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Between The Federal Government And ASUU  by Adebola Makinde

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Students in public universities are stuck between the conflict heralded by the two major determining powers of their academic journey — the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). They are the major determinants because they possess regulatory powers. It can, however, be argued back and forth but, in the long run, it’ll be discovered that the ASUU strike, which is a result of the unsettled conflict between these powers has handicapped the future of some students, in other words, it has slowed down the (academic) journey of undergraduates in public-owned Nigerian universities.

Amidst this hiatus that breeds uncertainty, the contention of whom to blame is not usually debated. It wouldn’t take long before a great number of people support the Federal Government’s decision not to attend to ASUU, and at other times, the Federal Government would own the blame.

ASUU started operation in 1978 as a body of intellectuals in Nigeria’s federal and state universities. Beyond association, it has found an unofficial way to regulate education in Nigeria. Prior to 2009, ASUU embarked on strikes, therefore, to state that the 2009 FG-ASUU agreement was the nascent cause of the persistent strikes. This is tricky and even unbelievable. Even if FG settles debts owed to the body, wouldn’t they still find reasons to go on strike?

The 2009 FG-ASUU agreement, a deceptive tool that lacks ingenuity is being touted as the reason for the strike. The agreement which includes: improved welfare, revitalisation of public universities and replacement of Universities Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) with the Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System (IPPIS) in rational reasoning is not too much to demand. I believe the main reason for the strike is the long due debt. However, where has this debt come from?

In 2015, when the current President Muhammdu Buhari was elected, it met a provision for 10.7 percent of the national budget was earmarked for education by the former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, remaining the highest in the last decade. Ever since, it has faced a decline in allocation.

“In 2016, the allocation was N369. 6 billion or 7.9 percent of the total budget; N550. 5 billion in 2017 representing 7.4 percent of the total budget; N605.8 billion in 2018 or 7.04 percent; N620.5 billion or 7.05 percent in 2019 and N671. 07 billion or 6.7 percent in 2020,” Premium Times reported.

Meanwhile, the range of allocation before 2015 was around 9 to 10 percent; “In 2011, education got N393.8 billion or 9.3 percent of the total budget; N468.3 billion or 9.86 per cent in 2012; N499.7 billion or 10.1 percent in 2013; N494.7 billion or 10.5 percent in 2014; and N484.2 billion or 10.7 percent in 2015.”

Under Buhari’s administration, the highest allocation to the education sector is 7.9 percent of the 2022 total budget of 16.39 trillion. The 1.29 trillion allocated to the sector still remains behind the 15 to 20 percent the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recommended for developing countries; it is even less than 10 percent after a 50 percent increase of the 2021 allocation.

In 2021, out of the N13.08 trillion budget, only N742.5 billion or 5.68 percent was allocated to the sector remaining the lowest in the decade.

It is obvious that the allocation made to education is usually petty and wouldn’t cover the necessary things. For example, if the allocation made to education is at least 15 per cent or more, there’ll only be less debts to cover and in fact, ASUU wouldn’t go on strike if they notice the Federal government’s effort.

Before the agreement, ASUU had gone on several strike actions. In 1999 for five months; 2001 for three months; 2002 for two weeks; 2003 for six months; 2005 for two weeks; 2006 for three days; 2007 for three months and 2008 for one week. In May 2008, it held two one-week “warning strikes” to press a range of demands, including an improved salary scheme and reinstatement of 49 lecturers who were dismissed many years earlier (in the University of Ilorin) — which proves there are certain times the union embark on strikes which is not debt oriented however, the union has always employed strike action to express their grievances.

By rational assessment, it is unfair to not have salaries of these individuals paid. As much as ASUU is a union, it is constituted of, and by individuals who also need to earn income like any other regular individual.

ASUU’s persistent policy of strike is demeaning and destructive because students who have had a planned future would find it hard to move on with an uncertain calendar. In fact, many Nigerian university undergraduates are leaving their schools to pursue a better education in privately owned universities and other states (countries) of the world which would amount to brain drain.

