In the act to keep employees safe and healthy, Amazon and other big companies bans business trips though they’ve dealt a gut punch to a travel industry already reeling from the virus outbreak.
The cancellations and travel restrictions are a major blow to business travel, which makes up around 26% of the total travel spending, or around $1.5 trillion per year, according to the Global Business Travel Association. The association estimates the virus is costing the business travel industry $47 billion per month. In a recent poll of 400 member companies, the group found that 95% have suspended business trips to China, 45% have cut trips to Japan and South Korea and 23% have cancelled trips to Europe.
The Seattle-based online retail giant has told its nearly 800,000 workers to postpone any non-essential travel within the United States or around the globe. Swiss food giant Nestle told its 291,000 employees worldwide to limit domestic business travel and halt international travel until March 15. French cosmetics maker L’Oréal, which employs 86,000 people, issued a similar ban until March 31.
Other companies, like Twitter have told their employees worldwide to work from home. Google gave that directive to its staff of 8,000 at its European headquarters in Dublin on Tuesday. Major business like the Geneva International Motor Show and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, have also been cancelled.
On Tuesday, Facebook confirmed it will no longer attend the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, which is scheduled to begin March 13. And the 189-nation International Monetary Fund and its sister lending organization, the World Bank, announced they will replace their regular spring meetings in Washington — scheduled for mid-April — with a “virtual format.”
Michael Dunne, the CEO of ZoZo Go, an automotive consulting company that specializes in the Chinese market, normally travels from California to Asia every six weeks. But right now, he’s not planning to cross the Pacific until June.
“With everything at a standstill, I do not feel a sense of missing the action, but there is no better catalyst for business than meeting people in person.” Dunne said.
The president of Brooklyn Brewery, Robin Ottaway cancelled his trip to Seoul and Tokyo last week. He has indefinitely suspended all travel to Asia and also just canceled a trip to Copenhagen that was scheduled for March.
“I wasn’t worried about getting sick. I’m a healthy 46-year-old man with no pre-existing conditions; my only worry was getting stuck in Asia or quarantined after returning to the U.S. And I’d hate to be a spreader of the virus.” Ottaway said.
“It’s a big deal,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst in San Francisco who estimates that airlines get 55% of their revenue from business travelers, since they’re more likely to sit in pricier business or first-class seats. On a long-haul flight to Europe or Asia, a business-class traveler can be five times more profitable than someone in coach,” Harteveldt said.
Figures from the Airlines Reporting Corp. indicate that airline ticket sales fell about 9% during one week in late February, compared with a year earlier. Hotels are also worried about declines in business travel. In the U.S. alone, hotel bookings for business travel were expected to reach $46.8 billion this year.
According to Phocuswright, a travel research firm, through Feb. 22, San Francisco saw an 11% decline in hotel occupancy, according to STR, a hotel data company. AT&T, Verizon and IBM were among the companies that pulled out of the city’s RSA cybersecurity conference, which began Feb. 24.
Luke Sorter, owner of Pavel’s Yogurt spent last weekend agonizing over whether his company should attend Natural Products Expo West, a major industry gathering in Anaheim, California. “Backing out of industry events can be a tough call for businesses” He said.
Sorter spent nearly $20,000 on conference fees and travel expenses, but then rumors began circulating that nearly all the major retailers he was hoping to pitch were pulling out.
“This was going to be our big push to make some sales and open up some new accounts, and we were really disappointed because all of the major buying groups had pulled out of the show,” said Sorter, whose San Leandro, California-based company pulls in about $1.2 million to $1.5 million in revenue per year.
On Tuesday, Expo West announced it would be postponed until a later date.
“I was relieved because it just didn’t seem safe to put 50, 60, 70,000 people in a building together and the whole show is predicated on sharing and sampling food and handshakes, and person-to-person interaction,” Sorter said.
Some experts say it’s smart for companies to curtail travel before things get worse. Worldwide, 92,000 people have been sickened by the virus and 3,100 have died.
“If you knowingly put your employees in harm’s way during travel, you can be held responsible for their injury or their death,” said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, which advocates for corporations and governments that hire travel management companies.
In some cases, workers themselves are demanding a halt to travel. The pilots’ union at American Airlines sued last month to make the airline stop flying to China. American agreed to suspend flights to mainland China but initially tried to keep serving Hong Kong. Pilots wouldn’t do it. “When pilots began reporting nervousness about going to Milan and flights were less full, American suspended that service much more quickly”, said Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the union.
In some cases, companies are also asking employees to cancel meetings with outside visitors to cut down on the risk of transmission. In a memo sent to Ford Motor Co.’s nearly 200,000 employees Tuesday, Ford CEO Jim Hackett asked employees to meet with suppliers and others by phone or virtually. Ford also said only the most critical travel will be approved for employees through March 27.
