By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA– VICE President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has been appointed to lead the Federal Government Negotiation Team to interface with the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to resolve some of the contentious issues.
Already the Vice President was lurked in a meeting with the government team yesterday and was expected to schedule meeting with the leadership of ASUU after.
This is as the Federal Government has blamed the private sector of being responsible for the delay in constituting the Minimum Wage Review Committee.
Meantime, the Federal Government has awarded a contract sum of $5.792 billion for the Mambila Hydro Electric Power Plant in Taraba State expected to be completed within six years.
The decision to hand over the Federal Government Negotiation Team to Prof. Osinbajo was reached at the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday.
Briefing State House correspondents after FEC, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige expressed the government regret over the prolonged strike which has paralyzed academic activities in the nation’s universities.
Ngige said, “I want to say that 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 ttaken over some aspects of the negotiation and discussion. So we are continuing the meeting in his office and when we finish the meeting, 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 that have prevailed them from going to work.”
FG blames private sector minimum wage delay
Senator Ngige heaped the blame on the delay to constitute the committee to review the minimum wage on the door steps of the private sector that was yet to send its representatives to the committee.
He said, “The national minimum wage committee the government side is ready.
We have on the government side four ministers – ministers of labour and employment, finance, budget and planning, I can’t remember the last one now but we have our team ready.
“We also have Head of Service of the Federation, Acting Secretary to the Government of the Federation on the government team. The chairman will be unveiled when we have full component of the committee.
“The aspect that is delaying from inaugurating the committee is the organized private sector. The organized private sector has eight representatives of which Nigeria Employers Committee 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 Enterprise one, they have not sent in their nomination. NACCIMA have not sent in their nominations.
“So we are waiting fir these nominations, when they come in the government will nominate the chairman and inaugurate the committee.”
FEC approves $5.792bn Mambila Hydro plant
Also addressing journalists, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola said that FEC approved the award of engineering as well as electromechanical works contract worth $5.792 billion for the Mambila hydro electric power plant in Taraba state.
Fashola said that the project designed to deliver 3,050 megawatts of power began in 1972 but made no significant progress since then, adding that the contract awarded to a joint venture with a Chinese civil engineering company will be completed in 72 months which is about six years.
Giving insight into the scope of work to be handled by the firm, the minister said funding for the project was expected to come from the Chinese government through their Exim bank.
He said, “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 include 700 kilometers of transmission line. It will be in Taraba state in the area called Gembu, and it will unlease the potential that have been reported about Mambila, including agriculture, tourism and energy.”
The minister noted that when completed, the project will help Nigeria strike a big blow on the climate change issue and fulfill it’s commitment under the Paris agreement.
He said, “We have overcome the gas challenges and the vandals and pipeline repairs have progressed. And that has impacted success on the generation side. Our power is going to come from sources, hydro, gas, 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’s source.