The government on its own part is not doing enough to alleviate issues. For more than 10 years, the union’s debt hasn’t been sorted out despite their aggressive clamour even to the extent of staking students’ future. Is it not safe to say the administrationS since 2009 have been inconsiderate and uncaring about education in Nigeria?

I had hoped to not ever experience the ASUU strike until it caught up with me. I heard about ASUU strike even before I finished my secondary school education and yet, the government is proving incapable to settle the demands of the union.

In a bid for a better education sector, ASUU should find other means to express its grievances instead of staking the future of students.

Strictly Personal

UK-Rwanda relocation plan for asylum seekers is a hot potato by Charles Onyango-Obbo

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In 2019, Rwanda agreed to take in hundreds of African immigrants held in horrid conditions in detention centres in Libya under an agreement with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the African Union.

There was applause.

In August 2021, as America’s 20-year-old military and state-building campaign in Afghanistan unravelled into chaos, in Africa —Rwanda and Uganda — agreed to take in Afghanistan refugees.

Among the Afghans who relocated to Rwanda, escaping the Taliban’s well-known hostility toward education for women, were all 250 students of the famed Afghanistan Leadership School (SOLA), Afghanistan’s only boarding school for girls.

There were cheers and extravagant praise for Rwanda and Uganda. Today, Rwanda hosts nearly 140,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Uganda, on the other hand, hosts 1.5 million refugees, making it the top refugee-hosting country in Africa.

In April this year, hell broke loose. The UK announced that it had a plan to send illegal asylum seekers to Rwanda, where they would either stay or move on to other countries.

The Boris Johnson government insists the programme is aimed at disrupting people-smuggling networks and deterring migrants from making the dangerous sea journey across the English Channel to England from France.

Critics have come out swinging with fury, calling the plan immoral, racist, and several arguing it is risky because several of the human rights found in liberal democracies are absent in Rwanda. This new “democracy test” for resettlement, has opened up a tricky window into the protection business.

The UK asylum affair, meanwhile, has muscled its way into the headlines about the Commonwealth Heads of Government (Chogm) meeting being held in Kigali.

The high emotions the UK-Rwanda asylum plan has kicked up, are a pointer to how complicated, immigration and refugee have come. There are several contradictory things that are both true at the same time.

If Donald Trump’s election victory in the US in 2016, and his turbulent racist-fuelled term tell us anything, it is that the western world has reached “peak” migration.

Uncomfortable to confront, but it is probably no longer sustainable for, especially, people from the south to continue emigrating and fleeing to the West in large numbers. Domestically, the fear of people of colour “replacing” white communities is reaching a fever pitch, and fuelling extreme right-wing politics.

We’ve to grant it. The demographic make-up of the West is changing, and by the end of this century, white people will be minorities in nearly all the major European countries. Not too many people will take their disappearance with great fortitude.

For the western left and progressives, migration and the diverse nations it makes possible is where they see the future of their play in politics. For businesses, migrants provide a new pool of cheap labour, ensuring their profit in a world where China is eating their lunch. Things like the UK-Rwandan plan, do have long-term political and economic consequences.

Yet, that doesn’t explain why the resettlements of immigrants from Libya and Afghanistan in Africa weren’t attacked. The difference could be because Libya’s and Afghanistan’s crises are partly outcomes of western — NATO and the US — interventions that went horribly wrong. The repatriations are a much-needed clean-up of the mess — and there is some consensus of the western left and right on that.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. Twitter@cobbo3

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Tanko Muhammad, Ekweremadu and health of Nigeria by Suyi Ayodele

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What happened to the Nigerian judiciary under the now retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, is a symptom of an ailing nation. We must all come to admit that Nigeria is a country that needs moral transplant. Who will be the donor is what we don’t know. That the aeroplane-driving CJN retired after his “brother justices” accused him of misconduct is never news to celebrate. The resignation itself is never a part of the diagnosis of what ails the country. And I sincerely do hope that the General Muhammadu Buhari administration will not because of the belated retirement  roll out the drums to celebrate his tough stance on the fight against corruption!  The judiciary is expected to be the healthiest of the three arms of government. Its chronic illness under Tanko is a pointer to the general well being of the government in power. The undertakers should not be far away as their services may be required soon.

