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Research institutes’ strike: Nigeria risks economic slump

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STRIKE
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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Education

Bello grants scholarship to Best Graduating student from Law School

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Ms. Fatima Bombom Sani, the best graduating student at the 2015 Call to Bar examination of the Nigerian Law School, has been granted academic scholarship to the tune of $93,000  by the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

This was made known at the award ceremony at Government House Kogi State over the weekend when the governor received Ms. Fatima Sani, her relatives, alongside Bar. Natasha Akpoti.  In his speech, the governor lamented a situation where academic excellence has not been given the requisite reward in Nigeria.

“The case of Fatima Sani reminds me of how academic excellence has not been adequately rewarded in Nigeria. Imagine someone that bagged nine separate awards including “Best Student of the Year and Council of Education Star Award, and nothing was done for her since 2015.”

The governor also thanked Barr. Natasha Hadiza Akpoti for taking up the case of Fatima Sani by starting an awareness campaign about her academic feat. “I thank Barr. Natasha Akpoti for this if not we won’t all be gathered here.

It was Bar. Natasha Akpoti, who sought the intervention of the Kogi State Governor who was not only surprised but disappointed that Fatima was left unsupported while no information was brought to his office concerning her case.

“I heard about your exceptional performance at the Nigerian Law School in 2015 and assumed you were recognized and sponsored by the administration of the day. It’s unacceptable that such brilliance is not celebrated and promoted. Nevertheless, now that your genuine self is before me, I shall grant you a personal scholarship to celebrate your exceptionality and help your career-defining goals.”

Governor Yahaya Bello stated that after some inquiries and validation of Fatima’s credentials, he in his capacity declared a full scholarship for Fatima to study Masters in Finance Law at the Colombian Law School, in the United States of America.

Gov. Bello thanked Natasha Akpoti for her humanitarian efforts in bringing Fatima’s issue while urging Fatima to uphold her academic excellence and make Nigeria proud and return home to serve her fatherland.

Barr. Natasha Akpoti in her remark thanked the Governor for his benevolence and penchant for promoting academic excellence. “We must celebrate heroes like Fatima in other to motivate young people especially girls towards exceptional educational performances.” She equally advised Fatima to go for her studies and come back to contribute her quota to the development of Kogi state and Nigeria while being a source of inspiration to others.

It would be recalled that Barr. Natasha Akpoti had on the 27th of April 2018 via her Facebook page, advocated for sponsorship to help Fatima further her academic dreams having emerged as the best graduating student at the 2015 Bar exam where she bagged nine separate awards including “Best Student of the Year and Council of Education Star Award.

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Education

AAUA: Mass withdrawal of students looms over fee hike

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  • Visitation panel report: Stakeholders chide govt over delay
  • We’ve handed over report to councils – Commissioner

 

WITHDRAWAL
Some indigent students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA) are said to be prepared to withdraw from the institution as they are yet to make headway in their efforts to raise their new school fees

 

 

These are challenging times for indigent students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA) and their parents, as many of them are allegedly set to withdraw from the institution due to the astronomical hike in fees.

Following the hike in fees, which was jerked up from between N30,000 to N35,000, to between N80,000 to N150,000 by the management, some students have allegedly shunned the ongoing registration, which is billed to end on Saturday, May 26.

For instance, Richard Olaosebikan, a 300-Level undergraduate of the Department of Political Science, said he was yet to pay the new school fees, as he still struggling to meet up.

He said: “Paying new fees has been difficult for me because things are very hard. I have struggled to make part-payment and I hope I could meet up to pay the rest before the close of portal on Saturday. I am speaking to some people who could help me and I pray they respond before then. I am presently in school to see what I can do and I hope that I will meet up.”

Also, Olaosebikan’s friend, Success Ibitoye, a 400-Level student of the Faculty of Agriculture, New Telegraph gathered, might be forced to drop out of the university if he receives no assistance before Saturday.

