BUKOLA BAKARE writes about the 10 most significant things that took place in the country while President Muhammadu Buhari went on a medical trip to the United Kingdom on May 7 and returned August 19
While the President was away, the Academic Staff Union of Universities embarked on an indefinite strike on August 13 to protest the non-payment of their outstanding salaries and other issues emanating from the 2009 agreement it had with the Federal Government. The university teachers complained that the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2013 has not been fully implemented.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, had in January inaugurated a 16-man committee to look into the agreement. The committee, headed by Mr. Wale Babalakin, was given the mandate to dialogue with ASUU, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities and other relevant bodies, to engender sustainable peace and industrial harmony in tertiary institutions.
ASUU’s National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, had noted that the Babalakin-led committee set up by the government lacked the capacity to resolve the contending issues in the agreement.
Ogunyemi stated that the government had ignored the system, claiming that the political class send their children to private universities abroad, because public universities are in poor condition.
The unresolved issues in the agreement and the 2013 MoU included funding for the transformation of government-owned universities and academic allowances.
“Others are the registration of Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company, university staff school, fractionalisation and non-payment of salaries,’’ Ogunyemi said.
The strike is ongoing as a meeting between ASUU and the Federal Government ended in a deadlock and both parties scheduled another meeting for this week. Stakeholders in the education sector are hopeful that Buhari’s arrival will end the strike.
Lassa fever resurfaces
Cases of Lassa fever were recorded in Lagos and Ogun states while the President was away. The first was recorded at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital on August 8. A resident doctor was infected with the disease while more than 100 hospital workers exposed to the patients were placed under observation.
The Chief Medical Director of LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode, said two of the initial patients that died in the hospital included a pregnant woman, who passed on after a bleeding disorder following stillbirth.
In the same vein, Kwara State also had a case of Lassa fever which killed one person. The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Atolagbe Alegbe, noted that the state was on red alert, to deal with disease.
Supreme Court ends PDP crisis
Another major event that took place while Buhari was away was the Supreme Court verdict which affirmed the Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee as the authentic chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party.
For many months, two PDP factions (the other being Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction) locked horns in a supremacy battle for the soul of the party.
On July 12, the apex court in Abuja, declared the Ahmed Markarfi faction as the valid leadership of the party thus ending the lingering leadership tussle within the opposition party.
Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, who read the judgment on behalf of the five-man panel of judges, set aside the earlier ruling of the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which affirmed Sheriff as the chairman of the party. The Supreme Court held that the decision of the national convention of the party held on May 21, 2016, in Port Harcourt was right to have ousted Sheriff as the chairman of the party, being the highest decision-making organ of the party.
The PDP recently held its non-elective convention at the Eagle Square, Abuja on August 11. The convention organised amid fanfare had in attendance delegates from the 36 states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory.
Notice to quit
In June, another issue that took the front burner in Buhari’s absence was the notice to quit issued by some northern groups to the Igbo living in the North.
The northern youths ordered the Igbo to leave their region on or before October 1.
Also called ‘the Kaduna declaration’, the northern youths urged northerners living in the South-East to return home.
They explained that their decision was based on pro-Biafran agitation championed by the Indigenous People of Biafra.
The northern youths said the agitation “amounts to a brutal encroachment on the rights of those termed as non-indigenous people residing and doing lawful business in those areas illegally demarcated and defined as Biafra by the Igbo.”
While many Nigerians were complaining about Buhari’s long medical vacation, a former Governor of Kwara State and current Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who was charged with 18 counts of false assets declaration and other related offences since 2015, was discharged and acquitted of all the charges on June 14 by the Code of Conduct Tribunal sitting in Abuja.
The chairman of the two-man panel, Danladi Umar, ruled that there was no case against Saraki. The Federal Government, however, appealed the judgement, saying the judgment “effectively” overruled previous decisions of the Court of Appeal delivered with respect to Saraki’s trial and other criminal cases.
The capture of Evans
Also, during the President’s absence, the Nigerian Police Force recorded a milestone with the arrest of a notorious kidnapper, Chukwudemeje George Onwamadike, popularly called Evans. He was arrested by the police at his Magodo, Lagos home on June 11.
It took the efforts of a special squad of the police led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, to arrest the kidnap kingpin. The arrest of Evans, notorious for collecting ransom in hard currencies, evoked relief and wild jubilation in the country. Evans evaded justice for years. He currently faces an array of kidnapping, armed robbery and drug charges as his operations have said to have spanned Abuja, Anambra, Edo, Rivers, Bayelsa and Lagos states where he unleashed terror on his victims over the years. He was said to have once kidnapped his boss’ daughter, collecting N22m as ransom. He then began collecting ransoms of between N50m and N100m Some of his victims included the proprietor of the Young Shall Grow Motors, Vincent Obianodo, James Uduji and Uche Okoroafor.
Naira stabilises against dollar
The stability of the naira against the dollar was among the remarkable developments that took place while Buhari went on medical vacation to the UK.
The naira’s considerable stability was heart-warming to many Nigerians as it now exchanges for N367 to the dollar, N473 to the pound, and N432 to the euro.
The CBN had remained resolute in boosting liquidity in all the segments of the foreign exchange market. The apex bank created a special window for investors and exporters to have uninterrupted access to foreign exchange, a move stakeholders described as a right step.
Biafra Secret Service
During the President’s absence, the Indigenous People of Biafra established the Biafra Secret Service.
Members of the secret police, as seen in a viral video, were dressed in black attire and different shades of red berets, lined up in rows on a road somewhere in Abia State.
The police have, however, described the BSS as an llegal organisation and that it would not be recognised by the government. The Abia State Commissioner of Police, Adeleye Oyebade, stated that the Nigerian constitution recognises only the Nigerian police, Nigerian Army and the Department of State Services. He warned that the full weight of the law would be brought upon those backing the BSS.
The IPOB leader, Kanu, granted bail back in April and he is scheduled to return to court in October for a substantive hearing of his alleged treason charges.
An ultimatum was issued for the capture of Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen, Tukur Buratai, on July 22. The Army boss had ordered the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole in the North-East, Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, to produce the Boko Haram leader, dead or alive within 40 days.
Buratai further urged him to use everything in his arsenal to arrest the terror leader with an appeal to the public to also volunteer information that would lead to the accomplishment of this task.
After President Muhammadu Buhari departed Nigeria for the UK, there were rumours of an impending coup plot against his administration. In a swift move, Buratai, waded into the matter and promptly assured Nigerians that nothing of such would happen. He had noted that an intelligence report revealed that some prominent politicians were hobnobbing with some army officers to compromise them. Hence, the COAS made moves to carry out immediate changes, to counter any plan to topple the government.