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Varsity unions strike: FG, Labour tango over nationwide protest

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The Federal Government and Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, may be on collision course over the nationwide protest slated for next Tuesday and Wednesday by the labour movement over the five months old strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and other university unions over federal government’s failure to meet their demands.

 

While the government declared the proposed nationwide protest by NLC, in solidarity with the striking members of the university-based unions as illegal, NLC said no law in the country barred it from embarking on protest without permission.

In fact, government also said civil aviation worker, should not be part of the proposed two-day nationwide protest, even as NLC told the government that the right to peaceful assembly and protest was a fundamental right guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution and the UN charter on human and peoples right.

Recall that the NLC had announced that it would embark on a nationwide protest on July 26 and 27 to press home the need to resolve the over five-months old strike embarked upon by the four university-based unions in the country.

The four unions are the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions, NASU and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT.

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Council Chamber, Abuja yesterday, the Minister of information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said since the NLC had no dispute with government, its planned street protest was illegal.

The Minister observed that what the NLC was doing was about interest, noting that it should insulate itself completely from politics.

Fielding questions on the proposed strike by organized labour, Mohammed said: “While we’re still on
Labour, I think we should also start to interrogate what labour is doing. The NLC is not a political party. The NLC can go on strike or protest if the rights of NLC members are involved.

“What the NLC is planning in the next two days is about interest. There’s no dispute whatsoever between NLC as a body and the federal government. Well, yes, there is a dispute between some members of NLC, ASUU, whatever and the federal government which is being looked into and NLC itself is a party to the committee that is looking into the solution.

“So calling out people on street protest you begin to wonder, what is the motive of NLC in this matter? But you see here, we do not interrogate what NLC is doing. NLC, by its own laws, cannot even give out pamphlets. NLC is supposed to be completely insulated from politics. Now, if you declare dispute with us, yes you can go on strike.

“Even that one would depend on whether certain steps have been taken or not. But this particular NLC, you know, asking and mobilizing people to come out on strike on July 26 and 27 is clearly on nothing.”
Reminded that NLC was worried about the prolonged strike which is affecting their children as well, he said: “The federal government is as worried as NLC and everybody, but the law is the law. What we are saying is that rather than protest, what I expect NLC to do as umbrella body is to join the federal government in finding solution.

‘’They are part of the tripartite agreement that has been negotiating with the federal government on this ASUU issue. So why are they now going out to take sides? I think you also interrogate it yourselves. I think it is popular to get NLC out and support but ask yourselves how does that solve the problem?
“What you are going to create is more anarchy. And I think the NLC should think twice about their proposed strike in solidarity with ASUU. It’s as if the federal government is doing nothing about ASUU. No. And they’ve been involved in this negotiation all along, so why now?”

On his part, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, while responding to the question on how concerned he was on the threat by aviation union joining ASUU strike, said: “I’m naturally concerned about this if the aviation union will shut down in support of ASUU.

‘’I would say they have no need to. I will say also that we should begin to look at civil aviation as a critical national security enterprise. It has all the implications.

“We should not contemplate or think about an aviation disaster. We should also think about the general activity on the economy of Nigeria without civilization. It’s okay. This is democracy, you can push for demands, but in pressing for demands, you should be reasonable in doing so.”

“So, civil aviation workers, I think should not be part of this. Yes I am concerned and yes we’ve spoken to them and I don’t think they will join because they know that there’s huge responsibility of lives on their heads.

“If you’re an air traffic controller, it involves national security. It involves the capability of preventing external aggression and so on and so forth. I believe that they are very aware of the enormous responsibility upon them in civil aviation and should continue to see it so and continue to be as law abiding as we want them to be.”

Asked if he had had any conversation with the aviation union, Senator Sirika said: “Yes, it is an ongoing thing. So in civil aviation, we speak to them almost on a daily basis. They are part of us. They are workers like every other person is and we interact with them.

“ In the ministry, we have their own representatives who speak to me time and again, probably on daily basis. Yes, we have spoken and I don’t think they will join and yes, we are concerned, but yes also reminding them of the enormous responsibility upon their necks and our own necks.”

Asked if the two weeks directive by the President to resolve the issue was achievable, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senato4r Chris Ngige, said he proposed one week to resolve the issue but noted that the Minister of Education Adamu Adamu, volunteered to resolve the issues with ASUU in two weeks, adding that he hoped the issue would be resolved at the stipulated time.

He advised the unions to table their case before the Ministry of Education whom the President had directed to resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, Ngige has told journalists that there was no veracity in the media report that President Buhari ordered him on Tuesday to hands off renegotiations with the striking unions.

Describing the report as false, Ngige said: “Anyway I saw one of the dailies writing something like that today (Wednesday), but the truth of the matter is there is no such thing, it’s just a categorical untruth, there is nothing like handsoff.”

But organized labour said it would not fold its arms when some of its affiliate unions were having issues with the government.

It also said the law provides that no permission was required for any peaceful assembly and protest.
President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, while reacting to the position of the federal government on labour’s involvement in the proposed solidarity protest, said,: “Its elementary knowledge that the right to peaceful assembly and protest is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution, the UN Charter on human and peoples right.

