Sunday, 21 January 2018
Business and Economy

Business and Economy (743)

 

Governors of the South-East states, on Wednesday, held talks with leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, in Enugu, the Enugu State capital.

The meeting held at the Enugu State Government House.

It was the first time the governors are meeting Kanu, who is championing the pro-Biafran agitation in the South-East and parts of the South-South.

One of our correspondents learnt that issues surrounding the ongoing agitation, including IPOB’s call for a boycott of the November 18 governorship election in Anambra State and the group’s recent establishment of a ‘Biafra Secret Service’, topped the agenda of the meeting.

The meeting had the Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; and the Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, in attendance.

Nkem Okeke, deputy governor of Anambra State, represented Governor Willie Obiano.

Rochas Okorocha and Okezie Ikpeazu of Imo and Abia states respectively were absent and were not represented.

A source at the meeting said both governors were outside the country.

Kanu was accompanied to the meeting by elder statesman, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, and founder of the Igbo Youth Movement, Evangelist Elliot Uko.

The PUNCH equally learnt that the governors at the meeting, which held behind closed doors, spoke of the need for an amicable resolution of issues raised by the pro-Biafran activists.

While the governors have maintained that restructuring is the solution to the perceived marginalisation of the Igbo in the country, Kanu and other pro-Biafran agitators are clamouring for outright secession, and the emergence of an independent Biafran nation.

A communique after the meeting, read by Umahi, who is the chairman of the South-East Governors’ Forum, said the governors noted the concerns raised by the IPOB as well as the secessionists’ demands.

According to the communique, the governors informed Kanu that the demands should not be absolute.

Further meetings are to be held between Kanu and the governors towards an amicable resolution of the issues, according to the communique.

The communiqué read, “The meeting deliberated on the demands of the IPOB and noted its concerns accordingly.

“However, the meeting agreed that these demands by IPOB should not be absolute; rather the South-East governors shall immediately engage the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, and the entire leadership of IPOB in further meetings and dialogue with a view to quickening the resolution of all issues amicably.”

A source at the secretariat of the South-East Governors’ Forum informed The PUNCH that the governors would persuade Kanu to drop the agitation for Biafra and embrace the campaign for restructuring.

Kanu, dressed in Jewish attire, arrived at the Enugu Government House, venue of the meeting, in a white Toyota Venza with the inscription, ‘Eze S. I. Kanu’ on the number plate.

The vehicle apparently belongs to Kanu’s father, Eze S. I. Kanu.

The IPOB leader posed for a group photograph with the governors after the meeting before leaving the government house.

After Kanu’s departure, the governors went into another meeting with a group of Igbo leaders, including the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, and a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Charles Soludo.

IPOB leader’s planned re-arrest politically unwise, Umar tells FG

Meanwhile, a former military Governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar (reted.), has cautioned the Federal Government against a possible re-arrest of the IPOB leader on alleged breach of his bail conditions.

Umar, who is also the Chairman of the Movement for Unity and Progress, in a statement on Wednesday in Kaduna, noted that re-arrest of Kanu would be dangerous and politically unwise on the part of the government.

He stated, “Reports in the media indicate that the Federal Government has asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to revoke the bail granted Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and have him re-arrested. This is both dangerous and politically unwise.

“Mazi Kanu is not a common criminal as the government appears to think. On the contrary, he is a bitter young man fighting for a fairer deal for his Igbo kinsmen.

“His seeming militant approach is the result of the strong arm tactics with which the Federal Government deals with him.  His long incarceration before a court granted him bail testifies to this.

“Like Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, many Igbos genuinely feel marginalised since they belong to the category of those who gave Mr. President only five per cent of their votes and appeared to have fallen out of his favour.”

Umar argued that President Muhammadu Buhari’s insistence that the unity of Nigeria was a settled issue was a nationalistic wish coming from a veteran of the civil war fought to keep the country as one.

However, he lamented that the President’s view did not take into account the mood of the nation as indicated by the growing agitations for self -determination, restructuring and many other similar demands.

Umar said, “All indications are that Nigeria has become so polarised that it requires a strong personality like General Buhari to sustain its fragile unity. Needless to say that this does not bode well for the survival of the nation.

“Nigeria’s unity can only be guaranteed when all its citizens feel they are getting a fair deal; when all its component parts are treated justly and equitably; when none feels oppressed.”

He said the fact that there were growing agitations for self -determination, restructuring and other similar demands spoke gravely of the way the federation was being governed.

Posted On Thursday, 31 August 2017 02:38 Written by

The Federal Government has explained why it has not arrested the architects of the Coalition of Northern Youths’ quit notice issued to the Igbo living in the North.

The explanation came on the heels of calls by United Nations (UN) experts for the arrest of those behind the June 6 quit notice.

It also came on a day the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) lashed out at the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) over the pan-North group’s warnings to Ohanaeze Ndi’ Igbo, a pro-East organisation.

At a news conference in Abuja yesterday, Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) said they did not go after sponsors of the quit notice due to the “security implications”, adding that the Federal Government was being strategic in handle the issue.

He said: “The way the government works is that a lot of considerations naturally come into play. One is investigation, which is not time-bound; two, security consideration; three, expeditious determination and consideration of public interest.

“But one thing that is certain is that the government is ever alive to its responsibilities and whoever is found wanting, regardless of the length of time, will definitely be brought to book.

“That is the way it works. I assure you that the government will, within the context of its responsibilities, work to ensure good governance, justice, peace and fairness in the nation.”

The Northern youths have withdrawn the quit notice on the Igbo to vacate the North on October 1.

‎Their spokesman, AbdulAziz Suleiman, said the withdrawal was as a result of consultations and pressure from various groups.

