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Osinbajo takes over FG’s team in talks with ASUU

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Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo

• Standing ovation as Buhari attends FEC meeting
• Awards $5.792b contract for Mambila power plant
• ’Why composition of minimum wage panel is delayed’
• D’Tigress players get N1m each, officials N.5m

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday appointed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to lead the Federal Government’s team to negotiate with the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to facilitate the resolution of some of the contentious issues.

Osinbajo, who immediately began meeting with the government’s team yesterday at the Presidential Villa, is expected to schedule another meeting with the leadership of ASUU.

Also, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday approved the award of the engineering as well as electromechanical works contract worth $5.792 billion for the Mambila hydroelectric power plant located in Taraba State.

The decision to hand over the negotiation team to Osinbajo was reached during the council meeting presided over by President Buhari.

Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige expressed the government’s regret over the prolonged strike which he said had paralysed academic activities in the nation’s universities.

Ngige said: “The government sympathises with the parents, even with the students who are supposed to be taking their degree exams and promotion exams now but have been forced by circumstances beyond their control to be at home.

“I have my child at home as we speak. So, government is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that we reach a conclusive agreement with ASUU so that they can go back to the classroom. This is the first national strike that this government is facing and we want to discuss.

“At Council today (yesterday), the vice president has taken over some aspects of the negotiation and discussion. So we are continuing the meeting in his office and when we finish, we will get back to ASUU with another round of meeting.

“We are hopeful that with another round of meeting, we will be able to go an appreciable extent to solve some of the outstanding issues.” Also, the minister blamed the private sector for the delay in constituting the committee to review the minimum wage .

“On the national minimum wage committee, the government side is ready with four ministers – labour and employment, finance, budget and planning. I can’t remember the last one now but we have our team ready.

“We also have the head of service of the federation and the acting secretary to the government of the federation on the government team. The chairman will be unveiled when we have a full component of the committee. The aspect that is delaying from inaugurating the committee is the organised private sector,” Ngige said.

According to him, the organised private sector has eight representatives of which Nigeria Employers Consultative Assembly has four nominations, we have not gotten their nominations.

“Manufacturers Association of Nigeria has two nominations, their nominations just came in yesterday. Nigeria Association of Small Medium Enterprises and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) have not sent in their nominations. So we are waiting for these nominations. When they come in the government will nominate the chairman and inaugurate the committee.”

Also briefing the newsmen, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola disclosed that the Mambila project designed to deliver 3,050 megawatts of power was begun in 1972 but made no significant progress since then. He said the contract awarded to a joint venture with a Chinese civil engineering company would be completed in about six years.

Giving insight into the scope of work to be handled by the firm, the minister ‎said funding for the project was also expected to come from the Chinese government through its Exim bank.

“It requires the construction of four dams. One of them is about 150 meters in height, the immediate two are 70 meters in height and the smallest of them is 50 meters in height. ‎It also includes 700 kilometers of transmission line. It would be in Taraba State in the area called Gembu, and it would unleash the potential that has been reported about Mambila, including agriculture, tourism and energy,” Fashola said.

The minister noted that when completed, the project would help Nigeria strike a big blow on the climate change issue and fulfill its commitment under the Paris agreement.

“We have overcome the gas challenges and the vandals and pipeline repairs have progressed. And that has impacted successfully on the generation side. Our power is going to come from hydro, gas and solar, and that is why we are investing in Mambila for more hydro. This is so that when one source is vulnerable, we can rely on another source,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Buhari yesterday received a standing ovation from members of the FEC. The president was attending the council meeting for the first time since he returned to Nigeria from London, United Kingdom (UK) after a medical follow-up in that country.

He returned to Nigeria on August 19 and has since been working from his official residence in the Presidential Villa.

The president cancelled last week’s FEC meeting but received the report of the presidential investigative panel on alleged corruption cases against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir David Lawal and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayodele Oke.

As the president stepped into the council chambers, venue of the meeting, the members clapped in excitement after which he invited the Minister of Communication, Shittu Adebayo, and Ngige to say the opening prayers.

Before the meeting, Buhari received the victorious female Nigerian Basketball national team, D’Tigress who won the 2017 FIBA Women’s AfroBasket tournament in Mali. President Buhari, in his remarks, announced a cash award of N1million for each of the players and N500,000 for each of the official handlers.



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