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Crisis deepens as FG moves to deregister ASUU

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  • A threat by the Federal Government to withdraw the Certificate of Registration (CoR) of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) introduced a new twist to the rift between the two bodies yesterday.

The new twist came barely a day after the government said the National Industrial Court (NIC) injunction ordering varsity teachers back to the classrooms would not affect negotiations with the union.

‘It’s a declaration of war’, ASUU kicks over court order
The government threatening to withdraw the union’s CoR because of its alleged failure to submit the financial reports of its audited account as required by law in the last five years.

It was learnt that the government, through the Registrar of Trade Unions, has issued a query to the union on why its CoR should not be withdrawn for running against the law.

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Labour and Employment Minister Dr. Chris Ngige confirmed the development while hosting the leadership of the Nigerian Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA) at work on Wednesday night.

The minister had referred the matter to the NIC, following a breakdown of negotiations between the striking varsity teachers and the Federal Ministry of Education; their primary employer.

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Despite series of meetings chaired by Education Minister Adamu Adamu, both parties failed to reach an agreement.

Ngige said the university based – unions were in the habit of not obeying the law that set them up, with regard to the submission of their yearly audited account.

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The minister said he has asked the Registrar of the Trade Unions not to allow the hammer of the law to descend on ASUU because of the prolonged strike as any action taken by the government would be wrongly interpreted.

He noted that going by the provisions of the law, the leadership of the university based unions that collect check-off dues from their members were mandated to render an account on how the money was spent.

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But ASUU President Prof Emmanuel Osodeke described the planned move to de-register ASUU as a trade union as an attempt by the minister to blackmail the university lecturers back to work.

The ASUU boss urged President Muhammadu Buhari administration to investigate how the minister has used the ASUU strike to undermine the government and the interest of students.

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Ngige alleged: “ASUU has not responded to the relevant Section of Trade Union Creation for submission of audited accounts. How do they utilise their money?

“The money they collect as check-off dues, should be accounted for. So, the Trade Union Act says that in June of any given year, unions should produce audited accounts at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.

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Speaking of the ASUU strike, Ngige said: “You went on strike. The Minister of Labour brought you here one week after and we discussed seven items one after the other and agreed on five of the items.

“The two items we couldn’t reach agreement on are the usage of UTAS; we asked NITDA to go back and test. We met with the traditional rulers, Sultan and NIREC and asked NITDA to give us a report in six weeks.

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“We asked them to go to Education Ministry to negotiate their conditions of service, which is the only thing outstanding in the renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement.

“When you say the government is not implementing the 2009 Agreement, it is not true. It was in the renegotiation of 2009 in 2013 that President Jonathan and his team agreed to pay you N1.3 trillion – N220b every year for six years. Maybe because they knew they were going away. But that was what they agreed on.

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“By 2019, we had reconciled here again. But, we said this government is unable to meet your demand. What do we do? We structured a payment plan for one single tranche of N220 billion.

“This government started paying. They have paid N50 billion or so. I am not sure, but we asked them to go and reconcile the figures from the Budget Office and ASUU. When they say the 2009 agreement, the public is deceived. It is the 2009 revitalisation of the government of Goodluck Jonathan we couldn’t pay. It is not wrong for the government to say it is unable to pay.

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“Let us restructure our debt or our promise to you. It was an agreement. A Collective Bargaining Agreement can be renegotiated anytime. That is where we are.

“Another thing to be renegotiated was their conditions of service, to include salaries scale, which is the CONUASS. We referred that one back to the Education Ministry, their primary employer.

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The ministry (Education) invited Chairmen of Councils, with Prof. Mini Briggs to chair the renegotiation committee. What also will guide that negotiation is the availability of the fund and by extension, the ability to pay, which is the ILO principle in wage fixing mechanism.

“It is not enough to say I will give you N1.3 trillion and not pay it. That is why the negotiation went on and different proposals were made. Those proposals are now the subject of contention. When the committee on education gave them a proposal on what they can pay, they did not do enough consultation with the government.

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“They did not consult the Minister of Finance. They did not consult the Budget Office of the Federation. They did not consult the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission.”

 

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It’s all blackmail, says Osodeke

President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, yesterday dismissed the threat by the Federal Government to deregister the union over alleged infraction on the submission of the unions’ financial reports of its audited account.

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He described the planned withdrawal of ASUU’s Certificate of Registration (CoR) with the invocation of the Trade Union Act by the Registrar of Trade Unions as a ploy by Labour and Employment Minister to blackmail the varsity union.

According to him, the Registrar declined to take delivery of the reports when they were taken to the Labour ministry.

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In a short statement, Prof Osodeke said: “It is part of Ngige’s fight and attempt to blackmail the union. We submitted our audited account up to 2021 to the Registrar of Trade Union in the Labour Minister’s Office but they refused to accept the submission without any reason.

“We even paid the fees for submission they refused to accept. The same documents were sent through speed post, they returned the package without even checking the content.

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“Our legal counsel Falana and Falana Chambers also went there with the documents. They refused to collect. They did all these just to try to blackmail the union.

“We challenge the Labour minister to publish when all the Labour unions in Nigeria submitted their last audited account.

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“The Buhari government needs to investigate Ngige to know why he is using the ASUU strike to undermine the government and the interest of Nigerian students.” (The Nation)

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Education

BREAKING: Court Dismisses NANS’ Suit Against ASUU, FG

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The National Industrial Court, NIC, sitting in Abuja, on Tuesday, struck out a suit the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, filed to compel the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the Federal Government to call off the ongoing strike action.

Justice Polycarp Hamman terminated further proceedings in the matter, after it was withdrawn by factional President of NANS, Umar Faruk Lawal.