Also yesterday, the IPOB, through its spokesman, Emma Powerful, warned the Federal Government against re-arresting its leader, Nnamdi Kanu.

It said doing so will have dire consequences.

The IPOB spokesman was reacting to what it called an attack on the Ohanaeze. Some ACF elders had berated the Ohanaeze leaders for trivialising a criminal matter.

According to Powerful, Kanu has not committed any crime that could warrant his rearrest.

He said: “If Nigeria ever had a case against our leader, why have the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) not commenced the trial since October 2015 when our leader was first arrested?

“Instead, the Arewa North thought they could intimidate this present Ohaneze Ndigbo as they did to previous executives, into allowing Nnamdi Kanu to be arrested.

“The idea of wanting to use baseless trumped up charges to justify the extra-judicial detention of Kanu will be resisted by all men and women of good conscience.”

The UN human rights experts called for the prosecution of those behind the ultimatum issued to the Igbo.

The experts,  Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance; Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues and Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, described the ultimatum as a “grave concern”.

They also deplored a hate song and audio message being circulated on the internet and on the social media targeting the Igbo.

The UN experts said: “We are gravely concerned about this proliferation of hate messages and incitement to violence against the Igbo and their property, especially considering the previous history of such violence.

“The government must be vigilant, as hate speech and incitement can endanger social cohesion and threaten peace by deepening the existing tensions between Nigeria’s ethnic communities.”

The human rights crusaders said that though some local and national figures, as well as some media representatives had publicly denounced any form of hate speech and incitement, other officials still needed to follow suit.

They added: “We are deeply concerned that some prominent local leaders and elders have not condemned the ultimatum, hate speech and the perpetrators.

“We call on the government, media and civil society representatives, and local and religious leaders, to reject and condemn hate speech and incitement to violence unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms.”

The UN experts said any incidents of hate speech and incitement to violence had to be investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted and punished.

“This includes the people behind the ultimatum and those responsible for the creation, publication and circulation of the hate song and audio message,” they added.

Posted On Wednesday, 30 August 2017 01:40 Written by

Arsenal’s early-season problems mounted at Anfield on Sunday after they were condemned to a miserable 4-0 defeat by Jurgen Klopp’s rampant Liverpool.

Not even the return of Alexis Sanchez could inspire Arsene Wenger’s side as they fell to goals from Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Daniel Sturridge. Salah’s third goal, after 57 minutes, summed up Liverpool’s mastery of the opposition as Arsenal managed to concede from an attacking corner.

After the ball was headed clear, Hector Bellerin misjudged the bounce and Salah sprang past him before sprinting over half the length of the field and converting clinically.

Substitute Sturridge got in on the act with just his third league goal of 2017, completing the rout with a far-post header from Salah’s cross after yet another unstoppable counter-attack 20 minutes later.

The opening goal had come in the 17th minute after wave after wave of Liverpool attacks.

Finally, on a rapid break, young full-back Joe Gomez delivered a superb, hanging right-wing cross and Firmino sprinted in at full speed to head past Petr Cech from six yards.

The warning signs had been there for Wenger, even before Firmino’s opener.

On 10 minutes, Emre Can and Firmino had combined effectively for the former to cross to the far post, where Salah looked certain to score until Cech scurried across his goal to make a brilliant block.

Moments after taking the lead, Liverpool should have doubled it as Firmino freed captain Jordan Henderson, whose poor touch preceded a shot that flew well off-target.

Klopp’s decision to axe regular first-choice goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from his squad had raised eyebrows, although Arsenal made an equally significant move in dropping club-record signing Alexandre Lacazette to the bench.

Wretched
Despite recalling Sanchez for his first Arsenal start since the FA Cup final in May, the Gunners looked close to complete disarray at times.

Still, they might have taken the lead after just seven minutes when Sanchez surged through and played in Danny Welbeck, who could only hook his shot over under pressure from Gomez.

But once in front, Liverpool played with increasing confidence, while Arsenal’s visibly drained. When Henderson’s 31st-minute cross was headed out of the area, Mane volleyed it, first-time, narrowly wide of the right-hand post.

Liverpool’s control was complete in the 40th minute when Mane claimed a second goal that had been a long time coming. To sum up Arsenal’s wretched half, it came from one of their own attacks, which was broken up in the Liverpool area by Gomez.

Liverpool broke upfield at electrifying pace, Can to Firmino to Mane, and the forward calmly cut inside Rob Holding before curling an unstoppable finish past the diving Cech.

Wenger brought on Francis Coquelin for Aaron Ramsey at the interval and the visitors at least started to threaten, with Mesut Ozil shooting wide and Sanchez seeing his shot blocked on the edge of the area.

The relief was short-lived, however, with Can soon heading a Salah free-kick just wide and Salah’s pacy run clean through on goal drawing another good save from Cech.

The third and fourth goals were fully deserved for the hosts and only another good stop by the beleaguered Cech denied Mane a second goal in between them.

Posted On Sunday, 27 August 2017 20:40 Written by

A coalition of civil society groups on Thursday said they would commence a two-day sit-out to press for the extradition of the former Minister for Petroleum, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke.

The movement in a statement said the #BringBackDiezani sit-out would hold in front of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission headquarters in Wuse, Abuja on August 28 and 29, 2017.

It was signed by the convener, Charles Oputa (Our Mumu Don Do), Deji Adeyanju (Concerned Nigerians) and Adebayo Raphael, Publicity Secretary, OurMumuDonDo movement. 

The coalition called on the EFCC to apply for the ex-minister’s extradition from the United Kingdom to face prosecution in Nigeria.

