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Updated: ASUU ends nine-month strike, may resume with virtual lectures

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  • Govt to decide reopening date due to COVID-19

University students in Nigeria can now heave a sigh of relief as the Academic Staff Union of University, on Wednesday, announced the suspension of its nine-month old industrial action.

National President of ASUU, Biodun Ogunyemi, made the announcement during a briefing of the union in Abuja.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, on Tuesday, had hinted that the prolonged strike by the university lecturers would be called off before January 15.

He also said in an interview on Wednesday that part of the agreement between the two parties was that the lecturers would conduct virtual teaching and restart academic activities before the January 18 stipulated by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

Ogunyemi said ASUU’s decision to suspend the strike came after its National Executive Council (NEC) had at an emergency meeting ratified the agreements reached with the Federal Government at a meeting held on Tuesday which addressed most of the demands of the union.

He said that a committee had been set up to monitor the implementation of the agreements.

“On the basis of this, the National Executive Council meeting has decided to suspend its strike today. But we will not hesitate to resume the strike if government fails to keep to the agreement,” he said.

Ogunyemi noted that the actual day for the reopening of the schools, considering the COVID-19 pandemic, would be decided by the Federal Government and Senate.

He thanked the students and their parents for their understanding throughout the nine-month strike period.

He said, “No amount of sacrifice would be too much to get the matter resolved as long as the government is consistent with its commitments.”

When asked if the government had kept its promise to start payment of salaries arrears of ASUU members, Ogunyemi said that it had started.

He said it was also agreed that no ASUU member should suffer any loss of deserved benefits as a result of participation in the strike.

He said the union resolved to pursue the areas in the ASUU-FG agreement of 2009 and Memorandum of Action 2013 that require legislation such as the mainstreaming of the Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) into the annual budget and amending the National University Commission (NUC) Act 2004.

Ogunyemi listed key demands of ASUU for which an agreement was reached to include, the immediate release of earned academic allowances and mainstreaming of the EAA into the annual budget, using the agreed formula, to immediately engage the universities and other research centres in the fight against COVID-19.

As part of the agreement, according to him, the Federal Government is to expedite action on the test processes and ensure the deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), the union’s preferred alternative for the payment of salaries in the university system.

He said the integrity test on UTAS was at the last stage now.

In addition, he said that ASUU expected the government to fast-track the FG-ASUU renegotiation to ensure its conclusion within the timelines agreed by both parties.

Ogunyemi said, “ASUU has undertaken to go back to classrooms, laboratories to do our best for our students and our country. We are going back to rekindle the motivation and aspirations in our members to strive to encourage our students to excel, all in expectations that governments, both federal and states, will sincerely fullfil their own part of the bargain.”

He listed some of the key demands tabled by ASUU, and which ignited the current strike, to include funding for revitalisation of public university infrastructure, earned academic allowances, withheld salaries, proliferation of state universities, visitation panels, reconstitution of the government re-negotiation team and the replacement of IPPIS with UTAS.

Ngige, also giving an insight into the agreement with the union, said ASUU accepted that lecturers would do extra time to recover the lost ground.

He said, “The Senate of the universities can arrange for virtual teaching to commence in the first week of January, next year. It is a win-win situation for everybody.

“We want to congratulate all Nigerians the parents, the National Assembly and ASUU for the resolution of the dispute. For both sides, it’s a conditional foothold because while the Federal Government pledged to fulfil its part, ASUU also promised to do extra work so that lost time would be recovered . They also pledged in the agreement to do virtual teaching.”

He also spoke on the amount released to ASUU and the universities under the agreement, saying the FG had approved the release of N40 billion for earned allowances to all categories of staff in the universities.

“It is not money for dash; the university vice chancellors will scrutinise the process and ensure that only staff that merited to be paid are allowed to partake in it,” he added
Ngige, however, said the government would release N30 billion revitalisation fund to the universities by January, adding that government would not give ASUU any excuse to go on strike again.

He promised to ensure the government keep its part of the agreement.

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Updated: Chadian President Idriss Deby dies, son takes over

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Chadian President Idris Derby has died at the age of 68.

He was said to have died while visiting troops on the frontline of a fight against northern rebels, the army said on Tuesday, the day after Deby was declared the winner of a presidential election.

Reuters reported that Deby’s son, Mahamat Kaka, was named interim president by a transitional council of military officers, spokesman Azem Bermendao Agouna, said in a broadcast on state television.

The late Chadian leader came to power in a rebellion in 1990 and was one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders.

According to the report, Deby and his army have been seen as a reliable Western ally in a turbulent region afflicted by jihadists. His campaign said on Monday he was joining troops on the frontline after rebels based across the northern frontier in Libya advanced hundreds of km (miles) south toward the capital N’Djamena. L1N2MC20E

The exact cause of death was not yet clear but a European diplomatic source said he had been killed.

