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NIGER STATE GOVERNMENT TO COMMENCE PAYMENT OF THE N30,000 NEW MINIMUM WAGE THIS MONTH

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Governor Abubakar Sani Bello has disclosed that the state government is to commence the payment of the new National Minimum Wage this January.
The Governor made the disclosure when he received Chairmen of the 25 Local Government Areas on a solidarity visit over the recent Supreme Court verdict affirming his election as the duly elected Governor of the state.
Governor Bello said that a committee has been set up already and considerable progress has been made in an ongoing negotiation to begin the implementation of the new minimum wage.
“At the moment our top priority is to address those that have been affected directly by the minimum wage and what it means is, anyone who is below the minimum wage policy”.
“I have given the directive that it should be implemented this January, so that those that are entitled or fall within the class of minimum wage will get”, he said.
According to him, those that are not directly affected by the N30, 000 minimum wage will be taken care of in the next phase which is the consequential adjustment.
“If you implement the new minimum wage, then you find out that there will be the need for consequential adjustments for all”.
The Governor noted that paying salaries is not the only function of government, adding that, at the moment, 80 per cent of the state’s income goes into salary payment.
He expressed concern over  the state civil servants who were not enjoying the as they should, stressing that, with a workforce of no fewer than 27, 000, and the state population of over 4 million, executing capital projects and paying salaries regularly have been extremely difficult.
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NIGERIA MAKING PROGRESS TO REVERSE U.S VISA RESTRICTIONS….PRESIDENT BUHARI

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Nigeria is making progress to reverse the United States suspension of the issuance of “immigrant visas” to Nigerian passport holders, President Muhammadu Buhari said Thursday in Abuja.
Receiving the report of the committee on Citizen Data Management and Harmonization chaired by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, the President expressed delight that two out of the six areas of concern raised by the United States had been fully addressed.
The committee was set up in February this year to address issues that led to the U.S temporary visa restrictions on Nigerian passport holders.
The suspension, which came into effect on February 21, 2020, does not apply to other U.S visas such as those for official, business, tourism and student travel.
Commending the committee for its patriotic diligence in carrying out the assignment, President Buhari assured Nigerians and the international community of the timely implementation of the committee’s recommendations after due consideration.
‘‘I also note the progress made by Nigeria towards the removal of the visa restrictions as two out of the six areas of concern raised by the United States had been fully addressed, two are substantially satisfied while some progress is being made on the remaining two.
‘‘I am delighted that this progress, especially the uploading of Lost and Stolen Passport and Travel Documents has been acknowledged by the United States Government,’’ the President said.
The committee had among other things recommended the establishment of a National Criminal Information Management, fashioned after the INTERPOL model, and a National Criminal DNA Laboratory, to aid criminal investigation, administration of criminal justice as well as sharing of relevant information.
President Buhari noted that the implementation of these and other far-reaching recommendations as articulated in the Report will fully address all outstanding issues that led to the visa restrictions.
‘‘An effective Citizen Data Management System is critical for socio-economic planning, improved service delivery and good governance, as well as national and global security. It also has the over-arching benefit of enhancing integrity of the nation’s citizens’ identity instruments for the purpose of information sharing.
‘‘Accordingly, the Committee’s recommendations on the strategies for harmonizing existing databases, improving the infrastructure for the National Identity Database as well as a review of the supervisory mechanism of the National Identity Management Commission would be given serious consideration.
‘‘The implementation of the recommendations as estimated by the Committee would require enormous resources. In this regard, an Implementation Committee would be constituted to further study the recommendations and develop a workable implementation plan,’’ President Buhari said.
The President also pledged Nigerian Government’s commitment to sustaining the follow-up for the removal of the visa restrictions by the United States and developing a credible harmonized National Identity Data Management System.
President Buhari recalled that the Federal Government’s response to the temporary visa restrictions placed on Nigerian citizens by the United States in January this year, led to the setting up of the Committee to review the restrictions and develop systems and processes that would address the security concerns raised.
‘‘In consideration of the fact that the concerns raised cast doubts on the credibility of the nation’s citizen identity data management system, the scope of the Committee’s assignment was expanded to include strategies to harmonize the various citizen identity data held by different Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
‘‘I have gone through the highlights of the Report and must commend the Chairman and members of the Committee for painstakingly carrying out the assignment in spite of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘‘The recommendations as highlighted are capable of addressing the concerns raised by the US Government as well as lead to the development of a reliable national citizen identity data management system.’’ he said.
In his remarks, Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Committee on Citizen Data Management and Harmonization, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola recalled that the body was set up on February 3, 2020, to among others, review the visa restrictions imposed by the U.S and develop systems and processes that would address the security concerns raised.
Another mandate, the Minister said, was to review the status of Nigeria’s numerous citizen identification data, including biometrics, held by different ministries, departments and agencies, and propose strategies for the harmonization of same.
He happily reported that Nigeria had fully satisfied two of the six areas of concern raised by the U.S, two others substantially satisfied, and progress being made on the remaining two.
“It is our hope that the findings, strategies and implementation plans proffered, if fully implemented, will expedite the lifting of the visa restrictions while bequeathing to the nation an enduring identity management system,” the Minister said.
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FOLARIN COKER’S DEATH, A GREAT LOSS TO LAGOS- SANWO-OLU