In Africa’s worldview, a healthy man is a wealthy man. The saying, “health is wealth,” underscores the importance human beings attach to sound health. Without sound health, man becomes useless. This is why sane countries of the world don’t play with their healthcare delivery. But it is not so in Nigeria, a country which prides itself as the “Giant of Africa”. By that sobriquet, one would expect that Nigeria would tower above other African countries in all ramifications of life. If you are wondering why we are this low in all aspects of life as a nation, just take a look at our health care delivery system. If Nigeria’s health is failing, or has failed, the citizenry cannot be healthy. For those who care to know, Nigeria is not just ill, it is terminally ill.

Some two years ago or so, I had the misfortune of rushing an ailing church member to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH. At the close of service that fateful Sunday, a friend and I had planned to go out with our spouses. We drove out of the church premises and saw the ailing woman being aided to the road to get a taxi to the hospital. We picked her up in my friend’s car while I joined him and asked the women to use my own car. By Ehaekpen Road, the woman gave up the ghost in the car. But we continued the journey to the UBTH. At the Accident and Emergency section of the hospital, she was confirmed as BID (Brought In Dead). That was where our ordeal began. The relation in the car contacted other family members and agreed that the remains of the woman be deposited at the hospital’s morgue. To our utter embarrassment, UBTH had no BID form to take the woman’s profile and have her corpse deposited in the morgue. For over two hours, the corpse was left in our car. I had to ask one of the hospital attendants in charge to copy the information of a used BID form at the back of another used form and fill in for the dead woman. I knew then that we had bigger problems than anyone could imagine. If a teaching hospital, as big as the UBTH, had no ordinary BID form, one can imagine the state of the General Hospital at Afrikpo, or Balewa Village or at Itawure!

This is why, at the slightest discomfort of headache, the locust masquerading as our leaders jet out of Nigeria to seek medical help abroad. From personnel to equipment, infrastructure to medications, hospitals in Nigeria are killing fields. In his 2017 article titled: ‘Africa’s presidents keep going abroad for medical treatment rather than fixing healthcare at home,’ published in Qartz Africa, an online publication, Yomi Kazeem has this to say: “The preference for an international doctor’s appointment is steeped in irony as these leaders often make promises about improving local healthcare a central part of their campaigns while seeking office. But by looking beyond the continent for medical solutions, African leaders maintain a vicious cycle which keeps faith in public healthcare low while channeling substantial state resources to hospitals abroad rather than plug local healthcare gaps. In many African countries, this reality is all too apparent. According to the World Health Organisation estimates, with a shortage of 4.2 million health workers, Africa is the region with the world’s second-worst health worker shortage”. Zeroing down on Nigeria, Kazeem  quoted WHO as saying that: “In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, the shortage  will be less severe if the health system could call on the services of the up to 15,000 Nigerian doctors estimated to be working outside the country. But there’s little motivation for doctors practising abroad to return home with crumbling infrastructure, lack of drugs and poor compensation.” If in 2017, we had 15,000 Nigerian medical doctors working outside the shores of the country, your guess is as good as mine on what the figure will be now.

