The Federal Government yesterday ordered the Academic Staff Union of Universities to reopen the institutions within one week or get sacked.
The supervising Minister of Education, Barr. Nyesom Wike, disclosed this at a press briefing in Abuja.
He described the ongoing varsity teachers’ strike as “act of sabotage.”
“The continuation of the strike despite several meetings, especially with President Goodluck Jonathan is an attempt by the union to sabotage all efforts by government to address the issue,” he said.
Wike stated that government had directed that all Vice Chancellors of federal universities that are currently on strike should immediately reopen for academic and allied activities.
ASUU embarked on the strike on July 1 to protest government’s non-implementation of the 2009 agreement signed by both parties.
The minister disclosed that government had met all its commitments and obligations with respect to the agreement.
According to Wike, government took the decision to reopen the universities following ASUU’s new conditions which are “not tenable. “
His words: “On November 4, 2013 President Goodluck Jonathan met with ASUU executive, labour union leaders from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), where all the issues were resolved and firm commitments made to address the lingering crisis.
“It is noteworthy that Mr. President’s gesture was more than sufficient to guarantee the commitment of government to address all issues raised at the meeting with Mr. President. At the end of the meeting, the ASUU team promised to convene a meeting of its National Executive Committee to present the resolutions reached and report back by Friday, November 8, 2013. It is unfortunate that while travelling to attend the NEC meeting in Kano, we lost a key member and former President of the union, Prof. Festus Iyayi.
“Government sympathizes with the family of the late Iyayi and ASUU. It is however amazing that three weeks after the meeting with Mr. President, ASUU responded by giving new conditions for suspending the five month old strike. I have never seen anywhere in any country where you sit down with Mr. President. That is the highest level of discussion. If you cannot believe Mr. President, then who else will you believe?”
“Any academic staff who fails to resume on or before December 4 automatically ceases to be a staff of the institution. Vice-Chancellors are also directed to advertise vacancies (internal and external) in their institutions. The National Universities Commission is hereby directed to monitor the compliance of these directives by the various institutions. The Federal Government has met all its commitments and obligations with respect to the FG/ASUU 2009 Agreement. We appeal to all stakeholders to appreciate the position of government which is in the best interest of our dear country.”
The Academic Staff Union of Universities condemned the Minister over his comments that the union was making new “outrageous” demands, describing it as a lie.
The union said it had only asked President Goodluck Jonathan to facilitate the endorsement of resolutions reached with him and to also be signed by a top government official preferably the Attorney-General of the Federation but not a Permanent Secretary.
National Treasurer of ASUU, Dr. Ademola Aremu, stated the position of the union while speaking in Ibadan last Wednesday. Aremu praised the intervention of Jonathan but pointed out that some of the resolutions reached with him were not contained in the letter sent to the union.
ASUU said its representative and President of Nigeria Labour Congress should stand as witnesses when the document was to be signed.
The union added that it wanted the N200bn agreed as 2013 revitalisation fund for public universities to be kept with the Central Bank of Nigeria and disbursed to the benefiting universities.
Aremu said Wike should have told Nigerians that apart from the N30bn earned allowances released for university staff, the government had yet to release any other fund.
He said, “We are not making fresh demands. In fact, the National Executive Council of the union would have suspended the strike but the concern of our congresses is that many of the things agreed with the President, during the November 4 meeting, were not included in the letter signed by a Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education, Dr. Mark Nwobiala.”
He promised that the strike would end as soon as the omissions were corrected in the new resolution.
ASUU said it was evident now that the Federal Government was not ready to implement any resolutions it reached with the union.
“It is a pity if the federal government is not willing to perfect the resolutions reached with the union. This is why we find it difficult to trust our leaders by their words. How can someone be threatening to sack lecturers when universities are already short-staffed by almost 60,000. We are not in military era. The military tried it and failed, this one will fail again”, ASUU said.
ASUU chairman, Dr. Clement Chup of UniAbuja Chapter, said the union dared the Federal Government to sack its members over the prolonged universities’ strike.
He said in a telephone interview that “the school can go ahead and ask students to resume but we won’t do any work; we won’t teach them. It is not our responsibility to resume until ASUU decides. “We’re not afraid of that (sack). He (Education Minister) can go to the motor park to recruit lecturers that will lecture the students. You can now see the insincerity of some people in government.
We told the government when we met that we’re ready to suspend the strike once we’re able to clarify some issues in our agreements with them. But they went ahead without clarifying those issues at stake. We dare them to sack us,” Dr. Clement Chup said.
In his reaction, Chairman, University of Lagos branch of ASUU, Dr. Oghenekaro Ogbinaka said that the development was strange and laughable.
He said that this was so considering the fact that the union was yet to get back to the government, after their deliberations with President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Our reaction is simple. Let us just wait for the seven days to come around.” What government has just done shows that they were not committed in the offer they made with the union that had the Trade Union Congress President and the Minister of Labour in attendance,” he said.
Immediate past Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Prof. Oyelowo Oyewo simply described the development as “a glorified joke and laughable”.
Oyewo noted that it was funny that one of the parties which had before now been holding dialogue, would try to intimidate the other.
Also commenting on the directive, Head of Department of Political Science, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Prof. Sat Obiyan said that the ultimatum was not the best approach to resolving the issue.
The Coordinator of Education Right Campaign (ERC), Mr Hassan Soweto, said that the ultimatum would only worsen the problem, noting that it was against the principle of public bargaining.
“What ASUU wants is some level of commitment from the Federal Government before it will suspend the strike. “It is not right for the government to use force in a democracy,” he said.
A student of Lagos State University, Ojo, Mr. Agbomeji Ibrahim urged the Federal Government not to be authoritative by giving lecturers one week to return to classes or face sack.
