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Strike: We’re Still Consulting, ASUU Clarifies

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The national leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said it was still consulting on what its reply would be to the offers the Federal Government made for it to end its eight-month-old strike.
The National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said this, yesterday, in a chat with newsmen.
According to him, the consultation was with members across the country and other critical stakeholders.
“We have what the government is offering, and have transmitted same to our members nationwide, and we are consulting on what the next line of action will be. You know a tree does not make a forest, and our union is democratic in nature and practice.
“As for how long the consultation would take, I cannot say but it may go beyond this week. Whatever we decide on is definitely going to be in national interest, the interest of our children, the interest of our members, and the good of all,” he said.
Recall that after a series of meetings, the leadership of the union held with the government team led by the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige, the government promised to pay the withheld salaries of lecturers ranging from four to eight months.
The government also said it would release N75billion for the revitalisation of the system and the payment of Earned Academic Allowances.

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Poverty, Hunger Affect Citizens’ Political Choices –CAN

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The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), yesterday, raised concerns over the increasing hardship being experienced daily by Nigerians.
This was the outcome of the meeting, held in Kaduna, presided by the Chairman of Northern CAN, Rev. Dr. Yakubu Pam, to discuss the various issues affecting Nigerians, including hardship and unemployment.
Other issues discussed include the mass poverty and hunger among millions of Nigeria; the 2023 general elections; insecurity; and the prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government.
In a statement issued at the end of their meeting in Kaduna, signed by CAN Chairman, and Secretary of the 19 Northern states and Abuja, Reverend Yakubu Pam and Sunday Oibi, respectively, said many families can barely get one meal in a day, adding that there was no denying the fact that there is poverty and hunger in the land.
He said Nigeria’s weak economy has thrown millions into abject poverty and hunger while life is becoming a living hell as people struggle to make ends meet.
The statement said almost daily, prices of food and essential items are on the increase, adding that the reality on the ground is evident for all to see.
“Poverty and hunger affect all spheres of life. It fuels criminality and crime; it affects education; it affects quality healthcare.
“Hunger affects citizens’ political choices. Already those who mismanaged the economy are using hunger as a weapon as the 2023 general election approaches”,he said.
The group called on governments at all levels to address the problem of poverty and hunger in Nigeria.
It also called on Nigerians to ensure that the 2023 elections are conducted under a peaceful atmosphere without rancour, adding that an election is not war.
“No politician is worth dying for. No one should take the laws into his or her hands”.
He tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible.

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NEITI Declares Natural Resources Mismanagement As Human Rights Violation

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The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), have agreed to work together to expand civic space in the petroleum and solid minerals industries, with NEITI insisting that mismanagement of natural resources is a human rights violation.
This, the agencies said, would enable civil society groups and the media to hold companies operating in the sector and the government accountable for Nigeria’s natural resources.
Speaking during a visit to the NHRC, yesterday, in Abuja, the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, said NEITI considers the mismanagement of oil, gas and minerals resources as violation of human rights.
Orji, who was accompanied on the visit by leaders of civil society groups working in the sector, explained that this “is manifested in term of environmental pollution, climate injustice, violation of host communities’ rights, denial from participation in natural resources management, inequality, revenue and social infrastructures, and in some cases, intimidation and harassment of civil society actors engaging with governance in the sector”.
He noted that NEITI was concerned “about these fundamental human rights issues that usually occur when natural resources are mismanaged and abused. Therefore, the struggle and agitation by civil society actors and media for prudent management of natural resources and protection of civic space in the extractive sector is a natural response by citizens to these abuses”.
He, therefore, called for a memorandum of understanding between NEITI and NHRC to guide further engagements between the two agencies.
In his response, the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu, expressed the readiness of the commission to work with NEITI to protect the rights of those affected by the operations of oil and gas companies, and miners across the country.
Ojukwu, who commended NEITI for doing a “marvellous work”, noted that progressive nations “are built on openness and transparency.
“So, this is another step, which I think if we work it out, and it goes smoothly, it will strengthen the work we are doing. So, we are happy to do this. I look forward to the technical committee that can work out the MoU that we can use to operationalise this”, he added.

