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ASUU Strike Continues Till Further Notice — Union

Peter Okunoren

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities on Thursday said the ongoing strike would not be called off until the Federal Government fully implemented all the offers it made to the union after their last meeting.

The public university lecturers said they were tired of Federal Government’s antics of making unfulfilled promises, insisting that the strike would be called off after they got tangible evidence and concrete actions that the offers made to them by the Federal Government had been implemented.

The National President, ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, in an exclusive interview with one of our correspondents in Lagos on Thursday, said the team of the union that met with the government on Tuesday did not reach any agreement with the Federal Government.

Asked when the strike would then be called off, Ogunyemi said, “Our members said they want to see evidence of satisfactory implementation of all they have proposed before the strike can be called off.”

On Tuesday, ASUU met with the Federal Government officials including the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, as well as his Labour and Employment counterpart, Chris Ngige.

After their discussions, Ngige explained what the Federal Government was offering to the union.

He said the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Ministry of Finance had confirmed with evidence that N15.4bn had been released to public universities.

But ASUU president recalled that last year, the government promised to release funds for the revitalisation of public universities, which was one of the demands of the union, but failed to do so.

Ogunyemi stated, “As for the proposal, it can be disaggregated. There are items there that require implementation. If they are setting up a committee on state universities, and they actually do, it is not something we need to agree on. It is about action.

“If they have implemented it, it is off the list. If the government says it will pay a shortfall of salaries on a certain date, and the date comes and they release the money, it is also implementation. There is no agreement on the matter.

“On the revitalisation fund, we presented to the government that five tranches of N220bn each were outstanding. The government has not said it will release one, even if it is spread over a period of one year. There is no agreement on that. What they are offering is not even up to one tranche.

“Last year, they promised to release the fund but they did not till November when the strike began. Long story short, our members are saying they do not want promises again, what they want is action, implementation or disbursement of funds. The government must act in a way to convince the union that agreement has not been set aside; to show that government has not set aside the agreement, they should release one tranche.”

He explained that in order to forestall a situation ASUU and the government would restart negotiations on arrears of earned academic allowances, both sides agreed that “it would be mainstreamed into the 2019 budget.”

According to him, such an agreement was reached last year, but he said the government failed to honour it.

Ogunyemi stated, “We are going to have a discussion on when to commence renegotiation because there are still grey areas. If the government can substantially address these issues, we will be more confident to face our members on the way forward. For now, the feeler we are getting is that our members do not actually want to accept this government proposal from us.

“They said they would pay the shortfall of salary arrears of what was removed from workers’ salaries. There are 20 universities identified. The money will be available by January 18. It is around the corner and we will see if it will come.”

Also, ASUU, in its Strike Bulletin 8 issued by its President, a copy of which was obtained by one of our correspondents in Ibadan, said the Federal Government’s proposal was far below its expectations.

In its latest bulletin, the union president said the offer from the Federal Government towards meeting the demands of ASUU as contained in the 2017 Memorandum of Action was still fluid and far from expectations.

Ogunyemi asked members to await further developments on the strike.

According to him, the proposal from government towards resolving the demands of ASUU as contained in the 2017 MoA is still fluid and far from expectations.

The bulletin read in part, “Though some progress has been made with respect to discussion with government agents (The Minister of Labour and Employment as well as the Minister of Education), at the moment, the proposal from government towards resolving the demand of ASUU as contained in 2017 MoA and Strike Bulletin 1 is still fluid and far from expectations. Hence, it is the view of the National Strike Coordinating Committee that members should await further developments which are rapidly unfolding.”

When contacted, the spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Education, Mr Ben Gong, told one of our correspondents in a telephone interview that, “What the ASUU president said, which I am privy to, is that, they have received government offers, they will communicate with their various branches across the universities and that the collective decision of those branches will inform the next step they will take. That they directed their various branches to hold their meetings today (Thursday).”

The ASUU leadership is expected to return to Ngige with the outcome of its meeting with the National Executive Committee over the offers made by government to the union.

The meeting between the minister and the ASUU leadership may hold today (Friday).

ASUU had on November 4 last year declared the strike to demand improved funding of universities and implementation of previous agreements with the government.

Other demands of the union include the implementation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreements, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU; 2012 and 2013) and Memorandum of Action (MoA, 2017).

It also asked for the release of the forensic audit report on earned academic allowances; payment of all outstanding earned academic allowances and mainstreaming of same into salaries beginning with the 2018 budget.

The union went on strike in 2018 to compel the Federal Government to make funds available for the revitalisation of public universities, based on the FGN-ASUU MoU of 2012, 2013 and the MoA of 2017.

Ogunyemi said the union would not participate in the 2019 elections but stated that members were free to take part.

The union had on January 4 met with the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and some officers of the commission. After the meeting, it resolved that it would not participate in the 2019 polls, but said that its members could take part as individuals.

