…As DPR, others urge govt to tackle illegal refining***
The Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) reached possible agreement on Monday toward resolving the ongoing lecturers’ strike.
Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, said this after a reconciliatory meeting with ASUU in Abuja.
Ngige said the meeting was fruitful as an agreement had been reached between the Federal Government and the striking university lecturers.
According to him, the Federal Government has released N15.4 billion for the payment of the salary shortfalls, which was one of the major demands of the union.
“On the issue of salaries in tertiary institutions, especially in universities, the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant- General provided evidence that as at December 31, 2018 the Federal Government had remitted N15.4 billon.
“Also on the issue of Earned Allowances in the universities system, they also showed us evidence that Mr President has approved the N20 billion to be used to offset the outstanding arrears of the 2009 and 2012, audit verified earnings, in the university system.
“This money is being worked on, and will be released to ASUU as soon as the process is completed.
“ASUU has fulfilled its own side of the bargain in terms of NUPECO, which is the Pension Fund Administration company that ASUU has floated to take care of pension for people in the university system.
“The Pension regulator, the PENCOM, has asked certain positions to be fulfilled and they gave ASUU a temporary license, which has expired.
“ASUU has submitted all the documents and fulfilled all conditions needed to get their license,” he said.
Ngige noted that the meeting had resolved to mandate the Ministry of Education to get in touch with PENCOM to make sure that the permanent licence is issued to ASUU as soon as possible.
The minister also said on the issue of university revitalisation, the President Goodluck Administration entered into an agreement with the ASUU for revitalisation of 20 universities annually for the next 6 years.
“This is starting from 2009, this Government will look for resources for the funding.
“We have also offered ASUU some token to show good faith and that amount is known to them. Issue of visitation panel is also taken care of.
“These were major issues discussed and ASUU is supposed to take back the resolution of these meetings to their members, while we expect that they will get back to us by Thursday, ” he said.
Also, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU National President, said the National Executive Committee of the union will review its decisions based on the new commitment by the Federal Government.
He said the strike could only be called off or not after the NEC meeting. He did not say when the meeting will hold.
The lecturers have been on strike since November 4 to demand improved funding of universities and implementation of previous agreements with the government.
In the meantime, the Federal Government has been tasked to stop the proliferation of illegal refineries in Nigeria, as they impact very negatively on the environment.
In its 2018 health, Safety and Environment, HSE conference report obtained by Vanguard, DPR stated: “Illegal artisanal refining is now a major source of pollution and needs to be tackled, through immediate multi-stakeholder’s engagement among operators, regulators, Government Security Forces, and community leadership.
“The Federal and State Governments need to address the underdevelopment and feeling of neglect in the Niger Delta as this remains a challenge to improved environmental stewardship. Some of the statutory fees currently paid in foreign currency should be considered for payment/imbursement in our local currency.
“While HSE practice in the upstream sector has achieved a commendable minimum standard over the years, the downstream sector requires sustained attention to improve HSE performance. Pursuing sustainability has been proven to be good business as it positively impacts financial performance.”
“Accreditation of qualified medical professionals and facilities is important
for the successful implementation of the new Occupational Health and Guidance
and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria.
“All industry stakeholders – government, operating oil & gas and service companies are encouraged to integrate physical activity and exercise within the workplace through modern technology such as gymnasium facilities.
“The practice of Hyperbaric Medicine (health of divers), requires urgent intervention, particularly in data collation, deployment of qualified medical personnel and training facilities.
“Mental Health Risks in the Oil and Gas Industry are high with serious consequences and should not be stigmatized, rather mental health should be integrated in the company’s wellness programmes using assessment, promotion and preventives strategies.
“Emphasis must be paid to depression, which has been recognised by WHO as the most common type of mental health challenge that can be resolved with early intervention.
Work related stress should also be in focus. Employee Mental Health Provisions Using Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) should be included in the National Occupational Safety and Health policy and Occupational Health and Safety bill for effective legislative enforcement in all workplaces in Nigeria.”
It added: “There is an urgent need for establishment of a National Environmental Database for the oil and gas industry.”
The DPR should lead this effort. Performance reviews show that operators need to improve their compliance-performance in produced water handling, gas flaring and management of environmental issues.
“The regulators should lead a paradigm shift in the industry’s approach to biodiversity conservation starting with requirements for increased budgetary allocation by operators and a 5-yearly check on the region’s biodiversity.
Operators must continue to improve on community-operator relations through sustained social interventions in infrastructure and human capacity.
“All new projects should have decommissioning in view from the conceptual stage of the project through design and implementation. Lessons abound from other countries with mature fields. Decommissioning guidelines should be sufficiently robust to also cover gas facilities. “Sustained efforts are required to stem the pervasive mediocrity across environmental practice in Nigeria.
Key actions required include intervention to ensure quick passage of the Bill for an Institute of Environmental Practitioners and a Voluntary Code of Ethics for environmental practitioners. The practice of burning crude oil recovered from illegal activities should be stopped forthwith.
Revenue is being lost and it causes major air, water and soil pollution. Procedures, including temporary laydown areas, should be established to receive, monetize and/or responsibly dispose of recovered crude oil.”
The Citizen with additional report from Vanguard