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SSANU, NASU Strike Cripple Unical, UniAbuja, UNN, Others

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From Ene Asuquo, CalabarThe seven-day warning strike jointly embarked by Non Academic Staff of Nigeria Universities (NASU) and their counterpart, Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) yesterday crippled activities of many universities across the country, leaving students stranded.It was observed that the main gate of the University of Calabar was locked up by the striking workers.Members of NASU Unical branch joined the strike to press demand for the payment of four months arrears of their salaries.The non-academic staff early Monday morning locked the main entrance of the university barring academic staff and students from entering the institution for scheduled examinations and other activities.Some students said they were in their scheduled halls to take the first semester examinations when NASU members stormed the place and chased students away.Daily Asset gathered that a task force set up by NASU to monitor the strike went from one office to office as well as examination hall to ensure total compliance with the action.According to a source, the President of Unical Students Union Government, Comrade Godsgift Kichi-Akwo confronted the task force and queried their right to harass students or disrupt examinations but he was allegedly beaten up by the staff.Piqued by the alleged attack on their president, some students carrying placards stormed the office of the Vice Chancellor, Professor Florence Banku Obi to register their displeasure.Briefing Obi, the SUG president demanded an apology from NASU and told the VC that another member of his exco was also attacked and wounded by the striking workers.The Vice Chancellor directed that the wounded students and the SUG officials be taken to the institution’s medical centre for treatment.Obi who appealed to the students to remain calm and peaceful was intimated that some striking workers were also attacked and wounded by students.In a telephone chat, NASU Chairman, Comrade Victoria Orok alleged that the students attacked the NASU Secretariat on campus and destroyed everything.Orok accused the VC of sending the students to attack and destroy the secretariat.She disclosed that five members of the union were attacked by the students and they were receiving treatment in the institution’s medical centre.  UniAbujaThe situation was not different at the University of Abuja (UniAbuja) as academic activities were temporarily disrupted.The protesting workers blocked the entrance to the university, preventing students and others from going inside.SSANU Branch Chairman Nureden Yusuf, while addressing newsmen said the strike was to protest their four months withheld salaries.According to Yusuf, the unions were on strike to draw the attention of the government to the state of the universities.“You may recall that one of the contentious issues why we went on strike in 2022 was that of the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement.“That agreement ought to be renegotiated every three years and now we are in 2024, that is fourteen years after the last agreement, it is yet to be renegotiated.“Also, we are talking about withheld salaries which President Bola Tinubu in Oct,. 2023 gracefully agreed should be paid to us.“Our counterparts in the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had been paid their four months salaries, but we are yet to receive our salaries.“NASU and SSANU are unions of professionals. We oil the wheel of the university system,” he said.According to Yusuf, apart from teaching, there were other activities carried out by SSANU and NASU members in the university system.Yusuf said that the unions would be shutting down all essential services including security units, healthcare services, water supply, transportation unit, electricity.Also, Chairperson of NASU, University of Abuja, branch, Sadiya Hassan said that it was imperative that the Federal Government paid the four months withheld salaries to the unions.According to her, it was discriminatory and unacceptable for NASU and SSANU to be left out in the payment of the four months withheld salaries.“We are professionals in our different fields that we chose to be in the non-teaching sector,” she said.Hassan urged the Federal Government to do the needful for the workers to return to their duty posts.UNN, EnuguAcademic activities were partially paralysed at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) and the Enugu campus following. The strike affected some ongoing examinations at both campuses of the university.Students who were taking examinations earlier were allowed to finish while those who started their afternoon papers were chased out of the classrooms.The striking members also closed many offices including Students Affairs and others.Some of the students lamented the negative effects of the strike in their studies.A 400 level student of the Faculty of Environmental Studies, Ijeoma Edeh said the strike, if allowed to go on, would affect her seriously.