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Agreement reached with ASUU, others, strike ends soon –FG

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Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige and ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke

The Federal Government has expressed optimism that the decisions reached in its three-part meeting with university-based unions would yield fruits next week.

The Head, Press and Public Relations in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr Olajide Oshundun, in a statement on Friday, said some agreements had been reached between the government and the unions.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, the Non-Academic Staff Union, and the Association of Academic Technologists are currently on strike.

The unions embarked on strike actions while demanding improved welfare packages, better working conditions and implementation of various labour agreements signed with the Federal Government between 2009 and 2015.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige said, “We had a cordial and fruitful discussion; we looked at the issues dispassionately and reached some agreements, to the satisfaction of everybody in attendance.”

Ngige said the meeting was moved out of the labour ministry because government involved some interested parties in a bid to resolve the dispute with the unions.

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The parties were the Chief of Staff to the President and Chairman of the three-part meeting, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, the Chairman of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria and co-chair of NIREC, Rev. Sampson Ayokunle.

The negotiation team also had the Ministers of Labour, Finance, Education, ASUU leaders, and other stakeholders.

The Minister of Labour said, “We discussed. Everybody was happy. We reached some agreements, and we hope that by next week those agreements will start maturing.

“The four unions will also go and brief their members so that they can call off the strike.”

The minister said the issues in the 2009 agreement, such as the renegotiation of the condition of service and the wage review could be concluded next week.

In his remarks, Gambari lamented that the perennial problems in the universities had culminated in the mutilation of the nation’s educational calendar.

He urged ASUU to return to the classrooms while negotiations were ongoing, to avoid violence by students who had begun blocking roads and airports in protest of the prolonged strike.

He gave the assurance that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), was determined to put an end to the negative developments in the nation’s tertiary institutions.

“We need predictable and quality education so that the human capital required to move our country forward will be developed consistently,” Gambari said.

Ayokunle, on his part, also appealed to the unions to return to work in the interest of the children and the nation.

The ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, urged the government to give quality attention to education, saying all the problems in the sector could be amicably resolved if the government does the needful soon.

Meanwhile, students of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, under the aegis of the Great Ife Concerned Students in collaboration with the Fund Education Coalition protested against the protracted ASUU strike. They blocked major roads in Osun State, leading to gridlock.

The leader of protesters, Omowumi Abraham, said, “With our education, we are becoming a threat to those in government. They should fund education. In 2020, we were at home because of ASUU strike and coronavirus. There was a surge in the crime rate. They should not toy with our future. They should immediately reopen schools.”

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In a similar vein, students of Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba-Akoko, on Friday, also took to the streets protesting against the strike.

Speaking during the protest, President of the Students’ Union Government, Kolade Ogunsanmi, said “We, Nigerian students, Adekunle Ajasin University students, are on the street of Akungba to express our displeasure to the Federal Government and in no distant time, the government should answer ASUU so that our universities can reopen.”

The Vice President of the Students’ Union, Kemisola Salami said, “Our education is being truncated; we are tired of sitting at home with no job; we are using this medium to plead with Federal Government to meet with ASUU and end the strike.”

In Imo State, university undergraduates also staged a protest on Friday against the lingering ASUU strike.

The Senate President of the National Association of Imo State Students, Alfred Jacinta, said, “We are giving them seven days to resolve their issues, else we will block all the major roads until our demands are met.

“We are not asking for too much. We are only asking that we should be allowed to complete our academic programmes. It is a time for us to say enough is enough and take our destinies in our hands.”

Meanwhile, the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrosheed Akanbi, has appealed to the Federal Government and the striking ASUU members to resolve their differences to protect the future of Nigerian students.

Oba Akanbi made the call in a statement by his Press Secretary, Alli Ibraheem, on Friday.

The monarch said, “The security fragility of the nation calls for rigid handling of the educational sector. Failure to do so will unavoidably magnify the tense security challenge in the nation. I extend my appeal to the ASUU to prioritise students’ interest and be soft in their demand from the Federal Government.”

PUNCH

Education

JAMB withholds 69 UTME results, screens 27,105 again

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Prof Ishaq Oloyede, JAMB Registrar

The Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board on Thursday said it would further screen 27,105 results of candidates who wrote the 2022 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. The board also noted that it had withheld 69 results so far.

The PUNCH had earlier reported that the board’s Registrar, Prof Isiaq Oloyede, had said JAMB would screen results of candidates before releasing them.

In the statistics made available via the official Twitter handle of the board, @jAMBHQ, the board noted that 1,761,338 candidates registered for the 2022 UTME.

JAMB noted that only 1,671,203 results out of the 1,707,626 candidates who sat for the examination were released. 27,105 results, according to JAMB, would be subjected to further screening.

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The board said 69 results were withheld while 1,783 candidates would be rescheduled to write the exam as a result of biometric challenges.

The PUNCH reports that the 2022 UTME examination, unlike previous years, was said to be a huge success.

