Again, the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities are at war over the implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payment Information System (IPPIS). But, while ASUU has vowed not to key into the policy that will localise the university system, the government is insisting that it is a must for all federal workers. KAYODE OLANREWAJU and REGINA OTOKPA examine the controversy
- Union: Policy’ll localise varsities, affect global ranking Minister: ASUU wants to be treated differently
- Minister: ASUU wants to be treated differently
There is no let up in the fresh controversy between the Federal Government and university lecturers, under their umbrella union, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), over the autonomy of the Nigerian university system.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities is at loggerheads with the Federal Government over implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payment Information System (IPPIS), a policy introduced by the Federal Government to monitor finances and ensure transparency in its establishments.
Since the introduction of the policy, the government and the union have in the last few weeks been engaged in a running battle over its implementation, while the two parties are advancing reasons why the payment system should be implemented or not in the universities.
The Integrated Personnel Payment Information System (IPPIS) is a unit under the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) that is saddled with the responsibility of managing relevant deductions and payment of salaries of enrolled Federal Government employees directly to the bank with an acclaimed view to ensuring that payments were made timely, accurately and without fraud.
The IPPIS, which is aimed at enrolling all Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) under the Federal Government that draw personnel cost from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, is also responsible for processing and payment of salary of more than 300,000 Federal Government employees across the 459 ministries, departments and agencies.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, while presenting the 2020 proposed budget to the National Assembly few weeks ago, had mandated all public sector workers in the country to register under the IPPIS as part of measures to block leakages in the Federal Government’s salary payment structure, save cost and fight corruption in the system.
President Buhari said: “I have directed the stoppage of the salary of any Federal Government staff that is not captured in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform by the end of October 2019.
However, this policy did not go down well with the university lecturers (ASUU), who have vehemently refused to accept and key into the policy, which the union said run contrary to the university autonomy.
While rejecting the policy, ASUU said the IPPIS would cost federal universities their hard-earned autonomy and compound the already existing problem of regular flow of funds and personnel management.
The union insisted further that the IPPIS lacks the flexibility to address, what it described as the “peculiarities” in the university system, saying the most disturbing aspect of the policy is that the IPPIS would slow down the university system, thereby reversing its ranking.
They explained that the solution to curbing the rate of corrupt practices in the country did not lie on the payroll and personnel management alone, but on the capability of the Governing Council of each university to perform its jobs optimally.
But, ASUU, which has vowed not to key into the policy, had through its National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, stressed that the IPPIS was not backed by law.
The union leader during a visit to the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan, insisted that there were no extant legal provisions and negotiated agreements arising from the nature and peculiarities of Nigerian universities that makes IPPIS necessary and applicable to universities.
He further argued that the system was said to have been designed to phase-pit university lecturers above the age of 60 rather than 70 years retirement age as contained in the new policy, while it also failed to make provisions for payment of promotion arrears, study leave allowance, responsibility allowance and a host of other allowances.
Ogunyemi, who told New Telegraph on Sunday that nothing has changed in the position of ASUU concerning the IPPIS policy, said that the Senate had directed that the union should provide alternative policy.
The union leader, who also said that “we are capable of providing the alternative,” added that though the proposed alternative had not yet presented, as they are still expecting the Senate’s invitation to present the document anytime for now.
According to him, shoving IPPIS down the throat of universities staff clearly amounts to subjecting the universities to the direction and control of the Office of Account-General of the Federation (AGF) with respect to the payment of staff remuneration, salaries and wages.
Ogunyemi, who alleged that the system was a brainchild of the World Bank thrown to the Federal Government, warned that the consequences of undertaking such action would result in anarchy and end up retarding the country’s growth and development.
ASUU said: “The objectives include centralisation of payroll systems of the Federal Government, facilitating easy storage, updating and retrieval of personnel records for administrative and pension processing.
“It should be noted that IPPIS is not a home-grown initiative; rather it is a prescription of the World Bank, and its ultimate consequence is to create anarchy and therefore further retard the growth and development of Nigeria.
“The exercise of the power of the Visitor to the universities in respect of the visitation exercise as explicitly stated in law, which ASUU has continued to advocate, should be activated.
“Nigerian universities have capacity to develop their own platform in place of IPPIS with different levels of control which can be accessed periodically to assess compliance with the regulations on transparency and accountability by each university.”
But, suddenly the Federal Government had issued a threat to stop the salaries of all federal workers, who are not featured on the IPPIS, specifically members of ASUU.
Explaining that university is a universal phenomenon, the ASUU President said the university system with its own system and tradition, has nothing to do with civil service laws, that the government plans to use to pigeon-hold the system.
“University should run as expected by law, and the university Governing Councils, and not the Head of Service of the Federation (SGF) or the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) should take over the running of the system,” he stressed, saying such policy violates the university autonomy as enshrined in the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Amendment Act 2003 for universities to be free to deliver their mandates.
Meanwhile, stakeholders have criticised ASUU for being afraid to key into the IPPIS policy, saying whether the union has something it is hiding from the public.
