Boko Haram: Security situation in Borno getting worse — Gov. Shettima

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…As N15.89b injection to stop ASUU strike***

Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, has raised alarm that the security situation in the state was getting worse.

He also explained why he has not criticised President Muhammadu Buhari on the issue, saying the President had given him unfettered access to the Presidency on the crisis.

Shettima’s statement came at a time the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, warned the Federal Government to nip in the bud the killings in Zamfara State to prevent emergence of another Boko Haram crisis in the state.

The governor, who spoke an at extraordinary security meeting at Government House, Maiduguri, to discuss the worsening security situation in the state, attended by traditional rulers, security chiefs, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, and other stakeholders, said: “Your royal highnesses and our elders, I will like to start by saying that the aim of convening this important meeting is not to pass blames or to pass any kind of verdict on our security agencies.

“I think the most inhuman way to go is to gather and condemn those who are putting their lives on the line and giving their lives in efforts to find peace.

“We are principally here as a family, as a people all affected by the situation in Borno State, to discuss suggestions that will hopefully contribute to combined ongoing efforts towards addressing the problem.

“For seven years, we held our regular security council meetings. I from to time consult with some of the participants here. However, I never for once convened an extraordinary meeting of this nature because, frankly speaking, I was avoiding a sort of dramatisation or being sensational about our challenges in Borno State.

“Without being insensitive to the realities of our situation, I feel deeply pained whenever Borno is being discussed on the basis of helpless weakness. I prefer to assume a position of strength; a position of normalcy and a character of being incurably optimistic.

“My greatest wish was and still is, not to bequeath Boko Haram challenges and IDP camps to my successor. We wanted to, and still want to get Borno fully back to normal days. Sometimes, I unconsciously find myself boasting that Borno is safer than Lagos. I simply feel very bad to sound pessimistic about Borno. I so much believe in optimism.

“Of course, I know that in governance, responding to some situations demand a combination of being both optimistic and realistic. The reality is that while so much was achieved by our gallant military men and women, we are today faced with serious challenges in Borno State.

“But then, these challenges should strengthen our abiding faith and resolve to continually do whatever we can, in support of our military, the police, the DSS, our Civilian JTF, all para-military agencies and political authorities at the federal level, to end the Boko Haram insurgency.

In the meantime, varsities may reopen soon, with the Federal Government making concessions to the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

The concessions will be tabled before the union’s leaders on Monday at a meeting  to be convened by Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige.

The Minister has reached out to the ASUU leadership for the  “robust feedback session” with the hope that the union will return to the negotiation table.

Varsity lecturers on November 4, last year, began a strike to push the implementation of the 2017 Memorandum of Action.

The Memorandum was a follow-up to the 2009 FG-ASUU Agreement.

ASUU National President Biodun Ogunyemi attributed the strike to “the insincerity of government in meeting our demands”.

The demands are:

payment of shortfall in salaries of universities;

waiver/ government fiat to set up Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company;

(NUPEMCO);

revitalisation funds for varsities; and

payment of earned academic allowances for lecturers, senior staff and other workers.

But on Monday, the Federal Government succeeded in addressing the demands of the lecturers and other unions.

“One of the conditions met by the Federal Government was the release of N15.89billion to universities on New Year’s Eve( Monday) for the payment of shortfall in salaries of universities,” a source told The Nation.

“The cash is expected to hit the account of all the institutions on or before the close of work today (Wednesday),” he added, pleading not to be named.

“The government has also set aside N20billion as revitalisation funds for varsities. The National Universities Commission( NUC) has been directed to work out the modalities for allocating the funds to all institutions.

“On the demand for the setting up of Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company

( NUPEMCO), the government has directed the National Pension Commission (NUPEMCO) to issue a licence for the company’s take-off.

“Funds have also been set aside for Earned Academic allowances for lecturers, senior staff and other workers.”

Replying a question, the source added: “This agreement was inherited by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, but despite the lean resources available to the government as a result of the fall in oil prices, we have done our best to meet ASUU demands.”

Ngige said: “We have gone far in considering  the demands of the lecturers. We have substantially met the conditions.

“I am meeting with ASUU leaders on Monday where all steps taken by the government will be tabled before them. This is a responsive and transparent government, we have done our best to meet the conditions.

“In fact, officials from the Ministry of Budget and National Planning will be at the next meeting with ASUU leadership where they will be briefed on facts and figures.

“We are hopeful that the actions taken by the government will be acceptable to ASUU for our schools to reopen.”

ASUU Chairman in the Southwest Zone Dr. Deji Omole denied knowledge of any updates on the union’s negotiation with the Federal Government.

Omole, who is also the Chairman, University of Ibadan chapter , told The Nation that the government was yet to call another meeting in the ongoing negotiation since over two weeks ago.

He said the negotiating committee was awaiting announcement of a new date for talks.

The Citizen with additional report from The Nation