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Strike: FG Makes Fresh Offer, ASUU Insists On UTAS

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The House of Representatives, on Thursday, concluded its meetings with stakeholders over the lingering crisis between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, saying its recommendations would soon be presented to President Muhammadu Buhari.

At the third of the series of marathon meetings held in Abuja, the government’s side urged ASUU to allow their accommodation under the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.

The ASUU side, however, insisted on an independent and domesticated platform for university lecturers, challenging the National Information Technology Development Agency to prove that the University Transparency Accountability Solution recommended by it failed the integrity test.

The invited parties appeared before the House on Thursday, with the representatives of the government making a fresh offer to ASUU to allow a modification of the IPPIS to accommodate the peculiarities UTAS seeks to recognise.

This is just as Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the report of the stakeholders’ roundtable and the recommendations of the parliament would soon be ready.

Gbajabiamila, in his closing remarks at the end of the meeting that lasted two hours, pleaded with ASUU to accept whatever the House eventually recommends in good faith.

He said, “I believe this would be, hopefully, the last meeting we are going to have on this matter because from here, the leadership of the House will put together our reports, our recommendations, and our thoughts and take them to Mr President.

“I am hoping that whatever we have done, ASUU will accept it in good faith—this is an independent arm of the government—and that the government will accept it in good faith as well so that our children can return to school, which is what this is all about.”

It was earlier reported that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, stated that the ministers cannot sign any agreement with ASUU until the President approves it, considering the prevailing realities.

Also, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Folashade Yemi-Esan, pointed out that the government cannot run two parallel payment platforms for workers due to the huge financial implication, urging ASUU to allow the university system to be captured under IPPIS.

The ASUU President, Emmanuel Osodeke, however, pointed out that allowing the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to determine who should be paid in the universities would usurp the powers conferred on the governing councils of the institutions.

Osodeke also criticised IPPIS for failing to capture the nuances of university systems.

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JUST IN: 31-Yr-Old Belgium Star, Eden Hazard Quits International Football

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Belgium star Eden Hazard announced his retirement from international football on Wednesday, days after the team crashed out of the World Cup in the group stage.

The Real Madrid forward, 31, made the announcement on social media, saying “a page turns today”.

“Thank you for your unparalleled support,” he posted on Instagram.

“Thank you for all this happiness shared since 2008. I have decided to put an end to my international career.

“The succession is ready. I will miss you.”

Hazard was the standard-bearer of Belgium’s much-vaunted “golden generation”, which reached the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The ageing team failed to make it past the first round in Qatar, finishing third in Group F behind Morocco and Croatia.

 

Credit: AFP

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Post-COVID Protest: China Loosens Strict Restrictions 2-Yrs After Pandemic

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China announced Wednesday a nationwide loosening of Covid restrictions following protests against the hardline strategy that grew into calls for greater political freedoms.

Anger over China’s zero-Covid policy, which involved mass lockdowns, constant testing and quarantines even for people who are not infected, stoked unrest not seen since the 1989 pro-democracy protests.

Under the new guidelines announced by the National Health Commission, the frequency and scope of PCR testing — long a tedious mainstay of life in zero-Covid China — will be reduced.

Lockdowns will also be scaled down and people with non-severe Covid cases can isolate at home instead of centralised government facilities.

And people will no longer be required to show a green health code on their phone to enter public buildings and spaces, except for “nursing homes, medical institutions, kindergartens, middle and high schools.”

The new rules scrap the forced quarantines for people with no symptoms or with mild cases.

“Asymptomatic infected persons and mild cases who are eligible for home isolation are generally isolated at home, or they can voluntarily choose centralised isolation for treatment,” the new rules read.

“Mass PCR testing only carried out in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and high-risk work units; scope and frequency of PCR testing to be further reduced,” they added.

“People travelling across provinces do not need to provide a 48h test result and do not need to test upon arrival.”

China will also accelerate the vaccination of the elderly, the NHC said, long seen as a major obstacle to the relaxation of Beijing’s no-tolerance approach to Covid.

Rare demonstrations against the ruling Communist Party’s zero-Covid strategy broke out across China late last month.

They expanded into calls for more political freedoms, with some even calling for President Xi Jinping to resign.

Authorities cracked down on subsequent efforts to protest while easing a number of restrictions, with some Chinese cities tentatively rolling back mass testing and curbs on movement.

The capital Beijing, where many businesses have fully reopened, said this week that commuters were no longer required to show a negative virus test taken within 48 hours to use public transport.

Financial hub Shanghai, which underwent a brutal two-month lockdown this year, announced the same rules, with residents able to enter outdoor venues such as parks and tourist attractions without a recent test.

And once dominated by doom and gloom coverage of the dangers of the virus and scenes of pandemic chaos abroad, China’s tightly controlled media dramatically shifted tone to support a tentative moving away from zero-Covid.

The prevalent Omicron strain is “not at all like last year’s Delta variant,” Guangzhou-based medicine professor Chong Yutian said in an article published by the Communist Party-run China Youth Daily.

“After infection with the Omicron variant, the vast majority will have no or light symptoms, and very few will go on to have severe symptoms, this is already widely known,” he assured readers.

But analysts at Japanese firm Nomura on Monday calculated that 53 cities — home to nearly a third of China’s population — still had some restrictions in place.

Wednesday’s announcement came hours after the government released further data showing the crippling economic impacts of zero-Covid.

Imports and exports plunged in November to levels not seen since early 2020.

Imports in November fell 10.6 percent year-on-year, the biggest drop since May 2020, according to the General Administration of Customs. Exports fell 8.7 percent over the same period.

 

Credit: AFP

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19-Yr-Old Endurance Arrested After Defrauding A British Lady Of £450K And Using The Money To Buy Cars, Gold Chains, Others

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A 19-year-old  man, Iredia Endurance has been arrested by the operatives of Benin Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for alleged fraud.

According to a statement released by Wilson Uwujaren, spokesperson of the anti-graft agencym says Endurance was recently arrested by the Commission following a petition by one Chrstine Brown, a British citizen, alleging that the suspect defrauded her of £450,000.00.

“Upon arrest, the suspect confessed he received £250,000.00 from the complainant in Bitcoin, FedEx and gift cards. On what he did with the money, the suspect averred that they were expanded on cars, gold chains, and landed properties, among others.

Some of the items recovered from the suspect include mobile  phones, laptops, sim cards and landed property.” He added that the suspect will be charged to court as soon as investigations are concluded.

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