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We won’t return to class with empty stomach – ASUU

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said it will not return to class with empty stomach as its members have not been paid for their salaries for a period ranging between four months and nine months.

The Coordinator, ASUU Calabar Zone, Comrade Aniekan Brown, told journalists in Calabar on Monday that “We are still in the trenches. And we will not return to the classes with empty stomach.”

He also said insisted that the Federal Government should adopt its University Transparency and Accountability Solution UTAS as the option against government’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

The Calabar zone covers seven universities within four states of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Ebonyi.

ASUU also argues that the Federal government payment system IPPIS, which is made compulsory to university workers, including ASUU members is against the law of the land that granted autonomy to universities.

Besides, “the IPPIS is not temper-proof as presented, adding to the fact that it has national security risk being that the server is hosted from outside the country by an American company.”

He described the IPPIS as uncongenial with the modus operandi of the university system, given the peculiarities of universities.

“Kindly note that our Union has been rejecting the IPPIS since 2013; government challenged us to produce an alternative to IPPIS. The union took up the challenge, and has produced one. This is called the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, UTAS. Presentations have been made to the appreciation of some quarters.

“The union has been ready for the final stage presentation to NITDA. Sadly, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGoF) is of the position that our members migrate first (during the intervening period) after which if UTAS is approved, we would be re-migrated to UTAS. We argue that it is a case of economic waste,” he explained.

He debunked the figures pandered in some quarters by the government that over 50,000 members of ASUU have voluntarily joined the IPPIS platform in obedience to the Federal Government directive as against about 14,000 yet to comply.

His words: “That is just a divisive and blackmail tactics. We don’t have such number of academic staff members in the country even if you put together both federal and state universities. May be they are counting other unions’ members within the university.”

He further insisted that “the university system is peculiar in its modus-operandi. The mode of employment, retirement age, sabbatical leave, adjunct engagements, part-time engagements, contract engagements, etc. are concepts that are unique to the university, and obviously alien to IPPIS.

“The OAGF has told a lot lies about addressing these peculiarities. Unfortunately, our Union had a number of meetings with the OAGF and, for all that the meetings are worth, they were opportunities to convince ASUU that the IPPIS is capable of addressing the concerns of our union. This did not happen!”

ASUU has complained that the Federal Government has continued to pay deaf ears to the revitalization of Public Universities and as it concerns the proliferation and funding of State Universities.

The union is also saying that Visitors to State Universities should stand up to their responsibilities and that state governments should not establish universities they cannot fund. Visitation Panels to universities have not been done in the last ten (10) years.

He said, “We seek the cooperation and understanding of the good people of Nigeria, and the general public on ASUU’s stance on the afore-stated outstanding issues and the IPPIS.

“ASUU has courted for itself an enviable pedigree of integrity, credibility and accountability. Our members would not return to the classes with empty stomachs.”

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Buhari promises to sign forensics, fraud examiners’ institute bill

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President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday promised to sign a bill seeking formal establishment of the Chartered Institute of Forensics and Certified Fraud Examiners of Nigeria (CIFCFEN).

He spoke at the State House in Abuja after being honoured with Global Integrity and Anti-Corruption Award of Excellence by CIFCFEN.

He was presented with the highest honour of the institute reserved for only African heads of states with impeccable character and unimpeachable ideals by the chairman of the Governing Council CIFCFEN Board of Trustees, Dr Iliyasu Gashinbaki.

Buhari was the first African leader to be bestowed with the award in recognition of his lifetime outstanding commitment to the fight against corruption and selfless service with exceptional integrity.

He directed the anti-corruption agencies to continue partnering with the institute for the benefit of the country.

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He also directed the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to work with the Institute in areas of providing technical assistance and capacity building to all revenue generating agencies and regulators in the public sector.

He said: ‘’The need for forensic experts arises in educating, preventing, detecting and prosecuting fraudsters, while fraud examination helps mitigate vices like embezzlement, money laundering, misuse and mismanagement of public resources.

‘’Many Nigerians, who are serious about eliminating corruption in our country, will welcome this review of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy midwifed by the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption in 2017 and supported by our International friends.

