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We’ll Make Our Position On FG’s Offer Known Today — ASUU

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities has urged the Federal Government to show concrete evidence of commitment to agreements on meeting its demands on its ongoing strike.

Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU President, said in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Monday that the union would communicate its decision on offers made by the government on Tuesday (today).

Ogunyemi said contrary to some media reports, the union did not reject the offer of the Federal Government or make fresh demands.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, after meeting with the union on January 4, said government was about resolving the dispute with the lecturers who embarked on strike on November 5, 2018.

Ngige said the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation had provided evidence of N15.4 billion for the payment of salary shortfall in public universities.

He also noted that there was evidence that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved N20 billion to offset the outstanding arrears of the 2009 and 2012 audit verified earnings in the university system.

Ngige, however, said the fund was being worked on and would be released to ASUU as soon as the process was completed.

Ogunyemi told NAN: “We have been reviewing the offer made by the government and we have concluded our consultations with our members.

“We have concluded our consultations and hopefully by tomorrow we are going to transmit the feedback from our members to the Minister of Labour and Employment.

“What we said was that we are not insisting on having the total package.

“We are saying if government could give us one out of the five tranches on the revitalisation fund it will be a kind of bending backward in the interest of the students and national interest.

“So, rather than insisting that government should release a total of N1 trillion, which we know is not feasible, government can, at least, give one tranche that can be spread over four quarters, starting with the first quarter now.

“This is the shift that the media are misinterpreting to mean a fresh demand.

“There is no fresh demand on our list whether you are talking of revitalisation or earned academic allowance.”

On the issue of earned academic allowances, he said government had promised to release N20 billion and that the balance would be spread over four instalments but without stating timelines.

Ogunyemi said members of the union were insisting on having timelines for the payments.

He said: “Our members are also saying government had also promised to mainstream and that promise is not new, it was a promise of 2017.

“Our members have also noted that government had promised that the earned academic allowance will be paid within the mainstream budget, which they also promised to do in 2018, yet they did not do it.

“Our members are saying if you are promising again in 2019, let us see the evidence, which is clear enough.”

Ogunyemi also said members of the union were demanding to see the fund for salary shortfall paid into their accounts although they had seen the evidence of approval on paper.

He said the members of the union were demanding for concrete evidence on all outstanding areas that involved payments.

He said: “Our members are saying let us see concrete evidence that government has paid, not that government will be promising that it will do this and will do that.

“We did that with the N20 billion in 2017.

“Government promised to release N20 billion in two instalments for September and October 2017.

“That never happened until we went on strike in 2018.

“So, our members are saying, let’s go beyond writing anything on paper.

“Like I said earlier, on the issue of revitalisation, our members are saying we should not stop at tokenism.”

Ogunyemi said that ASUU had shown a lot of commitment and called on the government to commit itself by paying one year’s tranche.

NAN.

BIG STORY

FG Slashes Year 2020 Budget From N8.41tn To N5.08tn, Benchmark Oil Price At $30 Per Barrel, Sends To National Assembly For Review

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The Federal Government has revised downward the revenue projection for the 2020 budget by N3.3tn from the initial approved amount of N8.41tn to N5.08tn.

The revised revenue projection is contained in a proposal sent to the National Assembly by the executive.

The reduction became imperative in view of the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which had led to disruptions to global supply chains, a sharp drop in global crude oil prices, turmoil in global stock and financial markets.

These outcomes have had severe consequences on households’ livelihoods and business activities, resulting from a drop in global demand, declined consumer confidence and slowdown in production.

Based on the revenue parameters underlying the revised proposal, the Federal Government revised downwards the oil price benchmark from $57 per barrel to $30 per barrel.

Similarly, the oil production volume was reduced from 2.18 million barrels per day to 1.7 million barrels per day.

The exchange rate was however raised from N305 to a dollar to N360 to a dollar based on the devaluation of the naira by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

An analysis of the revenue items showed that oil revenue suffered the highest reduction of N2.38tn from the initial approved amount of N2.63tn to N254.25bn.

Based on the proposal, the dividend from the NLNG was reduced from N124.26bn to N80.37bn while non-oil revenue would witness a decline of N269bn from N1.8tn to N1.53tn.

In the same vein, revenue projection from the signature bonus was revised downward from N939.3bn to N568.68bn, while revenue from stamp duty was reduced from N463.94bn to N200bn.

However, independent revenue from agencies of government was increased by N66.88bn from N849.96bn to N916.84bn.

On the expenditure side, the executive is proposing a reduction of about N321bn in spending from the initial estimate of N10.59tn to N10.27tn.