According to his friend, Ibitoye is yet to pay a kobo from his school fees which is about N150,000 and to worsen his situation, he does not have any hope of doing so any moment from now simply because of his parents’ background and the harsh economy downturn in the country.

Expressing his predicament, a parent has revealed that contrary to the acclaimed N150,000 fees for the Faculty of Law students, he said he eventually paid N200,000 when departmental fees, and other sundry levies were added.

According to the parent, out of 35 fresh Law students admitted by the university, who are currently undergoing their registration, as at Friday, May 18, only about 15 students were yet to pay their fees, suggesting that they might lose their admission.

But, the spokesman for the university, Mr. Sola Imoru, who said he was not aware of such development, however, noted that the university had since inaugurated the Students’ Support Service to address the challenges of such students that are genuine.

Such students with genuine complaints are expected to visit the Students’ Support Service purposely established by the management for such complaints,” Imoru said, insisting that those alleged to have withdrawn did so out of sheer ignorance.

According to him, the university last week organized an orientation session for the fresh students, where the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Igbekele Ajibefun, addressed them on this issue, among others.

Again, the Chairman of the university’s Council, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, who also claimed ignorance of the withdrawal of students, hinted that if such case would arise at all, it would be very low. He said the management would look into it with a view to assisting such students.

Also commenting, the Chairman of the institution’s chapter of the Senior Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Mr. Tope Famuti said there was yet to be any information to that effect, saying though the fees were increased based on faculty or department, it was not enough for students to withdraw.

According to him, the students were paying about N35,000 before it was increased to between N80,000 and N150,000, but they have the opportunity to pay more than once.
“To the best of my knowledge I don’t have such information as a stakeholder and I am a worker here,” he stressed.
However, his Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) counterpart, Dr. Sola Fayose said it was too hasty to draw such conclusion that some students of the university were withdrawing for their inability to pay the new fees regime.
“For now, we can’t say precisely as the students are still undergoing their registration. Such withdrawal could only be firmly established after their registration and during examination, when we will be able to discover whether some students are no longer in the class.

“Until after registration and examination we cannot determine whether some students have withdrawn or not,” Fayose said.
Meanwhile, major stakeholders in Ondo State education sector have condemned the state government-led by Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu for its perceived delay in releasing the reports of the Visitation Panel constituted for higher institutions in the state.

They expressed worry that the reports might have been swept under the carpet by the governor, almost four months after the Panel submitted it to the government
Governor Akeredolu, who is the Visitor to the institutions, had on November 21, 2017, inaugurated the Visitation Panel to all the four state-owned tertiary institutions, including the Ondo State University of Science and Technology (OSUSTECH), Okitipupa; the University of Medical Sciences (UNIMED), Ondo; Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo (RUGIPO); and the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA).

The visitation panel to the Ondo State University of Science and Technology was chaired by Prof. Olumide Tewe, while the University of Medical Sciences panel was chaired Prof. Ayo Arowojolu and Rufus Giwa Polytechnic by Prof. Sunday Adewale; and Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, was chaired by Dr. Goke Adegoroye.

Meanwhile, several memoranda in form of reports, petitions and appeals were received from the public, student unions, members of the various university communities, as well as other stakeholders and workers’ unions including ASUU, SSANU, NASU, and the National Association of Academic Technicians (NAAT).

The panel, among other terms of reference was to recommend measures and actions to reposition the institutions for optimal performance, examine the financial management of all the tertiary institutions and determine their compliance with appropriate regulations; examine the financial management of the university including subventions, grants, loans and internally generated revenue and determine their compliance with appropriate regulations; examine adequacy of staff and staff development programmes of the university.

The panel, which reports the governor said would reposition the institutions, was also to examine industrial relations among management, staff and students and recommend ways to achieving lasting peace and harmony; examine the state landed properties and other assets of the university; and recommend measures and actions to reposition the university for optimal performance.

It’s believed that issues ranging from repositioning of the various institutions, miss-governance, financial challenges, over-bloated employment, among others, will be considered by the panels.

