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NLC, TUC Nationwide Strike Witnesses Partial Compliance

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 From Jude Dangwam, Jos; Attah Ede, Makurdi and David Torough, Abuja

 The Benue State Chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its counterpart, Trade Union Council  (TUC), Tuesday, joined the nationwide strike in compliance with the directives of the national body of the union.

Our correspondent who monitored the situation in Makurdi, the State capital, reported that both public and private primary and secondary schools, as well as tertiary institutions, shunned the strike and went ahead with normal school activities.
It was observed that primary pupils and secondary schools went to school as early as 7.30AM but could not return home to indicate there was a strike as directed by NLC national leadership.
It was further observed that teachers were seen all through in the schools.The strike could not completely affect operations in banks, hospitals, and other public places in the state as customers and patients were seen in those places undergoing one activity or the other.In a similar manner, the State Secretariat, which houses most of the ministries, was also opened following the commencement of the strike.Consequently, workers who were supposed to join in the strike reported to work in the morning. However, some of them were also seen returning home later.At the Federal University of Health Science Otukpo, prospective Students who applied for admission in the University were seen undertaking screening exercise preparatory for their admission into the institution. The strike however did not affect the general public activities in the state capital.Similarly NLC in Plateau State Chapter on Monday also joined their counterparts across the country on the nationwide industrial strike action embarked upon by the National body.The State Chairman of NLC Comrade Eugene Manji addressing Journalists at the entrance of J.D Gomwalk State Secretariat which was under lock and key said there was absolute compliance to the national directives.He noted that the industrial action was as a result of the manhandling of their leader Comrade Joe Ajero in Imo State while on official engagement to address the lingering issues between workers and the Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma despites the demands presented to him and promised to look into, but failed to address them.”We met as NEC and looked at the situation of workers and decided let’s go to Imo and that was why we were in Imo. And then comes the manhandling of our leader,  that is why we are going on this nationwide strike.”You can see that the compliance of the national strike is absolute on the Plateau. The reason is simple, is because of the brutality meted on our leader the NLC President.” He statedThe State NLC Chairman reiterated that NLV struggles to curtail future occurrences, as Labour has lost confidence in the religious leaders and traditional rulers who were supposed to call the government to order.”We have lost out on the religious leaders who are supposed to defend us, we have lost out on the traditional rulers who are supposed to call these people to order. The only body standing to checkmate the excesses of this government is labour.”So, if there is no Labour then no masses can stand. Is not just about Ajero but is about the deliberate moves to silence Labour which has been the voice of the masses, and we will not be intimidated.”We are calling ourselves democratic government and then this is what you’re doing! Do we have democracy? we don’t have any! We are not against his government, but we are against injustice that has been meted against workers.”Labour is fighting for the injustice against workers and the masses of this country. We are the voice of the voiceless, all we are doing is to curtail the excesses of what is going to happen in the future and we are ready for government.”  he firmly stated.A visit to some commercial banks in the state capital also complied with the industrial action as customers were seen at a few ATM machines making some transactions.Also, our correspondent reported that  workers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) also observed partial compliance to the directive by the organised labour to its members to embark on an indefinite nationwide strike.The TUC and NLC had directed all affiliates to embark on an indefinite nationwide strike.The strike was called to press home their demands, especially the “non comment  by the Federal Government over the  brutalising of  the NLC President, Joe Ajaero by security agents and hoodlums in Imo”.It would be recalled that the NLC had declared a protest in Imo, led by Ajaero on November 1, over alleged anti- workers policies by the state government.Ajaero was attacked and brutalised by security agents and hoodlums allegedly sent by the state government.It would be recalled that Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo and the Nigeria Police had refuted the allegation.It also be recalled that the National Industrial Court had restrained organised labour from embarking on the planned nationwide strike.It was however observed that at the Federal Secretariat, workers were seen going  about.Also, at the Area one old Secretariat, workers were also seen going in and out of the place.Commercial banks such as Guaranty, Union, First Bank , among other banks in Area 3 and 8 were opened for operation as some customers were seen going in and out of the place.It was also gathered that some schools were open and lessons were ongoing.Also, some workers who spoke with our correspondent said that the nationwide  indefinite strike was uncalled for.They said that people were already suffering and the economy was not friendly, adding with the indefinite strike it would increase the hardship on the people.The situation was similar in other states capitals including; Kaduna, Plateau, Ekiti, Ondo, Ebonyi, Enugu and Lagos.On the contrary, workers in Sokoto state on Tuesday defied the directives of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), proceeding with their official duties in spite of the nationwide indefinite strike call.Routine operations  were conducted at the federal and state Ministries, banks, and schools.A classroom teacher, Malam Ismail Dayyabu, said that they were not served notice of the strike and they were only aware of a Court order restraining the union from striking.“We can do nothing but wait for proper communication. That’s why we went to work as usual, with no official engagements halted,” he explained.Similarly, a trader, Alhaji Bala Dankasuwa, said he was ignorant of any strike action, emphasising that their leaders had not communicated such a decision.Meanwhile, the NLC and TUC, Sokoto State chapters have assured their commitment to enforcing total compliance with the nationwide strike in the state.Mr Hamisu Hussain, the state NLC Secretary, acknowledged the delayed communication of the strike information to workers in the state.He explained, “Due to the delayed notice, many workers in banks and Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) could not join the strike today.“However, I can assure you that by tomorrow, we will have total compliance as we have notified all of them. No excuse will be accepted,” he said.Mr Bello Garba, the state TUC Secretary, condemned the alleged assault on the NLC President, Mr Joe Ajaero, during the union’s rally in Imo.Garba warned that such incidents could recur nationwide, if not properly addressed, while assuring the strike will be enforced on all workers in the state.Also, workers in Taraba went about their normal schedules on Tuesday in defiance of an indefinite  nationwide strike called by the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).Government offices in Jalingo were fully operational as civil servants reported for duty.A civil servant, Tanimu Musa,  said that the strike was counterproductive.Musa noted that the Federal and state governments had demonstrated their commitment to ameliorate hardships faced by workers and by the Nigerian masses.He said the Federal Government, for instance, provided palliatives and increased wages, while Taraba had also been paying the N30, 000 minimum wage.Another civil servant, Joel Yakubu, said, however that an NLC team was going round to enforce the strike order.“State workers are yet to receive their October salary which the governor ordered must be paid on the basis of the N30, 000 minimum wages.“The order delayed the October salary as fresh vouchers needed to be raised to reflect the wage increase.“It is arguable that shunning the strike is a decoy by Taraba workers so they would not extend the payday unnecessarily.The NLC and TUC called the strike to protest against the manhandling of the National President of the NLC Mr Joe Ajaero, by hoodlums in Owerri on November 1.The National Industrial Court of Nigeria on Friday restrained the labour unions from embarking on strike.President of the court, Justice Benedict Kanyip, ordered the nation’s two major labour unions to stop the industrial action.The interim order followed an ex-parte request by the Nigerian government through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN).

