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ASUU Strike: FG, Union Meeting Ends In Deadlock …Minister Predicts Call-Off In Seven Days

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The end to the ongoing strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) seems not to be in sight as the meeting between the Nigerian government and the union has hit the rocks.
During the meeting, which held yesterday, the Federal Government promised to fulfill some of the conditions being demanded by ASUU in an attempt to end the strike by the union.
Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige, who convened the meeting with the union leaders, said the government would meet certain conditions.
It was gathered that the ASUU leaders who attended the parley did not agree to call off the strike.
The ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi who led the executive members of the union to the meeting said he needed to brief other members of the union.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, yesterday said the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities may be called off within one week.
The minister stated this at a meeting with the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFund in Abuja.
Adamu said that the ministry and other major stakeholders were already holding meetings with the union to resolve some of the issues that led to the strike.
He assured that with the level of progress made in the negotiation, there was hope that students and lecturers would return to classes within one week.
Adamu said, “the issue of renegotiation is already going on. I have already written a letter formalising the meeting I had with the union, because I went alone to face them and I wrote a letter which I gave them yesterday.
“From the way they received it, I think it is possible that the strike will be called off within a week, maximum.”
Adamu said while explaining reasons for the strike, ASUU accused the Federal Government of failing to keep its side of the agreement.
He assured that the Ministry of Finance had agreed to do the needful with regard to releasing funds as soon as possible.
He said: “The union had asked for N23 billion to be paid.
“We said the condition for that N23 billion to be released was for them to account for the N30 billion they had taken which is a total of N53 billion and they were not able to account for it.
“The Minister of Finance then undertook to do the audit from the ministry and we agreed that the result will be known within six months.
“The Federal Government undertook to be paying them N1.5 billion each month during the time they are waiting for the outcome of the audit.
“Their grouse now is that the forensic audit promised by the minister of finance has not been done and the money promised has not been paid.
“So, at our meeting two days ago, we agreed that we will pay them and do forensic audit on the entire N53 billion.
“I wrote to the minister and she has already approved it and this money will be paid; probably on Monday, they will be able to receive the cheque.”
Adamu, however, stated that his ministry did not agree on some issues during the meeting with the union.
He said: “There are other issues which we did not agree on and that is their request to be taken out of Treasury Single Account.
“I told them that it is not possible because this is a new policy and government is not going to change it for anyone.
“Concerning their salary shortfall, we said a lot of the reasons spring from what they are doing wrong.
“They do a lot of employment without proper authority.
“For instance, a university can decide to recruit 50 people and IPPIS is not aware. So, we insisted that institutions must stop doing that and they accepted.
“There is also the issue of the registration of their pension commission. I think they have one or two issues to iron out with PENCOM and I believe they will also be able to solve the problem within a week.’’
The Chairman of the senate committee, Senator Barau Jibrin, said the committee was impressed with the briefing by the minister on the matter.
He explained that the seriousness of the issue made the committee members to cut short their recess, and said that from the assurance given by the minister, students and lecturers would return to school shortly.

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Assailants Murder Obiano’s SSA On Security

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Unknown assailants yesterday stormed the residence of Mr Azubuike Ekwegbalu, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State on Security, leaving him dead after allegedly stabbing him with a kitchen knife.
Our correspondent gathered that the incident occurred early hours of yesterday at his residence at the Commissioners’ Quarters, Awka, a high brow area for government officials.
An eyewitness said the late Ekwegbalu, who hails from Ogbunike in Oyi Local Government Area of the state, was a close relation to the wife of the governor.
“He was murdered by unknown men last night at the commissioners’ quarters, Awka.
“This is barbaric. May his soul rest in peace.
“Security operatives must do all that is possible to bring the killers to justice,” the source said.
Confirming the incident in a statement, the spokesman for the Police Command in the state, SP Haruna Mohammed, said one suspect, who was seen in the premises had been arrested.
“On August 9, 2020, about 1:30 a.m., there was a report of alleged murder of one Azuibuike Ekwegbalu, aged 43 years, native of Ogbunike in Oyi LGA but resident at the Commissioners quarters Awka.
“Following the report, Police detectives attached to ‘B’ Division Awka led by the DPO, CSP Emma Ogbuanya visited the scene and rushed victim who was found in a pool of blood to COOUTH Awka for medical attention.
“He was certified dead by the medical doctor on arrival while his corpse was deposited at the hospital mortuary for autopsy,” he noted.
Mohammed said a careful observation on the deceased body revealed stab wounds while a blood-stained kitchen knife was also recovered as an exhibit at the scene.
“Consequently, one suspect who allegedly was in the premises has been arrested and the case is under investigation to unravel the circumstances surrounding the incident,” he stated.