Other expected recommendations are issues concerning cooperative societies’ deductions, school fees and student welfare; staff issues such as wrongful termination of appointments, withheld promotions, victimization, and administrative issues.

Other critical areas the panel was expected to cover include subventions to the university and their spending, award of contracts, inflation of contracts, financial recklessness, incompetency and moral ineptitude in the system.

With the submission of the report since Friday, January 26, this year, the stakeholders expressed regret over the delay in the release.
But, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Yemi Olowolabi, who exonerated the government from the delay in implementing the panel’s report, however, told New Telegraph that the governor, after presentation of the report to the State Executive Council, had immediately transmitted same to the Governing Council of the respective institutions on their inauguration.

“There is autonomy of the institutions and what the government did was to transmit the report to the council of the respective higher institutions on their inauguration for implementation. So, it will be wrong to blame the state government for the delay in implementing the report,” the Commissioner said.
But, contrary to the state government’s claim that the report had been handed over to the Governing Councils of the different institutions, Dr. Abayomi, in a phone call, denied ever receiving such report from the state government.

He, however said the document may have been handed over to the Vice-Chancellor, who he noted is yet brief him.
“I am not aware of such report. I still spoke with the Vice-Chancellor today (Sunday) and I don’t know if he had received such. But, it has not come to my notice. I will see him (Vice-Chancellor) on Thursday this week, maybe he is holding the report till then,” Abayomi said.

Also, the university’s spokesman denied any knowledge of such document, whether or not such had been handed over to the Council or the management.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of ASUU, Dr. Fayose, described the governor’s delay in making the panel’s report public as a disservice to the collective development of the institutions.
“Since the report was submitted in January 26, this year, we have been awaiting the White Paper, that will usher in its implementation but this has not been done,” he said, the government has not done things properly.

“If the inauguration of the panel and presentation of the report were made public, the state government should also make public the handing over as claimed by the same government to the councils so that we will know those to hold accountable. But, as it is now we find it is difficult to believe the government.”

Also, the Chairman of SSANU, Famuti, who echoed the position of ASUU, wondered while government had not released the report or made it public.

He said; “There is no gain-saying that public funds have been expended on the various panels which comprise of men and women of integrity, who not only sacrificed their time and energy, but also their experience from various fields to put the report that would give a better direction to our tertiary institutions in the state under the carpet.”

 

 

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Education

FCT students shine at Korea, FG art competition

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No fewer than 30 primary schools across the six Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja participated in the ninth Drawing competition, jointly organised by the Federal Government and South Korea.

The competition was instituted in 2010 to mark the diplomatic ties between South Korea and Nigerian governments.
This year’s edition of the competition, which had as theme: “Peace and Conflict Resolution,” showcased a total collection of 150 artworks from students in the FCT.

According to the Director, Korea Cultural Centre Nigeria (KCCN), Mr. Han Sungrae, the essence of the competition was to help children to benefit from the positive effects that arts, especially drawing, could have on children at the formative age, and also to further strengthen the existing relationship and mutual understanding between Nigeria and Korea.

“We recognise how important peace is and that is why we have encouraged these young ones to bear out their minds on what they envision peace to be. In doing so, they have expressed their imaginations, creativity, inventiveness, innovation and cultural awareness,” he said.

The Chairman of FCT Universal Basic Education Board, Dr. Kabir Matazu, noted that the various competitions organised by the KCCN for students and teachers in the FCT in the last nine years, was a proof that exposing children to acquisition of skills was the right step to take.

Matazu, who was represented by a Director in the Board, Dr. Hassan Suleiman, assured the organisers of the Board’s continued support to enhance the competition in every possible way.

“It is a wonderful development because the pupils were able to pick in practical terms the theme of this competition, “Peace” by bringing out different artworks portraying peace.

“There are series of conflicts across the world; even in this country there is no day that would pass without conflict in one part or the other.
They are trying to preach that we need to imbibe peace instead of engaging in conflicts. If at their level the children are preaching to the people to embrace peace, I think it is a welcome development,” he said.

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