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Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has described the passing of the late Chief Nathaniel Folarin Coker as a great loss to the State and Nigeria as a whole.

Coker passed away on Wednesday in Lagos after a brief illness at the age of 97.

Sanwo-Olu in a condolence message signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, on Thursday said the late Folarin Coker was one of the front-runners in the race towards making Lagos a leading State in Nigeria and the West Africa sub region.

The Governor said the late Coker’s contributions to the State’s public service as Permanent Secretary in different ministries are exemplary. He said the late administrator effectively combined work and social life in a way that impacted the State positively.

He said: “the late Folarin Coker lived a very good life. His demise, though a great loss to our dear State, should be celebrated. He served Lagos meritoriously as a public servant in various capacities, contributing his quota to the growth narratives of Lagos.”

“The late Chief Coker was also a socialite of note. I remember that as a young man, I always admired his candour whenever he spoke at social gatherings. He was a representation of the true spirit of Lagos.”

“His service to our dear State as Permanent Secretary took him to various ministries such as Education; Youth, Sports and Social Development, Trade, Mines and Natural Resources as well as the ministry of information and tourism, where he contributed meaningfully to the better and bigger Lagos narrative.”

“I pray for his soul to find peace with his creator. May God grant the family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.’’

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ENUGU RADIO SCHOOL: BRIDGING THE EDUCATION INEQUITY GAP

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By Ekene Odigwe

 

Education gives us an understanding of the world around us and offers the opportunity for us to apply knowledge wisely. Irrespective of tribe, race, creed, and gender, education makes it possible for people to stand out as equals with other persons from different walks of life.

Currently, the global world is facing a crisis — one that is killing people, spreading human suffering, and upending lives. But this is much more than a health crisis. It is a human, economic and social crisis. The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), which has been characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), is attacking societies to their core.

Unfortunately, the educational sector is a part of the receiving end paying a huge price. According to UNESCO, an estimated 1.725 billion learners have been affected as a result of school closures, representing about 99.9% of the world’s student population as of April 13th, 2020.

In Nigeria, over 80 million learners are affected by the shutdown of schools since March 2020. The educational system has been devastated and children from lower socio-economic families are bearing the brunt.

The pandemic has also forced many businesses to temporarily shut down. To cushion the effects, the world is embracing technological innovations. Virtual interactions are increasingly adopted to replace face-to-face engagements and limit the total disruption to many sectors.

As a result, education channels have changed dramatically, with the distinctive rise of e-learning, where teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms. Classes are now held on virtual platforms like Zoom, Google Classrooms, Articulate 360, Lectora Inspire, among others.

But not every student can access these platforms.

As pleasant as this solution is, it is sad that students from under-served low-income communities are left out and unable to access learning during this period likely due to financial limitations, data expenses and limited technological savviness

For underprivileged children, this crisis is widening rather than narrowing the learning gaps.

