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FG explores private sector partnership to fund tertiary education

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The Federal Government is exploring the option of private sector partnership to fund tertiary education, Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has said.

Such arrangement has become a necessity in view of the current reality that the government cannot sustain the funding of the institutions alone, according to the minister.

Ngige gave this indication in an interview he granted Arise News Channel Sunday night.

He said in keeping with economic realities, the government had decided to seek alternative funding sources from the private sector to meet the requirements of public tertiary education.

He said, “The Federal Government alone cannot sustain the tertiary education or even the education system in Nigeria. Do not also forget that education is on the concurrent list,” he said.

The minister also faulted the funding options recommended by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, saying they were not implementable.

“We agreed with ASUU to put up a NEEDS assessment committee, which they are members. That committee has come up with suggestions on possible sources of funding the universities but when they were presented to government, they were found not to be implementable.”

Ngige said one of the recommended sources of funding universities, as recommended by ASUU, was the Value Added Tax (VAT) but explained that 85 per cent of the revenue would go to the states, leaving only 15 per cent for the Federal Government.

The minister said ASUU also suggested stamp duty proceeds should be used to fund the universities, adding that the proposal isn’t feasible as only the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) can collect stamp duty.

“So, these two funding sources suggested by ASUU could not be pushed through by the ministry. So, the NEEDS committee is now working on another validation of other sources, targeting the private sector,” he said.

He appealed to ASUU to accept the Federal Government’s offer and call off its eight-month industrial action.

Ngige said the Federal Government had met almost all the demands made by the union.

 “I feel that even this offer is one of the best they have ever got since I started conciliation with them. I do not see why they should not accept it. Everything they asked for has been granted. I don’t think they should say the offer is not good.

“But I told them before they left that asking the nation and the students to wait from Friday to Friday is unfair; they should come back to us by Tuesday. They have done that before when we negotiated with the Senate president. The offer was made on a Thursday and they came back to us on a Tuesday.

“So, that’s what I expect them to do this time around. If they do so, the nation will appreciate them and regard them as patriotic citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I expect them to get back to me much earlier than Friday.”

Ngige explained that part of the proposals made to ASUU is that the Federal Government was ready to provide N40 billion for payment of earned allowances to all university workers and N25 billion as revitalisation fund to improve infrastructure.

He said government had asked ASUU as an alternative to accepting the provision of N35 billion as earned allowances and so as to raise the money for revitalisation fund to N30 billion.

The minister also said that the government had agreed to pay striking lecturers the withheld salaries for February to June.

He, however, added that the problem was how the payment would be done since the affected lecturers were not registered on the IPPIS.

Ngige said the government agreed that the lecturers be paid using the old method.

On the evaluation of the ASUU’s alternative payment platform, the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), Ngige said the software was undergoing integrity test at the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

“I am not a scientist; I am not a guru. I will only rely on what experts in the Nigeria Information and Technology Development Agency tell me and the same way they will write to ASUU, the Federal Ministry of Education and the Accountant General of the Federation. We have an AGF who does not speak with the media and a minister of finance that is very busy with managing the country’s economy and talking to our creditors and bilateral partners. So, as a conciliator, it is me that will say what the situation is with government,” Ngige said.

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FG establishing oxygen plants in 36 states – NEC

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The National Economic Council (NEC) says the Ministry of Health is establishing oxygen plants across the 36 states of the federation.

Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi made this known to State House correspondents after a virtual NEC meeting on Friday presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Umahi said that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, who chaired the NEC Ad hoc committee interfacing with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to ease the lockdown of the economy, presented a report to the council.

“The Federal Ministry of Health is establishing oxygen plants across the 36 states in the country, but currently six states have been provided with oxygen cylinders so far.

“The Federal Government has paid for 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines coming in batches and therefore a considerable amount of the vaccines will come into the country between now and January 2022. Nigeria is now classified among the 50 countries in the green zones.”

