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FG Blinks, Prays Court to Order ASUU to End Strike

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ASUU ”Conditionally” Calls Off 8-Month Old Strike

…Meets ASUU in Industrial Court Monday***

The Federal government on Monday urged the National Industrial Court to order the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to call off its seven months strike.

Joined as a claimant in the matter is the Minster of Education, with the President of ASUU as the sole defendant.

Also read: ASUU Strike: NANS calls for speedy resolution

The matter which came up before Justice Polycarp Hamman brought by Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige on behalf of the federal government, by way of referral is praying the court to order ASUU to resume academic activities, amongst other prayers.

When the matter slated for mention came up, Mr Ebunolu Adegoruwa, SAN, informed the court that he was representing Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and that he had filed a suit on the same subject matter before the same court.

He also stated that in the suit NICN/ABJ/269/2022, SERAP is the claimant with the federal government as the defendant.

He, therefore, proceeded to apply that the extant suit be consolidated and SERAP be joined in the suit as a defendant, instead of multiple suits on the same matter before the same court.

Counsel to the claimant, Mr T.A Gazali, SAN, in response said the application was premature and added that there was no need for SERAP to pray to be joined in a suit orally in a matter that did not have its name on the cause list.

Mr Femi Falana, SAN, counsel to ASUU in his response informed the court that both counsels had informed him on Monday that they both were filing some papers.

Falana in addition urged the court to step down the matter to enable both counsels to file their papers and then return at a later date after he would have responded to the claimant’s process

Adegoruwa replied that the defendant had not denied the existence of the suit SERAP filed and served on them.

Gazali on his part also informed the court that his process will be filed Monday and Falana said he would need three days to reply to the process.

The judge in his ruling adjourned the matter until Friday, for further mention.

He also directed that the claimant should file, serve his process, the defendant to also file and serve his response before the adjourned date.

Hamman in addition ruled that SERAP’s application for be joined in the suit was premature.

The newsmen report that the suit filed by the claimant is also seeking the court to give the matter an accelerated hearing in order to bring the dispute to an end.

The claimant also in the instrument of referral is praying the court to: “Inquire into the legality or otherwise of the ongoing prolonged strike by ASUU leadership and members which had continued even after apprehension by the Minister of Labour and Employment.

“Interpret in its entirety the provisions of Section 18, LFN 2004 especially as it applies to cessation of the strike once a trade dispute is apprehended by the Minister of Labour end Employment and conciliation is on-going”.

Various talks between the parties on different occasions concerning the ongoing strike had not yielded any result, hence the referral of the matter to the court.

In the meantime, the Federal Government says it will meet with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) for adjudication on Monday over the prolonged strike.

Dr Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, said this on Sunday in Abuja in a letter addressed to the Registrar of NICN, dated Sept. 8.

Ngige said this in a statement signed by Olajide Oshundun, Head, Press and Public Relations, in the ministry and made available to newsmen.

He said the referral instrument had become necessary following the failure of dialogue between the union and the Federal Ministry of Education.

He added that the matter is billed for mention by 9 a.m on Sept. 12.

”The Federal Government has asked the NICN to inquire into the legality or otherwise of the ongoing prolonged strike by ASUU leadership and members that had continued even after apprehension.

“It asked the court to interpret in its entirety the provisions of Section 18 LFN 2004, especially as it applies to the cessation of the strike once a trade dispute is apprehended by the Minister of Labour and Employment and conciliation is ongoing,” he said.

He also said that the NICN are to interpret the provisions of Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap T8. LFN 2004, titled “Special Provision with Respect to payment of wages during strikes and lock-outs”.

Ngige said this ”specifically dealing with the rights of employees/workers during the period of any strike or lock-out.

”Can ASUU or any other union that embarked on strike be asking to be paid salaries even with clear provisions of the law?

“Determine whether ASUU members are entitled to emoluments or ‘strike pay’ during their period of strike, which commenced on Feb. 14.

”Moreso, in view of our national law as provided in Section 43 of the TDA and the International Labour Principles on the right to strike as well as the decisions of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association on the subject,” he said.

He added that NICN should determine whether ASUU had the right to embark on strike over disputes as is the case in this instance by compelling the Federal Government to employ its own University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) in the payment of the wages of its members as against the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

According to him, as this is universally used by the Federal Government in the nation for payment of wages of all her employees in the Federal Government Public Service of which university workers, including ASUU members, are part.

”Or even where the government via NITDA subjected ASUU and their counterpart, Universities Peculiar Personnel Payroll Systems (UPPPS) software to integrity test (vulnerability and stress test) and they failed,” he said.

Ngigi also said the federal government further asked the court to determine the extent of fulfillment of ASUU’s demands since the 2020 Memorandum of Action (MOA) that the union signed with the government.

The minister said their demands include the funding for revitalisation of public universities as per the 2009 agreement, Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) payments, state universities proliferation and constitution of visitation panels, and release of a white paper on the report of the visitation panels.

He noted that others are the reconstitution of the government renegotiation team for renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, which was renegotiated in 2013/2014, due for renegotiation in 2018/2019, and the migration of ASUU members from IPPIS to its own UTAS, which is currently on test at NITDA.

”Consequently, the Federal Government requested for an order of the Court for ASUU members to resume work in their various universities while the issues in dispute are being addressed by the NICN in consonance with the provisions of Section 18 (I) (b) of the TDA Cap T8. LFN 2004,” he said.

 

Education

UNIBEN Shut Down Indefinitely Over Students’ Protest

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UNIBEN Shut Down Indefinitely Over Students’ Protest

…As Students protest power outage 2 weeks before first Semester exams

The authorities of the University of Benin on Thursday shut down academic activities in the institution indefinitely.