“The current crop of our political elites have excised this right. Secondly NLC is directly involved in the current dispute affecting four of its affiliates trade unions in the university education system, namely SANNU,NASU,NAAT and ASUU, Lai Mohammed is economically with the truth.

“As citizens, our children have been out of school for five months, and their destinies being destroyed. Its enough reason for a national protest The law provides that no permission is required for any peaceful assembly and protest. Lai Mohammed’s statement is unlawful and lacks legal basis in a democratic society.”

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Private Jet Owners Sue Government Over N30 Billion Tax

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Owners of foreign-registered private jets, comprising top business moguls, leading commercial banks and other rich Nigerians, have dragged the Federal Government to court seeking to prevent the government from grounding their planes for allegedly refusing to pay import duty on the jets.

The Federal Government had last November approved the decision of the Nigeria Customs Service to ground 91 private jets belonging to some wealthy Nigerians over their alleged refusal to pay import duties running to over N30bn.

As such, following a presidential approval, the NCS in a letter directed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency to ground the affected private jets with immediate effect.

But owing to issues bothering on inter-agency rivalry and disagreements, the relevant government agencies could not ground the private jets.

However, in the past few months, the Customs has been making underground moves to perfect the process of grounding private jets whose owners failed to pay the import duty, multiple sources close to the development confirmed to The PUNCH on Tuesday.

17 jet owners

Also, further findings by our correspondents over the weekend revealed that at least 17 private jet owners had gone to court to stop the Federal Government from implementing the order.

According to the court papers seen by The PUNCH, the jet owners are seeking a judicial review as to whether it is lawful for them to pay the controversial import duty on their private jets or not.

The jet owners had sued the government using the foreign shell companies and trustees through which the foreign-registered jets were purchased.

Oftentimes, Nigerians and corporate bodies buy their foreign-registered private jets through foreign shell companies and trustees. Experts believe they often prefer to register the jets in foreign countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and Isle of Man, among others, to preserve the value of the aircraft in the event they want to sell it, as well as pay cheaper insurance premiums.

The latest findings showed that the jet owners had approached the Federal High Court Abuja seeking the court to determine, among other things, if they were liable to pay import duty.

The suit, with number FHC/ABJ/CS/1565/2021, is described as the matter of an application for judicial review by foreign registered aircraft against the Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority.

According to the court document, the 17 applicants, which are mostly foreign companies of the Nigerian jet owners are: Aircraft Trust and Financing Corp Trustee, UAML Corp, Bank of Utah Trustee, Masterjet AVIACAO Executive SA, and Cloud Services Limited.

Others are MHS Aviation GmbH, Murano Trust Company Limited, Panther Jets, SAIB LLC, Empire Aviation Group, and Osa Aviation Limited.

The list also includes BUA Delaware Inc, Flying Bull Corporation Limited, Air Charter Inc, Sparfell Luftahrt GmbH, WAT Aviation Limited, and ATT Aviation Limited.

The NCAA and Customs were listed as respondents.

In a written address in support of the first respondents objector notice of preliminary objection, the court paper read in part, “The brief facts of this case are that the first respondents, having discovered that some operators of aircraft imported them under the guise of Temporary Importation Permit, were permanently imported into Nigeria and given TIP status to evade payment of lawful customs.”

A hearing date is yet to be fixed for the suit, according to preliminary findings by our correspondent.

However, there are strong indications that the NCS is making frantic efforts to get the private jet owners to pay the import duty.

Multiple sources confirmed on Tuesday that the NCS was not giving up on the decision to collect the revenue on behalf of the Federal Government, having obtained a presidential approval on the matter.

It was gathered that the agency might take a major decision on the matter very soon. It was further learnt that the Customs is in possession of government documents indicating that the private jet owners are by law required to pay import duty.

NCAA reacts

However, the spokesperson for NCAA, Mr Sam Adurogboye, said he was yet to be briefed but noted that, “’If a case is filed against an individual or organisation, what is to be done is to put up appearance and defend oneself.”

The NCS had in March last year embarked on a review of import duties paid on private jets brought into the country since 2006.

Following the alleged discovery that several private jet owners, under the guise of Temporary Import Permit, had failed to pay the statutory import duty to the coffers of the government, the CG of Customs, Hameed Ali, set up a verification panel to review all TIPs and the relevant aircraft import documents of all private jets in the country.

At the end of the 60-day exercise, 57 private jets, which had licences for commercial charter operations, were cleared and issued with Aircraft Operators Certificate by the Customs.

However, 29 private jets, whose owners came for the verification, were found to be liable to pay the import duty.

The Customs also compiled a list of another 62 private jets whose owners failed to appear for the verification exercise but were found liable for import duty payment.

However, other private jet owners seeking to pay their import duty were given a 14-day ultimatum to clear the debts.

It is unclear the number of the jet owners that later paid the duty.

However, a list of 91 private jets whose owners had failed to present themselves for the import duty payment were presented to the NCAA, FAAN, and NAMA for the immediate grounding of their operations.

