The Federal Government has accused the Academic Staff Union of Universities of reneging on its ‘gentleman’ agreement to call off its strike before December 9 (today).
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, stated this on Tuesday, just as he said the FG had fulfilled all its promises and offers made to the union.
He said ASUU agreed at their last meeting with the government team on November 27 to call off their nine-month-old strike before December 9.
He was reacting to the position of the ASUU’s president, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, that the government had failed to deliver on offers made to the union.
The union leader had blamed the FG for the union’s failure to call off the strike, noting that the lecturers would not return to classes until their salary arrears were paid.
Ngige said, “The truth of the matter is that a ‘gentleman agreement’ was reached at the last meeting in which ASUU agreed to call off the strike before December 9, 2020, and the minister, in turn, agreed that once the strike is called off, he would get a presidential waiver for ASUU to be paid the remainder of their salaries on or before December 9.”
This was contained in a statement titled, ‘We have kept our promises to ASUU – FG.’
Ngige said it was discomfiting for ASUU to wrongly inform the public that the government agreed to pay all withheld salaries before it would resume work.
He insisted that the timelines attached to the various offers made to the union had been complied with.
The minister stated, “The N40bn Earned Academic Allowances have also been processed just as the N30bn revitalisation funds, bringing it to N70bn. Likewise, the visitation panels for the universities have been approved by the President but the panel cannot perform its responsibilities until the shut universities are re-opened.
“The gazetting is also being rounded off at the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation while the Ministry of Education is ready to inaugurate the various visitation panels.”
He also said, “They were paid for February and March, after which it was extended to April, May and June, months they were on strike on compassionate ground, bringing it to five months.”
Presidency divided over national honour for Bukola Saraki
There are indications that the immediate past Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, may miss a statutory national award on October 1 when deserving Nigerians are conferred with the awards.
The Presidency, according to a report by Sunday Punch, is divided over including Saraki on the list of the awardees.
As part of a series of activities lined up to mark Nigeria’s 62nd independence anniversary, President Muhammadu Buhari will on October 1, 2022 confer various categories of awards on deserving Nigerians, the Presidency has confirmed.
The investiture ceremony, billed to hold at the International Conference Centre, Abuja is eliciting diverse commentaries with the omission of Senator Bukola Saraki.
The convention and norm have always been for a Vice President, Senate President, and Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, to be given the title either on the assumption of office or when national awards are being generally bestowed on recipients.
The belief was that the former Kwara State governor Bukola Saraki had not been conferred with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON because Buhari did not confer the awards before now.
Sunday Punch however gathered that the committee set up to recommend deserving Nigerians to the Presidency, enlisted Saraki, but a power bloc in Aso Rock denied him a place on the list.
It was revealed that the group labelled Saraki an “enemy of the administration,” arguing that the All Progressives Congress-led government should rather beam its searchlight on other Nigerians.
This position, Sunday Punch gathered, did not sit well with another group in the Presidency, which was said to have argued that though Saraki’s opposition to some of the policy decisions taken by Buhari while serving as Senate President was well documented, he should not be denied a place in the 2022 honour list.
This is more so as Saraki’s successor, Senator Ahmad Lawan is set to bag the prestigious award next week.
The latter group also argued that Saraki is more popular with the people and is credited to have achieved more while in office, pointing out that he deserves the award based on his achievement in office and that the award should not be seen to be politicised by the incumbent administration.
It turned out however that the former group prevailed and Saraki is now set to miss out unless a dramatic twist in fate plays out.
In what appears a calculated effort to deny Saraki his place in history, Ahmad Lawan has refused to include his predecessor’s portrait among those of former presiding officers of the Senate in the main gallery of the New Senate Building more than three years after he (Saraki) left office.
It would be recalled that former Senate Presidents, Pius Anyim and David Mark, as well as ex- CJN, Walter Onnoghen, all had the GCON conferred on them in compliance with the convention.
Speaking exclusively to Sunday Punch, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome urged Buhari to right the error before the date of the event.
He said, “By protocols and convention, Vice President and Senate President are usually conferred with the national honour of GCON. I want to believe that the President’s attention was not drawn to it. He can still amend the situation by including his name before the date of the award because this is beyond politics.”
