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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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Media groups tackle Presidency, N’Assembly over press council act amendment

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Media groups under the Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO) have kicked against the proposed amendment of the Nigerian Press Council Act over the inclusion of some clauses they described as unconstitutional.
The bill was considered at a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Information, national orientation, ethics and values on Thursday.
Some media rights groups and other critical stakeholders in the media industry have also vowed to resist any move to infringe on press freedom through the proposed amendment of the NPC Act.
The NPO, an umbrella body of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), argued that such clauses were a threat to press freedom.
A member of the NPO delegation, Azu Ishiekwene, said almost a half of the 39 clauses in the bill contained unconstitutional regulations that could stifle journalism practice.
He said the NPO had challenged the clauses up to the Supreme Court, and that continuing with the amendment would amount to preempting the court on the matter.
“It is a matter that has been pending in court since 1999 but the first decisive ruling in the matter came in 2010 when the high court ruled that 17 out of the 39 clauses in the bill were unconstitutional,” he said.
“The Federal Government appealed and got a ruling in December 2010. That ruling was again appealed by the NPO and it is pending at the Supreme Court.
“If you make a law now that binds the hands of the legislation or tilts the legislation one way or the order you are preempting the outcome of what the court is going to do.”
the International Press Centre (IPC) alongside Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Centre for Media Law and Advocacy (CMLA) and the Premium Times Centre For Investigation Journalism (PTCIJ) have also kicked against moves to infringe on press freedom and media independence in Nigeria.
Executive Director at the IPC, Lanre Arogundade, contributing, said, “The provision of 3 (d) constitutes a potential threat to press freedom and media survival as it does not provide for judicial intervention before highly punitive measures are handed down by the council and indeed could be used as a political weapon against the media.
“The section provides for penalties and fines against violation of the press code by print media houses and media practitioners, including revocation of licence.
“Section 17 (3) (a) & (b) provides that a journalist could be held liable for the offence committed by his or her organisation and can be made to pay a fine of N250,000.”
Arogundade added that another “punitive” clause is in section 21 (5) (a) whose amendment is such that “a journalist can be punished by the council even after he/she might have been found guilty by a court of law and without the council going back to the court to report continued infringement.
“Section 33 (3) and (4) does not give room for retraction or apology where a fake news is mistakenly published but recommends a blanket sanction of up to N10m or closure for a period of one year.”
A former Rep member and former Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Sani Zorro, expressed concern over the NPC bill amendment, which he noted, was coming at a time when the government had taken some decision in regulating social media.
Zorro said the best way to go was for the NPC and critical stakeholders in the media industry to dialogue and chart way forward in the best interest of all.
He advocated that the NPC Board should be made up of professionals rather than being a “political board” which will not augur well for the interest of the media industry.
The Radio, Television and Theatre Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU), said Section 3 of the bill which wanted to empower the NPC to “approve penalties and fines against violation of the Press Codes by print media houses and media practitioners, including revocation of license,” should be expunged, arguing that print media houses were business ventures registered by the CAC and not NPC.
The union said any move to censor them would amount to a nullity.
National President of RATTAWU, Comrade Kabiru Garba, also pointed out that Section 9(1) of the bill which said, “the council shall establish a national press and ethical code of conduct for media houses and media practitioners, which shall come to effect and be disseminated after approval by the minister”, should be discarded.
He said the codes should rather come from the board of the council comprising all the stakeholders.
But Executive-secretary of the NPC, Francis Nwosu, commended the amendment of the bill and recommended that the council should also be empowered to regulate online media.

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Osinbajo-led NEC to review states’ #EndSARS panel reports

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Reports of the various judicial panels set up by states to resolve issues of police brutality are to be reviewed at a special session by the National Economic Council, Vice President and Chairman of the council, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has hinted.
The panels were constituted by the states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) after the #EndSARS protests that rocked state capitals and some major cities last year.
The protests led to loss of lives, destruction of private properties and public infrastructure.
Osinbajo spoke on the issue on Thursday after the monthly NEC meeting held virtually with state governors, top government officials and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s governor.
According to a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, some states have submitted their reports to the NEC, adding that others were being awaited.
The statement read in part, “The vice president at today’s meeting announced that a special session of NEC will soon be convened to consider all the reports that are ready from the judicial panels set up late last year to address the concerns of the Nigerian people on police brutality allegations and other related issues.
“That meeting would also consider the implementation of the reports including remedies, redress and compensations.”
Meanwhile, the Vice President has inaugurated the 29-member National Road Safety Advisory Council, which he sits over as chairman.
The statement said, “Also at the meeting, Prof Osinbajo inaugurated the National Road Safety Advisory Council as a demonstration of government’s continued commitment to addressing the challenges of road safety in the country.
“The Advisory Council is a critical aspect of the updated National Road Safety Strategy adopted by NEC and approved by the Federal Executive Council late last year.
“The Road Safety Advisory Council is chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, with the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi as Secretary. Other members of the 29-member Advisory Council include: Six governors representing the six geo-political zones.”
Other committee members include governors Willy Obiano (Anambra) representing the Southeast; Ifeanyi Okowa (State) representing the Southsouth; Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos) representing the Southwest.
Other are: Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe) representing the Northeast; Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna) representing Northwest and Abdulrahman AbdulRasaq, (Kwara) representing the Northcentral; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha; ministers and the National Security Adviser (NSA).
The President, Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON); President, Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA); President, Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE); and the Board Chairman, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), are also members.

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75 northern groups place N100m bounty on Nnamdi Kanu

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A coalition of 75 northern groups under the aegis of Northern Consensus Movement has announced a reward of N100m for anyone that can produce the supreme leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, for the continuation of his alleged treason trial.
The groups anoounced this at a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday evening, as it accused Kanu and the Eastern Security Network of masterminding the recent spate of attacks on northern communities in the South-East.
Speaking on behalf of the Coalition, Dr Awwal Abdullahi Aliyu urged the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and the European Union to facilitate Nnamdi Kanu’s repatriation to Nigeria to face the charges against him.
Aliyu said, “The Northern Consensus Movement, an amalgamation of more than 75 civil society groups of northern extraction, has taken it upon ourselves, as active citizens of this country, Nigeria, to state in unequivocal terms that:
“We are declaring Nnamdi Kanu wanted for crimes against humanity and for instigating the killing of innocent Northerners in the southeast via his hate speech.
“We want him to answer for the killing and destruction of northerners residing and undertaking lawful businesses in the southeastern part of Nigeria.
“So, we are placing a bounty of N100m as an offer to anyone who can produce him alive, hale, hearty, and uninjured to us for onward delivery to the security agencies for the continuation of his prosecution.
“We call on both the US, the UK, and the EU, champions of democracy, rule of law, and freedoms of speech and expression to kindly and humble respect Nigeria’s sovereignty and facilitate the repatriation of Nnamdi Kanu to Nigeria so that he can face his treason, and possibly a fresh terrorism and genocide charges against innocent citizens of Nigeria.”

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