But Ogunyemi, who expressed dismay over such insinuation, however, said that what Nigerians failed to understand is that what ASUU is fighting for, is not about naira and kobo.
He noted: “Well, what people forget to realise is that ASUU does not handle university finances. The union is only playing a watchdog role because ASUU is more interested in the system. We have been checking university administrators from mismanaging the finances of the system. We must also realise that university as a universal phenomenon is to create knowledge and for this reason, the government should not localise Nigerian universities.
“ASUU has responsibility to rise up against any unhealthy directive or circular that may hinder the growth of the universitysystem. And, that is exactly what we are doing as a union under this policy.”
He, therefore, noted that there are three levels of monitoring and ensuring transparency in the system, saying these are internal audit, external audit and visitation panel for universities.
Ogunyemi, who explained that both the internal and external audit are under the purview of the university governing councils, regretted that the Federal Government had neglected its own responsibility by failing to constitute visitation panels for the universities in the last nine or 10 years.
“We can vouch whether the first two levels of monitoring are being carried out in the universities for lack of visitation panel. So, let the government do this. This is how to track finances of the university, and not to subject the workers to the whims and caprices of the civil service system,” he added.
According to him, civil service is not run like the university system, which has flexibility for lecturers, part-time lecturers, visiting lecturers and programmes.
To forcefully migrate the university system like this, ASUU President added is not done anywhere, saying university cannot be under the civil service since they are two different phenomena.
He, however, recalled that similar policy was introduced in Ghana, but the university was exempted from its implementation, saying the policy will discourage lecturers or scholars from other countries from working in Nigerian university system.
Meanwhile, the academic union after an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting had planned to withdraw their members’ services in all universities across the country.
The Chairman of the University of Ibadan chapter of ASUU, Dr. Deji Omole explained that the union was not by any means against accountability, but he however threatened that the union would embark on indefinite strike this month (November) should the Federal Government carry out its threat to withhold the lecturers’ October salary over the union’s refusal to comply and enroll in the system, considered to be a violation of existing laws and autonomy of the university.
But, responding to ASUU’s threat, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, however, insisted that she was obeying the directive of the President.
She, therefore, said that ASUU could not be treated differently from other staff under government’s payroll.
“It is a pity if ASUU carries out this strike because what ASUU is saying now is that they should be treated differently from other employees of the Federal Government, who are already on IPPIS. We will be engaging ASUU. We will be discussing the policy with them. But, at the end of the day, and as far as I am concerned, my instruction is from the President.”
ASUU, while suspending its planned strike further explained that contrary to claim that the union was against IPPIS because it wanted to perpetuate corruption, noted that it was much easier to control corruption at the lower level than from the centre.
According to ASUU President, the resolve to suspend the strike became necessary based on the union’s agreement with the Senate to come up with an alternative university-based pay system for its members, which can be easily monitored by governing councils.
Ogunyemi further noted: “Given the mechanism we have in place, the laws governing the universities have said that where the governing council is not performing, dissolve it and set up another one. The government is shying away from that because they are politicising appointments into the councils and perhaps do not want to offend their friends.
“The details of the proposal are being worked out by our team of experts. We are concerned about probity, transparency and accountability as any other person in this country because we have no other job than working in the system. Let nobody say ASUU’s opposition to IPPIS is an endorsement of corruption. That is cheap blackmail and cannot stand.
“We met with the Senate leadership, and the lawmakers have given us a challenge. From our discussion, we believe that they are willing to listen to us and we also believe that through the National Assembly, our voice would be heard that we are not against the war against corruption. We are fully in support, but IPPIS cannot guarantee the war against corruption.
“IPPIS is so carelessly handled that those who are already on it are suffering in silence. We have our colleagues who are consulting for teaching hospitals, who told us what they have been suffering. Salaries have been inconsistently paid. They have to leave their stations for Abuja to rectify the problem. There are cases where they could travel for five or six times, and paying for their transportation to Abuja, to correct an error in their salaries. Are we going to subject scholars from all parts of the world to that kind of arrangement?
Ortom promotes Benue school principals to GL 16
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom Wednesday said he has approved immediate promotion of school principals across the 23 local government areas of the state from grade levels 15 to 16.
The gesture, the governor said is a mark of appreciation for the hard work exhibited by the principals as part of their contributions to the educational development of the state.
The governor disclosed this through the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Dennis Ityavyar in an interview shortly after a meeting with school principals in Makurdi.
“The government has decided to promote teachers to higher grades because they have been working so well and are on Grade level 15. So Governor Ortom has approved that they can go up to grade level 16.
“Already their letters of promotion are being processed and will be brought to the Ministry of Education for approval so that very senior principals will be on grade level 16.
“This is a mark of our appreciation for their contribution to the development of the educational sector,” he said.
Governor Ortom said his administration will not compromise on closure of substandard schools in the state, noting that since he came on board, at least 2001 of such schools have so been closed down.
