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NASS’ll resist concessioning of Ajaokuta Steel –Dogara

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Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has disclosed that the parlia-ment will resist any move to concession Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, saying doing so would amount to concenssioning Nigeria’s future.

The speaker, who said it is a collective shame to all leaders that the project is yet to be completed after so many years, spoke when he led members of the House Committee on Steel to the company in Kogi State.

Dogara also announced that the House will consult with stakeholders to work out ways to source for the $500 million needed to complete the last phase of the project. He said the reason why the steel company had not been completed was due to a leadership problem, saying where there is competent leadership, ways to source funding for such a multipotential company will not be a problem.

According to him, the present leadership has shown direction by first ending an arbitration case in foreign jurisdiction. Dogara said that there are many ways through which the $500 million can be sourced, including the Sovereign Wealth Fund, Excess Crude Account and recovered financial crimes loot.

The Speaker added that the House will hold another of its sectoral debates, where the lawmakers will meet with relevant agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) whose chairman, Ibrahim Magu, will be expected to brief the House how much it has recovered from corruption proceeds that can be applied into the completion of the project.

He explained that his determination to ensure that the steel company is revived is borne out of the promises that the company holds for Nigeria’s teeming population in the form of power and gas development, economic boost, thousands of jobs creation, development of manufacturing sector, development of infrastructure, investor appeal, among others. The speaker maintained that running and managing the company can be concessioned after completion, since government is not a good manager of companies.

He said: “Imagine if this plant had been completed in 1986, where Nigeria would be at the moment. “Any patriotic Nigerian that visits this place will shed tears irrespective of the part the person is from. And for a foreigner that visits here, when he hears people describe this place as a shithole, he will go with the impression that it may be true. We have no reason not to complete that plant. “You cannot concession your future, it is never done. I’m yet to see a nation that even concessions its bedrock and still succeeded. If you see one, just tell me.

And that’s why previous attempts to concession it were not possible. “We keep repeating the same things and expecting to get different results. That’s the definition of stupidity and since we are not stupid, we will not repeat it. We can make Nigeria proud so that every black man in the world can beat his chest.

Anyone who plans to outsource the completion of this plant will definitely run into problems with us.” Earlier, when the House delegation visited the Government House, the Speaker said: “I believe that as soon as we put this plant into operation, immediately there will be 10,000 jobs for engineers and technical staff. That’s even as the level of the first phase and talk about other non-engineering staff, thousands again and other splinter opportunities that will come, that’s a projected two million jobs.

“We don’t need money; all we need is leadership. Wherever you see development anywhere in the world, it is not money that brought it; some they say it is money, but it is leadership. As a matter of fact, it is even leadership that brings the money.

“Talking about leadership, we are not trying to put the blame at the doorstep of the executive, no. All of us are leaders and, as a matter of fact, it is to our collective shame that up till now, we have not been able to finish and put into operation this company that was started long ago in view of the major promises that it holds for the development of this country.

“But we want to thank God that we are now not short of leadership in this country. As a matter of fact, I was told that for some years, the plant was held down by a court action, arbitration instituted in a foreign jurisdiction.”

Governor Yahaya Bello commended Dogara for partnering with President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that the idle Ajaokuta Steel Company is revived and put into use again. He said: “What you and the House of Reps are doing is giving the younger generation their future. We are simply taking our destiny into our hands, not only will posterity be kind to you, God almighty will also be pleased with you,” he added.

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Lagos workers get N100m housing subvention

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…as Ambode okays Fagba flyover

Lagos State Head of Service, Mrs Folashade Adesoye yesterday said that the state had increased its budgetary provision for Housing loans for its members of staff from N50 million to N100 million with a view to improving workers’ welfare.

Adesoye, who disclosed this at the on-going ministerial briefing, said the Staff Housing Board had so far disbursed loans to about 280 public servants from various MDAs, saying a total of N95, 033, 564 had so far been disbursed to the staff.

She said: ‘’ I am extremely delighted to inform you that the budgetary provision for Housing loan has increased from N50 million to N100 million, laying credence to government’s commitment to staff welfare.

“However, owing to the increasing number of staff and the opening up of new residential areas, there is a conspicuous deficit in the number of buses. However, His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has promised to re-fleet the scheme with state –of – the-art buses.

“In a bid to develop a world class public service where staff have the right attitude, government has initiated issuance of Letters of Commendation to officer identified to have consistently met or exceeded set targets and exhibited exceptional work ethics and diligence in the discharge of their duties.’’

Meanwhile, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had approved construction of a flyover bridge at the Fagba intersection to ease perennial traffic gridlock and reduce travel time within the axis.

The governor approved the construction of the Fagba Flyover Bridge after an inspection of the ongoing construction of Pen Cinema Flyover Bridge, where he observed the need to holistically address the traffic gridlock around Agege-Iju axis to make Pen Cinema Flyover Bridge more effective.

