* Tasks CoS, Minister of Labor and others to quickly resolve gray areas in demand for speakers

*Rabiu, Ovia, Adenuga, Onyema, other honorees
Deji Elumoye and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday pleaded with members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other industrial unions in public universities who are currently on strike to call for their industrial action in the interests of students.

But in response, university professors and non-teaching staff have rejected the federal government’s call to return to their jobs while grievance negotiations continue.

The President, who launched an impassioned plea on the 19th National Productivity Day and the presentation of the National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) Award to 48 eminent Nigerians and public and private sector organizations, to Abuja said it was high time university professors looked into the plight of students and called off the ongoing strike.

Buhari also urged students in the country’s public tertiary institutions to exercise patience, saying his government was working to address the lingering problems in the university system within available resources.
He revealed that he had instructed his Chief of Staff, the Ministers of Labor and Employment, Education, Finance, Budget and National Planning, to immediately bring all parties to the table negotiations to critically reexamine the gray areas in the demands of ASUU and all other university unions.

Commenting on the theme of this year’s celebration ”achieving higher productivity through improving the education system,” the president pledged that the federal government would continue to do everything possible to raise the level of the education system. in the country, adding that his administration has recognized that the future of any nation rests on the level of its education system.

“Therefore, if we wish to transform Nigeria into a competitive, strong, vibrant, productive and sustainable economy, improving our education system should be the top priority,” he added.

Revealing notable achievements in the education sector, including the drastic reduction in the number of out-of-school children from 10.1 million in 2019 to 6.9 million in 2020, the automatic employment of education graduates, the revising the retirement age for teachers from 60 to 65, among others, the president said there was still a lot to be done.
According to him: “A quality education system is not only good for the national economy; it is also good for citizens.

“Ignoring the productivity dimension of education would jeopardize the prosperity of future generations, with widespread repercussions on poverty and social exclusion.
“It will be difficult to improve our economic performance and overall productivity without improving our education system.

“The government notes the emergency situation in our education system with particular reference to the shortage of qualified and dedicated teachers to improve the quality of teaching and learning at all levels of our education system.”

To address these challenges, Buhari said his administration has revised the retirement age for teachers from 60 to 65, while years of service have now been raised from 35 to 40 to encourage more graduates to join the profession. teacher.

The President also said that the government had approved a special pay scale for elementary and secondary school teachers, including provisions for rural posting allowance, science teacher allowance and special allowance. , while prioritizing timely promotion and prompt payment of salaries.

He further pointed out that the reintroduction of scholarships for education students in universities and colleges of education comes with the assurance of automatic employment upon graduation as well as payment stipends for undergraduate education students.

Congratulating all the winners for their various achievements and well-deserved recognition, Buhari said they were carefully selected from a multitude of competitors, saying “this award should push you to greater heights.”

He also congratulated the chairman and members of the National Order of Merit Productivity Award Committee, including the leadership and staff of the National Productivity Center for a job well done, urging the recipients of the Award of Merit and Nigerians to make productivity their watchword.

Earlier in his address, Minister of Labor and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige said that since the award was established in 1991, 382 individuals and 97 organizations have been honored with the NPOM.
Dr. Stella Adadevoh and Mr. Babatunde Lawal, received posthumous awards during the 2019/2020 edition of National Productivity Day.

Adadevoh, who died on August 19, 2014, was recognized for her outstanding performance in combating the spread of Ebola in the country while Lawal, who until her death on November 6, 2020 served as Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Affairs Office.

Lawal, an economist by training specializing in fiscal policy analysis, management and strategic planning, has been praised for his thoroughness and attention to detail during his tenure as permanent secretary to the federal civil service.

Other recipients include National President of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu; the secretary of the federation government, Boss Mustapha; the former Director General of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu; Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi; president and founder of the BUA group, Abdusamad Rabiu; Chairman of Globacom, Mike Adenuga Jnr; The Director General of the West African Health Organization (WAHO), Professor Stanley Okolo and the Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, Jim Ovia, among others

Meanwhile, at the meeting between the Federal Government team, ASUU and other registered unions in Nigerian universities, as well as identified interest groups, the Federal Government convinced the strikers to accept a agreement to call off their strike while efforts were made. to settle the dispute.

However, the unions refused to back down from continuing the strike, saying there was nothing on the ground on the government side to justify it.

Although the ASUU president refused to tell reporters about the results of the meeting, one of the union members told THISDAY that there was nothing new except that the government team wanted they call off the strike they rejected.

“There was nothing on the pitch for us to consider. We will not stop the strike until something concrete is done,” he said.

Minister of Labor and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who spoke to reporters after the meeting, said: “We have reached agreements and we hope that by next week these agreements will come to fruition. maturity and that the various unions will have something to say to their members, so that they can call off the strike.

“We have set deadlines for certain aspects such as the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement in terms of conditions of service and salary review. We therefore hope that by next weekend the unions will see a conclusion in this area.

Earlier, while addressing union and stakeholder leaders at the opening of the talks, the president’s chief of staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, called on university workers to sheath their swords and to agree to return to work while discussions on their demands continue. on.

He said something needed to be done urgently to reopen schools and stop students from protesting in the streets.

According to him, allowing the strike to continue any longer would not be in anyone’s interest, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari had mandated the team to try to end the strike so that students, teachers and other workers can return to work.

On their part, the two Co-Chairs of the Inter-Religious Council of Nigeria (NIREC), the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar II and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Reverend Samson Ayokunle, urged ASUU and the non-teaching staff unions to accept the President’s appeal and suspend their strike while efforts are made to resolve the outstanding issues.

However, ASUU President Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke said that prior to the current strike, the union had granted enough grace time to allow the government and its agencies to meet with them and address their demands, but in vain.