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Insecurity In Nigeria, Alarming, Wike Alerts …Suspends JAAC Accounts From Defaulting Banks

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says insecurity in Nigeria has reached an alarming proportion.
He has therefore called on security agencies to redouble their efforts in curbing it.
Governor Wike expressed the concern yesterday when the new General Officer Commanding 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Olu Irefin paid him a courtesy visit at Government House, Port Harcourt.
He noted that the prevalence of insecurity in every State of the Federation seems to overwhelm the military.
Governor Wike stated that the situation is different in Rivers State because of the robust collaboration between his administration and the security agencies.
“Our determination is to keep the State safe but development also attracts criminality, so we can’t say we are totally free.
“There are still pockets of criminal elements. So, as a professional whose role is to defend the territorial integrity of the country, fight crime and do not involve in politics.
“We are willing to collaborate with you as a government because security is important for us. Just let us know what you require to succeed in the fight against criminality.
“That way, we will be partners in progress and make the State safe for all residents,” he stated.
Earlier, the General Officer Commanding 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General OluIrefin commended Governor Wike for his developmental strides.
He said on assumption of duties, his commanders told him that they have enjoyed tremendous support from the state government in the discharge of duties.
He pledged to sustain the existing collaboration in protecting lives and property in the State
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has directed the removal of Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC) from banks that gave unauthorised loans to some Local Government Chairmen in the State.
Governor Wike gave the directive on Wednesday, while swearing in the substantive Chairman of the Asari-Toru Local Government Area at Government House, Port Harcourt .
He directed the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice to take legal action against the defaulting Banks.
Governor Wike said both the Banks and the Councils that defaulted would suffer the consequences of the illegality.
He noted that the Banks cannot seek refund of the loans because they contravened extant Laws of the State.
“We have taken a decision that for all those loans taken without approval, the affected accounts must leave the defaulting banks.
“I have told the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice to take necessary steps. The Banks cannot go and seek for refund from the Local Governments. When you default the Law, you suffer for it.
“Council Chairmen who want to take loans from banks must get official approval. You cannot take loans that will mortgage the future of the people”, he stated.
Governor Wike charged Mrs. AlasoJohnbull Obi to use her new position to make a difference because the people are yet to feel the impact of the Council.
“Go and put your local government together. Do not allow busy body politicians to distract you. Use this opportunity you have to make a difference.
“We never thought that Chief Odiari Princewill will die but as God will have it, he is dead and we have to abide by the constitution.
“That is why you, as the deputy, has to step in as the substantive chairman of Asari-Toru local Government Area today.
“In choosing your Deputy, you must consult widely with all the stakeholders of the Party. As election is coming up next year, you have an opportunity to sell yourself,” he added.
Until her swearing in, Mrs. AlasoJohnbul-Obi was the Vice Chairman of the Council but the death of the elected chairman, Chief Odiari Princewill on the 27th May, 2020 created a vacuum that needed to be filled.

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SSANU, NASU Threaten Strike Over Unresolved Issues

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The Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) said they would proceed on strike over unresolved issues with the Federal Government immediately the universities reopen.
Mr Samson Ugwoke, the Chairman, Joint Action Committee (JAC) of both unions said this while addressing newsmen on the resolutions reached by the unions yesterday in Abuja.
The resolutions were signed by the SSANU National President, Mr Samson Ugwoke, and the General Secretary of NASU, Mr Peters Adeyemi.
The unions’ grievances included the lingering Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) debacle, nonpayment of arrears of earned allowance and minimum wage. Others are the alleged lack of seriousness by the Babalakin Committee renegotiating the 2009 FG/NASU, SSANU agreements, neglect and poor funding of state universities, absence of visitation panels, among others.
According to Ugwoke, long after many other sectors had been paid the arrears of the national minimum wage and consequential adjustment, university workers are yet to be paid. “We find this development totally unwholesome and very unhealthy.
“Given the time lag of over a year since it was implemented in other sectors, members of the public would agree that we have been patient enough in the university system,” he said.
He pointed out that in spite of the series of letters by the unions to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) Office since February, their members were still confronted with many challenges, including salary payment. Ugwuoke also said that their members, whose monthly salaries were being paid in the second week of the following month in the past seven months, were suffering as a result of the difficulties posed by IPPIS.
He argued that as responsible unions, they had avoided the planned action, adding that the unhealthy situation had made it inevitable.
Ugwoke said: “We have again cried out to the general public with a view to inviting stakeholders and well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the government to correct the anomaly of IPPIS. “Pay us the arrears of both earned allowances and minimum wage, among others.”
He warned that the unions would have no option than to embark on strike effective from when universities would reopen after the COVID-19 lockdown.

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