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Stop killings or resign, protesters tell Buhari

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Hundreds of Catholic Church members yesterday staged a peaceful protest in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, over the horrendous killings in some parts of the country.

They asked President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently embark on measures to stop the killings and restore peace to troubled spots.

The protesters, who gathered at the St. Anne Catholic Church, Ibara, Abeokuta, took to the streets after a requiem mass for the repose of two priests and 17 parishioners killed in Benue State by suspected herdsmen in April.

 

They were armed with placards bearing inscriptions such as “President Buhari, protect Nigerians or resign,” “Human life is sacred,” “Killing is a sin,” “We want peace in Nigeria,” and “Enough is enough, government be responsible.”

Speaking with reporters after the mass, the Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta, Most Rev. Peter Odetoyinbo, said the Federal Government must act fast and curb wanton bloodshed in the country.

“Protection of lives is so important in the country. We must protect lives.”

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Editorial

End health workers’ strike now

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The game being played by the Federal Government and health workers under the auspices of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) is dangerous to the health of Nigerians and the economic wellbeing of the Nigerian nation.

 

On April 17, JOHESU called out its members, which include the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutes (SSAUTHRIA), National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Medical and Health Workers Union (NHWU) and the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Workers (NUAHP), on a nationwide strike to force the hands of the Federal Government to accede to its requests.

 

JOHESU’s demands include the implementation of the adjusted Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS), the payment of specialist allowances to deserving health professionals, payment of arrears of the skipping of CONHESS 10, increase of retirement age of health workers from 60 to 65 years and the review of the composition of the Boards of Federal Health Institutions (FHIs), as well as the abolition of the position of Deputy Chairman Medical Advisory Committee (DCMAC), among others.

 

But the Federal Government, from all indications, is not ready to accede to the striking workers’ demands.

 

In one of his reactions to the strike, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said JOHESU’s demand to be on the same pay level with doctors was not realistic. Adewole, said instead, salaries and wages of the health workers would be adjusted.

 

While the altercation between the union and the Federal Government is going on, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) threw its hat in the ring.

 

The association threatened to embark on strike if the Federal Government acceded to JOHESU’s demands. Both the F e d e r a l G ov e r n – ment and the NMA seem to be on the same page in terms of their stand on the JOH E S U ’ s strike. But while the Federal G ov e r n – ment and the medical pract i t i o n e r s have taken healthcare to the chess b o a r d , many people, the majority being the poor, are paying the price.

 

While patients have been sent away from public health facilities, those who could afford to pay have gone to seek medical attention in private hospitals.

 

But those who could not pay have resigned to fate. It may be difficult to get the number of those who might have died because of lack of data in Nigeria. But certainly, a lot would have needlessly lost the battle to stay alive, albeit due to what could be termed minor health challenges, because of the ongoing strike. The strike has claimed lives. We sympathise with the 19 members of JOHESU who were injured in an accident on the Benin-Auchi Road on Saturday.

 

About 40 health workers, said to be staff of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) chapter of the union, were on their way to a function in line with the strike in Auchi, when the accident occurred. An engineer with an information technology firm reportedly lost his life.

 

The man, a victim of armed robbery, was reportedly rejected at a private hospital because there was no police report, but there were no health workers to attend to him at the government-owned health facility he was later taken to.

 

So the breadwinner of a family lost his life because of the strike. Several others are dying but their deaths are probably not reported. Unfortunately, the strike came when the President also had to take a medical trip to the United Kingdom. But apart from the leaders, how many Nigerians could afford to go outside the country for medical attention?

 

That probably explains why the leaders may not be keen in addressing the demands of the striking health workers.

 

While we cannot deny workers, particularly those in the health sector, the right to take steps to seek redress to their perceived short-change in the hands of their employers, going on strike at the slightest opportunity does nobody no good. In other climes, strikes have gone out of fashion. We encourage workers’ unions in Nigeria to devise new but proactive means to get employers to accede to their demands.

 

It is also pertinent to note that JOHESU was yet to comply with the directive by the National Industrial Court (NIC), Abuja, which, last Thursday, ordered the union to suspend its strike and resume duties within 24 hours.

 

Justice Babatunde Adejumo, who is president of NIC, gave the order after listening to the submissions of Mr. Okere Nnamdi in an ex-parte motion filed by a non-governmental organisation, Incorporated Trustees of Kingdom Human Rights Foundation International.

 

Adejumo ordered the Ministers of Health, Labour and Employment, among others, to immediately set up a committee to address issues raised by labour.

 

The judge ordered that the parties should arrive at an acceptable and amicable solution in the interest of Nigerians who are bearing the brunt of the strike action. We also implore the Federal Government to immediately find a lasting solution to the incessant strikes in the health sector.

 

This is necessary in order to safe many more souls which will be lost to the strike. A failed nation is it which cannot provide for the economic and health needs of its citizens.

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