PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday appealed to the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU and other university-based unions to consider the plight of Nigerian students and call off the prolonged ongoing nationwide strike.
President Buhari made the appeal at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja during the 19th National Productivity Day, NPD, celebration/Conferment of National Productivity Order of Merit, NPOM, Award on 49 deserving individuals and organisations.
The President recalled that he had earlier directed his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige and his counterparts in Education, Finance, Budget and National Planning to immediately bring all the parties to the negotiating table again and critically look at the grey areas in the demands of ASUU and all the other university-based unions.
He called on the students to exercise patience as the government tries to address all the nagging issues in our university system within the ambit of the scarce resources available.
Buhari noted that in the quest for increased access to tertiary education in Nigeria, his government approved the establishment of six new Federal Colleges of Education, eight Federal Polytechnics and two new Universities of Technology, while existing Universities of Technology were upgraded.
He said his administration approved the establishment of National Senior Secondary Education Commission to regulate secondary education, and additional unity schools, to bring the number to 110.
According to him, “investment in people through education and training is a strategic tool for increasing productivity.
“Education is a leading determinant of economic growth, employment generation and higher earnings. This is why I am particularly impressed with the choice of this year’s theme, ‘Achieving Higher Productivity through improved Educational System’. Quality educational system is good, not just for the national economy but for the students.”
He said ignoring the productivity dimension of education would endanger the prosperity of the future generations, with widespread repercussions for poverty and social exclusion, adding that it would be difficult to improve the economy and productivity without improving our educational system.
The President started that, “Government notes the emergency in our education system, particularly the dearth of qualified and dedicated teachers to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at all levels of our education system. To address these challenges and set our country within the path of industrialisation where educational system will produce needed skills and manpower, our administration has taken measures towards encouraging teachers through prompt promotion and timely payment of salaries and the review of retirement age of teachers from 60-65 years while years of service has been moved from 35 to 40 years to encourage more graduates to join the teaching profession.”
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige said the National Productivity Day, NPD, is observed every year in Nigeria at national and state levels, to promote productivity culture.
Ngige expressed his appreciation to the Chairman and members of the National Productivity Merit Award Committee (NPOMAC) for working assiduously to select the recipients.
He praised the National Productivity Centre (NPC), the organisers, who had over the years worked assiduously to design and implement programmes and activities aimed at enhancing competitiveness for improved productivity.
He said, “Consequently, the centre’s main areas of focus have always been in consonance with Nigeria’s overall development and growth objectives. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment on its own part has continued to support the centre to achieve her mandate.”
The Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Chinedu Akubueze said that he felt “greatly honoured by my country for the conferment of this award on me. I am very grateful to God for this singular privilege; I’m grateful to my country, Nigeria for this honour.”
He said the award would spur him to be more dedicated in discharging his work at the National Assembly.
Akubueze advised Nigerian to remain steadfast; do their work the way God gives them the enablement and surely reward would come, describing the award as “a gift from God; God did it.”
President of Erisco Foods Ltd, Chief Eric Umeofia, on his part, regretted that Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs were not doing enough to encourage local production of goods and commodities.
Chief Udofia said some agencies charged with the responsibilities of enforcing the ban on imported products were not doing the job effectively, lamenting that their inefficiency was sabotaging government’s efforts to encourage local manufacturers.
While calling on the people to patronize locally manufactured products, the Erisco boss said not doing so would only create jobs for foreigners with consequent use of scarce foreign exchange for importation of products that are being manufactured locally.
He expressed the fears that with the influx of imported goods, like tomato pastes banned several years ago, local manufacturers may be forced to close shops which he said would lead to job loss.
He urged the people to encourage manufacturers by patronizing locally made goods which will in turn lead to enhanced job and wealth creation.
On the award, the Erisco boss, said he was happy with the recognition given to him by the government. He said such would spur him to do more.
The Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals Plc, Matthew Azoji, called on the federal government to set up a special intervention fund for manufacturers to enable them access to foreign exchange.
He said the 90 percent of input materials for manufacturing in the country are imported.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Conferment of National Productivity Order of Merit Award while responding to a question on what challenges government should address, Azoji said: “The challenges we would like government to pay attention, we (Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals Plc), are a local manufacturer of pharmaceutical products. Foreign exchange is a major issue for us. We want to ask the government to support the pharmaceutical manufacturer, a group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria to improve access to foreign exchange, because it has been a major problem, more than 90 percent of input materials for manufacturing in Nigeria are imported.
He said, ““If there is a special intervention that the government can do, for local manufacturers particularly, pharmaceutical manufacturers that are improving access to medicines for the ordinary Nigerians.
“So, if you have better access to foreign exchange, it will improve the availability of medicines and in a cost effective manner, because foreign exchange has become a major cost of increasing cost of pharmaceuticals in Nigeria.”
While thanking President Muhammadu Buhari for the award, he said it will cause the company to work harder and pursue excellence for the benefit of Nigerians.
On what he did to merit the ward, Azoji, “Well, in all the organizations I have worked, I have committed myself to excellence and improving the outcome that is achieved. Within the three years I have been a managing director/CEO, the company has gone from a period of loss to period of profitability. We have been able to achieve a situation where the company paid dividends, after 10 years of non-dividend payments.
“For the last two years we have paid dividends. And for the past four years there has been consistent growth in profitability, consistent growth in turnover, and service delivery to Nigerians.”
Deserving individuals and organisations were conferred with different categories of awards for 2019 and 2020 by the President at the event.
Among the awardees are the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustafa; industrialist, Abdulsamad Rabiu; billionaire businessman, Mike Adenuga jnr.; Jim Ovia, Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Akin Aboyomi, and Chairman/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Air Peace, Allen Onyema.
The deserving organisations include Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Erisco Food Ltd., Financial Derivatives Limited, Lagos, Crown Flour Mills, Lagos, and Tummy Tummy Foods Industry Limited.