‘’This effort by the institute to undertake the review of the national anti-corruption strategy is highly commendable and it has shown the usefulness of partnerships with professional bodies and my administration will continue to partner with the Institute and as well as other private institutions, the academia and other stakeholders in the fight to stop sleaze and mitigate corruption.’’

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We will restore peace, stability before leaving office, Buhari vows

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President Muhammadu Buhari has said his administration will not relent in its quest to restore peace and stability in the country.

Buhari said this on Monday during the 58th anniversary of the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) in Kano.

He said his administration’s investment in the air force had helped to “turn the tide” against terrorists.

He promised that he would continue to give necessary and sufficient support to the NAF in the battle against insecurity from non-state actors.

“The huge investment in the Nigeria Air Force has helped to turn the tide against terrorist and non-state actors in our nation,” he said.

“In furtherance of our drive to continue to do more to support the air force. Rest assured that our government is willing to do even more to ensure the provision of requisite support and the encouragement to overcome various security challenges.

“This government will not rest until peace and stability is fully restored in the nation. I, therefore, urge you all to remain steadfast, committed and resolute.

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States lose battle over LG funds’ management

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The 36 Governors lost on Monday in their opposition to Federal Government’s efforts to monitor their handling of Local governments’ funds.

 Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja dismissed a suit filed to that effect by the 36 states, through their Attorneys General and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF).

The States, in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/563/2019, challenged the legality of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Guidelines, which came into effect on June 1, 2019.

The NFIU 2019 guidelines required among others,  that the States/Local Governments Joint Accounts should be used only for receiving funds and subsequently transferring them to Local government accounts only.

The NFIU claimed that the guidelines, which also limit daily cash withdrawal from the State/LG joint account to N500,000 are intended  to reduce “crime vulnerabilities created by cash withdrawal from local government funds throughout Nigeria effective from June 1, 2019.”

Listed as defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the NFIU and the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE).

They argued among others that  the NFIU guidelines: known as “the  NFIU Enforcement and Guidelines to Reduce Crime Vulnerabilities Crafted by Cash Withdrawal From Local Government Funds Throughout Nigeria,” particularly provisions 1 to 6  and the penalties prescribed  are ultra vires the power of the NFIU under Sections 3 (1) and 23(2) (a) of the Nigerian Financial Intelligent Unit Act, 2018 and therefore unconstitutional.

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In the judgement on Monday, Justice Ekwo held that he is unable to see where the guidelines contradict the provisions of sections 7(1), (6) (a) and (b) of the Constitution.

The judge added that the guidelines also did not conflict with the provision of Section 162(6) of the Constitution, which creates the State Joint Local Government Account,  into which allocations to the Local Government Councils of the state from the Federation Account and from the government of the state are paid.

He said that the guidelines did not contradict Section 162(8) of the constitution which prescribed that the amount standing to the credit of the local government council of the state shall be distributed among the local government councils of that state on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of the state.

Justice Ekwo added that the provisions of the NFIU guidelines also do not contradict the provisions of the 4th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution which prescribes the functions of a Local Government Council.

Noting that “ duty of the court is limited to expounding the law and not expanding it,” the judge said: “On the whole, I see the provisions of the guidelines of the 2nd defendant as seeking to direct the monitoring of accounts, transfers and any other means of payment or transfer of funds of local government councils as provided for in Section 3 (1) (r) of the Act of the NFIU.

“It only limits cash withdrawal made from any Local Government Account anywhere in the country to amount not exceeding N500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) per day.

“Any amount higher than that can be done using other methods of banking transaction save cash.

“Unless it can be shown that there is any provision of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which these provisions of the 2nd defendant’s guidelines have contradicted or conflicted directly and practically, then the issue of unconstitutionality cannot be said to arise.”

Justice Ekwo said he found that there was no provision in the NFIU’s guidelines that has contravened the provisions of Sections 7(1), (6) (a) and (b), 162 (6), (7) and (8), and the 4th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“I also find that the case of the plaintiffs has not been established and I so hold.

“I find, in the end, that the case of the plaintiffs lacks merit and ought to be dismissed and it is hereby dismissed,” the judge said.

Earlier, Justice Ekwo struck out the name of the NGF as a co-plaintiff in the suit on the grounds that it lacked the locus standi to file the suit.

THE NATION

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