FUTO enacts policy against sexual harassment on campus
The Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) has come up with a policy to combat the incidents of sexual harassment on campus.
This is also, as the university prepares to award first degrees and higher degrees to a total of 2848 graduates during its 32nd Convocation ceremony scheduled for Saturday.
The Vice Chancellor, Professor Francis Eze disclosed these during the pre-convocation press briefing of University on Wednesday.
According to the Vice Chancellor, the draft policy against sexual harassment on campus is presently being considered by the Governing Council of the university.
Professor Eze said: “It is important that I inform you that the university has developed the Sexual Harassment Policy and is being considered by the Governing Council. This became necessary following the recent national outcry on cases of sexual harassments in our universities.
“This document spells out what constitutes sexual harassment as well as appropriate sanctions for same.”
The Vice Chancellor also noted that an Anti-Plagiarism Policy and University Research Policy have also been developed and are awaiting approvals of the university’s Senate and Council.
Knocks for 2020 education budget
The proposed budget allocation of N48 billion to education sector for 2020 fiscal year, has been condemned by stakeholders, who expressed worry that the budget would take the sector nowhere
ASUU: We feel highly disappointed
SSANU: Govt to change poor education budget narrative
As Nigerians anxiously wait for the passage of the 2020 Federal Government budget by the National Assembly, more knocks and criticism have continued to trail the allocation to the education sector, which critical stakeholders bemoaned as too paltry to fix the ailing sector.
President Muhammadu Buhari had few months ago presented N10.002 trillion as 2020 budget before a joint session of the National Assembly, tagged: “Fiscal Consolidation,” which the Red and Green Chamber increased to N10.729 trillion after the review of the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
The N727 billion increment, was approved by the extraordinary session of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Buhari, with the proviso that the administration plans to revert to the January-December budget cycle beginning with the 2020 budget.
In the budget, the Federal Government proposed N48 billion to Education, representing about 4.5 per cent of the total budget; Works and Housing – N262 billion; Transportation – N123 billion; UBEC – N112 billion; Defence – N100 billion; Agriculture – N83 billion; Water Resources – N82 billion; Health – N46 billion; North East; Development Commission – N38 billion; Social Investment Programmes (SIPs) – N30 billion; FCT – N28 billion; and Niger Delta Affairs – N24 billion.
Also in the fiscal budget, the National Assembly got N125 billion, while N110 billion was allocated to the Judiciary.
But, while appraising the sectoral budgetary allocation to education, which represents about five per cent of the total budget, stakeholders condemned it as too meagre to address the numerous challenges and rot in the sector.
They, however, listed some of the age-long challenges confronting the sector to include acute underfunding, resulting to inadequate facilities in schools, underdevelopment of Information Technology (IT) as well as technical and vocational education sub-sector, decayed infrastructure, incessant strikes, and shortage of qualified teachers, among others.
According to them, the education sector over the years has not had its fair share in the nation’s budgetary allocations at either state or federal levels by successive governments, leading to the sliding fortunes of the sector, which supposed to be the bedrock of national development.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), in its reaction, however, expressed worry over the allocation of about five per cent of the 2020 national budget to education, saying it is a further attestation to the declining fortunes of education in Nigeria.
ASUU National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, wondered that the budgetary allocation to the sector in the last five years or so had not gone beyond seven per cent.
Worried by the consistent poor allocation to the sector, he said: “Our union feels highly disappointed because Nigeria is far from the EFA-UNESCO’s prescription of 15 to 20 per cent minimum budgetary allocation to education for developing countries. Countries such as Ghana, Egypt and South Africa have been operating within this budgetary minimum and above at a time Nigeria is allocating seven per cent or below. This is unfortunate for a country that prides itself as committed to using education as an instrument for fostering national development.
“ASUU had thought that the government would actualise the declaration of a state of emergency on education as proposed by the Minister of Education during the Ministerial Retreat at the Presidency in November 2017. That this did not happen is a big disappointment for our union, and it is indeed unfortunate.”
On his part, the former Nigeria’s Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Emeritus Professor Michael Omolewa, lamented that the provision to education in the 2020 budget could hardly address one of the areas identified in the Strategic Plan on Education initiated by the ministry.
According to him, the Federal Government has a robust education package tested and elaborately developed, under the Ministerial Strategic Plan, developed after considerable consultation with specialists and stakeholders by the Federal Ministry of Education, saying that the Strategic Plan promises to address the nation’s urgent education priorities during the period from 2018 to 2022.
The Plan, Omolewa pointed out identifies the specific areas of access, quality and systems strengthening, out-of-school children, youth and adult literacy, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, technical, vocational education and training, basic education, teacher education, tertiaryeducation, information and communication technology in education, and library services in education.
But, to achieve the laudable goals in the Plan, the Emeritus Professor insisted that adequate funds would be required, saying: “What is urgently required is a minimum of five times the current budget provision to ensure that Nigerian children, youths and adult population benefit from the requirement of lifelong learning in the new century if the country is not to be left further behind.