It added that the call for Allison-Madueke’s  extradition was informed by her roles in the wanton looting of the nation’s treasury and the failure of the Federal Government to push for her repatriation.

The CSOs noted that a Federal High Court had ordered Allison-Madueke to permanently forfeit several luxury properties in several high brow areas across the country to the FG. 

They said, “It is therefore unimaginable that the Federal Government is not pushing for Mrs Allison-Madueke’s extradition to face punishment for her alleged crimes.

“In the light of this, we will be holding a two-day day sit-out in front of the EFCC Headquarters to demand that the Federal Government applied for her extradition and prosecution in Nigeria. 

“We will also be highlighting the level corruption at the Central Bank of Nigeria.”

The protesters called on Nigerians to participate in the event.

Posted On Friday, 25 August 2017 12:23 Written by
•‘It’s FG’s ploy to destroy public varsities’

SOME Vice-Chancellors and the Academic Staff Union of Universities have rejected the decision of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board to peg admission cut-off mark at 120 for universities and 100 for polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education.

ASUU said the action, which it described as a “sad policy decision,” was in tandem “with the dream of the present government to destroy public universities in the country.”

Most of the vice-chancellors our correspondents interviewed on the issue maintained that they would not lower admission standards in their respective varsities.

The vice-chancellors stated that the decision would add no value to the nation’s university system.

For instance, in a statement issued by the Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, on the issue and released by his Media Assistant, Mr. Sunday Saanu, on Thursday,  the premier university stated that it would never admit any candidate that scored 120 in the UTME.

The statement added, “It should worry us as patriots that candidates who scored just 30 per cent in the UTME can be admitted into some of our universities. Yet, we complain of poor quality of our graduates. You can hardly build something on nothing. The consolation here is that since JAMB started conducting this qualifying exam in 1978, UI has never admitted any candidate who scored less than 200 marks out of the maximum 400 marks.

“This translates to a minimum of 50 per cent. This remains our position as an institution aspiring to be world-class. Reality is that only about four other universities in the country have such high standard. To that extent, apart from being the oldest, we are an elite university in the country at least judging by the quality of our intakes.’’

Olayinka, however, commended the decision of the Federal Government to re-introduce the post-UTME test and exonerated the incumbent JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, from the cancellation of the test two sessions ago.

“It is gratifying to note that the Honourable Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, who chaired the meeting, apologised publicly for canceling the post-UTME screening last year.

“In effect, universities are now allowed to conduct the test using modalities approved by the Senate of each institution.

“To be fair to the incumbent Registrar of JAMB, he was not the Registrar when the policy somersault of cancelling the post-UTME test was made last year. As strongly canvassed by us at every opportunity, for UI, the need to admit the best admission seekers is the primary motivation for the test and not money, even though we do not pretend that you can run any university so properly called without funds.”

Speaking to one of our correspondents on Thursday, the Vice-Chancellor, Tai Solarin University of Education, Ogun State, Prof. Oluyemisi Obilade, said that the onus would ultimately fall on parents and employers of labour to decide “between a first-class graduate of a university which takes 120 as its cut-off mark or one that takes 180 as its cut-off mark.’’

Obilade, who said that TASUED would never go below 180, insisted that many of the VCs at the Combined Policy Meeting during which the 120 benchmark decision was made, said they would not go below 180.

She said, “But some universities chose 120 at the meeting. What the JAMB has done is to transfer power back to the Senate of universities to decide their cut-off marks.  What I can tell you is that many public universities and even private universities will not go below 200. We were told that some universities were doing what they called ‘under the table admission’ and then come back to JAMB after four years for regularisation.

“TASUED will not go below 180, not under my watch. Even in the United States, there is what we call Ivy League universities, and there are those you can call ‘Next Level Universities.’ There are also those that are termed community colleges. At the meeting, the outcome is that universities have been given the freedom to decide. It is not general legislation and it is not binding on everybody.’’

Speaking with journalists in Ibadan, the Chairman of ASUU at the University of Ibadan, Dr. Deji Omole, said it was the dream of the present government to destroy education in the country.

He said, “Rather than sanctioning the identified universities that admitted over 17,000 students illegally, the JAMB registrar simply regularised illegality and lowered cut-off marks to favour the interests of the friends of government who own private universities and are hell bent on destroying public education.”

Omole said it was vital for JAMB to be scrapped in order to save the nation’s education and its future. He said the board had outlived its usefulness and that prospective students should apply directly to universities of their choice for admission.

He said, “Where are the students that the JAMB registrar said entered universities illegally? Which universities admitted them? If 30 per cent did not take JAMB and found their way into the university system, is that not corruption and a message that JAMB is not significant anymore? What sanction did those who did the illegal thing receive other than regularisation of illegality.

“We are watching because long before now we have said that JAMB has outlived its usefulness. Let the universities set their unique standards and those who are qualified can come in. Scoring 120 out of 400 marks is 30 per cent. Even in those days, 40 per cent was graded as pass. But now JAMB said with F9 which is scoring 30 per cent you can be admitted.

“They deliberately want to destroy education. Even for polytechnic, 100 marks is 25 per cent. It is sad. And that is where we are in Nigeria. They want to destroy public education at all costs. This is not setting standard for education in Nigeria. It is purely lowering standards and digging grave for the future. This is why ASUU is currently on the struggle to influence the government to do the needful for education in Nigeria.”

Also, the Dean of Students Affairs, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Prof. Kayode Alese, who spoke on behalf of FUTA management, said that the institution would soon unveil its cut-off mark.

“However, I can assure you that FUTA has never gone as low as 120. It has never happened and it will never happen,” he said.

