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Research institutes’ strike: Nigeria risks economic slump



The indefinite nationwide strike of the three unions – ASURI, NASU and (SSAUTHRIAI – in the nation’s research institutes and other allied institutions, has entered its fourth month without any deliberate move or action by the Federal Government to address the crisis



Almost four months into the indefinite nationwide strike by the three workers’ unions in the country’s about 100 research institutes and allied institutions, there seems to be no concrete efforts by the Federal Government to address the crisis. The industrial action, which has since paralysed research activities in the institutes and centres, has put the country’s research development on the verge of imminent collapse.

There are growing indications that the unresolved face-off between the FederalGovernmentandtheworkers’ unions hasfurthercrippledthenationaleconomy, especially health, agriculture, livestock, andotheralliedsectors, including marine and veterinary, where research efforts have since been put on hold.

Indeed, the three main workers’ unions in the research institutes, including the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI) and the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions (ASURI), under the aegis of the Joint Research and Allied Institutions Sector Unions (JORAISU) had since November 4, last year.

This is as New Telegraph has authoritatively learnt that the members of staff of the institutes are leaving in droves for the university system, especially private universities, where they are sure of receiving their salary regularly.

This is a development which stakeholder regretted would further cripple the system. Worried by government’s attitude in resolving the face-off, the workers have raised the alarm that all ongoing research projects which have timelines have been abandoned across all the institutions.

For instance, due to the strike the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) has been unable to raise seedlings for this year’s planting season, while other crop and livestock institutes are similarly affected. This development has raised palpable fear of the possibilities of economic slump, increased hunger and poverty in the country.

Expectedly, the unions, which are challenging the Federal Government for its refusal to address their demands and grievances, have vowed not to return to work. Some of the issues raised by the unions include the agitation for negotiation of a separate salary structure for the Research and Allied Institutions, non-payment of outstanding 12 months arrears of CONRAISS, approval of the reviewing conditions of workers’ services, non-implementation of the retirement age of 65 years; demand for the withdrawal of circular on non-skipping of CONTISS 10; payment of Peculiar/Earned Allowance, establishment of a central body for the effective co-ordination of research activities in the research institutes to be known as the National Research Institute Commission (NARICOM) and increased funding of Research Institutes. According to a letter dated November 30, 2017 which was jointly signed by the trio of General Secretary of NASU, Comrade Peters Adeyemi; General Secretary of SSAUTHRAI, Comrade Moshood Akinade, and the Secretary General of ASURI, Comrade Dr. T.C.N Ndubuaku and which was sent to the Chairman, House of representatives Committee on Agriculture Colleges and Institutions, the unions had put forward the eleven demands for negotiation.

These are the outstanding payment of N8.2 billion, which the then administration of erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan, according to the unions, failed to pay, and which the present President Muhammadu Buhari-led administrationi has also not attended to after 32 different meetings between the leadership of the unions and government representatives.When New Telegraph visited some of the institutes in Lagos, Abuja and Ibadan, such as the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Obafemi Awolowo University, and the National Centre for Generic Research and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), as well as the Nigerian institute for Oceanography and Marine Research, Lagos; Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO), Lagos; Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR); IITA, and in Abuja, the Nigerian Institute of Pharnmaceutical Research, Abuja, activities were paralysed and the system totally shut down.

A source at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos, who spoke to New Telegraph on condition of anonymity, hinted that the strike had further worsened the situation at the centre, wherethereisthedearthof researchequipment and facilities to culture and type the various epidemic ravaging the country, especially now that the scourge of Lassa Fever is taking its toll on the nation. Meanwhile, the National Secretary of ASURI, Dr. Theophilus Ndubuaku, in a telephone chat with New Telegraph, however, said: “The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria has onerous mandate for research and development in six crop areas.

These are cocoa, kola, coffee, tea, palm and cashew, which are export crops that can earn huge income for the nation. As we are talking, the period for raising seedlings for these crops is already gone with this strike. All the research works or activities the researchers had begun before the strike have to be restarted afresh and we all know the implications of this on the economy.” In the area of crop development, he added; “All the inputs that the farmers required for next planting season might have gone down the drain as there may be no planting next season especially in oil palm and rubber research since most of the seedlings are expected to be raised during the dry season for planting in the raining season.”

This, according to him, is how it has been with institutes that are involved in other crops as well as annual crops such as cassava, maize, rice and wheat. He, however, lamented that every research institute has been grounded, saying if care was not taken, the country might go back to a fresh economic recession since farmers would have no seedlings to plant next season. While painting a gloomy picture, the union leader, who insisted that the Federal Government should be blamed for these lapses, also regretted that this would increase hunger and poverty in the land, and as well reduce the income earned from foreign exchange through export of crops.

“This will definitely threaten food supply chain and food sufficiency,” Ndubuaku said, stressing that the institutes do not have funding for research as most researchers have to fund their research on their own for lack of funding by the government. Speaking further, he recounted: “The Federal Government does not pay our salary and still expect us to fund research on our own.