He said, “In accordance with the ASUU’s long standing position, ASUU as a union will not participate in the conduct of 2019 general elections, although members may voluntarily participate in the conduct of the elections

“However, members are prohibited from participating in the election processes using any material that bears ASUU or relates to the union.”

BIG STORY

BREAKING: I Remain Lagos Police Commissioner, It’s A New Order From Abuja – Edgal Imohimi Declares

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Edgal Imohimi, has declared that he remains the Lagos State Commissioner of Police.

Imohimi told members of the press on Tuesday during a handover-takeover ceremony between him and supposed incoming CP, Kayode Egbetokun, that they were about concluding the process when a directive came from Abuja asking them to suspend the action.

Imohimi, who addressed journalists in the presence of Egbetokun at the Lagos State Police Command’s headquarters, said, “I am sure that you know Mr Kayode Egbetokun, he is an old timer in the command.

“You all know that our first job is about order and direction; we were about concluding the handing and taking over procedure when we were instructed by our bosses from Abuja to suspend action for now. So, there will be no change of guard for now. Of course, we would keep the press briefed about any development.

“But I am happy, humbled that you find it serious enough for you all to come to witness what we are doing here. I consider it an honor.”

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BIG STORY

JUST IN: Buhari Formally Names Mohammed Adamu New IGP, Decorates Him In Aso Rock [PHOTOS]

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President Muhammadu Buhari has officially named Mohammed Adamu as acting Inspector-General of Police, IGP.

Buhari decorated him with the new rank during his meeting with the outgoing Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim Idris and Adamu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Mohammed had served as the Commissioner of Police in Enugu State.

He was one-time director of peacekeeping operations of the Force.

He had been the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone Five, in Benin, Edo State.

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BIG STORY

EFCC Nabs Bishop Defrauding People In God’s Name

Gbemileke Ajayi

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Benin Zonal Office has arrested a Bishop and suspected fraudster, Giniko Obi, for allegedly defrauding thousands of people of millions of naira, in the guise of helping them “fight poverty”.

Obi, founder of Beloved Gideon Foundation, based in Agbor, Delta State, with outreaches in Bayelsa, Onitsha, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Benin City, however, denied any involvement in fraud claiming that he was only “doing the will of God by trying to help the people fight poverty”.

According to him, it was his desire and God’s will to see people prosper that led him into operating what appears to be a Ponzi Scheme. Obi who claim to be a consecrated Bishop, possessing a diploma in theology explains thus:

“We write books such as ‘24 Nuggets for Successful Living’, ‘36 Nuggets for Successful Living’, ‘48 Nuggets for Successful Living’. We organise seminars and conferences on how to be successful. We tell the people to subscribe to these publications. If you subscribe with N10, 800, we give you N15, 000. If you subscribe with N18, 000, we give you N23, 000. I had about 30,000 subscribers and I was paying them”.

According to him, when he left Agbor for Lagos, his desire was to expand his subscription base but his subscribers were impatient.

“If they allowed me to hold the conference in Lagos, I would have paid them,” he claimed.

However, some of his victims who have continued to throng the EFCC office, since his arrest, described him as a “fraud”.

One of them, Janet Amaka Okafor, said the Bishop sold a dummy to them by claiming that he was from the famous Gideons International, based in the United States.

She said: “He organised seminars in Agbor market that he was from Gideons International and that their mission was to help eradicate poverty in Nigeria.

“He told us that unlike in the past when Gideons International distributed Bibles and Christian literatures, their mission now was to eradicate poverty”.

On how she became a victim of the scheme, Okafor, 35, who claims she has never participated in any Ponzi scheme in the past said she fell for his tricks because the “Bishop” swore with the Bible.

“The Bishop knelt down and swore with the Bible. He convinced us that he was from Texas, USA and we believed him. I subscribed with N10, 800 and he paid me N15, 000. It was after this that he engaged over 60 of us as canvassers. I brought many people including my relations and friends. All together, they invested over N5 million”.

Another victim, Bessie Nwadibire, 67, said the Bishop was very deceptive from the beginning.

“When he came to the market he gave out drinks and dashed some people money as much as N50, 000 as he said the poverty rate in Nigeria was too high,” Nwadibire said, praying and hoping that the Bishop will be made to refund her money.

Expressing gratitude that the EFCC has arrested the Bishop, she said, “Before he was arrested, we went into hiding, because all the people who invested their money into the business through me have threatened to kill me unless I refund their money. The money is over N8, 000, 000 (Eight Million Naira) only”.

The same tale of woes has become the lot of Wisdom Aderemor Okpuzor, a civil servant based in Agbor.

Okpuzor who said she had to flee her home for fear of being attacked described the Bishop as “callous and evil”.

The suspect will soon be arraigned in court. (NAN)

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