• May get unpaid salaries
The Federal Government may have succeeded in breaking the ranks of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as it presented certificates of recognition to the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and the National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA).
Presenting the certificate in Abuja on Tuesday, January 17, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, also gave indication of payment of the withheld salaries of CONUA members.
The minister lauded CONUA for marshalling its points with relevant sections of the Trade Dispute Act, as well as the Trade Union Act.
“I am happy that CONUA is doing the right things by citing relevant sections of the laws to back up its claims on why the Federal Government should pay them their withheld salaries. Their behaviour is unlike some other unions that talk without empirical data and figures. We have heard you. The Federal Government will study your request and respond appropriately,” he said.
Ngige also lauded managements of teaching hospitals of universities in Bauchi, Maduguri, Sokoto and Enugu for opting out of the eight months strike.
Justifying the registration of the two unions from the existing ASUU, Ngige said the procedures adopted in the registration exercise followed due process.
His words: “There are organisations that have been unbundled. For example, the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) was unbundled into power generation and distribution companies. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was recently unbundled into the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL). Here in the ministry of labour and employment, we unbundled the pensioner national union. So, there is nothing unusual in unbundling any organisation. The two unions approached us sometimes in 2017 on the need for them to have their separate unions. We set up a committee to review that. It was CONUA that came first. Then NAMDA came and we set up committees to study their requests. They claimed that the interests of their members such as allowances are not always captured when ASUU struggle for theirs. They also said some of their members were suspended from ASUU. Their case was about exclusion. After we studied their cases, the ministry then decided to register them. Today, I am presenting them with the certificates of recognition as well as the gazette. We advertised in the newspapers for anyone to come up with objections before the requests were gazetted. We did not receive any complaints. That is why we are now presenting them with the certificates. By this step, the two unions are officially recognised as labour unions in Nigeria.”
The minister also defended labour migration, which is, tagged the ‘Japa’ syndrome saying, “for me, there is nothing wrong in workers seeking greener pastures. We had remittances trounced what Nigeria got from crude oil in recent years. There is nothing wrong with that if we properly develop the process.”
Similarly, he took a swipe at ASUU members for claiming to be able to restore lost period to strike any time they resume.
“I hear the argument by some lecturers that they always restore lost period when they resume work. How? By embarking on crash programme of teaching what they are suppose to teach in three months within one week and rush students to the examination halls? Is that how to restore lost times? Or in a situation where a programme that is supposed to end in four years end in six years, how do they restore six to four years? Strike does not benefit any of the contending parties. Parents lose, government lose and above all, the students lose much more,” he said.
In his address, an elated President of CONUA, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, who lauded the minister for possessing the political will to do that which is right, observed that the registration of the two unions is that there may never be a total shutdown of the universities again, saying, “because the peculiarities of many academics in the system are different, the ideologies are also different, hence the different unions would always approach things differently at all times. This is noteworthy.”
According to him, through the IPPIS office this inappropriate remittance to ASUU was reflected on payslips of CONUA members for the affected months.
“The President of ASUU, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, implicitly admitted this financial travesty, which was perpetrated about three years after CONUA had been formed and members had expressly written to the appropriate authorities to stop remitting our check-off dues to ASUU. It is important to note that the stoppage was appropriately effected before ASUU unethically manipulated the IPPIS office to resume the deduction,” he said.
In this regard, Professor Osodeke was reported to have said in June 22, 2021 Punch: “There is no union known as CONUA… It is only one union that we have for academic staff of universities and that is ASUU. You have to indicate to be our member. For us in ASUU, we have indicated those who are members of ASUU to the AGF and those whose check –off dues were deducted and remitted to us are members of ASUU. Any other claim by any union is illegal; you do not build anything on illegality. If they have such union, they should write IPPIS to send the check off dues to them.”