The university in a statement by its Public Relations Officer, Dr Benedicta Ehanire, attributed the decision to the refusal of the students to shift grounds on their demands.

The Newsmen recall that the students on Wednesday took to the streets, blocking the ever-busy Benin-Ore Highway to protest weeks of power outages on campus.

The students, who had two weeks until their first-semester examination, said the situation was severely affecting their preparation.

The students also called for a downward review of transport fares by the UNIBEN shuttle service, which was increased with effect from July 1.

It was reported that the university was thrown into a blackout by the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) following the inability to reach an agreement over contentious electricity billings.

The monthly bill was said to have jumped from about N80 million to between N200 and N280 million, forcing the university to resort to power generators as well as rationalisation of power on the two campuses and hostels.

When a news correspondent spoke with the protesting students amidst heavy rainfall, they were hellbent on continuing the rampage unless their demands were met.

But in the notice of closure made available to newsmen, Ehanire described the students’ demand for a 24-hour  supply of electricity as unrealistic.

“Following the insistence of students of the University of Benin to shift grounds on their demands for twenty-four hours supply of electricity and more, considered unrealistic by the University’s Senate, the University has shut down academic activities indefinitely.

“Students are to vacate the hostels immediately while all the relevant units of the University are to take note and comply.

“However, non-teaching staff and staff on essential duties are not affected by the shutdown,” said the university’s spokesperson.

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Education

Smouldering: ASUU Urges FG To Honour Agreements, Memoranda

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Smouldering: ASUU Urges FG To Honour Agreements, Memoranda

…ASUU urges FG to honour agreements, memoranda

The Academic Staff Union of Universities ( ASUU), Kano zone, has called on the Federal Government to address all the outstanding issues in the agreements and memoranda they signed with the union to ensure industrial harmony in Nigeria.

The call was made by the Zonal Coordinator, Mr Abdulqadir Muhammad, during a news briefing at the end of a zonal meeting comprising the seven universities in the zone on Thursday in Kano.

He explained that the issues include renegotiation of the Federal Government – ASUU 2009 agreement and funding for the revitalization of public universities for global reckoning, and respect for university autonomy, among others.

According to him, the non-signing of the draft renegotiated agreement has led to widespread discontent and declining morale among their members, resulting in brain drain

“Therefore, ASUU Kano zone calls on the President Bola Tinubu-led administration to respect the provisions of the International Labour Organization(ILO) convention, to which Nigeria is a signatory.”

He also called for the release of funds for the payment of salary arrears, Earned Academic Allowances (EAA)  and withheld salary.

On university autonomy, the union called on the Kano State Government to immediately reinstate the arbitrarily dissolved governing council of the two state-owned universities.

ASUU Kano zone further called on the state governments to take a queue from the presidential directive resulting from court ruling to exempt tertiary institutions from IPPIS and stop illegal enrollment of their members into related platforms.

On the state of the nation, ASUU expressed worry over recurring insecurity, poverty, unemployment, rising cost of living, livelihood displacement, and heightened destitution in the country.

They also called on the government to urgently review the Nigeria University Commission, (NUC) Act to check the proliferation of universities in the country without adequate provision for funding.

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Education

Afolabi Foundation To Award 2000 Scholarship In 2024, Donates Furniture To Abia School

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Afolabi Foundation To Award 2000 Scholarship In 2024, Donates Furniture To Abia School

The Ajoke Ayisat Afolabi Foundation (AAAF), the philanthropic arm of SIFAX Group, has set a target of awarding a scholarship to 2,000 indigent students nationwide in 2024.

Foluke Ademokun, Executive Coordinator, AAAF, while speaking on the activities of the non-governmental organisation in the first quarter of this year, noted that the driving force behind this initiative was to support indigent parents and tackle the menace of out-of-school children.

She said: “We are focused on helping the government reduce the number of out-of-school children, so in our way, we have provided a platform where we source and pay for school fees of indigent students across Nigeria so they can access quality education, despite the financial circumstance of their parents or guardians and we have been doing this since the inception of the Foundation about 15 years ago. Thousands of underprivileged children have benefitted from the Foundation.

“In the first quarter of 2024, we have paid for over 237 students in Lagos and Zaria and we are optimistic that before the end of the year, we should reach more than 2,000 students. The Foundation also plans to equip the students with in-demand skills, promote life-long learning opportunities, and reduce inequalities in access to quality education.”

Ademokun further said the foundation also extended support to Umunna Comprehensive Secondary School, Umuosu in Isiala Ngwa North Local Government Area of Abia State with the donation of 3-in-1 desks and seats to foster a good learning environment that would impact the student’s overall learning experience and success.

 “When we visited the school and we saw that the environment was not conducive for learning especially the tables and desks used by the students, we knew that an intervention was necessary to make the school attractive for the students, this was why we initiated this donation of new desks and seats. We believe that the students will be motivated and better engaged with the new desks and seats”, she noted.

Other projects executed by the Foundation and SIFAX Group in the first quarter of the year, according to Ademokun, include the provision of daily meals for indigents in Zaria, donation of foodstuffs to over 1,000 Lagos residents, free medical outreaches in Lagos and Ogun states, digital training for market women in Lagos, distribution of energy-efficient stoves to women in Abia state, and start-up grants to women in Zaria, Kaduna state. 

While commenting on the various projects, Basil Agboarumi, Executive Director, Corporate and Governmental Affairs, SIFAX Group noted that the Group was committed to investing in the underprivileged Nigerians through its various intervention projects aimed at improving their quality of life.

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