Alese added, “Having spoken for the university, my personal opinion is that the 120 cut-off mark will not add value to our education system.  The Federal Government has just increased the pass mark from 40 to 45 in universities. What that means is that you must score at least 45 for you to pass any course. We have enough candidates and yes you may try to increase access but tertiary education should be for those who have the capability.’’

Also, the Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Tope Ogunmodede, said the institution would not admit any candidate with 120 UTME score.

He said, “Traditionally, OAU has never admitted students who scored below 200 in the UTME. For us, we are sticking to 200. The minimum benchmark is 120 but you can go higher than that. I expect that an institution should be able to determine the quality of its graduates because there are internal exams. What has been done is to provide a leeway for universities to decide their cut-off marks.”

Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students has described the reduction of the cut-off marks for admission into tertiary institutions as “a gross misplacement of priority and an exercise in futility.”

The organisation said that the reduction by JAMB, from 180 for universities and 165 polytechnics, to 120 and 100 respectively for the 2017 UTME, would translate to a disastrous outcome in the future.

The President of NANS, Chinonso Obasi, in a statement on Thursday, threatened that the decision would be resisted if JAMB refused to adhere to the status quo.

He said, “As critical stakeholders in the educational sector, NANS will vehemently resist the review and call on government to maintain the status quo and endeavour to conduct a comparative study and analysis of policies from other climes that support functional learning and production of young people that can compete with their peers globally.

 “Even with the current status, the general phenomenon is that Nigerian graduates are not employable. The lowering of standards will translate to a disastrous outcome in the future by churning out young people who cannot fit into the demands and expectations of the 21st century.’’

According to him, since the 21st century is being driven by innovation and competitiveness, lowering the entry level into tertiary institutions would only further contribute to reducing the productivity and peak performance of young people seeking admission into the country’s higher institutions of learning.

However, the Vice-Chancellor of the Christopher University, Ogun State, Prof. Friday Ndubuisi, said the new admission benchmark would have no negative implication on the quality of education.

He said, “This is not an imposition.  The cut-off mark is a minimum benchmark for admission. This idea of taking the UTME every year without getting admission is worrying. About 1.6 million candidates sat for the examination this year and about 500,000 will be admitted mostly because of the cut-off mark. Most universities will not go below 200, but with five credits obtained in two sittings, a person should be qualified for admission.  This is, however, not an imposition.  Universities still get to decide on whom to admit through the post-UTME.’’

Posted On Friday, 25 August 2017 01:38 Written by

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said the unity of the country would not be open to any negotiation.

The President, in its first statement to Nigerians since he returned to Nigeria after a 104-day medical vacation in London, added that political mischief makers who were fuelling ethnic violence would be dealt with.

Buhari, who said he was not against legitimate concerns, noted that different groups must air their grievances and work out a mode of co-existence.

“The National Assembly and the National Council of State are the legitimate and appropriate bodies for national discourse,” he added.

The President said he had been monitoring developments in Nigeria from London, adding that some comments, especially on the social media, crossed the national red line by questioning the nation’s continued existence.

Apparently making a reference to the recent quit notice to people of Igbo extraction by some northern youths, Buhari said “every Nigerian has the right to live and pursue his business anywhere in Nigeria without let or hindrance.”

He said terrorists and criminals must be fought and destroyed relentlessly so that the majority of Nigerians could live in peace and safety.

The President said his administration would reinforce and reinvigorate the fight against elements of Boko Haram, which he said, were attempting a new series of attacks on soft targets.

The speech read in part, “I am very grateful to God and to all Nigerians for their prayers. I am pleased to be back on home soil among my brothers and sisters.

In the course of my stay in the United Kingdom, I have been kept in daily touch with events at home. Nigerians are robust and lively in discussing their affairs, but I was distressed to notice that some of the comments, especially in the social media have crossed our national red lines by daring to question our collective existence as a nation. This is a step too far.

In 2003 after I joined partisan politics, the late Chief Emeka Ojukwu came and stayed as my guest in my hometown Daura. Over two days we discussed in great depth till late into the night and analyzed the problems of Nigeria. We both came to the conclusion that the country must remain one and united.

Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable. We shall not allow irresponsible elements to start trouble and when things get bad they run away and saddle others with the responsibility of bringing back order, if necessary with their blood.

Every Nigerian has the right to live and pursue his business anywhere in Nigeria without let or hindrance.

I believe the very vast majority of Nigerians share this view.

This is not to deny that there are legitimate concerns. Every group has a grievance. But the beauty and attraction of a federation is that it allows different groups to air their grievances and work out a mode of co-existence.

The National Assembly and the National Council of State are the legitimate and appropriate bodies for national discourse.

The national consensus is that, it is better to live together than to live apart.

Furthermore, I am charging the Security Agencies not to let the successes achieved in the last 18 months be a sign to relax.

Terrorists and criminals must be fought and destroyed relentlessly so that the majority of us can live in peace and safety.

Therefore we are going to reinforce and reinvigorate the fight not only against; elements of Boko Haram which are attempting a new series of attacks on soft targets, kidnappings, farmers versus herdsmen clashes;  in addition to ethnic violence fuelled by political mischief makers. We shall tackle them all.

Finally, dear Nigerians, our collective interest now is to eschew petty differences and come together to face common challenges of; economic security,       political evolution and integration; as well as lasting peace among all Nigerians.

I remain resolutely committed to ensuring that these goals are achieved and maintained. I am so glad to be home.”