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Afreximbank Dominates Bonds, Loans, ESG Capital Markets Awards 2024

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
 The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) swept the stage at the recently concluded Bonds, Loans and ESG Capital Markets Africa Awards 2024 ceremony, taking home six of the awards handed out at the event held in South Africa.
Delivered on the sidelines of the conference on 6 March, the awards recognised Afreximbank’s outstanding achievements in financing, promoting and facilitating trade and for its broadening work to facilitate sustainable economic growth and development in Africa.


Afreximbank was recognised with ‘Financial Institutions Bond Deal of the Year’ for acting as Joint Lead Manager on the debut USD 300 million senior Eurobond issuance by Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB), in April 2023, marking the first Investment Grade-rated commercial bank senior bond out of Africa as well as the first international Eurobond out of Mauritius.
 
The Bank also won the ‘Infrastructure Finance Deal of the Year’ award for its US$1.76 billion loan to the Government of Tanzania, issued on 30 June 2023.
The award for the Export Credit Agency, Development Finance Institution and International Finance Institution Deal of the Year was presented to the Bank for its US$640-million Samurai loan issued in July 2023 while the Renewable Energy Finance Deal of the Year award went to the Bank for its EUR147-million loan to the Government of Cameroon which was issued on 7 October 2023.
For the Oil and Gas Deal of the Year award, the organisers recognised Afreximbank for its US$1.3-billion loan to Sonangol Finance Limited, issued in August 2023. The final award to the Bank was for being the Financial Institution Debt House of the Year.
Reacting to the awards, Chandi Mwenebungu, Director and Group Treasurer of Afreximbank, said: “These awards represent a recognition of our Bank’s strategic work in Africa’s financial markets and present an opportunity for Afreximbank to recognize and celebrate the outstanding achievements of its clients and partners working to advance the economic development of Africa.”
Mr. Mwenebungu noted that the Bank had been playing a leading debt arranging role across Africa’s main industry sectors and had been instrumental in promoting the inclusion of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards in financing structures, thereby furthering their application on the continent and attracting capital.
The Bonds, Loans and ESG Capital Markets Africa Conference is the only pan-African debt event bringing together local and international bonds issuers, investors and financial institutions and financial services providers from across the continent.
With participation by more than 1,060 senior borrowers, issuers, regulators, bankers, investors, advisors and government officials from 383 companies and 46 countries, the conference is recognised as the number one business meetings facilitator for Africa’s capital markets and is Africa’s largest corporate and investment banking event.

