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Google's Record EU Fine Upheld

FILE: The Google Inc. logo is seen outside their headquarters in Mountain View, California. Taken 8.18.2004

The European Union's second-highest court on Wednesday overwhelmingly upheld the EU's record fine against Google over its Android operating system for mobile phones, slightly reducing the fee for technical reasons.

The EU's General Court said it "largely confirms the commission's decision that Google imposed unlawful restrictions on manufacturers of Android mobile devices" in order to benefit its search engine.

The court, however, said the fine should be slightly reduced to 4.125 billion euros ($4.1 billion), instead of the 4.3 billion euros decided by the commission in 2018, after reviewing the duration of the infringement.

The levy remains the EU's biggest ever despite Google's arguments that the commission's case was unfounded and falsely relied on accusations it imposed its search engine and Chrome browser on Android phones.

The company also pushed the case that the EU was unfairly blind to the strength of Apple, which imposes or gives clear preference to its own services such as Safari on iPhones

"We are disappointed that the Court did not annul the decision in full," a Google spokesperson said in a short statement.

"Android has created more choice for everyone, not less, and supports thousands of successful businesses in Europe and around the world," it added.

The complainants welcomed the decision as it confirmed that Google "can no longer impose its will on phone makers", said Thomas Vinje, a lawyer representing the industry group Fair Search, whose original complaint launched the case in 2013.

"This shows the European Commission got it right," he added.

The commission said it "took note" of the decision and "will carefully study the judgement and decide on possible next steps".

The decision by the General Court is not necessarily the end of the story. Both sides can turn to the EU's highest court, the European Court of Justice, for a final say on the fine, which was the equivalent of $5 billion when levied.

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Africa Air Controllers Pause Strike

FILE: Representative illustration of an airliner taking off from an airport, with radar in the foreground. Taken 7.3.2002.

A 48-hour strike by air traffic controllers in West and Central Africa has been suspended, their union said on Saturday.

The Union of Air Traffic Controllers' Unions (USYCAA), which called the wildcat strike, said in a statement it decided suspend its strike notice for 10 days immediately so as to allow for negotiations.

The strike, which started on Friday, has disrupted flights across the region and left hundreds of passengers stranded at airports on Saturday.

"Air traffic services will be provided in all air spaces and airports managed by ASECNA from today Saturday, September 24, 2022 at 1200 GMT," the statement said.

The controllers work under the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA).

Paul Francois Gomis, a leader of the Senegalese air traffic controllers told Reuters that ASECNA staff demand better working and pay conditions. He said the Dakar airport air traffic controllers are short-staffed with only 60 people working when, he asserts, 80 are really needed.

Air Controller Strike Threatens Africa Travel

FILE: A picture taken on October 17, 2017 shows a general view of the Blaise Diagne International Airport in Diass, some 50 kms from Dakar. Taken 1.7.2017

A 48-hour strike planned by some staff of French-speaking West Africa and Madagascar aviation safety agency ASECNA starting on Friday, could impact some flight operations in the region, the agency said in a statement on Thursday.

ASECNA said two of its six flight information regions could be affected by the strike despite court decisions and government bans on the strike in Togo, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo and Senegal.

"ASECNA is under the threat of a strike decided by the Union of Trade Unions of Air Controllers, a clandestine organization which is not recognised by any of the member states of the agency," it said in the statement.

The 18-member states organisation manages air traffic control in an area covering 16.1 million square kilometres of airspace.

"The Niamey flight information region is expected to be impacted," ASECNA said, urging passengers to check updated flight information and so-called Notice-to-Airmen (NOTAM) it will publish on its website. It added that a Niger court decision on the legality of the strike was expected.

It added that there were also risks with the airspace controlled by the Brazzaville, Congo flight information region due to the planned strike. It gave no further details on the risks, but added that a Congo government decision was also expected.

On Thursday, a court in Senegal suspended the call to strike by air traffic controllers in Senegal and Ivory Coast, the agency said.

But Paul Francois Gomis, a leader of the striking Senegalese air traffic controllers told Reuters that they are maintaining their decision to go on strike from 0800 GMT on Friday.

Gomis said ASECNA staff are demanding better working and pay conditions. He said the Dakar airport Air traffic controllers are short-staffed with only 60 people working where 80 are really needed.

Dakar airport authorities could not be reached for comments.

South Africa Joins Rate Hike Round

FILE: South African 50 Rand currency note. Taken 4.5.2012

South Africa's central bank on Thursday raised its benchmark interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point to 6.25 percent in a bid to fight inflation. The move follows interest rate hikes by a number of other nations in recent days.

The rate hike follows a similar 0.75 percent boost in July -- the highest in a decade.

That, as inflation soared to 7.8 percent in July, near a 13-year record high.

The South African Reserve Bank, in announcing the hike, voiced concerns over high inflation and weak economic growth.

"The Monetary Policy Committee decided to increase the repurchase rate by 75 basis points to 6.25 percent per year," bank governor Lesetja Kganyago said.

"The level of the repurchase rate is now closer to the level prevailing before the start of the pandemic," he said.

The move is the fifth rate hike in a row.

Nigeria's Public Debt Grows

FILE: Nigeria's Central Bank headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria. Taken 11.22.2020

Nigeria's total public debt rose 3% to $103.3 billion in the second quarter of this year, largely driven by local borrowing to finance the budget deficit, the Debt Management Office (DMO) said.

The DMO said in its latest data, seen by Reuters on Tuesday, that public debt increased from $100.07 billion as of March this year to $103.3 billion by the end of June.

Although the debt constitutes 23% of the country's gross domestic product - within the government's self-imposed limit of 40% - Nigeria's debt repayment costs are rising while revenues are shrinking.

Between January and April, Nigeria spent more money to service its debt than it raised as revenue.

Nigeria's deficit has grown this year due to the high cost of a fuel subsidy at a time when oil revenue has fallen due to crude theft and vandalism of pipelines.

Petro Nicking "Treason" - Nigerian Lawmaker

FILE: People gather at the site of an explosion at an illegal oil bunkering site in the Egbema local government area, Imo state, in southeastern Nigeria, 4.24.2022

Crude oil theft in Nigeria, which is blamed for throttling output and exports, is tantamount to treason that should be punished by the stiffest possible penalty, the Speaker of the House of Representatives said on Tuesday.

Femi Gbajabiamila said Nigeria's crude exports were at their lowest in two decades, blaming it on crude theft that he described as "treason against our country".

Oil production fell below 1 million barrels per day in August, figures from the regulator show.

"Those who seek to impoverish our country in this manner have declared war against the Nigerian people," he told legislators when reconvening the House of Representatives after a two-month break.

"The government's response must be sufficient to convince them of the error of their ways and deter others who might be tempted to join in their treason."

President Muhammadu Buhari last month expressed concern over large-scale theft of crude oil, saying it was affecting the country's revenue "enormously."

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