Some owners of the 91 jets reportedly wrote protest letters to the NCS, arguing why they could not pay the import duty because the jets were under lease payments.

The Customs, in its response to the letters, queried the rationale for bringing in the planes and allegedly fraudulently exporting them under questionable documentation processes in the past 10 years.

Unconfirmed officials had said the Ministry of Aviation directed the NCAA, FAAN and NAMA to suspend the grounding of the flight operations of the affected private jets.

Aircraft owners speak

Speaking on the development on Tuesday, the President, Association of Private Aircraft Owners Association, Mr Alex Nwuba, there is a need for the government to become transparent in the process of registering private jets.

He also said it might be difficult for the government to collect tax on private jets that are not fully imported into the country.

He said:-

“The idea is to ensure that people pay tax on imported aircraft. However, by keeping the registration of the jets offshore, how do you then pay tax on something that is foreign? The aircraft may have come and gone, but how do you pay tax on something that is not imported.

“The dilemma is if you register your private jet in Nigeria (5N), it is seen that it now have a lower value. The problem is that there is no transparency in our aircraft registration process. You cannot take the number of the aircraft, do a search and get the details. But if you do that for US-registered plane, you can get the details. But the summary is that you cannot collect duty on aircraft that is not imported.”

Nwuba, a pilot and former managing director of Associated Airlines, said the cost of duty might be one of the factors discouraging some private jet owners.

He said:-

“Of course, you are made to put up a bond when you are bringing in an aircraft on a temporary basis. However, while we are looking for revenue, it is not everywhere we can get it. Another issue is that, if you buy a private jet for $80m, you may need to pay a duty of over $10m; that may be high to some people.”

Some of the 91 private jets meant to be grounded belong to the senior pastors of some popular Pentecostal churches in the country, some Tier-1 banks with one of the banks owning two upmarket jets, the CEOs of some indigenous oil companies, and the chairmen of some Tier-1 banks.

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Governor Adeleke Reverses Self On Sack Of Civil Servants, Monarchs

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Ademola Adeleke

Adeleke said yesterday his administration has not sacked any worker and dethroned three monarchs.

Adeleke spoke against the earlier announced Executive Order 3, 4 and 5, which stated nullification of employment, appointment made by former Governor Adegboyega Oyetola from July 17, 2022 till his inauguration and vacation of the throne of three monarchs appointed by past administration.

The order states: “All employments in the service of Osun State Government made in any capacity into any capacity in all the ministries, departments, agencies, commissions, boards and parastatals after July 17, 2022 are hereby nullified.

“All appointments in the service of Osun State Government made in any capacity into any capacity in the ministries, departments, agencies, commissions, boards and parastatals after July 17, 2022 are hereby reversed.

“All appointments of traditional rulers made by Osun State Government after July 17, 2022 are hereby ordered to be reviewed to ensure there was strict compliance with due process of chieftaincy declarations and native law, custom and tradition relating to such chieftaincies. In the case of Ikirun, Iree and Igbajo, to avoid further breakdown of law and order, the appointments of Akinrun of Ikinrun, Aree of Ire and Owa of Igbajo are hereby put on hold pending review. Subsequently, the palaces of Akinrun of Ikirun, Aree of Iree and Owa of Igbajo should remain unoccupied, while security agencies are hereby ordered to take charge.”

However, the governor through his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, speaking yesterday on a private radio station, Rave FM, in Osogbo, during a talk show programme, ‘Frank Talk’, said Adeleke had not sacked any worker.

He said the appointment and employment made by the Oyetola administration would be reviewed to ensure legality and due process, stressing that nobody had been sacked, the executive order was misquoted.

All Progressives Congress (APC) in Osun State has described the setting up of review panels by Governor Adeleke as an afterthought designed to arrive at predetermined outcomes.

The party urged the governor to settle down to study the handover notes, so as to prevent the blunders he was committing.

In a statement signed by its Director of Operations, Sunday Akere, APC said: “We told you from day one that these people have nothing to offer. We can all see from their first action that they are even confused.

“They had told us long time ago that they were coming to sack. They came and announced it. Why set up a panel after taking a decision? What they are doing can be likened to doing ablution after observing prayers. Who does that?”

Governor Adeleke has ordered the dissolution of non-statutory boards.

Spokesperson Malam Olawale Rasheed said in a statement that the directive was conveyed to heads of ministries, departments and agencies by Mr. Teslim Igbalaye, the Secretary to the State Government.

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Secondary School Principal Beaten By Mob After Being Caught Pants Down With Student (Photo)

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A South African Secondary school deputy principal got an instant mob justice after being caught pants down with a student.

The deputy principal at Kgagatlou Secondary in Polokwane, Limpopo was beaten after being caught having sex with a student during school hours.

In a video circulating on Twitter, the principal was seen being beaten while tied to a pole.

It was also alleged that this is not the first time he had been caught carrying out pedophilic acts in schools. He was reportedly moved from another school before taking the deputy principal post at Kgagatlou Secondary School.

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