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FRSC establishes 201 mobile courts ahead yuletide

By Newsdesk

Worried by flagrant disobedience to traffic laws across the country, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has disclosed that plans have been concluded to establish 201 mobile courts, basically to prosecute traffic offenders during yuletide and others.

FRSC stressed that the mobile courts were in line with the directive of the Federal Executive Council that relevant agencies must ensure smooth movement of persons and goods during the period.

Corps Marshal and CEO of FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi, who disclosed this to State House correspondents on Thursday in Abuja, explained that the corps was putting adequate measures in place and setting machinery in motion to achieve the goal.

He revealed further that they have divided the country into 52 corridors, adding that the corps would deploy 21,000 personnel and 1,000 vehicles on the roads.

The corps marshal disclosed that there would be 40 road camps across the nation when they begin the one month exercise.

The exercise, Oyeyemi hinted would commence on December 15 and ends January 15, 2019.

ASUU: Students Call For An End To Strike As 11 Students Die In Auto Accident

The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) on Friday expressed sadness over the death of 11 students of University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) in an auto accident on Tuesday.

A total of 11 students of UNIMAID died in the accident on Nov. 20 on their way to Damaturu from Maiduguri following the ASUU strike.

The National Public Relations Officer of NANS, Mr Best Okereafor, gave the condolence in a statement issued in Enugu on Friday.

He stated that “NANS mourns the fallen Nigerian students and in same vain attribute the demise to the ongoing Academic Staff Unions of Universities (ASUU) strike.

“NANS believes that if the strike was not ongoing; the students would have been in school, studying.

“NANS is calling on the Federal Government to save our future and consider the souls of these fallen innocent Nigerian students often told that they are the leaders of tomorrow. Can we lead in grave?

“In as much as we believe in the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, NANS is on this sad note, calling on Federal Government to make students happy by meeting the demands of the striking ASUU and Colleges of Education lecturers without further delay.”

According to him, ASUU should not politicise the industrial action but consider the lives of Nigerian students by shifting grounds.

“We appreciate the ASUU agitations as some are students oriented and we are part of the struggle as we are most affected as well.”

Dana Air loses N100m, threatens to downsize

By Business Desk,

Dana Air on Thursday said it had lost over N100 million to the ongoing dispute between aviation unions and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL).

The airliner said that the dispute had led to the shutting down of the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 where it was operating from.

Dana Air’s Communication Manager, Mr Kingsley Ezenwa, said the airline might also be forced to downsize if the industrial action should continue for too long.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the unions had for the second-day running grounded flight operations and business activities at the terminal over the alleged sacking of 24 employees by BASL for indicating interest to unionise.

The unions are: The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE).

Ezenwa said: “For now, we have lost over N100 million to the ongoing action.

“Losing such money in an industry where airlines are still grappling with a myriad of challenges is unacceptable and disappointing to say the least.

“We do not know how the situation will be in the coming days and we might have no other option that to downsize if the action stretches for too long,” he said.

Ezenwa also apologised to the airline’s teeming passengers who had missed their flights as a result of the ongoing dispute between the two parties.

He disclosed that the airline had temporarily moved its operations to the General Aviation Terminal (GAT), operated by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) due to the picketing.

“Our worst fear, however is, if the terminal will be able to process the number of passengers when there is a coincidence in flight schedule with over eight airlines having to operate from the GAT at the moment.

“We appeal to the parties involved to resolve the dispute in consideration of the passengers for whom we are all in the industry to serve.

“Without the passengers, there will not be any airline, regulator or industry and we believe they should not suffer for what they did not contribute to.

“While we respect the rights of both parties to engage each other based on extant laws, we call on all concerned to intervene and save the industry from further crises,” he said in a statement issued in Lagos.

Ezenwa noted that at the moment, MMA2 remained the terminal that was providing  passengers the best in terms of facilitation.

He thanked  Dana Air passengers for their constant support and understanding and assured them of the airline’s commitment to continue to offer the best of services at all times.

