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FUEL SCARCITY: Nigerian Airlines give 3 days to shut down, want rights to import jet fuel

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The effect of recent fuel scarcity in Nigeria is hitting harder on citizens of the West African country as its airline operators on Monday said they have only three more days to fly due to the high cost of aviation fuel.

The scarcity began in the first week of February 2022 when the Nigerian government says it found an unsafe quantity of methanol in Premium Motor Spirit  (PMS) imported into the country, and cited that as the reason for fuel shortage that has led to hard times for many Nigerians.

One of the airline operators, Mr Allen Onyema, the CEO of Air Peace, who spoke on behalf of the operators, said at a public hearing of ad hoc committee of the lower chamber of Nigeria’s legislature, the House of Representatives. The committee is investigating the scarcity of aviation fuel in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Slamreportafrica.com reported last week the price of diesel has hit a record high at ₦625 per litre in filling stations after it jumped from ₦ 430 to ₦545 two days earlier. The product was sold for as low as ₦ 420 two weeks ago.

Diesel currently sells for ₦720 at the deports, the price is as high as ₦800 at some filling station in the country.

Onyema accused aviation fuel marketers of not speaking the truth about the actual landing cost of aviation fuel, adding that if drastic measures were not taken, the least air ticket would go for as high as N120,000.

He urged the House of Reps to give operators of airlines the license to import aviation fuel, saying this would reduce the unnecessary burden on the citizenry.

“What we are asking from the government is to give us the right to import aviation fuel. What others use in insuring one plane is what we use in insuring three planes in Nigeria, so the Nigeria airline is dead on arrival,” he said.

The Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Ltd, Mr Mele Kyari, said that it would consider granting licenses to operators of airlines to import aviation fuel.

Kyari also agreed that aviation fuel would now be sold at N500 per litre contrary to the current N670 per litre.

Meanwhile, Mr Ugbugo Ukoha, the Executive Director for Distribution System for Storage and Retailing Infrastructure in the Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority, said that Nigeria had an excess supply of Aviation Turbine Kerosene (ATK).

He said the country had sufficient products that could go round, adding that the scarcity and the high cost remained the marketers’ challenge.

Committee reactions…

Hon. Ahmed Wase, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Reps, said that the committee was only after the fact, as it was poised to protect the interest of Nigerians.

“We are not willing to compromise what is in the interest of our country,” he said.

He, however, chided the marketers for speaking the language they did not understand in order to cover up some facts.

According to him, the marketers’ analyses are not correct based on the fact at the committee’s disposal.

He also queried why some government agencies would not be telling the truth about the scarcity and the high cost of aviation fuel, saying “we should be seen to protect the interest of Nigeria and not otherwise”.

He said that the committee would ensure that the right thing was done in the interest of the country, adding that the basic tenet of governance remained the welfare of the people.

Hon. Toby Okechukwu, the Minority leader of the House, however, raised questions on what determined the marketers prices and why they were hoarding the product.

Okechukwu said that such actions by marketers were bringing a lot of dysfunction to the country’s economy.

“If we are saying that the landing cost of aviation fuel is N450 from the Central Bank of Nigeria who approved it,” he said.

He also accused the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Ltd. of not knowing those managing the products.

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AfDB to sponsor Rwanda’s African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation

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The African Development Bank (AfDB) says it will be sponsoring Rwanda’s venture to host the new African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation.

The venture is expected boost the continent’s access to technology in manufacturing medicines and vaccines.

AfDB President Dr Akinwumi Adesina said the project includes “revamping Africa’s pharmaceutical industry, building Africa’s vaccine manufacturing capacity, and building Africa’s quality healthcare infrastructure.

“Even with the decision of the Trips waiver at the World Trade Organization (WTO), millions are dying -and will most likely continue to die – from lack of vaccines and effective protection,” Dr Adesina said.

Meanwhile the venture has drawn commendation from players. The Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, remarked that the project “provides part of the infrastructure needed to assure an emergent pharmaceutical industry in Africa.”

Africa is short of pharmaceutical companies that fits its population size. The continent is currently home to about 375 pharmaceutical firms, which produce less than 25 percent of the needed products annually, forcing the countries to import vastly to meet demand.

This dependence on imports leaves citizens vulnerable to shortages of medication — a problem that triggered a continent-wide crisis during the pandemic.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, small pharmacies and large medical stores in Rwanda ran out of stock. In South Africa, it became nearly impossible to fill prescriptions for psychiatric drugs and oral contraceptives. In Kenya, oncologists complained about challenges treating their cancer patients. And in Nigeria, stocks of treatments to manage chronic illnesses, including HIV medicines, dipped critically low.

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Farmers lament as wild fire, heat waves cut grain harvest in Tunisia

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Farmers union in Tunisia has forecasted that output will fall well short of government hopes following heat waves and fires that are badly damaging the country’s grain harvest.

Farmers union official Mohamed Rejaibia, pointing to fires that began raging over much of the country last month, said that was no longer possible.

“The grain harvest will not be more than 1.4 million tonnes,” said Rejaibia, a member of the union’s executive office. “Some of it will be lost to fires and some perhaps during collection.”

The North African country has struggled with food importation costs driven higher by the war in Ukraine. That is largely because Ukraine and Russia account for a great amount of the global supply for grains, particularly wheat.

Earlier this month, agriculture minister, Mhamoud Elyess Hamza forecasted the 2022 grain harvest would reach 1.8 million tonnes, that is 10% up from last year’s harvest.

Wild fire has had a devastating effect in Tunisia. According to a statement released by the Tunisian Federation of Insurance Companies (FTUSA), the insurance industry in the country paid fire insurance claims totalling TND25m ($8m) in 2015 and the quantum jumped over the years to TND107m in 2020. That represented an average increase over 30% a year.

Another farmer, Abderraouf Arfaoui, in Krib, revealed that most of his colleagues had to harvest their grains earlier than usual.

“Usually we begin the harvest season in July, but this year we started on June 18… we are afraid of fires. We must watch our land day and night.

“We must harvest without waiting, even if that reduces the quantity and quality of the wheat, and when we finish the harvest we must watch our haystacks, too.”

 According to Thinkhazard, wildfire hazard is classified as high with more than a 50% chance of encountering weather that could support a significant wildfire that is likely to result in both life and property loss in any given year.

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