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Lawal had told the court that he filed the suit marked NICN/ABJ/273/2022, for himself and on behalf of NANS.

A side from ASUU which was cited as the 1st Respondent, the Minister of Education and the Attorney-General of the Federation were listed as 2nd and 3rd Respondents, respectively.

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When the matter came up on Tuesday, Lawal, notified the court that he filed a motion for discontinuance.

He premised his decision to withdraw the suit on account of the challenge by the student body which contested his standing and denied that he is the President of NANS as he had deposed to.

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Though the other two Respondents were not represented, however, counsel to ASUU, Marshal Abubakar, informed the court that he was not opposed to Lawal’s application to withdraw the suit.

Consequently, Justice Hamman struck out the matter.

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It will be recalled that two NANS presidential candidates had claimed victory at an election the students’ body conducted recently.

While Lawal who is of the Department of Library and Information Science of the Bayero University, Kano, insisted that he won the election, the NANS Convention Planning Committee declared Usman Barambu as the President-elect of the association.

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ASUU had since gone before the Court of Appeal in Abuja to set aside the NIC judgement that ordered it to call off its over seven-month old strike action.

The union, in a 14-ground of appeal, also applied for a stay of execution of the judgement.

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The NIC had in the judgement that was delivered on September 21, ordered the striking varsity lecturers to return to the classroom, pending the determination of a suit the Federal Government filed to query the legality of their strike action.

The interim injunction directing ASUU members to resume work followed an application FG filed through its lawyer, Mr. James Igwe.

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Justice Hamman held that the order was both in national interest and for the sake of undergraduates in the country that have been at home since February 14.

He held that the strike action was detrimental to public university students that cannot afford to attend private tertiary institutions.

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“The balance of convenience tilts in favour of the applicant.

“I hold that this application is meritorious and this application is granted”, Justice Hamman ruled.

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However, ASUU, in its appeal, maintained that Justice Hamman “erred in law and occasioned a miscarriage of justice when he decided to hear and determine the Respondents’ motion for interlocutory injunction when he knew or ought to have known that the substantive suit was not initiated by due process of law”.

It argued that the mandatory steps and procedure stipulated in Part 1 of the Trade Dispute Act, TDA, was not followed by FG.

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More so, ASUU averred that the trial judge acted utra vires and misdirected himself when he unlawfully assumed jurisdiction to entertain the matter, adding that what was granted as an interlocutory order was the same relief FG sought in its substantive suit.

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Education

BREAKING: Double Fingerprints, Five Other New JAMB Guidelines

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The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board has provided new guidelines to ensure seamless conduct of future operational processes, including the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination.

The board made this known in its Weekly Bulletin of the Office of the Registrar on Monday in Abuja.

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In this piece, The PUNCH highlights six new guidelines, including the introduction of double fingerprints, exemption candidates, and others.

Double fingerprint

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As a requirement for printing registration slips, a candidate must use at least two fingers and any of the two fingers taken would be used for biometric verification before entering the examination hall on the day of the examination.

The two verifiable fingers of all candidates must be consecutively indicated on the candidates’ registration and examination slips.

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Centre prohibition

The JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, has warned that some cybercafes and tutorial centres had been prohibited from participating in any of the board’s exercises.

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Oloyede said that no CBT centre would be allowed to collaborate with the prohibited group, adding that any violation of the directive, whether in part or whole, would lead to the revocation of the licence of the erring CBT centre.

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CBT centre accreditation
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No new Computer-Based Test centre would be accredited without meeting the new requirements.

 

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To this end, new CBT centres must use laptop computer systems as clients, zero thin-clients or Remote Desktop Protocol would no longer be accepted.

 

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No CBT centre must install any clients with less than 2 gigabyte RAM.

 

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It is now mandatory that the Autobot system should be used for the accreditation of CBT centres; there should be three Autobot tests: Pre-accreditation during Mock – UTME and the dummy examination.

 

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Biometrics accreditation

The registrar also said that biometrics of all accredited CBT centre registration officers would be captured ahead of the exercise.

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This, he explained, was because the board as a proactive agency must move with the tide to stay ahead of the machinations of cheats and safeguard the integrity of the system.

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Exemption Candidates

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At the registration point, candidates with bad fingerprints would be scheduled for the examination as ‘Exemption Candidates’.

 

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Their registration slips would be colour-coded and visually different from those for other candidates.

 

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Such candidates would sit their examination in Abuja on the last date of the national examination calendar and their results would not be released until after being subjected to proper scrutiny.

Separation of Direct Entry/UTME

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To further consolidate its data collection efforts, the board would consider separating UTME registration from that of Direct Entry beginning from 2023.

And to further condone illegal admissions and printing of indemnity forms, all candidates’ registrations, including UTME, DE and others, must be completed with fingerprint authentication.

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Education

ASUU Strike: Why FG Changed Decision To Reopen Universities

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More facts have emerged on why the Federal Government quickly reversed its order to the various university management to reopen public universities amid the ongoing strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.

Recall that the Federal Government had earlier ordered Vice-Chancellors to re-open schools.

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It had asked the Vice-Chancellors of universities “to ensure that the striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) resume and commence lectures immediately.”

However, it later issued another directive withdrawing its earlier circular.

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An online medium stated that the opinion leaders and other stakeholders interested in resolving the face-off between the ASUU and the government mounted pressure on government requesting that the circular, earlier sent to mandate the reopening of the universities, be withdrawn.

A senior official in the Ministry of Education, who didn’t want his name mentioned, disclosed that “the circular was withdrawn to allow for more negotiation between government and the ASUU following the ongoing intervention by the Speaker of the House of Representatives”.

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