To mitigate this challenge, Enugu State, in April 2020, embarked on airing school lessons two hours daily on the radio for primary and secondary school students. According to the Commissioner for Education, Professor Uchenna Eze, the project was launched by the ministry to assist pupils and students to keep up with the school curriculum.

The Enugu Radio School, done in partnership with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) Enugu Zonal Station and The Enugu State Broadcasting Service (ESBS) with funding from the Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi Administration, has bridged the gap in limited access, provided earning power for teachers and helped prepare students especially those in the final stages.

Over the years it has been established that there is a drop in the number of children that return to school after a pandemic.

For Enugu State, this closure of schools is testing its education systems’ readiness and capacity to maintain student engagement and learning.

This is shedding renewed light on the inequities that exist across and within local governments that create barriers to quality education, especially for the marginalized communities.

Consequently, it is safe to say that Enugu state is prepared for school resumption. Recall that the Federal Government announced on July 30th that exit classes for Nigerian secondary schools were to resume on August 4th, 2020.

According to the government, the reopening of exit classes will enable the students to have two weeks to prepare for their West African Examination Council (WAEC) examination which is scheduled to start next week by August 17, 2020.

This unanimous decision was reached during a virtual consultative meeting between the Federal Ministry of Education, the Commissioner for Education in each of the 36 states of the Federation, the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), the proprietors of private schools, and Chief Executives of examination bodies.

As education stakeholders around Nigeria enthusiastically support the government’s decision, parents and guardians are concerned about the health implications likely to arise and about how equipped students are to adapt and transition to this phased reopening of schools and new methods of learning.

Lack of quality basic education limits a nation’s potential for growth and development; adding COVID-19 pandemic to the mix is more worrisome for a developing nation like Nigeria. For the Nigerian child, both constitute emergencies and require urgent realistic solutions.

WHAT FACTORS ARE MOST IMPORTANT IN REOPENING SCHOOLS?

In speaking with Ebere Okoye, the Director of iNSPARK Enterprise, an ICT hub within Enugu metropolis which offers graphic design and programming classes, she explains that the government has consistently not increased the education budget and the already existing infrastructures are not receiving the desired attention.

She argues that a clear plan must be developed, that first and foremost prioritizes the health and safety of students, educators, and families.

Likewise, Nneka Ikeji, a Chief Nursing Officer at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Ituku Ozalla, who praised Governor Ugwuanyi’s actions with the provision of funding and equipping of public schools in Enugu State.

She suggested that more financial aid is still needed in terms of investing in the educational tools of the future alongside a total revamp of the educational sector.

Reforms in the national curriculum post-pandemic would be an effective way to bridge these gaps with priority given to newer courses like digital safety and Microsoft Office tools which can usher students into the modern era and prepare them for jobs of the future.

WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER SCHOOLS REOPEN?

Despite numerous complaints from the Basic Education administrators on the paucity of funds to improve educational infrastructure, the Federal Government matching grants remain unused at the Central Bank of Nigeria and is waiting to be accessed for the State’s development throughout the country.

These, no doubt, are tales of woe; elucidating an experience of the proverbial butcher’s son who suffers lack of meat and thus settles for the worst of the bones.

Catering for basic education is primarily the role of States through the existing 37 State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEB) as stated in the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act of 2004.

The Act allows the federal governing agency, UBEC to share the costs of financing basic education with states through counterpart funding. It originally provides that the central government is to spend 2% of its annual budget on UBEC. To access the funds, states are expected to provide 50% of counterpart funds to match the amount approved by the federal government each year.

As schools have reopened, learning from other countries’ experiences will be especially useful and also finding a way to access the unutilized matching grant of 3,464,873,598.26 from the Universal Basic Education Commission from (2005 – 2019) will go a long way in enabling our students’ educational development in this digital era.

 

@ekeneodigwe is a Development Journalist with major impacts in Fact-checking, Covid19 Reporting and Ending female Genital Mutilation. He writes from Enugu, Nigeria https://muckrack.com/ekeneodigwe

 

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