Posted On Monday, 21 August 2017 10:04 Written by

GOAL! Tottenham 0-1 Chelsea (Alonso, 24 min)

Updated 

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Preamble

Posted On Sunday, 20 August 2017 21:42 Written by
The President, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof. Abiodun Ogunyemi, in this interview with ADELANI ADEPEGBA, explains reasons for the ongoing strike by members of the union

Strike has been a recurring problem with successive governments in Nigeria. Do you think the government has been deliberate or helpless in the way it has handled the education sector?

The issue of strike actions being incessant is a reflection of the insensitivity of the political class. You don’t see reasonable unions like the Academic Staff Union of Universities just going on strike without making its case very clear. At every point that we have had to go on strike, we would have written several letters. We would have made consultations, held meetings and sometimes, we would have published paid adverts to put our matter in the court of public opinion. But because the political class does not see education as a priority, they would always ignore us. It doesn’t matter which group among the political class is in power, it has been a consistent thing, especially because they have lost interest in education. Look at the history of Nigeria, there was a time when public primary and secondary schools were the toast of everybody. Consider the 1960s, 1970s, private schools were few and far between. Most of us you see today attended public schools, but it became expedient for us, almost everybody in my generation, to start patronising private schools when it became evident that the political leaders over the time have neglected public primary and secondary schools. What we see from the way Nigeria is going is that the political class in government is determined to destroy public universities and that is why ASUU is insisting that appropriate attention must be given to the public universities. Each time we say that, it doesn’t mean we are not sensitive, it only means government should address the drift that may take public universities to the same level public primary and secondary schools have got to. I don’t believe the government is helpless. Some people would ask: is this the appropriate time to go on strike? There would never be an appropriate time. When the economy was doing well in 2013, 2014 and even up to 2015, government didn’t implement the memorandum of understanding it reached with us. It was only when we insisted that enough was enough that they attempted to do what was proper.

In plain terms, what is the strike all about? 

The strike is about seven issues: We demanded funds for revitalisation of our universities and it was agreed in 2013 when we went on the strike that culminated in about 13-hour meeting with the Presidency. We signed the MoU on December 11, 2013. That was when we agreed that government would inject the total sum of N1.3tn into the university education system and that it would be released over a period of six years. The first year, government was to release N200bn, which it did, but it took a long time for us to access it. But since that release in 2013, no single kobo has been released thereafter. For 2014, N220bn was not released. Again 2015 and 2016, nothing was released up to the third quarter of 2017. In all, we can estimate the outstanding amount to be about N825bn for revitalisation of our universities. When government doubted that our universities were rotting away, it set up a national committee in 2012, which went to all public universities and came back with the NEEDS Assessment Report, which showed that we didn’t have anything close to a university in terms of quality facilities. The importance of that is that as lecturers, our conscience is pricked when we work in an environment that cannot compare to other universities elsewhere, particularly in Africa. That was the essence of the revitalisation fund and we are still insisting that it is a major demand of the union. On the issue of earned allowances: the government released N30bn and promised to pay the balance after completing the forensic audit, but nine months after, it is not looking in our direction, so our members are unhappy. The government has refused to take the necessary steps on registration of the Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company as we agreed during a meeting at the National Assembly. The government has also failed to provide support for universities’ staff schools in violation of our agreement and a judgment of the National Industrial Court on the matter. The fifth issue is the payment of fractional salaries to lecturers in federal universities since December 2015. See how long it had taken us to take up these issues.

 

What are the other demands?

In many state universities, their governors have stopped subventions and so they are finding it difficult to pay salaries. The case of Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, eloquently attests to this. We also have governors establishing new universities when they could not adequately fund the old ones. Ondo State is perhaps leading the pack: the state has three universities, and the one in Okitipupa is moribund. We have just 55 lecturers there, and the government is not paying any attention to it. For months, workers are not paid. Even the first university in the state, Adekunke Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, has met the same fate, but the government went ahead to establish a third university. You would be surprised that this same government is thinking of establishing the fourth university. Is that what we need? Instead of proliferating universities, why can’t they consolidate? We see the same problem in Edo, Bayelsa, and Ogun, where the governor is going ahead to establish the third university without funding the older ones. Then the issue of our retiring professors; the Pension Reform Act stipulates that once you serve in the university for at least 20 years and you rise to the position of a professor, you should retire with your salaries, but the government is not implementing that. The (National) Pension Commission is supposed to issue the originating circular that would give strength to the legal provision.

But people feel that the step taken by ASUU is insensitive, that strike should be the last resort.

Well, people have been saying that over and over that strike should not be a weapon for insisting on what we think is proper; but honestly speaking, we have not seen those criticising us for going on strike suggesting alternatives. Before we got to this stage, we must have explored all the options they talked about. They talked about dialogue, writing letters, running paid adverts, consultations, meeting opinion leaders and those we think can talk to people in power, but at the end of the day, we would have met a brick wall. We see those saying that as blackmailing us, it appears they deliberately want to close their eyes to the efforts we have made.

 In this case, how many opinion leaders did you approach and what efforts did they make to avert the strike?

In November last year, ASUU went on a warning strike. Before we got to that stage, we had written not less than five letters to the appropriate authorities. Now we observed they (government) were not observing the registration of appropriate pension contributions for universities, which we call Nigerian University Pension Management Committee. They were not talking about the earned allowances for our members, which they agreed to pay or support for staff primary schools; they were not talking about the fund for revitalisation of public universities, which are in decadence and despicable state. You are not talking about the Pension Act as it affects the salaries of retiring professors at state and federal levels, you are also not talking about the proliferation of universities and sudden resort to fractional salaries for our colleagues in federal universities and the non-payment of salaries in state universities. So we brought up these seven, eight issues and as of then, we had brought up the 2009 agreement, which was due for renegotiation in 2012. We brought up these issues in the memorandum of understanding we reached with the last administration in 2013. When we went on strike on that note, we wrote to the National Assembly, ministers, and appropriate agencies, and the Senate President subsequently summoned a meeting. He invited the relevant government agencies and we met twice on this matter. The first time, we tabled all the issues and the government gave its response. During the second meeting, government made some offers which we said were not acceptable and at the end of the day, we arrived at some positions. Those positions were communicated to the ministers, the National Assembly leadership, and other stakeholders just to ensure there would be follow-up.