Despite initial challenges, such as high diesel cost, JAMB collaborated with examination centres in the procurement of diesel.The board also noted that it would subsequently adopt the use of laptops for examinations.

It stated, “For effective delivery of its UTME at the various computer-based training centres nationwide, JAMB has concluded plans to phase out the use of zero thin-client computers from the conduct of its UTME.

“Hence, the major drawback against a zero thin-client configuration is that once the memory of the server is exhausted, or if there is any network disruption, all connected users are simultaneously affected, thereby impacting multiple candidates at once in the centre.

“This policy direction is one of the measures being contemplated to address the issue of examination disruptions holistically. Consequently, the board, in consideration of the immense benefits to candidates and centres alike is requesting its partnering centres to begin to plan for obtaining mini PCs that are cheap to procure, easy to operate, and more efficient in power consumption.”

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Education

ASUU, polytechnic lecturers, others to get N34b minimum wage arrears — FG

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Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige

The Federal Government says it will spend about N34 billion as arrears of Minimum Wage Consequential Adjustments in the education sector effective from 2019.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said that this was aimed at resolving the lingering crisis in the sector.

Ngige made this known while speaking with newsmen on the prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities and others on Tuesday in Abuja.

Ngige said that the beneficiaries of the Minimum Wage Consequential Adjustments included the members of the striking ASUU and their counterparts in the polytechnics and Colleges of Education.

According to Ngige, the universities will get N23.5 billion, polytechnics N6 billion and Colleges of Education N4 billion, bringing the total sum to N33.5 billion.

The Minister, while giving update on the ongoing striking, said committees were set up during the last tripartite meeting of the government and university based unions.

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He said they were given a fortnight to turn in their report, adding they were still working and the reports of the committees were being expected at  the end of the week.

He said: “Those committees are working.

“The one on NITDA is testing the three platforms, the government’s Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System.

“Also, the University Transparency Accountability Solution of ASUU and the Universities Peculiar Personnel Payroll System of the non-teaching staff.

“They have started the testing last Thursday.

“The National Salaries, Wages and Incomes Commission has issued their amendment circulars.

“The unions also have copies to take care of responsibility and hazard allowances wherever it has not been properly captured.”

Ngige assured that there might likely be wage adjustments as the government intensified efforts to streamlining wages through the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission.

He said: “For example, we have done for police.

“It wasn’t envisaged that we should do it in pockets.

“But you can see that police has been done.

“You can also see university teachers saying that their own should be done immediately, since we have done police.

“So, something is being done.

“It was part of the 2009 negotiation they had with the government then.

“So, the committee of Prof. Briggs is on it, discussing with the university unions and their employer, the Federal Ministry of Education.

“They will bring up something for government to see.

“There are other people.

“The doctors are complaining about brain-drain, this and that.

“Their hazard allowance has to be touched and it was touched by close to 300 per cent.

“From N5,000 paid across board for each person, the least person in the health sector is getting N15,000, while the big ones are getting N45,000.

“So, that is the quantum leap.”

The Minister therefore, appealed to ASUU and other university-based unions once more to suspend their strike so that academic activities could resume once again in public universities across the country.

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Covenant University conducts lectures, exam on International PR at Nigeria-Benin border

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Covenant University has made history by sending its final year Mass Communication students of Public Relations to the Nigeria-Benin Republic border at Idi-Iroko, Ogun State, for the current semester’s lectures and the examination.

The students were trained and examined by the heads and public relations directors of government agencies at the border on the subject of International Public Relations, according to a statement from the Mass Communication Department of the university.

The Head of Department, Dr Kehinde Oyesomi, represented by Dr Oscar Odiboh, said the out-of-classroom lectures and examination exposed the students to the reality of two communities of the two different countries and how they co-exist peacefully.

He said, “This is the first time ever anywhere in the world that a university would conduct semester lectures and examination for its students at an international border. This is a historical achievement for Covenant University, Nigeria’s academic system and Public Relations education in the country.”

The course lecturer, Dr Thelma Ekanem, said that the students received lectures, studied the environment, officers’ operations and equipment, adding that they were examined by their assigned international government agency at the international border.

She also said, “The field activation serves as part of the international training process that will equip the students as future global public relations experts, capable of managing multinational image, generate diplomatic goodwill and build mutually beneficial organizational and communal coexistence.”

The mass communication lecturer listed the agencies that conducted the lecture and examination as the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Immigration Services (NIS), State Security Services, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) as well as the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

Others are the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigeria Quarantine Services (NQS) and the Nigeria Port Health Services (NPHS).

She added that men of the 192 Battalion of the Battalion of the Nigerian Army, Owode, Ogun State and the Nigeria Police (Idi-Iroko Border Patrol Unit) provided security during the field activation.

The statement also noted that students of Mass Communication Department at the Covenant University is ranked number one in Nigeria are made to undergo practical field experiences and multiple professional certifications in public relations, advertising, broadcasting and print journalism.

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