We have a condition of service that has been pending on the drawing board for 10 years and the government for whatever reason has been dragging its foot. “You can imagine that a research institute in Nigeria, a country that is in the quest for development, does not have an acceptable condition of service for the workers that are expected to be responsible for the technological development and breakthrough of the nation.

“It is only through research that a nation could be developed because neglecting research is an abomination and antithetical.” Worried by the implications of the strike on the national economy, the Acting President of SSAUTHRIAI, identified simply as Dr. Akintola, also blamed the crisis on the Federal Government for separating research from development, saying without research the country cannot move forward.

“The strike has a lot of negative implications on the economic sector. First, the government is merely toiling with research, forgetting that some researches are tied to a particular season, and failure to conduct them at that season, either raining or dry season, would negatively affect the outcome of such research efforts,” Akintola said. Akintola, who said there would be a rally today in Abuja, hinted that the protest to National Assembly Complex is to further sensitise Nigerians to the plight of the institutes and the workers. In fact, he explained that the rally was being organised to call on well-meaning Nigerians and organisations to prevail on the government to address the demands of the unions, with a view to getting the institutes back on stream.

On when the unions will likely call off the strike, Akintola said there was no plan to either suspend or call off the strike since the government is not forthcoming with any concrete action. According to the workers, theongoingstrikebecameinevitable n due to the Federal Government’s failure to pay their N8.2 billion outstanding salary from an increment of 53.37 per cent for 12 months, which was signedwiththeFederalGovernment on July 3, 2014. The unions, which vowed not to return to their duties, therefore, lamented that with the various presentations, the Federal Government, no doubt, had not exhibited enough commitment towards the workers’ plight, as well as research development in the country. Akintola wondered how the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, at the last meeting with the unions on December 6, 2017, never mentioned anything whether the ongoing strike should be called off or not.

“The agreement had been reached with us to pay the N8.2 billion since January 2011. What we are asking is the implementation of the agreement. On July 7, 2010, we wrote to the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission on behalf of the staff of the Polytechnics and Colleges of Education, as well as those of the Federal Colleges of Agriculture, and via a letter signed by S.U. Ukut, dated 23rd July, 2010, their demands were granted. Why not ours since?” Akinade queried. In a new twist to their demands, the workers, who converged on Enugu last week, are requesting the government to initiate a review of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) Act to include research institutions among the beneficiaries.

The unions, which made the call during a protest at the Project Development Institute in Enugu, expressed dismay over poor funding of the institutes, which according to them, had become a major challenge to the research institutions in the country. For the umpteenth time, the union vowed not to call off the ongoing industrial action until the Federal Government addressed their grievances, insisting that since TETFund is meant for research and development of infrastructure at the institutions, it would be illogical to exclude research institutions from the fund. According to the Deputy President/Chairman, Research and Projects Trade Group Council, Wakili Tijani, the aggrieved workers are not going to back down from any of their demands.

“Council resolved that the strike must continue; it must be total and comprehensive as no concession of any sort shall be granted to management and government until outstanding issues are positively addressed,” he said. Also, in a circular jointly signed by Adeyemi, Akinade, and Ndubuaku, said the leadership of the unions had decided that all their workers should demonstrate at their institutes so as to get the attention of the public to the nonchalant attitude of government towards research in the country.

The Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions, Project Development Agency, Enugu chapter, Teddy Udeinya, however, bemoaned the attitude of the Federal Government, saying it is not encouraging research in the country. According to him, the country would not make any progress in a situation in which the government has refused to fund research and development.

He said: “You cannot conduct research without money, and one of the major problems in the country is poor funding of research institutions. We don’t have enough tools and equipment for research. “There is also the need for improved remuneration for staff of research institutes. The Federal Government cannot continue talking of economic diversification without research, but at the moment the research institutes are all neglected. “It seems the country is retrogressing in the area of research and development. We are not going back to work until the Federal Government listened to us.”

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Ipokia Youth holds symposium on ICT entrepreneurship




The annual Ipokia Youth symposium is set to hold this Saturday with issues about youth entrepreneurship in the Information Technology expected to dominate the discourse.

According to a statement issued by the Chairman of the Central Organising Committee of the symposium, Mr. Ola Agbetokun, the theme of the event is “Reconciling Ipokia Youth with Global Youth Initiative and Techno-Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century”.

Agbetokun said the symposium, which will take place at Ipokia Town Hall, will also be used to present a certificate of recognition to eminent sons and daughters of the town.

“The underlining objective of the symposium is to increase the knowledge base of youths in the dynamic ICT sector; expose them to the opportunities in the sector and how to tap into it.

“The Ipokia Youth Development Council (IPYDC) is concerned with the growing numbers of unemployed youths in our local government and we believe that access to information on how to tap into the opportunities in the ICT sector will make some of our youths to become entrepreneurs in their own way.”

Other expected high points of the annual event include launching of N12million Appeal Funds for the construction of Youth Development Centre, quiz competition and debates amongst Secondary School students, business mentoring sessions.