While underscoring the need for proper funding of education, he said: “Education has the potential of assisting our young ones to become aware of the Nigerian Civil War fought from 1967 and 1970, the background to the military incursion into the national political history from 1966 to 1999 with a brief interregnum, and address the National Question, as the country seeks to build a nation where equity, fairness and justice would thrive, and where the people will genuinely embrace the virtues of tolerance, mutual respect for diversity, rid the country of religious bigotry and ethnic chauvinism.
“Our students must be deliberately empowered to handle the Information Technology and study in an environment conducive to learning in order to reduce the passion of escaping from the present crowded classrooms and poorly equipped libraries.
Meanwhile, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has blasted the government for the yearly paltry allocations to the sector, saying the meagre allocation for the education is only reflective of the poor understanding and perceptions of the political class and policy makers to the centrality of education to national development.
The union’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Abdulsobbur Salaam regretted that the sector in the last three years had witnessed persistent reduction in the percentage allocated to education.
Reviewing the trend of budget allocations to education in the last few years, SSANU noted that while N48 billion was proposed in the year under review, the 2019 budget was N61 billion and 2018 was about N56 billion, which are too meagre to fix the rot in the system.
“What this sloppy trend portends is that with every year, we are witnessing less-premium being placed on education,” he added, saying: “While some stakeholders have argued that there is a 26 per cent minimum benchmark for education as prescribed by the UNESCO, government and policy makers keep insisting that no such benchmark exists.”
Salaam, who lamented that the continued neglect of education would have grave and serious consequences for the future development of the nation, therefore, stressed that the only way out is to change the present narrative of poor budget to education before it is too late.
The steady reduction in allocations to education, the union also noted was a disservice to the people’s thirst for knowledge, adding that the dearth of infrastructure and relevant facilities in the institutions of learning across the federation made them unsuitable for effective teaching and learning.
“The institutions are suffering acute neglect due to non-availability of funds to maintain them, while public primary and secondary school systems have gradually been suffocated; tertiary institutions are being strangulated and hampered by the palpable underfunding and other challenges,” Salaam said.
SSANU, which noted that the allocation of about four per cent was a sad commentary of the poor understanding of government to education, thus appealed to the National Assembly that in considering the appropriation bill, should increase the 2020 budgetary allocation to education with a view to gradually raise the percentage on an annual basis.
The Executive Secretary of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Dr. Masa’udu Kazaure, who said that education was truly underfunded, when taken into consideration the actual budget of the federation, however, pointed out that when also looked on the basis of other sources accruing to the sector, education is receiving more funds.
“Truly education sector is underfunded when you only look at the actual budget of the federation, but, when you put other sources of funding which are normally not captured in the budget, we would realise that substantial amount is given to education,” he added.
He, however, listed these other sources not captured in the budget provision to include the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Internally Generated Revenue, PTDF, UNESCO, Development Partners, as well as funding from NNPC, CBN, and intervention from donor agencies, such as the World Bank and industries like Dangote.
Despite these interventions, Kazaure noted that the problem is that only a small fraction of the funds goes to the development of TVET sub-sector and as a result the polytechnic education is suffering.
Also, in his assessment of the proposed budget, a former Vice-Chancellor of Adekunle Ajasin University, Prof. Femi Mimiko, described the N48 billion voted to education, out of the federal budget of N10.7 trillion, as grossly inadequate.
This was as he called on the government to have a rethink and demonstrate political will so as to prioritise education through robust funding in the interest of the country.
He said: “That comes to less than five per cent of the budget. My concern is that this may indicate how lackadaisical and perfunctory we are about education. It does suggest that we have not come to the realisation that education is perhaps the most critical investment that the government should make to secure the future of a country.
“We are grossly uncompetitive in the present situation. If we do not invest in education massively, it is a forgone conclusion that we would be entering the future wholly disadvantaged. A country’s placement in extant knowledge economy is determined by how robust your educational system is. In a milieu in which some African countries have started committing more than 20 per cent of their budget to education, Nigeria is still doing a miniscule five per cent.
“The challenges in the sector are so gargantuan; from the basic education level to tertiary; such that one begins to wonder what N48 billion would be able to accomplish in 12 months.
“Yes, there are competing needs in the face of limited resources, but I doubt if anyone of these should take precedence over education and health, including nutrition. These are the core components of human capital development, and no country can do well without them.
“I, therefore, urge government to have a rethink and demonstrate its prioritisation of education, by funding it more robustly, in the interest of the country.”
The Dean, School of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewumi, expressed dismay that it had become the country’s way of life to take with levity critical sectors that could leapfrog the nation into developed cadre.
With the incessant strikes and challenges in the sector, he wondered that the Federal Government seemed to be incapable of really thinking out of the box as far as education funding was concerned.
He, however, noted that some states such as Oyo, Sokoto and Zamfara which promised more than 20 per cent of their yearly budget to education are breaking the trail towards UNESCO prescription of 26 per cent to education for developing countries.