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NANS Passes Vote Of Confidence On PenCom DG

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The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has passed a vote of confidence on the Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of the National Pension Commission (PenCom), Aisha Dahir-Umar.
Speaking at a press conference, the NANS Senate President, Attah Felix Nnalue, admitted that the union’s recent Freedom of Information (FOI) letter on the alleged annual expenditure of N14billion on personnel costs was not only misleading but wasn’t backed by any fact.
The union had threatened to stage daily mass protests against PenCom should the pension regulator fail to furnish it with the details demanded in the FOI.
Nnalue, however, said that after carefully reviewing its allegations against PenCom, NANS found that there was a “marked difference between staff cost and staff salary” with the former consisting of training allowances, staff exit benefit scheme, and employers’ pension contribution “as opposed to salaries that are fixed and eared monthly”.
He blamed the misconception on the “lack of inattentiveness that played out at the National Assembly” when the lawmakers recently invited officials of PenCom to seek clarification on issues as part of their oversight functions.
Nnalue said the union regretted that since the events that transpired at the National Assembly few weeks ago, both the traditional and social media, either out of mischief or lack of understanding of the issue, have been misrepresenting facts with the intention to portray Dahir-Umar in bad light.
The NANS senate president who described the PenCom boss as a pacesetter, said it “carried out an independent findings and came to the conclusion that the allegation of wasteful spending is in many parts misleading, untrue, unverified, therefore, should be ignored.”
He further called on relevant stakeholders to focus on steps taken by the “Dahir Umar-led PenCom to safeguard contributors’ funds rather than on inanity.
“It is imperative to state that at the inception of the PenCom over 18 years ago, the commission has operated, especially under the present DG, an employee compensation policy that favourably compares to comparator government bodies in the financial services sector, such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
“Furthermore, the NANS is aware that the Presidential Committee on the Consolidation of Emoluments in the Public Sector headed by the late Chief Ernest Shonekan, former Head of the Interim National Government, made a number of recommendations which guided the PenCom Board in its compensation review exercises. One of the recommendations is that the pay structure of self-funded agencies should be benchmarked with their private sector comparators so as to ensure relativity in such agencies and attract and retain high-calibre professionals.”
Speaking on Dahir-Umar’s giant strides as PenCom CEO, Nnalue said she supervised the growth of the pension assets from N6.42trillion in 2017 to N14.3trillion as at July, 2022.
“She introduced the Multi-Fund Structure of investment of pension fund assets to address the investment appetite and preference of contributors as well as their age profile.
“Dahir-Umar also approved a structured reduction of fees on Net Asset Value of pension fund assets.
“The PenCom boss introduced the Micro Pension Plan for the participation of informal sector workers in the Contributory Pension Scheme. The Micro Pension Plan was formally launched by Mr. President on March 28, 2019.
“She developed the Enhanced Contributor Registration System (ECRS) to clean and enhance the integrity of the pension industry database.
“She introduced the RSA Transfer Window to enable contributors change their PFAs at least once in a year.
“She instituted a periodic Pension Enhancement programme every three years, where the retirees’ monthly pensions are enhanced based on the performance of their RSAs.
“Dahir-Umar also automated the Annual Enrolment Exercise for FGN retirees to remove the inconvenience of the physical process of the exercise.
“Recently, she issued the Guidelines for Access to a Percentage of RSA balance towards payment of Equity Contribution for residential mortgage.
“She has strengthened the minimum capital base of PFAs from N1billion to N5billion for better service delivery to contributors.
“She facilitated the payment of outstanding accrued pension rights of FGN retirees, which drastically shortened the waiting period for accessing their retirement benefits,” the NANS leader noted.
The students therefore, insisted that they would not allow themselves “to be swayed by a malicious narrative against a tested and patriotic woman that has dedicated her life to the service of our dear nation.
“We are against corruption and we are committed to advocating and promoting good governance at all levels, as such we will never support corrupt elements in government. But where there is a clear misinformation about happenings, we owe ourselves and the society a duty to get to the bottom of the matter in order to get the facts and set the records straight.
“It is due to some of the reasons enumerated above that NANS as a body of all Nigerian students decided to pass a vote of confidence on the leadership of the Director General of the National Pension Commission (PenCom), Mrs Aisha Dahir Umar, for her exemplary leadership and track record of performance.”

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