What did you agree to at the second meeting?

We agreed that they should carry out a forensic audit because the government said it wanted a forensic audit on the funds it earlier gave to the governing councils in respect of the N30bn it gave for the earned allowances. It said this would be done within six months and we did not object. That was in November last year and it is well over eight months now. We didn’t hear from them, so it became a problem. When we raised the issue of staff schools, the government pulled out its support for staff schools. The National Assembly pleaded with us to await the judgment of the National Industrial Court on the matter, which was to come up on December 5, 2016. Though we didn’t take the government to court, another party did and they dragged us into it, and we agreed to wait for the outcome. However, whatever the outcome is, it would not be strong enough to repudiate our agreement and that was what happened. The court told the government that it didn’t have the right to stop supporting the staff schools; it was an agreement that was binding. From December 5 till date when the judgment was given, the government has not issued a circular that would restore its support to the staff schools. On the issue of NUPEMCO, government offered to ensure that it would be registered and given licence in the shortest possible time. We perceived some surreptitious moves to frustrate ASUU. We started our application for registration of NUPEMCO when the registration fee was N150m. They later increased it to N250m and again, N500m, but we still met the requirement, finally they made it N1bn. We met the N1bn requirement over a year before we went on the last warning strike, but it wasn’t registered.

What steps did you take before embarking on strike?

You can see the letters we wrote to the National Assembly, and the ministry and we conveyed the position of our union on the discussions at the National Assembly and also our position at the meeting we convened at Bayero University, Kano. We told them our NEC agreed to participate at the renegotiation, which is ongoing like I mentioned and then our members insisted on payment of all outstanding arrears of earned academic allowance at the end of the Ministry of Finance forensic audit, not later than July, 2017. That is the crux of the matter. This letter was conveyed to the government in January, we didn’t hear anything from its officials. We met with the education minister and he said they had written (to the Presidency) and were waiting for a response. We met with him again and he still promised. We wrote to the labour minister, no response. The letter we wrote was copied to the Acting President, Senate President, Speaker, Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Minister of Labour and Employment and also to the chairman of the renegotiation team, just to put him on notice. If he had power to stop it, he should have done so. We also wrote to the Minister of Finance and the Nigeria Labour Congress President and that is why he said he was in support of the strike action. You can see the level of consultations and contacts we made before this action started.

 The media aide to the President, Garba Shehu, said it appeared ASUU wants everything at a time. Is that true?

Let them tell us what they have done at a time before you can say that ASUU wants everything at a time. They should tell us what they have given ASUU. You can’t say negotiations would address shortfall in salaries, or the issue of staff schools. You said we should wait for court judgment but you didn’t implement it. You can’t say we should also wait for arrears of allowances, which you said you needed six months to verify. After verification, what else is left? Implementation! So, let him tell us what they have given ASUU from the list of what we demanded last November apart from negotiation, and negotiation is not part of what we are asking for.

 So, you think government is not sincere about strengthening the education system?

I mentioned earlier that it is about the kind of ideology that drives a government; it appears as if our people in power don’t have a clear vision about the role of education in development. We in the university system are clear about what education can do; it should serve as catalyst for development. If you talk about transforming the economy, education can drive it. Talk about invention, creativity, education should drive these processes, including security and the health system from the simplest thing to the most complex, including nuclear science, which is about the most complex operation. We believe education should be at the forefront. Nigeria is aspiring to greatness, but she is not giving attention to education. In the last two years, what has been allocated to education in the budget is between six and seven per cent. Even in countries where they have experienced wars like Rwanda and Sudan, they are allocating well above 20 per cent to education. Our citizens are rushing to Ghana, most universities there are public universities. Consistently in the last 10 years, they (Ghana) have been giving not less than 20 per cent to education, whereas in the past, other African nationals flooded Nigerian universities. What we are asking for is reversal of that experience. We lose over N500m annually to education tourism within Africa. It has been estimated that over 30,000 Nigerians are undergoing one form of education or the other in Europe. So, we see these statistics, though most of those going abroad are mostly children of the ruling class. We need to use education to drive our development and that is why you can see ASUU being vociferous, we are so passionate about it. It’s as if our lives depend on it.

 Some people believe that officials of government and ASUU have both killed the university system by not sending their children to public universities anymore. Why is that?

Let me correct that impression: As I talk to you, two of my children are in public universities. So, when they say ASUU officials, my predecessor in office has two children in public universities. We have our children in public universities, but if you talk of the political class, they can afford to advertise their children who are graduating from foreign universities on Facebook and other social media platforms. Where would I get money to send my children to Cambridge or Oxford University? That is the question. Is it now that the government is paying fractions of salaries that lecturers would afford to send their children to foreign universities? The truth is that our focus should be on the ruling class, they are making everybody poor in order to continue to dominate us. The children of the rich get the best quality education to come back and dominate the children of the poor who are struggling to attend our underfunded, under-equipped, under-prepared educational institutions. So, we have to break that cycle.

 Do you honestly think the government can fund and implement the 2009 agreement considering that we are in recession?