On his part, former Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Canada, Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, said Saraki deserves the award on merit.
He said, “I believe that in keeping with the hallowed tradition in the conferment of honorably awards, all former Senate Presidents deserve the title of GCON, Dr. Bukola Abubakar Saraki inclusive.
“Buhari should convoke a ceremony for such awards quickly to redeem his image as the father of the nation and not a mere patron of political bias.”
However, a chieftain of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani, told Sunday Punch that those conferring the title know the criteria for selecting deserving awardees.
He said, “I am not conversant with criteria being used for the award of national honours. If it is on merit, the President is the one to explain why the former Senate President does not merit it.
“But if it is statutory, he has to explain why he has denied him (Saraki).
Meanwhile, Saraki has stated that his silence on the recent happenings in the People’s Democratic Party does not translate to him opposing the party’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Saraki, in a series of tweets on his official Twitter account on Saturday evening, noted that he had been on his annual vacation, and had returned on Friday. He said he headed straight to the celebration of the 35th year celebration of the creation of Akwa-Ibom State.
Nigerian Steals $6.7m From US Taxpayers
Melvin Orellana, a computer support employee of a tax software company based in Georgia, United States of America, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison at a US District Court for his role in a scheme to steal $6.7 million from US taxpayers between 2016 and 2017.
According to a statement on the website of the US Department of Justice, Orellana supplied sensitive taxpayers’ data to King Isaac Umoren, a Nigerian based in Las Vegas, who in turn executed the fraud.
Umoren, who operated the Universal Tax Services (UTS), a tax preparation firm, used the information he received from Orellana to steal from the tax software business. Between May 2016 and November 2017, Umoren made $6.7 million from the fraud.
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For releasing the information to Umoren twice, Orellana was supposed to receive a sum of $32,000.
While delivering the judgement on September 21, Stuart M. Goldberg, the presiding judge, also handed Orellana a three-year supervised release after serving the jail term.
Before bagging the 18-month prison sentence, Orellana had been charged with identity theft conspiracy.
Umoren, who pled guilty to identity theft, wire fraud and money laundering in June, is to be sentenced on November 2.
FG to establish youth bank for entrepreneurs
The Federal Government says there are plans to establish National Youth Bank as part of its empowerment programme in the country with an investment of about N75 billion.
Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, disclosed this to State House correspondents on Thursday at the 52nd briefing organised by the Presidential Media Team, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The minister revealed that the instruments for the establishment of the bank would be presented to the Federal Executive Council early next year for approval.
Dare who revealed that his ministry had empowered 31,000 youths under the Nigeria Youth Development Funds (NYDF), said the ministry had so far received only N10 billion out of the N25 billion for the year 2022.
The N75 billion fund was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), for Nigerian youths to support entrepreneurship for the over 68 million Nigerian youths between ages 18 and 35.
He said, “I have discussed the plans with Mr. President and he has given us his commitment to support the creation of such bank that will solely cater for our youths in the area of entrepreneurship
“The African Development Bank (AFDB) has concluded plans to partner with our ministry and once the banks come on stream, they are ready to roll out the necessary support
“You can imagine what it will mean for the youths to have their own bank that will be giving out loans on a single digit interests.
“We have so far empowered 31,000 youths out of the 45,000 approved, to receive N250,000 from the N10 billion youth development funds.”
Dare, who disclosed that 61,000 youths applied for cybersecurity programme currently run by the ministry, added that “the youth bank is the future of decent jobs for our youth, that is expected to disburse loans on single-digit interest rates.”
The funds are being disbursed by the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) engaged as the vehicle for the disbursement of the funds.
According to the minister, over four million youths had applied for the loans out of which 45,000 were shortlisted.
“The future of that fund is bright. What we have done is to ensure that only those who are qualified, with the relevant business plans are shortlisted and eventually empowered,” Dare said.
The minister, who also spoke on the recently launched 10 Football Masterplan, said the plan would be implemented by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF)
He described 2022 as an outstanding year in the history of sports and youth development in Nigeria.
“We are not resting on our oars. This administration will ensure that we leave behind, a legacy in youth development that will serve as a reference point for others,” he said.
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