Notable dignitaries expected to grace the occasion include Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; the Chairman, Ipokia Oba-in-Council, Ambassador Adesola Abolurin; Otunba Akeem Adigun (Socopao); Alhaji Segun Adeosun, Alhaji Taiwo Elegbede¸and Asst. Comptroller of Customs, Bola Adegbite, among others.

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JUST IN: Student killed during protest at Plateau College of Education



The Management of the College of Education Gindiri, Mangu Local Government of Plateau state has close down academic activities in the School indefinitely, following students protest, which claimed the life of a student and properties worth millions of naira also destroyed.

Investigation revealed that the students had embarked on a protest demanding for the released of the identification card and also cancellation of a National Health Insurance Scheme NHIS Policy which they claimed to have paid to the school, but whenever the approach the school clinic the management still as them to pay another money.

New Telegraph gathered that during the protest, the students on rampage burnt down the school Clinic and also damage several cars belonging to staffs as well as destroyed doors and windows of the Administrative buildings of the institution before the arrival of the security.

Public Relationship officer of the School Mrs Elizabeth Aboreng who spoke New Telegraph on a Telephone call disclose that the students from NCE Two class had protested the released of their ID card by the school management and later took laws into their hands by burning down properties in the institution including the school clinic and Ambulance.

“The Management of the institution has close down the school indefinitely, Because the students of NCE two had issues of Identification Card which was not released to them, but the made the Acting Provost Mr Cornelius Ka-ankuka and he resolved that the ID Card was to be made available today, but surprisingly today the students went on rampage without waiting to collect the ID cards and burn down two ambulances belonging to the school, burn down the clinic and also destroy staffs cars” she said.

However, New Telegraph gathered that in the midst of the protests, one student was alleged to have been hit by a stray bullet and died on the spot.

When contacted, the Plateau State Police command, Public Relations officer, DSP Mathias Tyopev, confirmed the incident and said he is expecting details from the Divisional Police officer of Gindiri, Mangu LGC of the state.

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2018 UTME: Candidates protest exam date, seek postponement



Human and vehicular movements along Bariga-Akoka road, Lagos, were, this afternoon, impeded when hundreds of candidates, who have registered to sit the 2018 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) staged a protest over what they described as the inconsiderate stance of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) by fixing the examination for March.

The candidates carried placards with various inscriptions such as; “Admissions are yet to close, why conducting another UTME now?”; “JAMB isn’t for revenue generation, stop milking our parents,” “2017 UTME held in May, why March in 2018?” “2018 admissions not transparent,” among others.

They said many of them who had hoped to be admitted by various institutions during the 2017/2018 academic calendar year just found out this week that they were not admitted and that less than one month cannot be enough to prepare for another examination.

But JAMB has justified the decision to hold the examination between March 9 and 17, noting that it was a decision jointly taken by other examination bodies to avoid clash of timetables and to ensure that all admissions are concluded by August every year for smooth academic system.

The examination body, however, advised the 245,000 candidates billed to take part in its Monday Mock test to visit the website to reprint their slips and prepare adequately for the examination.

Addressing the press during the protest, the National President of the Association of Tutorial School Operators (ATSO), Mr. Dotun Sodunke, who led the candidates to the streets, said if allowed to hold as scheduled Nigeria would experience another round of mass failure.

He said if JAMB was not only concerned about generating revenue for the government it would consider the candidates in fixing the date for the examination, saying it is obvious that there was no way the candidates would complete the UTME syllabus under one month.

Sodunke added that institutions like the University of Benin, Yaba College of Technology, among others, still released admission list on Wednesday, and that the students who had applied to such institutions but are yet to be admitted would not concentrate on preparation for another examination.

He said; “The new head of JAMB needs to be called to order. He should not be carried away by the euphoria of revenue generation. The future of this country depends on these children. JAMB is sure that if you conduct the exam early, many candidates would fail, and they would come back to register again next year. This is so because their children don’t school here.

“Admissions are yet to be concluded, yet you are fixing date for another one. Who does that? The introduction of the Central Admission Processing System (CAPS) is also a fraud. You would be admitted on JAMB portal and on CAPS page it would deny you admission. Everything is done in secrecy as we don’t even know which schools are organizing post-UTME and which ones are not. Every institution is doing what it wants. Things must not go on like this.”

However, the Head of the Press and Public Relations Unit of JAMB, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, explained that there was yet no basis for the postponement being sought by the candidates, saying the date had been fixed as early as December, 2017, and that it was made public.

Benjamin said; “We need to place the interest of this country above selfish interest. The candidates are not the ones staging protest but the tutorial centres operators, and parents must intervene to rein them in. They are doing this because they want to keep the candidates at their centres till May so that they can get more money from them. Things are not done that way.

“JAMB is not alone in this business. All stakeholders in Nigeria’s education sector have realised that our calendar must be organised and firm as we experience abroad, and it must start somewhere. Even if heaven will fall, the new government wants to ensure that academic calendar starts every August, and that is why all admissions will be concluded by August this year. So if these candidates are affected, we apologise to them, it is for their good and the good of the nation.”

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