Again, it is about priority. I told you about countries that experienced wars and that are still paying attention to education. The Nigerian ruling class have not really sat down to look at what roles education could play in the development of the country and they won’t do that because they have the World Bank and International Monetary Fund advising them that Nigeria, like other African countries, does not need university education. They said what we need is basic technical education and with that the children of the poor will remain peasants and hewers of wood for the children of the rich. They would even complain that artisans are no longer available, but who are the artisans, the children of the poor. How best do we equip our universities to make them competitive, to stop the drift? Those children they take abroad at young ages do not think Nigeria when they return to the country, if they come back at all. They have dual citizenship with dual personalities. We need to sit back and define the kind of society we want and the roles of education in it.  Julius Nyerere did it in Tanzania and today, it is one of the most organised societies in Africa. You will see the passion with which the leadership is driving education in that country and they are getting results. It is because they took time to define the country they wanted and design education that would address the issues. That was what Nyerere preached in the early 60s. Nigeria needs to emulate that.

 Some people believe that most ASUU stikes are about better pay, that ASUU is only interested in negotiating better salaries, allowances and so on for its members and only use better infrastructure in schools to cover up. How would you respond to this?

It doesn’t work that way, there is no time we go on strike that we don’t justify our action based on the environment in which we are working. Even if you talk of better pay, is it that we don’t have alternatives? It is for the love we have for this country. The love we have for this country has made many of our members to remain here, so don’t think they don’t have alternatives because they insisted that the government must make the environment conducive. If you see a medical doctor that is committed to his job, pay him the highest salaries in the world, he wouldn’t want to work in a clinic without the basic facilities to perform his operations. That means it is the love for the job that is driving the doctor as against his income. If not for the love, we would have gone on strike since our members were being paid 60-70 per cent of their salaries for the last two years. But each time, we say you need to attract and retain the best brains. But beyond that, you need to provide the enabling environment, so they go together. You need the enabling environment and the correct mental frame of mind to drive the process of giving quality education.  

What is the least the government can do to end this strike?

The least has been defined. In November last year, when we went to the National Assembly, the issues were itemised, seven, eight of them. Government was expected to have followed that pathway, to follow what I would call the action plan for resolving the matter, but for deviating from the action plan, government exposed itself to suspicion that it didn’t mean well. If it means well, it must go back to that plan and from there, we address the issues. Government has defined the process for addressing the problem; it just needs to go back to it. It is because it didn’t act on the understanding, that is why we are back to where we are. This action was needless; it is like we were forced into it. Implementation must commence and the implementation we are talking about is not the issue of renegotiation, this is a separate thing and that is why we didn’t have problems with Dr. Wale Babalakin.

 What roles has the Ministry of Education played so far?

Let’s give it to the ministry, it has attempted on a number of occasions to assure us that it has taken some steps. It has written to the Minister of Finance and met with the Accountant-General of the Federation. The ministry has taken concrete steps that we believe should yield the expected results, but where decisions about finance were to be taken, maybe it met a brick wall. We don’t isolate government agencies, it is government that has still not delivered.

 Do you think the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari may have contributed to the delay in implementing the agreement?

No, we don’t want to go to that area because government is a continuum, there is no vacuum in the Presidency. I showed you the letter drawing the attention of the Acting President to the issues. It’s not as if we didn’t bring him into the picture and when they are holding Federal Executive Council meetings, you would see them allocating money to projects. If they believe university education is important, they would have deployed the means to address these issues.

Are you disappointed in the Acting President?

We don’t reduce matters to personalities, that is why I said I won’t talk about President Buhari. The issue is not about him, we don’t engage in personality attack. The issue we have on the table is yet to be addressed. Who do we expect to address the issues? It is the government, whether at the centre or state.

Do you think education should be under the Federal government or is it better under states?

That is a constitutional matter.

But we are talking of restructuring now and ASUU can also contribute to it.

We don’t want to be dragged into the restructuring debate, we need the people’s constitution, what they are doing now is patching up. What we need is to break down the whole process; that is ASUU’s position. So we will not contribute to this issue of add-on. They are cosmetic, we want fundamental restructuring. We are yet to define the kind of society we want, the last time we tried it was under Ibrahim Babangida (a former military head of state) and the people said they wanted socialism but the political class did not want that, they truncated it. If you look at Chapter 2 of the constitution, you would see elements that show that Nigeria should be moving towards a socialist, welfarist state, but the ruling class said the provisions there are not justifiable. Talk of free education at all levels, is any governor talking about it? This means that they have repudiated that aspect of the constitution. Look at Section 18 of the constitution; you would see our educational objectives clearly laid out. Look at the economic objectives which state clearly that the commanding height of the economy must not be in private hands. What is happening, they are privatising, commercialising (everything), including education. If you ask people in government their ideas of how to generate funds, they will say, charging school fees. ASUU will fight that; maybe that is the next level of our engagement. You want to introduce school fees in a country where over 70 per cent cannot earn two dollars per day, where poverty is widespread, and where illiteracy level is about 60 per cent. What is the maternal and child mortality rate? When you look at all of these indices of human development, they are negative in Nigeria. The catalyst is education and government must fund it.

There have been views that universities should be able to generate funds internally, but our universities are not doing that. Does that not amount to laziness?

You have raised a very important question but let me draw your attention to the 2009 agreement again. In that agreement, it was spelt out that ministries, departments and agencies should give consultancy in areas of competence to universities. I have not seen that happening except for the recent oil exploration by University of Maiduguri lecturers in Borno State, which was truncated by Boko Haram. We have not seen that happening in many cases. That should have been one primary source of fund generation for universities, but government, whether at the state or the federal, has not been doing that. The other revenue source they talked about is research and we cannot do that without requisite facilities and you can see the connection. You can’t be a good researcher when you don’t have facilities and you cannot be a good teacher without being a good researcher. Even the quality of instruction would be hampered without effectively equipping the laboratories and library. These things are inter-connected and you can’t separate them. For a lecturer to effectively carry out a research, he must have the correct state of mind and that is why we have been having problems getting quality research from our universities. So it is not about laziness, it is about an enabling environment and motivation and support from government.

