years, stated that she got her sack letter through a WhatsApp message.

She added that all their access, including official lines, have been deactivated.

She said, “I have been with Dana since 2008; I was part of those who participated in the demo flight that gave Dana its licence; even when there were challenges when salaries were not paid, we remained committed until this issue of runway incursions, which is normal.

“But before we knew it, they started sending us WhatsApp messages saying our services are no longer needed. Who does that? What about our gratuity, pension and even our April salary? This is  not possible after 15 years of service?”

Also speaking at the protest ground, an Aviation security supervisor, Eze Chidibere, also complained about the refusal of the company to pay its sacked staff, stressing that this development has started affecting the well-being of staff families, appealing to the management of Dana to urgently pay what is due “even if they won’t be reabsorbed.”

Chidibere further accused Dana of fraudulently deducting staffers’ contributing pensions but refusing to pay the same into their pension accounts.

He said, “We are here to demand our rights, after serving Dana Airlines for several years, they suddenly sacked us all saying that our services are no longer required. But it is on record that Dana airline flew till April before it had an incursion and as I am talking to you, April’s salary has not been paid and my children are at home because I have not been able to pay their fees.

“So many people are in our outstation and couldn’t make it here today because of logistics. If not, this place would have been physically filled by our over 500 staff members because our people are seriously angry.

“Also, if an organisation is sacking its staff, it should pay a one-month salary in lieu because it is also expected that staff should give a one-month notice to the organisation before leaving, but they refused to honour the same rule.

“Dana Airlines has been deducting our money but hasn’t remitted the same to our pension account. This, among others, is our reason for begging Dana to immediately pay us to avert a legal battle.”

The airline is yet to officially respond to the claims of the protesters as at the time of filing this report.

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