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FG may break ASUU strike with another option

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The Federal Government may soon call the bluff of the Academic Staff Union of Universities over the union’s insistence on getting the government to meet all its demands before ending its prolonged strike.

ASUU has asked students idling at home to get themselves busy with some vocational skills, travel and have fun, an indication that it is not ready to end the strike soon.

It also insisted on getting the government to adopt the union’s payment platform endorsed in addition to securing enough funds for the upgrade of the universities, apart improved salaries and welfare package.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, said the strike would be resolved by next week after the meeting between the Federal Government team and the union leaders.

He said if the matter was not resolved by then, government would explore the provisions in the labour law and other channels.

The union said the strike was over the failure of the Federal Government to keep to the 2019 Memorandum of Action between them as well as the disagreement over the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, which ASUU rejected.

Ngige, who spoke on Politics Today on Channels Television on Friday, said the government had met six of the union’s nine demands and that they would meet again next week with the hope of ending the prolonged strike.

He stated, “Even if countries go to war, at the end of the day they come to the negotiation table. I’m inviting them (ASUU) next week. We are doing side meetings on our part and we are collating everything. I’m collating responses from the Accountant General of the Federation’s Office and everybody who has something to do with this matter.”

He also said, “By next week, we will conclude this matter. There are so many options left. We have the labour laws and I have options left to me in the labour laws. I have other channels.”

The minister said government had agreed to give the University Transparency Academic Solution, the payment platform proposed by ASUU, a trial.

He however said the feedback he got from the National Information Technology Development Agency, the agency mandated to follow-up the trial with ASUU, showed they had just concluded the first phase and that the second phase to assess the functional requirement of UTAS had not been done.

He added, “UTAS has yet to be ready but government will not discourage them. And we have told them there is no need using the same old method of strike to make demands since such had been deployed since 2017.”

On the revitalisation fund, he said government had agreed to release N30bn out of the N40bn demanded by the union as the payment for November 2019 and September 2020, adding that the remaining N10bn would be staggered.

Ngige said, “A committee that looked into the needs assessment of universities held a workshop on how funds could be generated came up with the recommendation that other things could be done to raise funds because revitalisation cannot be done through the budget, especially when the country is running a deficit budget.”

 

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400 suspected Boko Haram, bandits’ sponsors arrested

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Security agents have arrested about 400 businessmen for allegedly funding operations of Boko Haram and bandits in the country.

Daily Trust reported that the businessmen were arrested in an operation coordinated by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), and in collaboration with the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

President Muhammadu Buhari was said to have approved the operation in 2020.

The newspaper reported that an initial list of 957 suspects comprising bureau de change (BDC) operators, gold miners and sellers, and other businessmen is being acted upon.

A source told the newspaper that about 400 persons were arrested in Kano, Borno, Abuja, Lagos, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kaduna and Zamfara.

Names of the BDC operators arrested were given as Baba Usaini, Abubakar Yellow (Amfani), Yusuf Ali Yusuf (Babangida), Ibrahim Shani, Auwal Fagge, and Muhammad Lawan Sani, a gold dealer.

Those arrested are reportedly being kept in military and the DSS facilities in Abuja and other places.

“Because this is economic warfare against the insurgents and other militant groups, the president, when approving the operation directed that the NFIU take the lead as the country’s financial intelligence powerhouse,” Daily Trust quoted a source to have said.

The source added that “with the presidential approval, a task team was composed of personally selected senior officers who were deployed under the DIA to carry out the special assignment”.

“The main person coordinating the funding ring for Boko Haram is in our custody, he and his closest ally in the business,” he said.

Another source was quoted to have said about 19 BDCs owned by persons with “direct connection with Boko Haram” were uncovered, while over N300 billion was found to have been used in funding terrorism.

Apart from one person in Borno and another in Zaria, Kaduna state, the source said over N50 billion were traced in funding to the armed groups.

“A number of those arrested have divulged vital information including operational details of bandits and Boko Haram insurgents. But they are being kept to aid further arrests,” the source was quoted to have said.

Family members of those arrested, the newspaper reported, have been calling on the government for their release.

In 2020, six Nigerians were also jailed in the United Arab Emirates for allegedly funding Boko Haram.

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Former Ondo deputy governor agrees to return vehicles

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Former Ondo Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi has finally agreed to return the two vehicles in his possession to the Ondo State Government.

The state government last week said it would embarrass Agboola if he failed to return the four vehicles.

But Agboola, who said he had only two vehicles, insisted they were part of his benefits.

The state government also petitioned the Ondo State Police Command to help recover the vehicles.

In a statement on Sunday, the former deputy governor said he was not the problem of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s administration.

Agboola stated it was in the interest of everybody that Governor Akeredolu demonstrated good governance, transparent policy making and effective change.

He said it was unfortunate some members of the inner circle of Akeredolu have prioritised harassing him on a number of issues most especially the return of vehicles

Agboola said he hoped “these petty interactions would have ceased after the recent inauguration.

“To be clear – if the return of these two vehicles will make the administration focus more on the avalanche of pressing needs, challenges and predicaments facing the state most especially insecurity, the absence of governance and unpaid salaries across the entirety the Ondo public sector – then I’m ready to make the sacrifice and return the two vehicles which they so desperately need.

“I am not the problem of the present administration. I have moved on.”

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Pensioners demand payment of N35bn arrears

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Nigeria pensioners who retired from the electricity sector have urged President Muhammadu Buhari, to come to their aide in order to resolve the lingering issue of their owed N35billion pension arrears.

The pensioners under the aegis of Electricity Sector Retiree Welfare Association (ESREWA), led by its  President, Elder Benjamin Amako, asked President Buhari to save countless dying pensioners whose fate are tied to the delayed payment of their pension arrears.

Rising from its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja, Amako said every Nigerian, including President Buhari, knows the pathetic situation of pensioners in the country.

Amako said: “First we thank God that Mr President returned from his medical trip healthier, stronger and successfully. The news of his return gave us pensioners so much joy because we know  he will not sit quiet and watch more pensioners lose their lives because of humanly inaction. So far, his administration has ensured that pensioners gets their rights and this arrears we are asking for is our right.

“Interestingly, President Buhari had already directed that this same arrears (N35billion) be paid to us, but for over five years ago he issued the directive, the relevant authorities who it is their responsibilities to ensure we get this arrears for our dying members seems to be working contrarily.

“So for the past five years, these arrears have always been part of the National Budget under Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO) budget and accordingly transferred to Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD). But sadly, we have not been paid a dime even as I speak, for reasons that are totally and obviously human making.

“So we are pleading with President Buhari, the SGF, Minister of Finance, Chairman Senate Committee on Power, Accountant General of the Federation, PTAD and other relevant authorities to save our lives by paying us this money without further delay.”

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