 When will this strike end?

It will end when government is ready to do the right thing as we spelt out during our engagement with the government at the National Assembly in November last year.

LAUTECH, a member of ASUU has been closed for over a year, but the union seems to have been silent on it.

ASUU is not silent. In fact, two weeks ago, we wrote a letter to the National Universities Commission and we made our position clear; LAUTECH should be given to a state to manage, this issue of dual ownership is meaningless. Go and look at our adverts on June 9, it was placed in two newspapers. We specifically devoted a section to LAUTECH matters and brought it out clearly that a game of deception is going on in that university. The state governors are not committed to funding the university and they have gone ahead to establish their own, which means they want to abandon the school. We would resist that.

PUNCH

Posted On Saturday, 19 August 2017 12:27 Written by

The Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday ordered the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Clement Onubuogo, to temporarily forfeit to the Federal Government the sums of N664,475,246.6 and $137,680.11, which he allegedly diverted from the Sure-P programme inaugurated by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Onubuogo was also ordered to temporarily forfeit two properties, which he allegedly acquired with funds diverted from the youth empowerment scheme.

One of the properties is his house known as Clement Illoh’s Mansion, located at Ikom Quarters, Issele-Azagba in Delta State; while the other, a hotel, is said to be located at No. 19, Madue Nwofor Street, off Achala Ibuzo Road, Asaba, Delta State.

Justice Abdulaziz Anka ordered the temporary forfeiture of the funds and the assets following an ex parte application by a counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo.

In the ex parte application, the EFCC said the funds and the properties were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of stealing and bribery.

In an eight-paragraph affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application, an EFCC investigator, Huleji Tukura, said the anti-graft agency uncovered how Onubuogo diverted N876.9m out of the over N10bn released by the Jonathan administration for the scheme.

Tukura said the EFCC also discovered that Onubuogo, who was saddled with the responsibility of supervising the Sure-P Technical and Vocational Educational Training, Community Service, Women and Youth Empowerment Programmes, abused his office by collecting kickbacks from contractors.

He was also accused of fraudulently awarding contracts to himself using front companies and some workers serving under him.

The EFCC investigator said, “Through a fictitious contract, the respondent (Onubuogo) along with Mr. John Tsokwa and Mr. Salisu Kura, conspired and procured the sum of N29,168,654 out of which the sum of N10,500,000 was retained by the respondent.”

Tukura added, “The respondent (Onubuogo) received the sum of N37,802,000, which was diverted through Agoha Joseph Emeka, a member of staff of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment for his personal gain.

“Through Ojeagu Global Service Limited, a company owned by his family, with an account domiciled in Zenith Bank, the respondent converted the sum of N159,770,383.45, which he subsequently laundered.”

Onubuogo was also accused of laundering N182,529,000, which, according to the EFCC, was found in his Access Bank and First Bank accounts that he failed to declare.

The EFCC told Justice Anka that it had already recovered a total of N129,826,452 from Onubuogo’s co-accused persons such as “Salisu Kura, Rabiu Said, Tonye Isokeiri, Buhari Dahiru, John Kanku, Ahmed Muazu, Muktar Sufian, Udoh Nnamdi, Umar Mashi, Salogu Karo, Usman Bello and Ahmed Makki.”

After granting the interim forfeiture of the funds and assets on Thursday, Justice Anka directed the EFCC to publish the forfeiture orders in a national newspaper.

He adjourned till September 6, 2017 for anyone interested in the funds and the assets to appear before him to convince the court why the temporary forfeiture orders should not be made permanent.

Posted On Friday, 18 August 2017 00:06 Written by

At least 600 people are still missing following a mudslide and flooding that devastated parts of Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, a spokesman for the president has told the BBC.

President Ernest Bai Koroma earlier pleaded for "urgent support", saying entire communities had been wiped out.

Nearly 400 people are confirmed dead after a mudslide in the Regent area and floods elsewhere in Freetown on Monday.

The Red Cross has warned it is a race against time to find survivors.

A mass burial of victims is planned on Wednesday to free up space in mortuaries.

Presidential spokesman Abdulai Baraytay told the BBC that bodies were still being pulled from the mud and rubble.

"The entire community is now in mourning. Loved ones are still missing, well over 600 people," he said.

 
Sierra Leone mudslides: Rescue and recovery operation in Freetown

The UN said its teams in Sierra Leone had mobilised and were supporting rescue efforts.

"Contingency plans are being put in place to mitigate any potential outbreak of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Homes in the hilltop community of Regent were engulfed after part of Sugar Loaf mountain collapsed following heavy rain early on Monday. Many victims were asleep in bed when disaster struck.

President Koroma fought back tears as he toured Regent on Monday and said the devastation was "overwhelming us".

"Entire communities have been wiped out. We need urgent support now," he said.

Map shows the location of the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown

He urged people to stay away from the affected areas.

"This tragedy of great magnitude has once again challenged us to come together, to stand by each other and to help one another," he said.

Flooding is not unusual in Sierra Leone, where unsafe housing in makeshift settlements can be swept away by heavy rains.

The rains often hit areas in and around Freetown, an overcrowded coastal city of more than one million people.

Posted On Wednesday, 16 August 2017 11:42 Written by
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