Based on the revised proposal, statutory transfers were cut by N152.67bn from N560.47bn to N407.8bn, capital expenditure was revised downward by N155bn from N2.78tn to N2.62tn while recurrent expenditure was reduced by N25bn from N4.49bn to N4.46bn.

A breakdown of some of the Nigerian expenditure items showed that anniversaries/celebrations were reduced by N3.08bn; computer software, N3.14bn; office buildings, N24.86bn; residential buildings, N479.6m; monitoring and evaluation, N10.8bn; land acquisition, N1.45bn; computers, N1.9bn; purchase of motor vehicles, N5.25bn and office furniture, N3.94bn.

Others are rehabilitation of office building, N49.52bn; repair of residential buildings, N1.07bn; research and development, N45.6bn; provisions of roads, N1.96bn; provision of water facilities, N650m; provision of waterways, N650m; repairs of public schools, N330.85m and purchase of power generating set, N555.96m.

There is also a reduction of N176.5m on purchase of motorcycle; computer printers, N151.48m; photocopying machines, N131.46m; purchase of trucks, N134.46m; purchase of buses, N485.78m and purchaser of scanners, N193.74m, among others.

A further analysis of the proposal showed that the drop in revenue has widened the fiscal deficit by N3.01tn from the initial approved about of N2.17tn or 1.29 per cent to N5.18tn or 3.43 per cent.

According to the proposal, the fiscal deficit is expected to be financed through fresh borrowing of N4.43tn as against the initial borrowing plan of N1.59tn.

Also, the executive is proposing to raise N126.04bn from privatisation proceeds as against the initial projection of N252.08bn.

In the same vein, about N424.95bn is being projected to be raised from multilateral/bilateral project loans. This is about N96.83bn higher than the N328.12bn which had earlier been approved when the budget was signed by the President.

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Chinese Doctors Who Brought Medical Equipment To Help Fight COVID-19 In Nigeria Sent On 14 Days Isolation

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Amid a wave of opposition, 15 Chinese medical experts arrived in Nigeria on Wednesday, to join the battle against COVID-19.

The Federal Government received some medical equipment and supplies brought by the medical team which arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja in a chartered Air Peace flight.

China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), the sponsor of the trip, said they brought about 16-tons of test kits, ventilators, disinfection machine, disposable medical masks, N95 masks, medications, rubber gloves, protective gowns, goggles, face shields, infra-red thermometers, and others.

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who was at the airport to receive the Chinese and their supplies, said the team will be quarantined for two weeks.

“They knew that before they came and have undergone tests before they left their country.

“Nevertheless, they will be in quarantine for 14 days. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has gone to see where they will be quarantined.”

Ehanire added: “The equipment (they brought) will assist a lot to fill some existing gaps.

“We now have 50 more ventilators.”

Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian, said the equipment and medical supplies are valued at about $1.5million. Added to the cost of the flight, everything is worth about $2million.

Our reporter learnt that 12 of the 15-man team are doctors. The rest are specialists in infectious diseases, respiratory illnesses, intensive care, cardiology, neurology, general surgery, and anesthesiology.

CCECC Nigeria Managing Director, Michael Jiang, said in a statement: “The primary purpose of the working team is to escort the medical supply and provide guidance for their usage and distribution.

“They will also provide CCECC employees with critical and necessary healthcare assistance where necessary. They are also coming with adequate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and medical items for the employees.

“In addition, under the directive of the Chinese Embassy and in response to the Nigeria Government’s request, the working team may also share with Nigerian medical teams effective methods on how to contain the COVID-19 and provide advice on the use of relevant medical equipment.

“The team is not coming to treat COVID-19 patients in Nigeria.

“In keeping with its corporate value, ‘Stride with Nigeria’, CCECC is participating in the construction of two COVID-19 response facilities in the FCT for free as part of its Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR).

“The facilities are a 196-bed at ‘ThisDay Dome Treatment Centre,’ in collaboration with Sahara Group and Arise News; and the 150-bed ‘Idu Depot Treatment Centre’.”

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) re-iterated that the Chinese experts must not directly treat any Nigerian patient.

They described any attempt by the Chinese medical team to manage any Nigerian patient as unethical and illegal.

NMA President Dr Francis Faduyile told our reporter: “Our stand has not changed and we still insist that there is nothing that they (Chinese) want to offer that can improve what we have on the ground.

“There are so many things that we need to put into consideration because it is a war affecting ordinary Nigerians, and sometimes, you look at the risk and benefits.