Dr. Niyi Sunmonu
The union leader quoted Section 2(1) of the Trade Unions Act which states: “A trade union shall not perform any act in furtherance of the purposes for which it has been formed unless it has been registered under this Act, provided that nothing in this subsection shall prevent a trade union from taking any steps (including the collection of subscriptions or dues) which may be necessary for the purpose of getting the union registered.”
CONUA also berated ASUU for preventing it from collecting check-off dues of its members.
He said: “CONUA was recognised by law as a bonafide trade union right from the time it was formed in 2018, and it was entitled, since then, to collect the check-off dues of its members by and for itself, as it continued to pursue its registration with the Ministry of Labour and Employment. Section 12(4) of the Trade Unions Act states that ‘notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Act, membership of a trade union by employees shall be voluntary and no employee shall be forced to join any trade union or be victimised for refusing to join or remain a member.’ In contravention of this provision of the labour law, ASUU sought to force members of CONUA to rejoin ASUU by deceitfully getting the check-off dues from the salaries of the CONUA members to be paid to ASUU without the prior knowledge or consent of the CONUA members.”
Sunmonu also faulted the withheld salaries of CONUA members since, according to him, it was the managements of universities that locked the gates of institutions which forced CONUA members out of work and not that CONUA declare an industrial disagreement with their employers.
His words: “An issue that is of even greater concern to the members of CONUA is the continued withholding of salaries of CONUA members in connection with the eight-month-long ASUU strike of 2022. Since CONUA neither declared nor joined the strike, it is unjust to withhold our members’ salaries in contravention of the following provision of Section 43(1b) of the Trade Disputes Act CAP.T8: ‘where any employer locks out his workers, the workers shall be entitled to wages and any other applicable remuneration for the period of the lock-out and the period of the lock-out shall not prejudicially affect any rights of the workers being rights dependent on the continuity of period of employment.’
“In other words, there is no moral nor legal basis for the “No Work, No Pay” policy to be applied to CONUA members, because we were only unable to perform our full duties due to the lockout arising from the shutdown of the universities by university authorities who directed students to vacate the campuses.”
The union appealed to the Federal Government to rescind its decision to continue to withhold the salaries of its members.
CONUA also urged the minister to invoke the powers invested him in Section 43(2) of the Trade Dispute Act CAP. T8, which says thus: “If any question should arise as to whether there has been a lock-out for the purpose of this section, the question shall on application to the minister by the workers or their representatives be determined by the minister whose decision shall be final.”
Politicians Frustrating Nigerians, Another Protest Worse Than Endsars Looms — Aisha Yesufu
Popular socio-political activist, Aisha Yesufu, has said corrupt politicians in Nigeria are frustrating the masses, which can lead to another nationwide protest.
Yesufu said the anger burning in the hearts of Nigerians may sponsor another protest hotter than the one experienced in 2020 tagged ‘EndSARS’.
In 2020, Nigerians staged demonstrations across the nation to call for the end of the police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, notorious for brutalising youths.
The protest, which started on Twitter (now X), resulted in mass demonstrations occurring in all major cities of the country and accompanied by violence.
It led to the death of many young Nigerians, especially after military personnel shot at peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos.
Yesufu, the co-convener of the BringBackOur Girls, who was one of the activists at the centre of the protest, said Nigerians might just be caught unaware in another demonstration.
She made this known via X account, writing: “Nobody saw the #EndSARS protest coming. Nobody will see the next uprising coming.
“Sadly, it might end up being violent. There is simmering anger fuelled by the impunity and brazenness of the corrupt politicians and rulers, who have rigged their way into power. Nobody will be spared.”
Decision Day In Imo, Bayelsa, Kogi: INEC Affirms Readiness, DHQ Uncovers Plot To Cause Mayhem
• There will be injurious consequences, DHQ warns unknown gunmen
• ICPC deploys operatives to prevent vote-buying
• Police read riot act, warn perpetrators of violence, sponsors
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has said there are intelligence reports of plans by desperate politicians to cause violence with hoodlums wearing military uniform.