Odewumi, who spoke about other sources of funding, especially the extra budgetary allocation through TETFund and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to higher institutions and basic education respectively, also insisted that in view of academic objectivity these interventions needed to be included in the nation’s calculations to determine the actual percentage not the nominal five per cent.
Despite, the don regretted that the meagre percentage allocated to the sector is hardly spent judiciously on the elements that would have the greatest impact on education of Nigerians.
Varsities tasked to produce job creators, entrepreneur graduates
A call has gone to Nigerian universities to synergise and effectively relate with the industry on how to focus on the train of students in order to produce resourceful graduates, who are job creators and entrepreneurs, rather than producing graduates for the labour market.
The call was made by Dr. Haroun Adamu, a renowned journalist and former Senior Special Assistant on G.77 to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, during the 2019 Discovery Lecture and Book Presentation, organised by the Centre for General Nigerian Studies (CGNS), Lagos State University (LASU), which took place at the Aderemi Lecture Theatre at the Ojo Campus of the institution.
The lecture, entitled: “Nigeria’s Survival and the Tasks Ahead of Our Youths,” was delivered by a Maryland, United States-based Nigerian Professor, Adekunle Akinyemi,
Adamu, who chaired the lecture/book presentation, however, said this had become necessary as it would go a long way in curbing the ills in the society among the unemployed youths who constitute the unwilling tools for the perpetration of these ills.
“I want to also appeal to the government at all levels to take the issue of youth unemployment very seriously, because it is too serious to be treated with levity or play politics with,” he added, describing as unacceptable the over 10 million out-of-school children in the country.
To address this, Adamu noted that the government, non-governmental organisations, corporate organisation and well-meaning individuals have to play a critical role in ensuring that these children were taken off the Nigerian streets.
On national ICT development, he noted: “We have, in the past, taken too many steps backward for too long; it is time we begin to take meaningful steps forward and join the league of forward looking nations.”
The book, “Can Nigeria Survive Another Century as a Corporate Entity? A Compendium,” was presented by the former Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly, Dr. Bakkita Bello, who also contributed a chapter of the compendium.
The guest lecturer, Prof. Akinyemi said that “if Nigeria must survive, the youths have to brace up in the fast-paced global era, and that the citizenry must be constantly reminded that there are no gains without pains, and thus they have to sacrifice in the collective struggle for national survival.
Akinyemi, who in his lecture identified 25 variables that would need to be addressed for Nigeria to become a prosperous country, however, listed such to include corruption, youth unemployment, declining education standards, lack of patriotism, self-centredness, nationalism and value system, tribalism, religious intolerance, and nepotism, among others.
Akinyemi, who spoke on “Nigeria’s survival and the tasks ahead of our youths,” described these variables as great threat to the standards of living and economic prosperity of the country and its people.
While welcoming guests including immediate past Pro-Chancellor/Chairman of Governing Council of LASU, Prof. Adebayo Ninalowo, the Director of CGNS, Prof. Biodun Akinpelu; and other principal officers of the university, to the event, the Vice-chancellor of the institution, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, commended CGNS for the compendium, saying it would greatly help not only the students, but also the public.
This was as the Vice-Chancellor promised that LASU would continue to live up to its are mandates of quality teaching, researching and community engagements.
We’re worried about media sustenance in Nigeria – Don
Nnamdi Ekeanyanwu, a Professor of Strategic and International Communication at the University of Uyo (UNIUYO), is the President, African Council for Communication Education. He speaks with TONY ANICHEBE about the challenges facing communication education, country, and the media industry, among other salient issues
Is the Council not worried about the current state of media industry in the country, and are there plans by the conference to address this?
Well, this will not be a major part of the ongoing conference, but we may discuss that exhaustively at the syndicate groups. However, the media industry will be a major issue of discourse at a conference we are planning, where we will look at the survival of the print media beyond 2030.
The issue of media survival is a very serious matter. I have done a special study on the economics of the decline in the media industry.
Of course, the problems did not start with Nigeria; it started in overseas, but they have since surmounted the challenges. The media owners in Nigeria are merely living in self-denial. I made efforts through research to know the circulation strength and patronage level of most Nigerian newspapers; I discovered that it is a state secret because those who attempted to provide these only made available falsified figures to keep impression of their relevance. This information is important for developmental purposes, but it is like a state secret in Nigeria. It is very difficult for media firms to give out the true position of the strength of their circulation and patronage. Some may not have accurate figures owing to the manipulations between the distributors and vendors, and so such data are not available.
How do you react to this situation?
We are worried about the sustenance of the media in Nigeria. It is my primary constituency and I belong to the school of thought that prefers newspapers to government, because you cannot run a government without the media.
The media are at the centrality of the survival of every nation. In fact, I do not belong to the group of people that believe that the media will serve as a social service under government control. The government must not run the media for the media to survive. Sadly, the media have been invaded by quacks. Today, if you ask a question on who is a journalist, I bet you that many people will not be able to define it. The bloggers have invaded the media space, writing and posting all manner of things.