Core investors unsettle Nigeria Air

By Business Desk,

The last minute pull out of core investors forced Nigeria to suspend the establishment of a national carrier, Nigeria Air, information and culture minister Lai Mohammed has disclosed.

He said in Lagos that the decision became necessary because the Federal Government resolved not to finance the project alone.

He noted, however, that the project was still on course but that the Federal Government was trying to now get a better funding structure for the project and provide the enabling environment.

“A government will take a holistic view of any intended project and if the understanding of government at the beginning that the project will either be self-financing or would be financed by her investors and it turns out that such a project can no longer be financed by investors, either because they are not forthcoming or that such venture can no longer be viable, the government, this administration would do a rethink.

“Now, the business of government in business is to provide enabling environment and it is not to become the sole source of finance, the sole source of funding and in addition, it is much more than funding in trying to get our national carrier.

“We also need to look at the thinker aspect, overall, the Federal Government believes that this thing should be stepped down now till we get a better funding structure but a situation where this kind of thing would be funded by government, it can’t do it.”

Muhammed also dismissed insinuations that the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, did not carry the Federal Executive Council, FEC, along in the entire process, adding that if things did not work out as planned, the minister should not be blamed.

“It doesn’t mean that, you see you could start a project with a lot of assurances from many quarters and then at the critical point in time those assurances might not materialize so, it does not mean that he didn’t carry us along, from the beginning, from the start the Federal Executive Council (FEC) was privy to everything, so if anything happened in between, I cannot blame the honourable Minister for aviation for that”.

The Minister , however, gave the assurance that other projects on the Aviation Roadmap geared towards repositioning the aviation sector, including airport concession, MRO, aircraft leasing company, among others, would be looked into to see if they could still be executed.

“ I think what we should do is to look at each of these other projects in their own merits and individually and look at whether they can still be executed, but I don’t think the government should be condemned or criticized if it decides to step down a particular project.

‘’I think it is in the overall interest of the country that we don’t embark on a project which has not been well thought out or a project that would probably have to been abandoned midway.

“ I think that four years in the life of any country is a short time, this is a work in progress, it does not mean that we have completely abandoned or ended it,” he added.

In the meantime, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Wednesday gave a notification to revoke the operating licences of 182 other financial institutions in the country.

According to the list released by the regulator on Wednesday, 154 of the affected institutions are microfinance banks; six are primary mortgage banks; while the remaining 22 are finance companies.

The CBN said 62 of the microfinance banks had already closed shop; 74 became insolvent; 12 were terminally distressed; while six voluntarily liquidated.

The CBN listed the primary mortgage banks for revocation as Accord Savings and Loans Limited in Lagos that failed to recapitalise; and Ahocol Savings and Loans Limited in Anambra (state government-owned) that closed shop.

Other mortgage banks for revocation are Trans Atlantic Savings and Loans Limited in Bayelsa (state government-owned) that became insolvent; Royal Savings and Loans Limited in Delta State that also closed shop; Amex Savings and Loans Limited in Lagos that failed to recapitalise; and Supreme Savings and Loans Limited also in Lagos that closed shop.

The CBN disclosed that eight finance companies voluntary liquidated; 13 failed to recapitalise; while one became insolvent.

According to the apex bank, the affected institutions are from different states of the federation.

Electric Mercedes opens German assault on Tesla

By Business Desk,

Mercedes-Benz is set to unveil its much-anticipated electric SUV on Tuesday, marking the start of a German onslaught against Tesla’s dominance of the fast-growing market for premium battery cars.

Daimler-owned Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen’s Audi and Porsche divisions are all gunning for the $52 billion Californian upstart, with early publicity efforts emulating its tech-industry halo.

The market for upscale electric cars is Tesla’s to lose, with sales of its entry-level Model 3 sedan expected to reach about 50,000 cars this year and almost double that in 2019.