Ibrahim urged the Federal Government to be more sensitive in its decision and pleaded that ASUU should also have a rethink as the strike was old enough to be called off.
“The Federal Government must be careful, logical and realistic in its decision, because of the importance of the sector. “Both the Government and ASUU need to accommodate each other on the negotiation table because both parties cannot get all their demands and must be ready to shift grounds,” Ibrahim said.
Chairman of ASUU at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Dr Ifeanyichukwu Abada, said lecturers were not worried by the return-to-work order by the federal government.
Abada said in Nsukka that the union was not dealing with the minister who gave the order but with President Goodluck Jonathan.
“It is unfortunate that the minister thinks that he can use his office to threaten lecturers. The December 4 ultimatum to lecturers to resume work or risk being sacked cannot work,” Abada said.
He said it was unfortunate that rather than pursue amicable resolution of the crisis, the minister was issuing a ‘military order’.
Ogoni Youths Give FG 14 Days To Fix East-West Road
No fewer than 400 youths under the aegis of Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF), yesterday, staged a peaceful protest at the Eleme axis of the East-West Road, giving the Federal Government 14 days ultimatum to mobilize to site and fix the road or have economic activities in the area grounded.
The protesters, who carried various placards with inscriptions to press home their demands, trekked from Akpajo Junction to Refinery Junction in Eleme LGA, chanting solidarity songs to register their discontent over the neglect of the road.
Addressing newsmen during the protest, President General of the Ogoni Youth Federation, Comrade Legborsi Yaamabana, said it was regrettable that the road, which was a major route to the economic hub of the nation, has remained in a deplorable state, only becoming a death trap that has terminated the lives of innocent Ogonis.
Yaamabana, who described the mass action of the youths as a ‘warning protest’, said if the contractors handling the road were not immediately mobilized to site, then, the youths will have no option than to shut down all economic activities in the area.
He said, “we cannot continue to watch our people being killed on daily basis by tankers because of the poor state of Eleme axis of the east west road, we are calling on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency fix the road and save our people from untimely deaths as a result of the sorry state of the road, the only bridge on the road at Aleto has collapse but nothing is being done to avert the disasters faced by our people daily”.
Yaamabana also called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to constitute a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission to address the development needs of the Niger Delta region, noting that the use of interim management for NDDC was “diversionary, self serving and not in the interest of the development of the Niger Delta region”.
The OYF president general also called on the Federal Government to exonerate Ken Saro-Wiwa and his compatriots who were extra-judicially murdered by the late Gen Sani Abacha military junta, and given post-humours honour as martyrs of democracy in Nigeria, while the ideals of justice they stood for should be upheld.
Also speaking, the immediate past secretary of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eastern Zone, Comrade James Tobin, who joined the protest in solidarity, decried the neglect of the East—West Road by the Federal Government, and called the immediate fixing of the road to save the teeming road users from untold pains and death.
By: Taneh Beemene
Rising Prices Push 7m Nigerians Below Poverty Line -World Bank
The World Bank has said that rising prices pushed about seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020.
This was contained in a press statement titled, ‘Critical reforms needed to reduce inflation and accelerate the recovery, says new World Bank report,’ released by the World Bank’s Senior External Affairs Officer of Nigeria, Mansir Nasir.
The press statement was released, yesterday, in line with the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update.
It was acknowledged that the Federal Government “took measures to protect the economy against a much deeper recession” but it was recommended that certain policies should be set for a strong recovery.”
The statement read, “The NDU, titled ‘Resilience through Reforms,’ notes that in 2020, the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8 per cent than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2 per cent). Although the economy started to grow again, prices are increasing rapidly, severely impacting Nigerian households.
“As of April, 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years. Food prices accounted for over 60% of the total increase in inflation. Rising prices have pushed an estimated seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020 alone.”
Quoted in the statement, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, identified some of the challenges faced by the country and recommended a way forward.
“Nigeria faces interlinked challenges in relation to inflation, limited job opportunities, and insecurity.
“While the government has made efforts to reduce the effect of these by advancing long-delayed policy reforms, it is clear that these reforms will have to be sustained and deepened for Nigeria to realise its development potential,” Chaudhuri said.
Also quoted is the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the NDU, Marco Hernandez, who also gave a recommendation.
“Given the urgency to reduce inflation amidst the pandemic, a policy consensus and expedite reform implementation on exchange-rate management, monetary policy, trade policy, fiscal policy, and social protection would help save lives, protect livelihoods, and ensure a faster and sustained recovery,” Hernandez said.
Inflation Dips To 17.93% In May, NBS Confirms
Nigeria’s inflation rate dropped to 17.93 per cent in May, 2021, from 18.12 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed this in its monthly Consumer Price Index report released, yesterday.
The drop in the headline inflation in May was the second consecutive month this year.
The report indicates that the consumer price index (CPI), which measures the inflation rate increased by 17.93 per cent (year-on-year) in May, 2021, which is 0.19 per cent points lower than the rate recorded in the preceding month.
According to NBS, food inflation dropped in the same month from 22.78 per cent recorded in April, 2021 to 22.28 per cent in May, 2021.
The report reads, ‘‘All items less farm produce which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce stood at 13.15 per cent in May, 2021, up by 0.41 per cent when compared with 12.74 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
‘‘The highest increases were recorded in prices of pharmaceutical products, garments, shoes and other footwear, hairdressing salons and personal grooming establishments, furniture and furnishing, carpet and other floor covering.
‘‘Others include, motor cars, Hospital services, fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment, cleaning, repair and hire of clothing.
“Other services include personal transport equipment, gas, household textile, and non-durable household goods,” the NBS added.
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