Recently, we did a conference in which a question arose about whether the media is actually a profession, because there are strict entry qualifications for every serious profession. But, the media is one anyone gets into with so much ease. Is it actually a profession? Can you enter the hospital and start treating people as a doctor because you are versatile in science? So, could the media be a profession in a case where graduate of Ibibio major becomes a bureau chief in one of the newspapers in Akwa Ibom State? An economics graduate will also justify his case that because he is a graduate in that field, he will operate the economic desk in the media establishment.
Today, you have all sorts of quackery in the system that appears to be dictated by hunger. We must do everything to ensure that the media industry survives; Nigeria must not be an isolated case.
What do you think should be done to ensure only professionals are admitted into the media as practitioners?
Let me use the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) as an example. I stopped being a member of NIPR and everything being done to bring me back is to no avail. This is a body set up by law, but for whatever reason, it has not achieved the policy guidelines because half of those practising public relations in the country are not qualified.
I am a researcher and can give you figures. So, none professionals have invaded it because there is no enforcement of the guidelines. Can anybody call himself a Chartered Accountant without passing through ICAN or can any company employ anybody as a chartered accountant without showing evidence of ICAN certification. Indeed, why will people call themselves public relations executive without proper certifications? The same way we have many people calling themselves journalists without basic entry requirements.
The menace is also spreading to the academia in the universities system where cases of lecturers sleeping with students are emanating, which I described as sad and shameful. I am ashamed as a lecturer since all of us are now being seen or looked at as suspects.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Nigeria Press Council have failed in that regard the same way the NIPR has failed. By now, we should have had a standardised requirement for one to function as a journalist. The problem here is that once you call for registration, people will start lamenting that it is censorship.
To me, it is about knowing who is a practising journalist in order to sanitise the system. A situation where anyone carries pen and paper in the name of journalism because anything goes should be stopped. If we want to recover the media industry from the quacks, the NUJ, the Nigeria Press Council and the Nigerian Guild of Editors must come together and set strict guidelines as entry requirement for journalists.
I recall that when the plan was initially mooted, those who started the profession without basic qualifications and succeeded stood against it. However, outside the major entry qualification for new people, we could agree on form of training for those who are already in the system. The Institute of Journalism was set up for those who do not have degrees to go and have some form of training. There must be a form of training and entry qualification to practice as journalist and a body must admit you with basic entry qualification to be known and addressed as a journalist. This is a profession.
You cannot buy a black suit because you can afford it and join the Nigeria Bar Association. Therefore, people cannot just carry pen and paper and turn journalists overnight. That means we are wasting time here training people who could not find a space to practice their profession because of touts. Most of the so-called journalists’ output is appalling. If about 30 per cent of those I have taught journalism have ended up in the industry, it would have been better now; most of them have been forced into other areas mainly due to the poor handling of the media and a profession.
How would describe election in the country and how do think we can get out of poor conduct of elections?
Let me say that it is sham in some aspects, but majorly there was poor participation. The last election did not represent the majority views of the masses of this country.
But, we can achieve quality elections through civic engagements and mobilization. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) spent so much money on voter education and mobilization, but it ended in private pockets. How many people were INEC able to move from 2015 election to 2019? Do not forget that in the last four years more 17-year-old persons became 18 years old to vote and so on. Voters’ mobilisation is still negative and that shows that votes do not count in Nigeria. The danger of the entire exercise is that returning to Option A4 might be suicidal, as many people who stand on a particular candidate’s queue might become victims of attack. It is also possible to see gunmen shooting people on a particular line if it is working against their paymaster. That is also possible in the country. In all parts of the world, voters are protected from any harm. In several years, based on my studies and research on the U.S.A election, not a single life had been lost and the one that emerges as U.S President became the “President” of the world.
However, in ordinary local government council election in Nigeria, many lives are being lost. Check out how many persons that lost their lives in the last general elections. We do not even have the figures. Option A4 is good, but it is dangerous for a country like Nigeria which only surviving business is politics.
Are you saying politics is business in Nigeria?
Yes, Nigerian politicians have turned politics into business, the same applies to religion. They enter political terrain for survival, where they make their personal interest paramount over that of the country. It is difficult to see a politician whose interest is about the people and purely to serve selflessly.
That is the reason someone completed eight years tenure as governor and wants the senate and ministerial seat at all cost. It is all about personal interest.
High cost of governance is a monumental problem in the country; how will you react to President Buhari slashing of ministers and other government functionaries’ Estacodes?
This is one of the indicators of Third World nations. In advanced economies, their recurrent expenditure does not go beyond 30 per cent of the budget. The rest is for development. We should congratulate the President for even recognising that it is one of our problems.
The Estacode is an issue because you are paying it to someone who is already employed. That is why the parliamentary system with ministers appointed from within appears better. We have situations in the country where ex-governors serving as senators are taking pensions in their states and enjoying full salaries in the senate. There is duplication of some offices here and there. The Federal Government and Presidency have several information managers, advisers and spokespersons; sometimes it is just jobs for the boys.