“Please, the government should pay them, otherwise a prolonged strike will spell doom for some of us,” Edeh said.Another 400 student of Architecture, Favour Obichili appealed to the Federal Government to resolve their grievances and meet demands.SSANU and NASU said the warning strike called by their national Joint Action Committee (JAC) was to protest the Federal Government’s failure to pay their members four months withheld salaries during their strike in 2022.Addressing members during an emergency congress in the UNN, Dr. Linus Akata, Chairman of SSANU-UNN flanked by Comrade Ekene Amu, Chairman of NASU-UNN said the emergency congress was to tell their members about the warning strike declared by JAC.Akata said that the strike would be total and comprehensive in UNN, in total adherence and compliance to the directive of the national leadership.He said that all the administrative offices and essentials service sections of the university were already under lock and key,The union leader warned that the unions would deal decisively with any member found defaulting or sabotaging the seven day warning strike.“Members are directed to go home immediately after this congress and stay away from work until the seven-day warning strike ends, as any defaulting member will be decisively dealt with.“This warning strike is total and comprehensive as the administrative block of the UNN, offices, works department, University Medical Centre, University Primary School and among others have been shut down till the end of the strike.“There will be no water and electricity supply from the university hostels, also internet facilities from the university have been shut down for the period as we have directed our members working in these places to go home,” he said.Akata said that the unions had no apology over the seven-day warning strike as their national leadership had done everything necessary to avert the strike by appealing to the government to do the needful.“SSANU and NASU have written so many letters to the government, held several press conferences, led delegations to government officials in a bid to resolve the issue but all to no avail.“So, at the end of this warning strike, if the government did not meet our demand we will also take a directive from our national body on the next line of action,” he said.Akata urged members to go home and relax till the end of the strike but should report any threat or query for not coming to work from management, head of department or faculty to the union. Zaria, Yola VarsitiesThe industrial grounded academic activities at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.Theatres, lecture halls, libraries and laboratories were under lock and key at Samaru and Kongo campuses of the university.Power supply and internet services had been off as many slated computer based tests were cancelled at the university.Chairman of SSANU, ABU Chapter, Mohammed Yunusa said the union complied with industrial action in the university.He said that workers at the Works, Registry and Student Affairs and Bursary Departments had downed tools, adding that it achieved 90 percent compliance.The chairman said that members of the union would hold a peaceful protest and a press conference on Tuesday.“We are the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities; we are the custodians of the university’s rules, we are law abiding citizens and we know what it takes to have a peaceful warning strike.“We have gotten to a point where we cannot sit and watch things as these events are unfolding now. The university system is being run with contributions from all major stakeholders.“Therefore, it is very unfair for the federal government to say one stakeholder is more important than the other,” he said.Similarly, the strike paralysed academic activities at the Modibbo Adama University (MAU), Yola.Michael Omokoro said the shutdown would affect water supply, electricity, internet and all other services rendered by members of the association.“Basically it is about our four months withheld salaries, the 35 per cent wage increment, the N35,000 palliative that stopped in January, the reconstitution of Governing Councils, etc.“During the seven days, there will be no light, water supply, clinic, ICT and all other services because we have withdrawn our members,” Omokoro said. NLC calls for Immediate PaymentIn its reaction, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has called for the immediate payment of the withheld salaries of NASU and SSANU members.NLC President Joe Ajaero urged the Federal Government to pay the four months outstanding salaries to avoid drift in the academic sector.In a statement issued in Abuja on Monday, the NLC President said at a time confidence was being restored to the public universities, the worst thing the government could do is to engineer another strike.While ASUU was paid the withheld salaries in full, NASU and SSANU were allegedly denied the full payment.Ajaero said, “There has been no credible reason or explanation for withholding those salaries in the first place.“We recall this singular act plunged the members into indescribable hardship.“Much worse, it defies logic to try to subject members of these unions to discriminatory treatment.“By doing so, the government is clearly courting avoidable industrial disputes,” he said.The NLC President stressed that the effects of the strike on the parties would be unacceptably high, especially for students and parents.He, therefore, urged the government to expeditiously pay up the outstandings salaries“We advise the government not to take for granted the maturity of these unions,” he said.

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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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