* Directs CoS, labour minister, others to promptly resolve grey areas in lecturers’ demands
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday pleaded with Nigeria’s public university striking lecturers to call off their over three-month-old industrial action in the interest of the students.
The president made the passionate plea at the 19th National Productivity Day and the conferment of the National Productivity Order of Merit Award (NPOM) on 48 eminent Nigerians and organisations in both the public and private sectors, at the Banquet Hall of the State House in Abuja.
The president said it was high time the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) considered the plight of students and call off the ongoing strike.
President Buhari also urged students in the nation’s public tertiary institutions to exercise patience as government strives to address the nagging issues in the university system within the ambit of the resources available.
He disclosed that he has directed his Chief of Staff, Ministers of Labour and Employment, Education, Finance, Budget and National Planning to immediately bring all parties to the negotiation table to again critically look at the grey areas in the demands of ASUU and all other university-based labour unions.
Commenting on the theme of this year’s celebration, ‘Achieving Higher Productivity through Improved Education System’, the president pledged that the federal government would continue to do everything possible to uplift the standard of the education system in the country, adding that his administration recognised that the future of any nation is premised on the standard of its educational system.
‘‘Therefore, if we desire to transform Nigeria into a competitive, strong, vibrant, productive and sustainable economy, improving our educational system should be accorded the highest priority,” he said.
Reeling out notable achievements in the education sector including the drastic reduction of the number of out-of-school children from 10.1 million in 2019 to 6.9 million in 2020, automatic employment for graduates of education, review of the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years, among others, the president said more still needed to be done.
According to him, ‘‘Quality educational system is good not just for the national economy; it is also good for the citizens.
‘‘Ignoring the productivity dimension of education would endanger the prosperity of future generations, with widespread repercussions for poverty and social exclusion.
‘‘It will be difficult to improve our economic performance and overall productivity, without improving our educational system.
‘‘Government notes the emergency situation in our educational system with particular reference to the dearth of qualified and dedicated teachers to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at all levels of our educational system.”
To address these challenges, President Buhari said his administration has reviewed the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years, while years of service have now been moved from 35 to 40 years to encourage more graduates to join the teaching profession.
The president also said government has approved a special salary scale for teachers in basic and secondary schools, including provision for rural posting allowance, Science teachers’ allowance and peculiar allowance, while prioritising timely promotion and prompt payment of salaries.
He further stressed that the reintroduction of bursary award to education students in universities and colleges of education comes with assurance of automatic employment upon graduation, as well as payment of stipends to Bachelor of Education students.
Congratulating all the awardees for their various accomplishments and well deserved recognition, President Buhari said they have been carefully selected from a multitude of competitors, adding that: ‘‘This award should spur you to greater heights.’’
He also commended the chairman and members of the National Productivity Order of Merit Award Committee, including the management and staff of National Productivity Centre for a job well done, urging the recipients of the merit award and Nigerians to make productivity their watchword.
Earlier in his remarks, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said since the inception of the award in 1991, 382 individuals and 97 organisations have been honoured with the NPOM.
Dr Stella Adadevoh and Mr Babatunde Lawal received posthumous awards at the 2019/2020 edition of the National Productivity Day.
Adadevoh, who died on August 19, 2014, was recognised for her outstanding performance in the fight against the spread of the Ebola virus in the country, while Lawal, who until his death on November 6, 2020, served as Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Affairs Office.
Lawal, an economist by training with bias in fiscal policy analysis, management and strategic planning, was commended for his thoroughness and paying keen attention to every detail during his tenure as Permanent Secretary in the Federal Civil Service.
Other recipients included the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; a former Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chike Ihekweazu; Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi; Chairman and Founder, BUA Group, Abdusamad Rabiu; Chairman of Globacom, Mike Adenuga Jnr; Director General of the West African Health Organization (WAHO), Prof. Stanley Okolo; and Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, among others.