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How Revised Teachers Retirement Age Policy Impacts FCT Schools

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By Ben Atonko

Every May Day, the government is forced to make a pronouncement on workers welfare.  Over the decades, the government has promulgated numerous policies to enhance workers welfare so workers always look up to May 1 as an avenue to exert pressure on the government to do as they would like.

In commemorating the historic struggles and gains made by workers and the labour movement, we ask, are the labour policies for the good of workers alone? Has the government adequate consideration for the public good when passing labour laws?

As May Day approaches, we take a look at the impact of one of the labour policies on the public as enunciated by the immediate past administration of Muhammadu Buhari.

Maimuna was employed as a school teacher by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA). She taught and rose to the rank of Assistant Director, Grade Level 15.

At his level, Maimuna is posted to the Quality Assurance Department. She looks frail yet she says she is still within the lawful service years. She no longer goes to teach. Her job now is to supervise school teachers to ensure that they follow laid down rules and standards in the teaching profession. But hardly does she go do the supervision work.

Maimuna is one among many teachers in FCT who have been taken out of the classroom, thereby shortening the number of classroom teachers.

While Maimuna is among those who leave the classroom due to job progression, many more leave on account of retirement, death and other reasons. There are those who are down with health conditions. Even as the classroom gets depleted of teachers, FCTA hardly employs.

Since 2016, FCTA has not done massive recruitment of teachers. It has continually done what it calls Replacement where few persons “connected” to top government officials are clandestinely slotted into the service.

The revised retirement policy

Following pressure from the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), the Federal Government in 2022 extended the retirement age for teachers in public schools to 65 from 60.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Harmonised Retirement Age for Teachers in Nigeria Act passed by the National Assembly.

Section 1 of the Act clearly states that teachers in Nigeria shall compulsorily retire on attainment of 65 years of age or 40 years of pensionable service, whichever is earlier.

Section 3 of the Act provides that the Public Service Rule or any Legislation that requires a person to retire from the Public Service at 60 years of age or after 35 years of service shall not apply to teachers in Nigeria.

This increase in the retirement age and service years is pursuant to Section 58(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

The FCT situation

FCTA accepted this policy with a caveat that teachers will prove to be medically fit and would return to the classroom to teach at that age.

However, it has been observed that this ended on paper as these teachers do not go to the classroom. Not one has been asked to tender their medical report as a condition to be retained. Some can hardly walk, not to talk of doing any work.

While this is happening, many children in public schools in FCT are suffering badly due to shortage of teachers. Meet the head teacher of any school and ask them about the staff strength in their school and they will narrate a pathetic story.

There are 205 junior schools covered by the FCT Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme and 88 senior schools under the FCT Secondary Education Board.

Records show that there are about 4,000 FCTA teaching staff in junior secondary schools for the UBE programme. This translates to 20 teachers per school, i.e. 20 teachers to take 18 subjects for JSS 1, JSS 2 and JSS 3. It must be noted that there are subjects to be compulsorily taught every day. With an average of six arms per class and each arm having Mathematics and English Language taught in five sessions of 40 minutes per week, and other subjects taught in two sessions of 40 minutes per week, it means each arm has 42 hours of teaching per week.

It should be noted that each year (e.g JSS 1) has 42 hours by six arms equalling 252 hours of teaching every week. This further translates to a total of 756 teaching sessions for JSS 1, JSS 2 and JSS 3. This invariably means 20 teachers having a total of 37.8 sessions of 40 minutes each for Years 1, 2 and 3 respectively.

This is definitely too much work load for anyone to handle hence the engagement of PTA teachers who are paid less than peanuts.

In 2001 a report produced by FCTA tagged “Teacher (Manpower) Requirement for Junior Secondary Schools” showed that there was a shortfall of 5,001 teachers across the 126 junior secondary schools in FCT at the time.

The statistics showed that JSS Sabon Gari, Gwagwalada alone lacked 150 teachers. JSS Jikwoyi in the municipal council needed 132 teachers while JSS Kubwa 1 was without 101 teachers. ADJSS was minus 96 teachers, JSS Kubwa 2 was minus 89, JSS Zuba 77 teachers and JSS Peyi 71 teachers. The school with the least problem was JSS Mamagi with a shortfall of six teachers.