The Mercedes EQC – whose launch program in Stockholm features yoga in a direct appeal to the Millennials who have flocked to Tesla – is the first production model under the carmaker’s electric EQ sub-brand. It will be closely followed by similarly hyped debuts for BMW and Audi.

“While Tesla currently has a strong hold on the luxury electric market, I don’t think this will be the case after the arrival of the German premium offerings,” said Wajih Hossenally, an automotive powertrain analyst with IHS Markit.

“Tesla has virtually zero competition – but this will change from 2019 onwards.”

Rival forecaster LMC Automotive agrees, predicting a steady decline in Tesla’s share of an exploding electric-car market over the next decade, from today’s 12.3 percent to 2.8 percent, even as its absolute sales continue to rise.

The Germans’ combined market share will surpass Tesla’s to reach 11.8 percent in 2020 before increasing further to about 19 percent three years later, according to its projections.

The new Mercedes, due to reach its first customers next year, will be priced close to the fuel-burning GLC to compete in the same bracket as Tesla’s $49,000 Model 3, helped by its hotter-selling SUV form.

An affordable Model Y SUV is slated to join Tesla’s high-end Model X crossover and Model S car, but not before 2020-21.

TECH BUZZ

The EQC softens its higher-riding proportions with sporty curves and a distinctive full-width rear light, while the interior resembles that of the Mercedes C-Class – a reminder of economies of scale that electric-only Tesla cannot match.

Well aware that their earlier battery-car offerings have failed to get anything like Tesla’s level of public attention, the German brands are doggedly courting Silicon Valley-style buzz for the coming product blitz.

Executives including Mercedes Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche have taken to appearing in jeans and sneakers, responding to a broader tech-industry incursion into areas such as autonomous driving and connected services.

When it came to the EQC launch, Mercedes picked the city of Stockholm for its startup scene and green credentials, then began firing off teasers on Instagram as well as Twitter.

Like Tesla, Mercedes is announcing EQC orders in Norway even before its price. It has amassed more than 2,000 refundable deposits of 20,000 crowns ($2,400) in Europe’s biggest electric-car market, where Tesla sold 8,500 vehicles last year.

The launch is the centerpiece of a three-day event that features DJ sets and yoga with a YouTube star – almost literally bending over backwards to telegraph 21st-century kudos.

Audi on Monday began production of its e-Tron SUV ahead of a Sept. 17 sales launch jamboree in San Francisco, just 40 miles from Tesla’s Fremont assembly plant. It also plans to begin taking reservations backed by refundable $1,000 deposits.

The e-Tron is due in showrooms early next year, followed in 2020 by two more electric Audis and the Porsche Taycan sports car from its Volkswagen Group stablemate.

WOW FACTOR

Not to be outdone, BMW has hired a Lufthansa cargo jet to fly its electric Vision iNext – still just a concept car – from Munich to Beijing via New York and, of course, San Francisco. Events are planned in all four cities over five days.

In another Tesla-inspired move, the three German carmakers are developing their own network of fast-chargers along major highways in a partnership with Ford.

While some experts doubt the Germans can ever match the wow factor around Tesla and its founding boss Elon Musk, many also wonder whether they need to.

“German manufacturers have highly desirable, fun-to-drive premium cars in their DNA,” said Nicolai Mueller, a McKinsey partner based in Cologne. “That’s a very good starting point.”

Tesla used its powerful tech aura to persuade early adopters to pay a premium for an all-electric car from a relative unknown, with no quality track-record or physical dealerships for servicing and support.

But the German carmakers have a century of manufacturing behind them, with sterling brands, well developed global sales networks and an existing customer base in the millions.

BMW’s i3 mini and an earlier Audi e-Tron failed to shift large volumes, but the electric-car market has matured since. LMC sees China driving global sales growth above 50 percent annually as the German offensive gets underway in 2019-20.

By then the Model S flagship will be eight years old. Musk, by tweeting then withdrawing plans to take Tesla private, has sharpened doubts about the company’s ability to keep expanding and updating its lineup.