Responding to questions from newsmen at the bi-weekly briefing in Abuja yesterday, Director, Defence Media Operations, Major General Edward Buba, issued a stern warning to gunmen planning to disguise in military wears to cause violence during Saturday’s off-cycle governorship elections in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa states.
He warned that there would be injurious consequences for their actions, adding that the Nigerian military will not fold its arms and watch its image dragged into the mud during Saturday’s election.
He issued the warning while briefing journalists on military operations to counter threats of terrorists, bandits/kidnappers, oil theft perpetrators and other forms of insecurity across the country.
“For the off-season elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states this weekend, here is a message for you. The military is deployed in strength for the election to create a safe environment for voters to peacefully come out and cast their votes.
“However, we are aware of plans of some people to disguise themselves in military gear to orchestrate havoc and disrupt elections in some areas. Our message to such a group is that there will be injurious consequences for such an action,” he said.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday, distributed electoral materials to all 27 Local Council Areas of Imo State ahead of tomorrow’s governorship election. The distribution took place at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) branch in Owerri. The electoral materials distributed were Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines, ballot papers and result sheets for the polls.
Speaking to newsmen on the movement of the electoral materials, the Southeast National Commissioner, Kenneth Ukeagu, said INEC was ready for the election, adding that the election would go freely as INEC officials have been trained properly to do the needful. He also urged the electorate to come out en masse and participate in the election.
According to him, “we are ready for the election. We are distributing sensitive materials to all the LGAs in the state because elections will take place in all the LGAs in the states. We have received assurance from the security agents for providing adequate security during and after the election. On our part, we are ready and on top of our plans. The people of the state have to come out on Saturday and elect a governor of their choice.”
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), yesterday announced that it had deployed its operatives to monitor Saturday’s election in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi.
Spokesperson of the commission, Mrs Azuka Ogugua, stated that ICPC operatives had been deployed in the 56 local government areas and 649 wards in the three states to monitor and prevent vote-buying and other electoral malpractices at the various polling units during the electoral exercise.
The monitoring exercise, according to her, was a response to the invitation by the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, for ICPC to participate in ensuring that the electoral processes in these states are free and fair.
Ogugua charged operatives to strictly adhere to the ICPC guidelines for monitoring elections, adding that they should always act with discipline and imbibe the spirit of integrity while on the field, while adding that the operatives stay close to each other and work as a team to achieve the desired goal.
There are fears that distribution of materials by INEC, threats and counter threats by Biafra agitators may challenge tomorrow’s governorship election in Imo. Aside from fears of availability of commercial drivers to convey sensitive and non-sensitive materials to the flash spots, factions of the Biafra agitators are speaking differently about the exercise.
Already certain spots, including Ohaji/Egbema, Oguta, Orsu, Ihitte Uboma, Isiala Mbano, Okigwe local councils of the state have been identified as dark spots.
A faction of the agitators, led by Simeon Ekpa, asked residents to stay away from the election, while the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) urged residents to go and vote, threatening to deal with any INEC official caught conniving with politicians to rig the election.
“All those employed and drafted to various polling units to help rig this election will be doing so to their own and family risks; their families must call them to order or they all will sorely regret having participated in this election. Anyone that enthroned evil on the people deserves no mercy. IPOB eyes are at every corner in the state monitoring the activities of political jobbers and criminals”, IPOB said in a statement by its spokesperson, Emma Powerful.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, has deployed the Deputy Inspector General (DIG), in charge of Training and Development, Frank Mba, to oversee the election with assurance of protection of lives and property.
Mba has arrived in the state. No fewer than 2,300 soldiers and other security personnel, and other para-military officials are to guard the exercise at various parts of the state.
On Thursday, the Commissioner of Police in Enugu State, Kanayo Uzoegbu said the command was moving 1,500 men to Imo state. He stated that the idea was to boost security and ensure free and fair exercise at the end of the day.