What this means is that all FCT schools could not offer or partially offered many subjects on the curriculum. The picture has not changed since then. Efforts to lay hands on current data were unsuccessful but the situation might be worse due to population surge.

Out of the 4,000 teachers said to be under UBEB, a large number are out of the classroom because they are to do quality assurance and their retirement age has increased. The salary of one of such staff can employ as many as five fresh teachers.

A school manager in FCT was heard lamenting that while the government has failed to recruit young and willing hands into the classroom, it has come up with a policy that makes old, weak, sickly and tired hands idle while energetic, ambitious and job seeking youths are abandoned.

Another head teacher who did not want to be named here said the Education Secretariat of FCTA is aware of the problems because every month, school heads send reports to management, giving the situation in their schools, yet no action is taken.

She painted a gloomy picture: “In UBEB, very few teachers are young. Many are old. In a whole term, a child pays N3, 500. From this, we pay PTA teachers.

“Last employment was in 2016. Only 300 teachers were employed. There are 17 subjects taught by different teachers in my school.  Many subjects have no teachers. Classes are without seats. Children sit on the floor.”

She said sometimes authorities hide under employing teachers, slot in names of associates or friends or relatives. Some may have no business coming in the education sector. Once they are employed, they are deployed to the Education Secretariat, Area 11 (head office) – they do not teach at all.

According to her, every year, many teachers leave, yet no employment to fill up vacancies.

Parents’ burden

Nearly every school in FCT lacks teachers. More than half of those teaching are in the employ of the Parent-Teacher-Association (PTA), passing a huge burden to parents and guardians.

To be able to pay the PTA Teachers, as they called, school heads come up with different levies for parents to pay. A parent in FCT may pay a PTA levy of N3,500 or N5000 and other levies besides other numerous demands from the school authorities.

A parent must buy detergent, disinfectant, electric bulbs, brooms every term, apart from paying for feeding of children in the boarding house.

A parent who declined to be named lamented that the problem in public schools in FCT is not limited to shortage of teachers. School facilities like classrooms, furniture, audio-visual aids are grossly inadequate. In some communities, children sit under trees to receive instructions. The children are highly vulnerable to the elements.

“Where classrooms are available, they are dilapidated. These problems cut across both urban and rural schools. Different FCT ministers gave contracts for projects that were not executed or uncompleted.

“Go to the Kubwa, Nyanya, Bwari, Kwali, Abaji, you’ll see the same problem of old and outdated structures. For a long time, the FCT administration has ignored its schools. We are tired of paying levies,” he stated.

Recently, the administration began renovation of school structures. Parents are optimistic that the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike will equally give serious consideration to the problem of inadequate teachers in the classroom.

“Without delay, he should tackle this thing about teachers massively leaving classrooms to become quality controllers whereas there is nothing to control. If there are no teachers in the classroom, what can they control?” said a school teacher.

As another May Day approaches, the government is expected to review labour policies and make amends where need be. The Harmonised Retirement Age for Teachers in Nigeria Act is one of such.

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Why I Quit PDP, Says Former Imo Governor, Ihedioha

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By David Torough, Abuja

Former Imo State governor and ex-Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Emeka Ihedioha yesterday gave reason for his resignation from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Ihedioha announced this in a letter addressed to the Ward Chairman of the party at Mbutu in Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area of the state.

The ex-governor cited the inability of the party to carry out internal reforms as his reason for quitting.

“Since 1998, I have contributed my quota to the development and transformation of the PDP as one of the founding members.

“All these years, I have taken pride in the fact that the PDP is a party that will always look inward for internal reforms and provide credible leadership for the people, whether in power or outside power.

“I have had the benefit of serving and benefiting from the party at various levels.

“Regrettably, in recent times, the party has been on a path that is at variance with my personal belief,” he said.

Ihedioha added, “In spite of my attempt to offer counsel, the party is, sadly, no longer able to carry out internal reforms, enforce its own rules or offer credible opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

“It is in the light of the foregoing that I am compelled to offer my resignation from the PDP effective immediately.”

He said although quitting the party was a difficult decision, he believed that it was the right thing to do.

“In spite of this resignation, I will always be available to offer my services towards the deepening of democracy and good governance in Nigeria,” he said.

Ihedioha, who served as the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives also served as Imo governor from May 29, 2019 to Jan. 14, 2020.Emeka Ihedioha’s tenure as governor was cut short by a Supreme Court judgment in favour of Sen. Hope Uzodimma of the APC.

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