We have to scale down the number of ministries. We do not need all of these.
Sadly, a governor in Nigeria woke up one day and created the Ministry of Happiness and he is one of the person’s the people of that state thought has so much to offer. As if that was not enough, he started molding statues of people all over the state at a terrible cost in a state without any industry.
There appears to be a spirit in the Nigerian politicians that appears to make them to remain Nigerian politicians no matter the background they are coming from. The law on federal character prompted the duplication of ministers and ministers of state, which is killing the country. Here in Nigeria, a senator’s package in a month/year is higher than that of the President of the United States. That means the Nigeria senator earns five times more than a U.S senator. In many countries, what parliamentarians earn is just their sitting allowance. People are sent to the parliament to make contributions based on their already established pedigrees, not jobless people.
What is position concerning the Hate Speech law?
Well, I am known to speak my mind. During a recent conference on hate speech, organised by the Federal Ministry of Information, I told them that our challenge is overlooking the root cause of the problems and facing the manifestation. Hate speech comes when people are angry and eager to express themselves. The same cannot happen when people are happy. The root of confusion in Nigeria is the Amalgamation of 1914. In other countries, people come together to agree to be a country or nation. However, Nigeria has no such records. For administrative convenience, we are yet to be told why the British brought these distinct people together.
Lawmaker boosts 598 orphans, indigent students’ education in Jos
A House of Representatives member, representing Jos South/Jos East Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Hon. Dachung Musa Bagos, has awarded scholarships worth N3.4 million to 598 indigent students and orphans at the Government Secondary School, Chugwi and Government Secondary School, Godong in his constituency.
The lawmaker, while presenting the scholarship to the beneficiaries at Jos South Education Area Office, said most of the beneficiaries were students who had lost their parents as a result of violent attacks on their communities.
He regretted that following the attacks and crisis in the communities, the orphans and indigent students had not been able to pay their school fees or meet their other education needs.
Bagos, who was represented by his Senior Legislative Aide, Lang Pwajok, presented N1,716,480 million bank draft to the 298 beneficiaries at Government Secondary School, Chugwi and N1,664,250 million to another 300 students of Government Secondary School, Godong.
According to him, the two schools were selected for the scholarship due to the violence and level of poverty in the communities.
The scholarship, the lawmaker noted is expected to cover for a term, particularly the first term of the 2019/2020 school year, saying: “This is not the first time we are doing this, we had in the past offered scholarship to students of tertiary institutions. So, awarding scholarship to students of GSS Chugwi in Jos South and GSS Godong in Jos East is our own way of reaching out to the less privileged in our communities.”
He added: “We will continue to do this yearly to equip the next generation with sound education, and good health in order to enable them to become useful members of the society.
Meanwhile, one of the beneficiaries, a 17-year-old SS II student, Ladi Usman Isah from GSS Godong, described the gesture as a great intervention which would enable her to complete her secondary school education.
Ladi, whose parents are peasant farmers, said her school fees had not been paid for almost one year, and that her parents had only managed to pay the fees from previous years through pain and difficulty.
The Deputy Director of Jos South Area Educational Directorate, Gobgab Rebecca, and his counterpart for Jos East, Nyam Theophilus Ajang, urged the students to take advantage of the scholarship to study hard and make a difference in society, even as they appealed to other lawmakers in the state to emulate Bagos’ good gesture.
Don cautions leaders against wastage of national wealth
A don at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko and Professor of Psychology, Olukayode Afolabi, has condemned the way Nigerian leaders have continued to squander the nation’s resources.
This was part of the thrusts of his inaugural lecture, entitled: “Burying Nuts: A Psychosocial Activity of the Squirrel in an Individualized World,” which was the 15th inaugural lecture series of the university.
Afolabi, however, advised Nigerian leaders to take a cue from the selfless and pro-social behaviour of ‘squirrel creature’ in order to build a buoyant nation that is capable of bestowing a blossom feature for the younger and unborn generations.
The Professor of Psychology, described as pathetic how the nation’s wealth and resources were being wasted on mundane things by the political leaders. He lamented: “While other leaders in the Western world (with some few leaders in Africa) are busy burying nuts, ours are busy swallowing all the nuts that are meant for all of us.”
The don, who pointed out that there was no doubt that the future of Nigerian youths was already mortgaged, also regretted that “while our youths are growing through adversity, yet a bright future is not certain.”
“Nigerian leaders must begin to bury the nuts that will eventually germinate for everyone to benefit from,” he added, saying: “There is a great lesson to learn from the activities of the squirrel. Our society and the people need to have a good plan for the future. The squirrel’s cheerful activities are a reminder for us to play and enjoy life.
“Their propensity to hide nuts is a lesson in being prepared. The way the squirrel faces the daunting task of burying and later finding nuts teaches us that we have to face our problems as individuals and as a nation, instead of sitting on them. In fact, the squirrel can sit down and wait for winter, hoping it can scout around for food by then, but instead it prepares for it carefully and strategically.”