INEC has assured of enough ad-hoc staff to carry out election duties in the prone dark spots. The Commission has deployed nine Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), to assist the Imo REC, Prof. Sylvia Agu, in ensuring transparent elections.
Meanwhile, Head of Mission, International Organisation for Sustainable Development (IOSD), Dr. Timothy Ihemadu, told The Guardian, on Thursday, that they were concerned about heightened tension in six local government areas of the state, which are volatile.
“If citizens are not confident of their right to vote, the right to be voted for and free and fair atmosphere, in terms of security, it limits their confidence and fundamental right to vote.
“We want security deployed to protect the people and not to intimidate them. The security personnel should be professional and must understand the importance of human rights policing that seeks to protect the people first to avoid voter apathy.
“The NLC order as it concerns Imo and the blackout and air travel is anticipated to affect smooth conduct of the election as the importance of electricity to power election gadgets cannot be over emphasized, as well as arrival of critical personnel who may be challenged to arrive at their duty post”, he stated.
Amid the heightened tension created by alleged stockpiling of arms in Bayelsa and invasion of thugs from neighbouring states, the police, yesterday vowed to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of violence and their sponsors in Bayelsa.
The palpable tension, which is already causing apprehension in the state, was further heightened by the two major contenders and political stakeholders who continue to trade accusations over alleged plans to perpetrate violence.
Addressing a stakeholders’ meeting yesterday at the Police Officers Mess, Yenagoa, the DIG in charge of Saturday’s election, Sokari-Pedro, while assuring that the IGP, Egbetokun, is totally committed to the free, fair, safe and unhindered democratic atmosphere during the election, warned that no electoral offender will be spare.
He stated that though Bayelsa is a peaceful state, the three Senatorial zones are all volatile when it comes to election, while some local governments have already been identified as flashpoints.
“Officers have been directed to carry out a show of force, all the perpetrators of violence be put out of circulation and their sponsors, any civilian that is armed at any polling centre shall be arrested and failure to do that by the police, the police themselves or the sister agent who is responsible for such a lapse will be arrested.
“Any orderly or guard that escorts his principal to the polling centre shall be arrested and thereafter tried in the orderly room, in this case, if care is not taken, may lead to his dismissal.”
In Kogi, INEC reiterated that it is fully ready for the election. Speaking during a critical stakeholders’ meeting preparatory to the election, the INEC chairman, Yakubu said the commission is fully ready for the election. National Commissioner in charge Kogi, Kwara and Niger states, Prof. Sani Mohammed Adam, who spoke on behalf of the chairman, noted that sensitive and non-sensitive materials are on ground.
Given the volatile nature of election conduct in the state, the IGP, Egbetokun warned trouble makers to relocate from Kogi before Saturday. He also warned politicians and the electorate to allow security agents deployed to the state to do their jobs without being subjected to blackmail.
Already, 40,000 policemen and 3,000 men of the civil defence corps have been deployed to the state for the election, in addition to the heavy deployment of military that will complement the efforts of other security agencies.
Meanwhile, the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello has urged the operatives of the Nigerian Police and other sister agencies to ensure adherence to professional conduct during the Saturday polls. He noted that his party, APC in Kogi State, holds a track record of peaceful electioneering. The governor was speaking when he received the Inspector General of Police, on Wednesday.
The Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) on Thursday, called on INEC to work diligently to reaffirm citizens’ confidence. IPAC also called on citizens in the three states to come out en-masse to exercise their rights to vote.
National Chairman of IPAC, Yabagi Sani, said IPAC has introduced an innovative intervention through Election Results Management System (ERMS), which was recently brought to the attention of INEC Chairman, all 19 National Chairmen and political party candidates.
Sani said: “Choosing leaders based on merit, vision, and their potential impact on the community is vital. Citizens should prioritize candidates who genuinely represent their interests and are committed to the welfare and development of their respective States. By doing so, they can ensure that their votes lead to the election of leaders, who will work towards the betterment of their lives and communities
“Citizens should be proactive in shaping the future of the nation. Grassroots involvement is fundamental to the success of any democracy. By disregarding the negative tactics of political actors and focusing on making informed choices, citizens can contribute to the establishment of a robust and accountable democratic system in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi by their conduct in the forthcoming election.