Umahi said that NEC also received states’ performance report on COVID-19 from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

He said that the council was also updated on the global situation of COVID-19.

He said, “Over 237 million confirmed cases and over 4.8 million deaths due to COVID-19. There are now over 6.3 billion vaccine doses administered.  Nigeria is still in the first wave of vaccination and vaccination tools will improve as the country receives additional vaccines. COVID-19 cases have declined by 7.5 per cent over the last week.”

Umahi said that states were urged to continue to push testing activities in order to detect new cases before the situation worsened.

According to him, an update on travel restrictions on certain countries expected to be announced soon by the Federal Government.

The governor said that the council also received an update on the situation regarding Cholera outbreak.

“Current Cholera situation in the country; suspected number of cases   is 88,704. Number of states is 31 and the FCT. Number of deaths is 3,208.

“Multi-sectoral emergency operation centres activated at level 2 continues to coordinate the national response,” he said.

He listed the challenges to include difficulty in accessing some communities due to insecurity, open defecation and lack of potable drinking water.

Umahi said other challenges were lack of basic health primary healthcare infrastructure, inadequate health facility and cholera commodities for case management.

Umahi said that NEC commended the insightful presentations and congratulated the outgoing Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, on his new appointment at the WHO and also welcomed the incoming Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Morayo Adetifa.

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Bakare meets with Buhari, opposes clamour for power rotation

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Founder of Citadel Global Community Church, Tunde Bakare, says the region to produce the president of Nigeria should not be an issue.

He stated this in Abuja on Friday during an interaction with reporters at the presidential villa after meeting President Muhammadu Buhari, noting that Nigerians are only bothered about a leader that would ensure the prosperity of the country.

The pastor said the “immaturity” of the citizens is responsible for “making us say power must either be in the North or be in the South, instead of looking for the best.

“Listen to me, if where the President comes from will make the place he has come from to be better, the northern part of Nigeria should be richest and the most progressive and the most developed because out of 61 years, the North has produced either the President or heads of state for 40 to 41 years and yet, see the retrogression in the North.

“If it’s from the South, why should a person like President Obasanjo freeze and seize the account of Lagos State in his own tenure? If it’s from South-South or South-East, why couldn’t President Jonathan use all his powers to develop South-South/South-East?

“If there are agreements between politicians on rotation, a bargain is a bargain. That is between them. But as far as this country is concerned, what we need at this stage is a man who can drive us to the Eldorado.”

The pastor commended the national assembly for empowering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to determine the mode of transmitting election results.

“Perhaps one of the best things the present national assembly has done, especially the senate, because, with that, Nigerians can vote and then results can be transmitted so easily,” he said.

“Not only that, part of the state of the nation address that I did on October 10, I emphasised how Nigeria youth, especially undergraduates, are disenfranchised in our country.”

 

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FG declares Tuesday Oct 19 Eid-il-Maulud holiday

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The Federal Government has declared Tuesday October 19 a public holiday to mark the Islamic festival of Eid-il-Maulud in “commemoration of the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).”

Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, made the declaration on behalf of the Federal Government, in a statement signed by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr Shuaib Belgore.

Aregbesola congratulated the Muslim faithful both at home and in the diaspora for witnessing this year’s occasion.

He urged all Nigerians to imbibe the spirit of love, patience and perseverance which he said “are the virtues of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), adding that doing so would guarantee peace and security in the country.”

The statement added, “Ogbeni Aregbesola enjoined Nigerians, particularly Muslims, to refrain from violence, lawlessness and other acts of criminality. As the indisputable leader of our race, we must show responsible leadership in Africa.

“While calling for a stop to all divisive tendencies across the country, the minister urges all Nigerians and the youth in particular, to embrace the virtues of hard work and peaceful disposition to fellow humans, irrespective of faith, ideology, social class and ethnicity and cooperate with President Muhammadu Buhari’s led-Administration in its effort to build a progressive and enviable nation that all citizens would be proud of.”

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