“Tesla is potentially facing a product shortfall starting in 2020,” Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois warned investors in a note last week.

Tyler Martin, a Tesla owner in Tucson, Arizona, said he had yet to decide whether to buy a Model 3 next – after his current Model S suffered from “build quality” issues requiring several trips to the repair shop each year.

One big question is whether competitors can offer a viable alternative to Tesla’s proprietary fast-charging network, the 28-year-old software entrepreneur said.

If they can, Martin added, “I would definitely consider another brand.”

Total CEO, Pouyanne drives electric car

By Business Desk,

Here is a confession that should make crude oil producers and oil investors worried. The chief executive of French oil and gas giant Total said on Monday that he and his wife drive an electric car.

“It’s a 100 percent e-car. It’s a nice Renault electric car. And I’m driving it every weekend. It’s my private car,” Patrick Pouyanne told an oil conference.

But he added that he uses an official car that relies on fossil fuels.

“Of course I have my company car which is internal combustion. To make long distances I don’t use an electric car.”

When Total took over upstart utility Direct Energie in April, it said the deal was part of its strategy to grow its low-carbon power generating assets to 20 percent of total assets by 2035 from 5 percent today. These include solar, wind and other renewables assets.

Speaking at an oil conference in Norway, Pouyanne said the chief executive of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, Yngve Slyngstad, had encouraged him to make the most of the “magic of electricity”.

The fund owns 1.79 percent of Total.

What Tesla take over proposal could look like

By Business Desk,

Now that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has hired advisers for his plan to take the U.S. electric car maker private, and the Tesla board has named a special committee of independent directors to evaluate it — two steps CNBC reported would happen last week— the next milestone is for Musk to actually put together a formal proposal.

(Ideally, this proposal would already exist, but let’s table that point for now.)

Musk’s offer is likely to include conditional financing from third parties, including Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and may have requirements that a certain number of Tesla shareholders roll over their existing stakes into a private company, according to M&A bankers and lawyers who have worked on similar transactions. Putting these conditions in a proposal will allow Musk to show the board something quickly without having to secure tens of billions in committed financing.

It’s also possible the Saudi sovereign wealth fund could commit much more in financing, but Tesla’s cash-burning business, costly factories and Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) issues make that less likely, the bankers and lawyers said.

Of course, Musk already tweeted he had secured financing last week, which has reportedly prompted an SEC inquiry. While conditional clauses may aid Musk’s efforts in lining up financing, the SEC will only care about what he knew to be true at the time of his first tweet, said Thomas Gorman, a lawyer at Dorsey & Whitney and a former SEC enforcement attorney who specializes in financial fraud and market manipulation.

It’s particularly important there is Saudi financing in the formal proposal because Musk has specifically said the country’s sovereign wealth fund’s interest in taking the company private was the basis for his “funding secured” comment,” said Gorman.

“The SEC needs to determine if Musk’s first tweet was a false statement when he put it out,” said Gorman. “There must be some documentation around conversations about funding, even if it’s limited. If the Saudi sovereign wealth fund has the ability and willingness to do this, and Musk knew at the time, you might not like the way he did this, but I don’t think that’s an enforcement case.”

Musk did make reference to existing shareholders rolling their stakes into a private company through a special-purpose vehicle when he first tweeted about Tesla’s take-private last week. The details around how such a fund would work weren’t clear, and there’s no obvious precedent for such a thing.

Musk said Monday he is being advised by Silver Lake on taking the company private. Silver Lake helped Michael Dell with his management-led buyout of Dell in 2013. It’s likely Musk wants to emulate how Dell took his company private, Gorman said. Still, Dell dealt with a variety of obstacles, including counterbidders and deducing a fair price for shareholders, when he attempted the leveraged buyout. Musk probably won’t have an easy time moving forward with a buyout even if he avoids the SEC’s glare, Gorman said.