“The involvement of security agencies in the electoral process must be based on professionalism, neutrality, and a commitment to the defense of our democracy, rather than partisan interests. The citizens must feel secure in their participation in the electoral process, knowing that their safety and security are assured.”
113 Terrorists Eliminated, 300 Others Arrested In One Week – DHQ
The Defence Headquarters says the troops of the armed forces have eliminated 113 terrorists and apprehended 300 others in different operations in various theatres across the country in the last one week.
The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. Edward Buba, said this while briefing journalists on the operations of the armed forces on Thursday in Abuja.
Mr Buba said the troops also apprehended 25 perpetrators of oil theft, rescued 91 kidnapped hostages and recovered 129 assorted weapons and 717 assorted ammunition within the period.
In the North East, he said the troops of Operation Hadin Kai, while conducting fighting patrols, arrested BH/ISWAP logistics suppliers in Kukawa, Damboa, Monguno and Konduga Local Government Areas of Borno.
The defence spokesman said the troops eliminated 17 Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists, arrested 16 and rescued six kidnapped hostages, as well as recovered different calibres of arms and ammunition during the period.
He added that the air component of Operation Hadin Kai had, on Nov. 2, engaged terrorists hibernating in the Degbewa area, where several of them were neutralised and had their logistics destroyed.
In the North Central, Mr Buba said the troops of Operation Safe Haven conducted cordon and search operations in parts of Kaduna and Plateau States, killing five terrorists, arresting 14 and rescuing 15 kidnapped hostages.
He added that troops of Operation Operation Whirl Stroke conducted a raid operation at suspected criminal hideouts in parts of Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau States, neutralising two terrorists, arresting 10 and rescuing three kidnapped hostages.
In the North-West, Mr Buba said the troops of Operation Hadarin Daji neutralised 30 terrorists, arrested seven others and rescued 31 kidnapped hostages in Katsina, Kebbi and Zamfara States during the period.
He said the troops also recovered 15 AK47 rifles, one RPG Tube, five RPG bombs, six hand grenades, five pairs of desert camouflages, 10 pairs of magazine purges, IED-making material, unconfirmed no of ammo and the sum of $16,200.
He added that the air component had, on Nov. 2, acquired and conducted an interdiction at a terrorist leader’s residence in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State.
According to him, the terrorist leader known as Badaru had several terrorists hibernating at the residence who were neutralised in the air strikes.
“Troops of Operation Whirl Punch conducted an offensive operation against terrorists in Birnin Gwari and Chikun Local Government Areas of Kaduna State, neutralising 23 terrorists, arresting 83 suspects and rescuing four kidnapped hostages.
“Troops recovered 12 AK47 rifles, two pistols, one unserviceable AK47 rifle, 141 rounds of 7.62mm special ammo, one magazine, one motorcycle and three mobile phones,” he said.
In the Niger Delta region, Buba said the troops of Operation Delta Safe denied oil thieves an estimated sum of N571.7 million during the week.
He said the troops discovered and destroyed 76 dugout pits, 35 boats, 95 storage tanks, 10 vehicles, 129 cooking ovens, five pumping machines, 13 speedboats, six outboard engines, one vessel, three motorcycles and 49 illegal refining sites.
“Troops recovered 514,640 litres of stolen crude oil, 339,315 litres of illegally refined AGO and 775 litres of DPK,” he said.
In the South-East, Mr Buba said the troops of Operation UDO KA apprehended 10 suspected IPOB/ESN criminals and recovered one GT3 rifle, one locally fabricated pistol, two pump action guns, two dane guns, 30 live cartridges, two motorcycles and one cutlass amongst other items.
“All recovered items, arrested suspects, and rescued hostages were handed over to the relevant authorities for further action,” he added.