The inaugural lecturer, who defined psychology as the science that studies human and animal behaviour with its mental processes and seeks to proffer solutions to problems that arise from such behavioural processes, urged the public to embrace pro-social behaviour, which he described as any voluntary action willing to help another individual or set of individuals.
Afolabi stressed the need for individuals to think more like squirrels and have back-up plans for life emergencies they could face, saying: “Squirrels know they will face trying periods when food is scarce, particularly in early spring time, and thus they save for his future.”
He added: “As human beings, we should learn this act by squirreling enough for our own retirement. With longer lifespan, rising healthcare cost and greater responsibility for individuals to provide our own retirement security, it is important for each of us to save, invest, and save again, not only in financial terms but in human capacities.”
FG abolishes catchment area policy in varsity admission
The Federal Government has announced the scrapping and abolition of catchment area policy in admitting students into federal universities across the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari declared this at the 45th convocation of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), where no fewer than 10,198 graduating students received their scrolls for the award of first degree, certificates and postgraduate diploma and PhDs.
Out of the figure, the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Faraday Orumwense, who was performing his last convocation as Vice-Chancellor of the university, said 100 students graduated with First Class; while 273 obtained PhDs.
Meanwhile, the President, who was represented by the Deputy Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Suleiman Yusuf, directed all federal universities to ensure that every local government, states and all geo-political zones are represented in the admission of new students into the universities.
President Buhari, however, warned that any institution contravening or going against the government’s directive would be appropriately sanctioned, adding that he had also directed the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), as well as the NUC to ensure compliance to the rule commencing from the 2020 admission year.
According to the President, the NUC and JAMB had already been directed to carry out a comprehensive student audit to ascertain compliance.
He said: “If you look at the demographics of the various Nigerian universities, it revealed a preponderance of over-localisation and over-indigenization with only a few universities including those owned by the Federal Government having a semblance of national institutions in terms of the national spread of their staff and students population.
“Universities should be more broad-minded, less parochial and eschew over indigenization. The government expects university managers to do a lot more, given the economic reality confronting us as a nation today. This calls for innovative and transparent management practices of the universities.
“Funding is not just about the quantum of fund disbursed to universities, it also includes judicious management of available resources towards ensuring that we get more mileage on whatever funds are expended.”
On his part, Prof. Orumwense hinted that academic activities in the institution had taken a giant leap in the last few years, disclosing that the all the academic programmes offered by the university had been given full accreditation by the National Universities Commission.
This was as he added that a significant part of intellectual footprints of his five-year administration was the World Bank Centre of Excellence in Reproductive Health Initiative (CERHI) won by the university.
Unijos VC decries inadequate funding, manpower
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Jos Professor Sebastian Maimako has called on the Federal Government to look into the inadequate funding and manpower issues of the university.
He said the institution is also battling with the challenges of security breaches and frequent encroachment into the university’s land.
Maimako stated this on Monday while briefing journalists ahead of the 31st and 32nd combined Convocation of the university slated for this weekend.
“Although we have achieved giant strides in several areas of endeavour, the university still faces some challenges which have affected the accelerated pace of its progress.
“There could be further improvement in the provision of infrastructure even as we are confronted by issues of inadequate funding, manpower and problems of security breaches and frequent encroachment into our land.”
He said the issue of encroachment has become an issue of serious concern now that the university wants to commence development of its phase two.
“We are making a passionate appeal, especially to the Federal Government, stakeholders including our alumni, various tiers and agencies of government, beneficiary communities to give attention to these challenges so that together, we can overcome them,” he said.
Sex-for-marks: Abiodun threatens sanctions for lecturers as TASUED holds convocation
Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, on Thursday, vowed to bring the full weight of the law upon lecturers who take advantage of their students and sexually harass them.
Abiodun, who spoke at the 11th convocation of Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijagun, said his administration will not close its eyes to indiscipline and unwholesome attitude on the part of any staff of state-owned tertiary institution.
At the ceremony, no fewer than 3,977 undergraduate and postgraduate students in full and part-time programmes, including 37 with First Class, were awarded degrees and diploma certificates.
In his address, the governor said his administration will not condone sexual immorality or other vices in institutions of higher learning.
According to him, the much talked about whistle blower going around higher institutions on sexual harassment is a thing of shame that should not happen in any tertiary institution where discipline is taken seriously.
Abiodun commended the Vice Chancellor of TASUED, Prof. Abayomi Arigbabu, for the sensitization and warning publications on pages of national dallies, saying the zero tolerance of the institution was a pointer that indiscipline from any staff will not be condoned.
“Government notes with pride the sensitization and warning publication by the Vice Chancellor of this great institution, this government will not close its eyes to indiscipline and unwholesome attitude on the part of any staff,” he added.
The governor also lauded the university for maintaining an uninterrupted academic calendar and for being one of the most peaceful tertiary institutions in the country.
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