Nothing, in recent time speaks to the parlous state of our healthcare delivery system more than last Thursday’s arrest of Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, by the Metropolitan Police in far away United Kingdom. According to the reports of the arrest, the former deputy senate president was accused of trafficking a child to the UK for organ harvest and slavery. A statement issued by the Met police says “Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, 55 (10.9.66) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting. Ike Ekweremadu, 60 (12.05.62) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting. They have both been remanded in custody and will appear at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court later today. A child has been safeguarded and we are working closely with partners on continued support. As criminal proceedings are now under way we will not be providing further details”. Ever since, the senator’s team has responded to state that the alleged “organ harvest victim” is not a 15-year-old street lad, but a 22-year old adult who volunteered to donate one of his organs for Ekweremadu’s daughter, Sonia, who is having challenges with her kidney. My thrust here is not to probe into the veracity or otherwise of the claims that the supposed organ donor, David Nwamini Ukpo, was shipped to the UK legally. I would also not bother to interrogate whether Ukpo is on his own an opportunist, who, according to claims, when he realised that he would be shipped back to Nigeria after his organ failed to match that of Sonia,  decided to raise false alarms of abuse and what have you. No, my focus is why, in the first instance, Ekweremadu had to depend on a UK hospital for an organ transplant operation for his darling daughter.

The problem with the Enugu-born senator is the problem with all our political leaders in Nigeria. Like the saying goes: “all are thieves but he who is caught is the barawo”. For crying out loud, Ekweremadu has been in the corridors of power since the time lizards were few. He is a confirmed “omo ijoba” (government child). Two years before the advent of the current political disaster we call democratic governance, he was elected chairman of Aniri Local Government Area of Enugu State on the platform of the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP. He was elected into the Senate in 2003 and was deputy Senate president for 12 years, beginning with the era of David Mark, through to Bukola Saraki. In his 19-year stay in the Senate, like his other political leeches feeding fat on our patrimony without a whim of concern for the common good, Ekweremadu did not see any reason why Nigeria should have well -equipped hospitals where ailments like organ failure of any shade could be treated. Unfortunately, Ekweremadu is not the only culprit in the league of Nigerian leaders engaged in medical tourism. The league, as we all know, is led by General Muhammadu Buhari, who holds the life trophy of spending 104 days at a stretch on a London hospital bed at our expense, with the presidential jet parked at Heathrow Airport, accumulating demurrage! When we add the BTA of his personal aides who accompanied him to the UK, Buhari will go down in history as the man who spent what could have built for the nation a decent hospital for the use of the people on a single medical trip abroad. So, when news of the arrest of Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu filtered in, what easily came to my mind is the saying that when the head is rotten, the tail will be home for maggots! Cumulatively, an August 5, 2021 report by the Premium Times of Nigeria, puts the number of days General Buhari had spent on medical tourism to the UK at 200. You may wish to ask: did Buhari not talk about the parlous state of the nation’s health institution while seeking our votes in 2014? Did he not assure us that he would not go abroad for medical attention? Kazeem, quoted earlier, answers the posers.

That done, as humans, we may also wish to look at the desperation of the father-figure Ekweremadu presents as he seeks a medical solution to his ailing daughter’s health. There is a deep prayer among my people which says: “ki Oluwa ma fi ina omo jo wa” (May God not allow us to be scorched by the death of our child). This is where I believe that our thoughts should be with Miss Ekweremadu as she battles for survival at this critical moment. It is even more important for us to spare a moment of prayer for Sonia, now that the most important caregivers of her life, the parents, are in detention. The thought that her parents are locked up in cells in the UK because of her is devastating enough for the poor girl. While we have the assurance that, unlike what we have in Nigeria, the UK Government would not allow Sonia to be left unattended to, we cannot overemphasise the importance of the presence of her parents at this crucial  time. Again, that the Ekweremadus were picked up on their way to Turkey is an indication of how desperate they were to bring their daughter back to sound health. We may frown at the method employed to achieve that. We may interrogate why the replacement for the failing organ was not sourced within the family circles. In all that, we must have it at the back of our minds that every mother hen uses her back to shield her chicks from the ravenous hawk. We therefore call on the Almighty God, our Healer, to stretch His healing hands on Sonia and make this storm to pass. We pray that she surmounts this mountain before her and becomes useful to Nigerian society and humanity in general. We also pray that after this, every Ekweremadu in leadership in Nigeria will see the need to build up our health institutions and other decayed infrastructure in the country as doing so is also in their own interest. May Sonia live!

 

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