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ASUU may suspend strike as FG backs down on IPPIS

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that may soon call off its over eight-month industrial action after the Federal Government has agreed to exempt its members from the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

Government has scheduled another meeting with the organised labour on Sunday to review the working agreement on issues relating to the Downstream Sector of the Petroleum industry and electricity tariff.

The meeting with labour will take place at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

At Friday’s meeting with ASUU, the federal government’s side shifted ground on a number of issues, including the insistence that all the academic staff of federal universities must be paid through IPPIS.

With the resolution of the dispute on IPPIS, which appeared to be a major stumbling block to the conclusion of negotiations by both parties, the coast is now clear for ASUU to suspend its industrial action.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige however said that ASUU is expected to go and relay the latest proposals to its organs and revert to government so that the universities can reopen next week.

While reading out the communiqué at the end of the grilling seven-hour negotiations at the conference hall of the Federal Ministry of Education, Ngige said government had agreed to ASUU’s demand to pay their members salary arrears from February to June using the old salary payment platform, GIFIMS.

In a reconciliatory move, the government also accepted to wave the threat of “no work, no pay” and approve payment of salary arrears to the striking lecturers.

Ngige said, “The meeting agreed that the Federal Ministry of Education and that of Labour and Employment will look into the issue of “No work, No pay” as stipulated in Section 43 of the Trade Union Disputes Act, Cap 18 laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 with a view to getting approval for the withheld salaries to be paid.

“It was also agreed that the mode of payment of those that had not been captured on the IPPIS platform between the months of February and June, 2020 be adopted for the purpose of payment during this transition period.”

In addition, the minister said that the meeting agreed that a suitable template to address all the anomalies identified in the previous processes should be handled by the Accountant General of the Federation, the Executive Secretary of the National University Commission and Vice Chancellors of universities.

The government also offered to increase the Earned Allowances to university staff from N30 billion to N35 billion or N40 billion and revitalisation Fund from N20 billion to N25 billion.

It said that Vice Chancellors are to submit details of Earned Academic Allowances and Earned Allowances to the NUC before November 30.

On the reconstitution of the federal government’s negotiating team for the 2009 agreement, Ngige said both were satisfied with the progress so far made, adding that letters have been issued to members of the renegotiation team.

He added that the meeting agreed the inauguration of the university visitation panels will be carried out as soon as the institutions reopened, while awaiting gazetting.

On his part, ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi said that the union has received the new proposals by the federal government and that it would go and consult with its organs before taking a position.

“I don’t really have much to say as the minister had said it all. Government has given us offers and we have promised to go back to our organs to brief them and then come back to government. We acknowledge that progress has been made,” he said.

Ogunyemi said that ASUU would need till Friday next week to meet with its organs before reverting to government. The meeting was therefore adjourned till next week Friday.

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Zamfara killings: Buhari says it’s time to crush bandits

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President Muhammadu Buhari was aghast by the latest orgy of violence visited on innocent people in Zamfara State by bandits and issued a fresh order to security agents to crush the gunmen.

More than 25 people were killed in attacks on Gobirawa, Rini, Gora, and Madoti Dankule in Bakura and Maradun LGAs in Zamfara — the death toll has since risen.

The gunmen were said to have invaded the communities on motorcycles and shot sporadically, on Wednesday.

Reacting, Buhari said the “insane and persistent violence against innocent people must stop”, adding that “such wanton disregard for life will be brought to an end sooner than later”.

A statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, on Thursday quoted Buhari to have said this, adding,“These criminals should stop pushing their luck too far by believing that the government lacks the capacity to crush them.

“The violence against poor villagers who are struggling with poverty and other severe economic challenges is not going to be tolerated by this administration.”

He directed security agencies to close all existing gaps in their operations while expressing hope that the special operation launched by security agencies will prove decisive in ridding the state of the “frequent and horrifying” bandit activities.

“Let’s not give these criminals any opportunity to succeed by taking the war to their own camps and stop them in their tracks before they even have the time to respond under our massive fire power,” the president added.

Buhari reassured residents of the state of his administration’s determination to defeat the enemies, despite the latest setback.

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MASSOB rejects UK asylum offer, says it’s plot against Biafra

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The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has turned down the United Kingdom’s offer of asylum for its members.

It said the offer was an arrangement probably taken with President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government to divert the attention of the people of Biafra.

A statement by MASSOB leader, Uchenna Madu, made available to journalists in Enugu, said the asylum offer was part of plans by the Buhari regime hatched with the British government against the emergence of Biafra.

The statement read in part, “The government of Britain is the sole architecture of the political, economic and religious problems of the people of Biafra in Nigeria even till today.

“It has not shown any remorse or apologise to the people of Biafra.

“Britain killed, maimed mesmerised and wounded our fathers, mothers and brethren through the Hausa Fulanis. MASSOB rejects their asylum gift.

“How can the chief persecutor of the people of Biafra suddenly turn to be our pacesetter? Britain and Nigeria can no longer deceive the world again concerning the plights of the people of Biafra.

“Our unified resilience, resolutions and unshakable spirit of no surrender will continue to hunt down this geographical expression called Nigeria.

“MASSOB demands referendum on Biafra not asylum.”

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Security: Avoid 14 Nigerian states, US warns citizens

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The United States has asked its citizens to stay away from 14 Nigerian states considered as hotspots of terrorism, banditry and kidnapping.

It stated this in its latest travel advisories even as it urged its citizens to “Reconsider travel to Nigeria”.

The US State Department in the updated advisory added at least 116 countries this week to its ‘Level Four: Do Not Travel’ list.

The UK, Canada, France, Israel, Mexico, Germany and others are on the list, citing a “very high level of COVID-19.”

Before Tuesday, the State Department listed 34 out of about 200 countries as “Do Not Travel.” The State Department now lists 150 countries at Level Four.

Nigeria is categorised as Level 3.

Unlike countries categorised as Level 4, based on the advice of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nigeria has a good rating on COVID-19 prevalence.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 1 Travel Health Notice for Nigeria due to COVID-19, indicating a low level of COVID-19 in the country”, the State Department said.

It listed areas American visitors should avoid, while in Nigeria as Borno, Yobe, and northern Adamawa states due to terrorism and kidnapping, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, and Zamfara states due to kidnapping.

It also banned American citizens from going to Coastal areas of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, and Rivers states (with the exception of Port Harcourt) due to crime, kidnapping, and maritime crime.

In a country summary on Nigeria, the U.S. State Department wrote:

“Violent crime – such as armed robbery, assault, carjacking, kidnapping, hostage taking, banditry, and rape – is common throughout the country.

“Kidnappings for ransom occur frequently, often targeting dual national citizens who have returned to Nigeria for a visit, as well as U.S. citizens with perceived wealth. Kidnapping gangs have also stopped victims on interstate roads.

“Terrorists continue plotting and carrying out attacks in Nigeria, especially in the Northeast.

“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting shopping centers, malls, markets, hotels, places of worship, restaurants, bars, schools, government installations, transportation hubs, and other places where crowds gather. Terrorists are known to work with local gangs to expand their reach.

“There is civil unrest and low-level armed militancy in parts of Southern Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta region. Armed criminality, including kidnapping and maritime crime, is also pervasive in this region.”

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