“A call to dialogue and peace is launched to all Chadians in the country and abroad in order to continue to build Chad together,” Bermendao said, surrounded by several officers.

“The National Council of Transition reassures the Chadian people that all measures have been taken to guarantee peace, security and the republican order,” he said.

Deby, whose opponents accused him of repressive rule, pushed through a new constitution in 2018 that would have allowed him to stay in power until 2033 – even as it re-instated term limits.

He took the title of “Marshal” last year and said before last week’s election: “I know in advance that I will win, as I have done for the last 30 years.”

He was dealing with mounting public discontent over his management of Chad’s oil wealth and crackdowns on opponents.

But in the election results announced on Monday, Deby was credited with 79 per cent of the vote, handing him a sixth term in office. Several leading opposition figures boycotted the poll.

Western countries have seen Deby as an ally in the fight against Islamist extremist groups, including Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin and groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the Sahel.

His death is a blow to France, which had based its Sahel counter-terrorism operations in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena.

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Senate probes CCT Chairman, Umar, over alleged assault

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The Senate on Tuesday commenced investigation into alleged assault by the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar on a guard, Clement Sagwak, at Banex Plaza, Wuse 2, Abuja.

The incident occurred on March 29, 2021.

Sagwak had also forwarded his petition to the National Human Rights Commission to probe the incident.

Senator Istifanus Gyang (Plateau North) submitted a petition on the incident to the Senate on behalf of his constituent, Sagwak.

Sagwak, had in his petition dated April 9 2021 and signed by his lawyer, Samuel Ihensekhien, accused the CCT chairman of abuse of power, assault, torture, and ‘xenophobia’.

A five-minute video that went viral captured Umar and the guard having an altercation at the plaza.

Sagwak, 22, and an employee of Jul Reliable Guards Services Limited, told the Senate he was attacked by Umar last month.

He said he was assaulted by Umar and a policeman attached to him after he informed him (Umar) that his car was not properly parked.

 

He said the CCT boss slapped him several times and forced him to kneel down in the presence of everybody while undergoing his lawful activities.

He asked the Senate to investigate the incident and ensure justice.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, referred the petition to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to report back to plenary in four weeks.

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Governors agree to implement autonomy for assemblies, judiciary in May

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State governors under the Nigeria Governors’ Forum have agreed to implement autonomy for legislature and judiciary, with effect from May.

This coincides with the Senate through its Chairman for the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele saying autonomy for judiciary is non-negotiable.

Chairman of the NGF, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who is also Ekiti State governor, said the decision to implement the autonomy next month was reached in a meeting attended by federal lawmakers, representatives of the judiciary and legislative workers, and the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari.

The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) is on strike to protest the government’s failure to implement autonomy for the judiciary.

President Muhammadu Buhari had signed an order to that effect in May 2020, but the gazetting of the order was suspended after the President met with governors — triggering reports that the governors were frustrating the move.

Fayemi said the governors never objected to full autonomy for the state assemblies and judiciary, adding that “the issue is about implementation.”

“There has been no objection from governors on judicial and legislative autonomies. As a matter of fact, it would not have passed if governors were not in support in the first instance, in the state assemblies,” he said.

“But we don’t just want to agree to something on paper without working out the modalities for implementation. Thankfully, the meeting we have just emerged from, with the chief of staff to the president chairing, has worked out the modalities to the satisfaction of all parties.

“As soon as the final document that is being cleaned up emerges, that is preparatory to implementation. We’re not going to put a timeframe in the air, but it will be implemented as soon as possible, definitely no later than the end of May 2021.”

He urged the striking judiciary and legislative workers should return to work.

Fayemi said, “I think we are basically at a position where, whether you speak to the conference of speakers’ chairperson or you speak to me or you speak to the representative of the judiciary or you speak to the solicitor-general of the federation, you will hear that we’re speaking with one voice on the implementation.

”And no later than May, you will start seeing the implementation of the agreement that we’ve reached.”

Also speaking to journalists on the issue on Monday, Bamidele said it was laughable to be grappling with judicial autonomy at this stage of the nation’s development.

He said, “We cannot continue to call on the judiciary to give peace a chance when we know the conditions under which they work cannot guarantee a passionate and enhanced delivery of justice. We are talking about judicial reforms; we are talking about the need for justice sector reforms.

“This is central and crucial to the independence of the judiciary in this country. We must not be left behind by the rest of the civilized world. Nobody stands to lose anything by granting independence to judiciary at the state level since it has been done at the national level.

“The fact that workers and staff of federal judiciary are joining the protest is only in solidarity with their colleagues at the state levels. It is a union matter and we do not have a control over it. We are hereby calling on the State Governors to do the needful because the independence of the judiciary is non- negotiable.

“No democracy can survive without being founded on the rule of law and independent judiciary.”

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