In Nigeria, it’s a reverse scenario; the members of the House of Assembly suspended work for themselves while the employees in the National Assembly attend to visitors in their absence. What a country we find ourselves in where the leaders care less of the employee’s welfare- putting their selfish interest first before anything else. Though the global businesses are losing sales, I applaud their wise decision on the temporary ban for business trips. This shows the rare virtue of empathy in their leadership style.
Arms Procurement Investigation: “Issues of arms procurement were done by specific individuals, call these individuals to explain to you ” – COAS Ibrahim Attahiru tells House of Reps members
A dramatic scene was recorded today April 13 after the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru appeared before House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on arms and ammunition as part of the investigation into arms purchase by the military.
Attahiru refused to speak on arms procurement after presenting a document to the committee.
According to the COAS, he just resumed office and the issues surrounding the procurement of arms should be answered by the “specific individuals” who initiated the purchase.
“The submission before you speaks to the report before you. It is an executive summary. It is very self-explanatory to the extent that it has been pluralised. When you demanded this report, you stated a specific period for which you wanted it.
“You may wish to recall that the Chief of Army Staff took over the mantle of leadership barely two months ago.
“The period for which you want this report having been summarised in the executive summary explained whatever details you require.
“Issues of arms procurement that you so demand to know were done by specific individuals, I will rather you call these individuals to explain to you very specific issues the general explanation is contained in this report.”
A member of the committee, Ejiro Ogene had also faulted the COAS explanation for not appearing before the committee earlier.
“When we ask you to come, the people are the ones speaking, sovereignty lies in the people; if we see it like this, things will be different.
“I expect that the COAS tenders an apology, not an explanation; you are serving the people and they are as your employer.”
Firing back at him, Attahiru insisted that his explanation serves as an apology. He said;
“When you say I offered an explanation, it is as good as an apology. It only tells you the reasons why I wasn’t here and the reasons are pungent enough.”
Following the rising tension at the proceeding, Chairman of the Committee Olaide Akinremi ruled that the hearing goes into a closed-door meeting and the media were asked to leave the hearing.
25-year-old Nigerian man arrested for Scamming woman of N16million in India
A 25-year-old Nigerian has been arrested in India for allegedly scamming a 62-year-old woman from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, of Rs 31.64 lakh (N16,048,923.81)
“The accused, Wisdom Obinna, from Imo State, was part of a gang that befriended women on social media and then scam them with lottery and gift frauds,” said Indore Cyber Cell Superintendent of Police, Jitendra Singh, on Friday, April 9.
“Obinna was arrested from Delhi, where he was staying even after his business visa expired. Efforts are on to nab other members of the gang,” he added.
During the interrogation, the accused said that he came to India on Business Visa in 2014 and 2017. After the visa expired, he became active in cheating and used to operate from Delhi.
The gang members befriend Indian girls and women on Facebook by creating accounts with different foreign fake IDs.
After Wisdom has made friends with the women, he lured his victims by claiming he sent them some expensive gifts.
Later, other members of the gang pose as custom officers and demand money in the name of Tax and Penalty to get the parcel, send a message through bank account WhatsApp and get the money transfer. They would also threaten the victim with legal action.
Police recovered eight passbooks of various banks, three ATM cards, two laptops, three pen drives, 9 mobile phones, eight SIM cards, two dongles, passports and Rs 11000 in cash from the accused.
CBN gets order to freeze 194 accounts in 17 banks
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN has secured three separate interim orders from a Federal High Court in Abuja to freeze bank accounts linked to 194 business entities and individuals in 17 banks.
This was contained in a post by the apex bank on its website yesterday pursuant to the court order. The freeze orders were sequel to three exparte applications filed by the apex bank seeking a mandatory order of the court to ask the 17 banks to freeze the account of the business organizations and individual pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation the apex bank had initiated.
In one of the suits against Nuru Abubakar and 24 others, the court granted the request by CBN to freeze the account of the defendants in the banks for 45 days. Justice A.R Muhammed who made the order in his ruling on March 30, 2021, said: “An interim order is hereby made empowering the applicant to direct the head office of the listed banks to freeze forthwith all transactions on the bank account of the defendants for a period of 45 days pending the outcome of investigation and inquiry currently being conducted by CBN.”
In another suit filed by CBN against Sethwealth Ventures and two others, the court granted an exparte application by the apex bank to freeze 50 accounts linked to the three defendants in 13 banks. A similar order was also made in the suit by CBN against Bluebeam Capital Ltd freezing 60 accounts of the company in 13 banks.
The 17 banks affected are Access Bank, First City Monument Bank, Fidelity Bank, Sterling Bank, Keystone Bank, Providus Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Wema Bank and First Bank. Others are Guaranty Trust Bank, Ecobank Bank, Heritage Bank, Polaris Bank, Zenith Bank, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Union Bank.
The companies affected include Bluebeam Capital Limited, Sethwealth Ventures, Seasons Bureau De Change, Lat-Ade Logistics, Sani Polo Global Investment Ltd, Saneo Global Resources Limited and Romvic Ventures Nigeria Limited.
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