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UK Product Safety Laws Won’t Prevent Another Grenfell Tragedy

UK product safety laws won’t prevent another Grenfell tragedy, report warns

Regulators lack the resources to certify the safety of goods sold online by third parties

The UK’s product safety regime is not up to the job of preventing a tragedy such as the Grenfell Tower fire as shopping moves online and regulators take on new responsibilities following Brexit, MPs have warned.

A third of products are now bought on the web, yet a gap in the law means that digital giants such as Amazon and eBay are not responsible for the safety of items sold by third parties. The budgets of council-run Trading Standards services have also been cut to the bone, according to a report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Meg Hillier, the PAC chair, said flaws in the current set-up had been horrifically exposed by the Grenfell fire, which was caused by a fridge-freezer. There was also reason for serious concern about “everyday risks” such as toxic children’s toys and the rise of “smart” household gadgets that could “open a door to hackers”.

With “massive” new responsibilities following Brexit as well as oversight of building materials from 2022, Hillier said it added up to a worrying picture.

“We simply cannot be confident that the UK’s product safety regime will prevent the next tragedy or widespread harm or loss of life, or even know where it’s coming from,” she said. “UK consumer protection must be properly funded to get up to a speed and strength fit for the task.”

The nature of the safety risks people faced was “changing significantly and fast” as they bought more online. That websites like Amazon were not held accountable for sales by other brands was a “significant source of potential product safety harm”, the report said.

Responding to the findings Lesley Rudd, the chief executive of the charity Electrical Safety First, said the absence of vital laws governing online marketplaces posed “one of the biggest risks to product safety in the UK”.

“An unregulated marketplace for electrical goods in combination with enforcement body cuts and an increase in online shopping is contributing to the perfect storm, meaning dangerous products are more likely to end up in people’s homes,” said Rudd.

Until three years ago product safety rules were enforced by Trading Standards officers, but issues with household appliances as well as changes resulting from Brexit saw the creation of the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS).

The OPSS, which is part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), regulates product safety at a national level and is also tasked with identifying risks and intervening on nationally significant product issues. The organisation, which has a budget of £14m, works alongside local Trading Standards offices which still undertake most enforcement activity.

While the OPSS had reacted well to issues such as faulty Whirlpool appliances and unsafe PPE, a lack of data slowed its response to dangers posed by the small high-powered magnets being swallowed by children that caused 40 paediatric admissions last year.

The PAC committee said the government had not set out how product safety would be regulated after Brexit. From 2023 the UK will no longer recognise the EU’s CE mark signifying compliance with standards and more checks will be required at the border.

Against the backdrop of a growing workload, MPs were concerned that regulators lacked the “capacity and skills to meet the challenges it faces”. It questioned the sustainability of Trading Standards services – in England their budgets have been cut by nearly 40% over the past decade. There was also a need for specialist science and engineering knowledge as technologies changed.

A spokesperson for BEIS said it was committed to ensuring only safe products could be legally placed on the market and that a database was being set up so councils could share critical product safety information. “While we recognise the concerns raised, we are addressing this by building an even more agile and advanced product safety framework,” they said.

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Nigeria oil production drops to 1.231m barrels per day- OPEC

OPEC: Russia-Ukraine war causing volatility in global energy market

Nigeria’s crude oil production suffered its second consecutive monthly decline since the beginning of this year, as it dropped to 1.231 million barrels per day in March, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries has revealed.

OPEC disclosed this in its latest Monthly Oil Market Report for April 2024, stating that crude oil production details which it got through direct communication from Nigeria showed that the country pumped less oil in March compared to February.

Data from the report indicated that Nigeria produced 1.322 million barrels per day of crude in February this year, but this dropped to 1.231mbpd in March, representing a plunge of 91mbpd.

The report further added that the country had produced 1.427mbpd of crude in January, but this was not sustained in February as it dropped in that month, while the southward oil production continued in March.

However, OPEC data showed that Nigeria’s average crude oil production in the first quarter of 2024 was 1.327mbpd, higher than the 1.313mbpd average oil production in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Nigeria’s first quarter oil output in 2024 was also higher than the 1.201mbpd average production in the third quarter of 2023.

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Emirates Airlines to resume Nigeria flights soon – Keyamo

Emirates, UAE, has concluded plans to resume flights with Nigeria.

This followed numerous visits from President Bola Tinubu to UAE over the communication breakdown between both countries.

Featuring on Arise Television on Monday, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, said the Emirates Airline had already indicated its readiness in a letter sent to the Nigerian Government.

Keyamo explained that what transpired during the earlier visit and resolution was not fake but was presented in a ‘hasty’ manner.

He said: “Emirates flight resumption is almost happening. I just received a letter from Emirates. The letter is on my phone now. They have gone through all the gamut and they are ready to come back. They will announce the date because to restart a route, they must get an aircraft for that route.

“I am announcing to Nigerians for the first time; that I just received a letter from Emirates now. The letter is with me. I have a hard copy thanking you for all the efforts we made. Mr President was the showman here. He was the one who pushed for it. He made my job easy because he went there, and had a diplomatic shuttle to resolve all the issues.

“That was why I said the last announcement was hasty and not fake news.

“They will announce the date for their next flight. We have received a letter confirming that all the issues have been resolved and prepared to start coming back. It may be before June.”

Apart from Emirates suspending flights to Nigeria, in 2022, the UAE Immigration Department notified its trade partners and travel agencies that it was stopping visa applications from 22 countries, 20 of which are African nations.

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CICB records 63% revenue growth in 2023

The Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, CIBN, says it recorded a 63.60 per cent growth of operating revenue, which stood at N1.37 billion in 2023, marking a significant increase from the N837.94 million recorded in 2022.

CIBN’s president, Ken Opara, disclosed this on Saturday in Lagos.

Opara added that the cost-to-income ratio for the year ended December 31, 2023, stood at 50.72 per cent, down from 59.41 per cent in the corresponding period in 2022.

“I am particularly delighted that our institute continued to wax stronger financially, notwithstanding the economic downturns and headwinds in 2023.

“It is on record that our institute, for the first time, crossed the one billion Naira mark by achieving a Net Operating Surplus of N1.371 billion in 2023 when compared with N837.943 million achieved in 2022, representing a growth of 63.60 per cent.

“Similarly, total revenue grew from N2.065 billion recorded in 2022 to N2.782 billion in 2023, representing 34.72 per cent growth, while total assets grew from N7.821 billion in 2022 to N9.119 billion in 2023.

“The cost-to-income ratio for the year ended December 31, 2023, stood at 50.72 per cent, down from 59.41 per cent in the corresponding period in 2022. This ratio is way below the approved Governing Council threshold of 61 per cent for the 2023 financial year.

“I am persuaded that with prudent and efficient management of resources, as well as diligent execution of our strategic plan, our institute will sustain this northward trajectory,” he said.

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