“He can’t make the company do this,” Gorman said. “If the company decides it doesn’t want to do this, then it won’t.”

Ethiopian Airlines leads bids for Nigeria Air

By Business Desk,

Ethiopian Airlines already has contracts for maintenance work with two Nigeria-based carriers, Arik Air and Medview Airline, he said.

In May, Tewolde told Reuters that the airline was in talks with Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea to set up carriers through joint ventures. It aimed to create a new airline in Mozambique that it will fully own, the chief executive said at the time.

In June Ethiopia said it would open Ethiopian Airlines and other companies including the telecoms monopoly up to private domestic and foreign investment, but details have not yet been made public.

Tewolde also said that net profit in the 2017/18 financial year rose to $233 million from $229 million the previous year. Ethiopia’s 2017/18 financial year ended last month.

The airline’s operating revenue rose by 43 percent to $3.7 billion in the 2017/18 financial year.

Air Peace to operate first all-female flights on July 5

By News Desk,

Nigerian carrier, Air Peace says it will commence four-sector flights on the Lagos-Abuja, Abuja-Owerri, Owerri-Abuja and Abuja-Lagos routes with an historic all female flight and cabin crew members on Thursday.

The airline made the announcement in a statement signed by its Corporate Communications Manager, Chris Iwarah on Wednesday in Lagos.

Iwarah said the development was coming days after Air Peace gave command to Sinmisola Ajibola, who made history as the airline’s first female captain, who was decorated with her new rank by the airline’s Chairman, Mr Allen Onyema.

He noted that the flight was planned in honour of Ajibola’s achievement, a testament to Air Peace’s avowed commitment to gender equality and promotion of Nigerian women in aviation.

“Although women occupy most of Air Peace’s top positions, Ajibola’s elevation is a great milestone in our effort to build the capacity of women in the cockpit.

“Ajibola, who will be in command of the four-leg flight, will be assisted in the cockpit by Senior First Officer, Quincy Owen,” Iwarah said.

According to him, the all-female crew flight, scheduled to take off from the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at 1.10 p.m. is estimated to arrive to a water salute at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja at 2.20 p.m.

Ethiopian Airlines had on Dec. 16, 2017 operated its first all female flight from Addis Ababa to Nigeria.

The Boeing 777 aircraft, which was piloted by Amsale Gualu, landed at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, at 1.16 p.m. to the admiration of aviation stakeholders and other dignitaries.

New Tesla software to offer ‘full’ autonomy – Musk

By Business Desk,

SpaceX and Tesla CEO, Elon Musk announced that an update to Tesla’s Autopilot software will be released in August, “it will enable “full self-driving features” for the automaker’s electric cars”.

Musk’s comments come amid a race by automakers and tech firms to roll out fully autonomous vehicles, but also rising concerns about the safety of robotic systems.

The Tesla founder made the disclosure in a Twitter conversation, responding to a user who complained about issues with Autopilot, which is currently considered semi-autonomous with the requirement that a motorist be at the wheel at all times.

Musk said, the updated “Version 9” coming in August would help address a number of issues.

“To date, Autopilot resources have rightly focused entirely on safety. With V9, we will begin to enable full self-driving features,” he said.

Musk offered no details about the system, which could accelerate the effort to put more self-driving cars on the roads in the United States.

Federal safety investigators have been looking into a series of accidents, including at least two datal ones, involving self-driving cars.

Musk has complained about the focus on accidents, arguing that self-driving systems are likely to be far safer than human drivers.

“It’s super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the (approximately) 40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get almost no coverage,” Musk said last month.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report last week that a Tesla operating on Autopilot sped up before a crash into a freeway barrier in California that killed the driver.

In another fatal accident last year, Tesla’s Autopilot failed to detect a truck crossing the road, but investigators pointed out the driver was watching a movie at the time and not paying attention with the semi-autonomous system in operation.

After an Uber self-driving vehicle earlier this year killed a pedestrian in Arizona, investigators said the automatic braking system had been disabled.