“Our members will look at what is on the ground; if we are doing what we are doing and they (Chinese) do not interfere with us, we will continue doing what we are doing for Nigerians.

“We cannot now precipitously make a decision. We are an association that is bounded by ethics, and rules. In a very short while, you will hear our decision”

NARD President, Dr Sokomba Aliyu, said while the association was not against donations, the experts cannot attend to any Nigerian patient because they do not have the license to practice in Nigeria.

“We do not need their hands as we are not overwhelmed and can take care of our patients.

“So far, they have also stated that they are not coming to attend to patients, so we cannot say categorically if their words are anything to go by.

“While they (officials) have gone ahead to welcome the Chinese, we are hopeful that the Chinese will have nothing to do with our patients because if they proceed to involve the Chinese in the management of our patients, we will just leave the patients for the Chinese to continue.

“As it is now, we are going to be watchful and wait for them to see how far they are engaging the Chinese, and to what extent they are going to be managing our patients,” Aliyu said.

Also yesterday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked Nigerians to hold President Muhammadu Buhari responsible should there be an upsurge in the rate of COVID-19 infection and death following the arrival of the Chinese.

The party said it was alarmed that the President ignored the protests by Nigerians and professional bodies, including the NMA and allowed the Chinese doctors to be brought in “from the hotbed of the plague”.

PDP, through its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, questioned the safety of kits and equipment from China, adding that it was concerned about “scary reports of escalation of the scourge in certain countries reportedly after the arrival of Chinese medical personnel”.

“Our doctors and nurses have been on top of the situation with records of recoveries and fewer casualties, thus raising questions about the real intentions of bringing in doctors from China.

”Nigerians are aware that since the index case was reported till date, our nation’s COVID-19 data stands at 254 confirmed cases, out of which 44 have been successfully treated by our doctors with six deaths, which reportedly had other underlining ailments”, the party noted.

The figure rose to 276 last night.

The party charged Nigerians to be extra vigilant and asked the Presidential Task Force to outline the states and local government areas the Chinese doctors are expected to operate in for monitoring .

Also, the United Labour Congress (ULC) said while there is nothing wrong with seeking help, stakeholders should have been carried along.

Its President Comrade Joe Ajaero said in a statement: “We are surprised that the decision to bring in the Chinese medical experts was not fully discussed and agreed among the top medical practitioners and stakeholders in the nation… This is worrying.

“Why would such a crucial decision be taken in secret without coordinate input from the critical stakeholders in the nation?

“This sector is a highly specialized area which requires that at all times the input of the professionals in this sector to process the offer and agree on its mechanics and modalities.

“As we battle against COVID-19, we strongly believe that the nation’s medical experts must be involved if not allowed to be at the forefront of taking such crucial decisions.”

ULC urged the Federal Government to address Nigerians’ fears, especially as it relates coronavirus.

The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) said it would resist any move to deploy the Chinese medical team in Southeast and Southsouth.

Its leader Uchenna Madu said in a statement: “We shall resist any medical assistance from China…Medical doctors and other health workers in Southeast and Southsouth are capable and trained to handle every medical challenge professionally in those areas.”

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BIG STORY

COVID-19: Nigerians To Get 2-Month Free Electricity — DisCos

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The Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) have given assurance of its support for the plan to supply free electricity to all consumers, as one of the palliative measures to bring succor to Nigerians in the face COVID-19 induced period.

Mr Sunday Oduntan, Executive Director, Research and Advocacy Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), confirmed their support for the move on Wednesday in Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the House of Representatives is to consider a fresh Stimulus Bill that will allow Nigerians to enjoy electricity supply for two months without any charge.

According to Oduntan, details of the implementation of plans for the free electricity supply will come soon.

“We are completely aligned with the plans to ensure palliative measures, including free electricity supply to all Nigerians for two months, to make life easier, during the lockdown period.

“We recognize the challenging effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the economic and daily lives of our customers.

“In fulfillment of our commitments to the nation, we hereby align ourselves with the efforts of the National Assembly and the Federal Executive Council to mitigate the hardships that are currently faced by our customers and other citizens all over the country,” he said in a statement.

Oduntan said that DisCos also commended the Federal Legislators, the Executive arm and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) for the initiative.

He said that the DisCos were committed to working with them to ensure a more efficient power supply within this difficult period, as the nation battles with the ravages of COVID-19.

“Again, as a key utility player in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), we hereby reiterate our commitment to improving service delivery to the nation during this pandemic period and thereafter,” Oduntan said.

 

(NAN)

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