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Kashim Shettima is focused, trying to bridge gaps across people, culture, and religion in Nigeria. – Dr. Bwala

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Kashim Shettima is focused, trying to bridge gaps across people, culture, and religion in Nigeria. – Dr. Bwala

Dr. James Bwala, PhD, is a media practitioner, consultant, and author. He is one of the closest media men to Nigeria’s Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima. Ahead of the May 29 celebration of democracy day in Nigeria, he spoke to newsmen about his long-time relationship with the VP and why he writes in his own style to promote and defend Nigeria’s Vice President on many fronts and other sundry issues. NEWSng was there and sent an excerpt:

Q: Thank you for having us. It was indeed very important that we meet you. Can you please tell us about yourself?

A: I guess I am not in a hot seat. I really did not expect this question. It reminded me of some interview questions I was asked while I was seeking job opportunities with the NGO some time ago. But since this is not a job interview, I figured that I would relax and try not to be nervous. My name is James Bwala, as you all know. I am a journalist and have practiced in the media space for over two decades now. I studied mass communication for my first and second degree programs and earned my PhD in management with a specialty in disaster management. Currently, I run a media organization as the managing editor as well as managing public relations on behalf of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH). I am also into politics, trying to follow in the footsteps of my principal, Nigeria’s Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, who has graciously been a very good teacher and mentor. And I hope that my learning will bring positive fruits and add value to Nigeria’s politics at any given opportunity to make a mark and to sell the Nigerian dream in the renewed hope initiative of Mr. President.

Q: You are a prolific writer, and we are happy to say that you are doing well and encouraging young media professionals with your style. We have read a lot of writings from you defending and promoting the Vice President before, during, and even after the general elections. Do you have any political appointments in this government?

A: I just told you that the VP is my principal, whether or not I have an appointment in the government or not. My loyalty to the VP has been there for decades. He calls me brother, and I think he is an older brother I have who also stood with me in my darkest moments. He has demonstrated the brotherly love that I have heard preachers preach, and he never leaves me as would some older brothers do. I am happy that you noted that I have written several pieces on him. Some were promotional, while others were trying to defend both his public and private lives. Yes. I have been given a political appointment in this government, but that is not about me and Kashim Shettima. It was the reward system in a political circle when you played your part in the game and when your loyalty was tested and you gave results. For that also, I will remain grateful to the VP for choosing to consider me for such a political position. And like I said, he never leaves me. I will look up to him as that older brother and respect him. I will also always defend him in the media, where necessary.

Q: How long have you known the VP? 

A: About three decades, actually. I was raised in Kaduna, but I grew up in Borno State, which is my state. I am a bona fide citizen of Borno State, and I am proud of that. While growing up in Bullumkuttu, Abuja, in the city of Maiduguri, I happened to leave around the VP’s wife’s family residents. I became friends with some of Her Excellency’s brothers and sisters, and we attended the same Bullumkuttu Primary School in the 1980s. I knew Kashim Shettima around 1988, to be precise, but we became very close when he became commissioner under the Modu Sheriff administration and I was writing for the newspapers as a journalist. I think we became very close because we share the same attitude and vision. Our culture, books, and views of life are the same. So, I would say we think alike.

Q: How would you describe the VP’s activities in the last year of this administration, and do you see distractions?

A: Well, they are too numerous to mention his activities generally. For distractions, there are also numbers. However, the VP is focused. Remember he said in one of his many sayings during the campaign that you should stop throwing stones at every dog that barks at you or you may not reach your destination on time? So, I want to tell you that this is his posture toward distraction. And you can see that he remained focused, building on the renewed hope initiative of the government by trying to bridge gaps across people, culture, and religion. He has also been in and out of the country, connecting and networking to build relationships for security, the economy, and others. For every achievement, there is a working person, and the VP is one of those working to achieve the dreams of Mr. President and give Nigeria hope.

Q: Your writings speak volumes about the VP; do you also consult with him before you write?

A: No. I know him too well to read his lips, and I can also study his moods, especially his reactions to what I wrote. Like I said, he is my teacher and mentor, so I guess there is this chemistry of understanding what to do and what not to do between us, which came naturally. Secondly, I am a professional in my field with good experience in political writing. It is therefore easy for me to look at situations and determine with precision what I need to do as a professional. For someone like the VP, all I need to know are the vital signs, which are obligations to me because of the closeness. I watched his back media wise, and he does mine brotherly.

Q: Recently, you wrote defending the VP on the issue of 2027. Why do you think some people want him replaced? Did he offend those calling for his replacement?

A: You know, this is actually laughable. 

VP Kashim Shettima did not offend anybody, but the gang was politically motivated. For me, it is normal in politics to have those who want you there and those who are pushing for you to be out of place. But let me tell you something. Recently, the President appointed the Zenith Bank Chairman to lead the loan team. Jim Ovia was VP Shettima’s boss when he was still working in the bank. What does that tell you? Does it look like there is friction between the VP and his principal? The closeness between VP Kashim Shettima and the Zenith Bank Chairman is well known to Mr. President. As those people claim in their dreams that there is friction, I do not think we have been seeing this development coming. Mr. President is well educated and knows very well those he can work with. He has a history of gathering intellectuals around him. That is also the reason for choosing VP Kashim Shettima as his running mate and partner in the governance of Nigeria. Together, they have been doing tremendously well, and as I said in my writing, there will be no replacement as suggested by those doomsayers.

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Q: You sounded very confident about the political future and the likely play for Tinubu and Kashim Shettima in 2027. What is giving you such confidence, as in some of your writings?

A: I don’t know, actually. But I keep having my dreams, and I believe in them. It has happened in the past and has come to be true. It is happening again, and I keep my belief. So many people fighting over 2027 think they are gods. This administration has only been around for about a year now. If they think they have all it takes to govern better than what the current occupants of the seat of power are doing, I hope that as Nigerians they should be kind to render support through their vision to help Nigeria develop well. The president and his vice president are calling on those who have vision for the development of Nigeria to come forward with suggestions. They must not be in position before they can bring out their good road map to make Nigeria better. If they are waiting to come to a position before they give suggestions or bring their ideas to the table, then I would suggest that those are not thinking of making Nigeria great but are working towards their selfish desires to occupy seats for the betterment of their families and not Nigeria.

Q: Can you at least mention those you think are already fighting over 2027? And those calling for the replacement of the VP?

A: My friends, we know the writing on the walls. You go and read some of the writing floating in the newspaper spaces. We have over one hundred live newspapers in the country, and they have been reporting issues recently. Engaged in some of these newspapers, you can come up with names likely to be those you are looking for. I do not know any of them other than those I have read through on the pages of the newspapers, and I believe you can do the same.

Q:. On May 29, this administration will be celebrating one year. Do you think there are things to celebrate?

A: Well, if I may ask you, do you think there are no things to celebrate? You see, sometimes we ask questions for which we already know the answers. Of course, there are thousands of things to celebrate about Nigeria. I hope you have been following the various achievements made by our military, the police, and other security agencies in the areas of insecurity in the country. I hope you have written about the successes in the economic sector. There are several achievements in health, agriculture, the road, and what have you. I may not have time to mention others, but we have days counting to May 29, and you can do us the favor of going around to hunt on the successes and achievements of the Tinubu and Kashim Shettima administrations since their coming to power on May 29, 2023. Nigerians are eager to hear from you because they can count on you, and I urge you to be fair in your reports.

Q: On a final note, what do you think this government should do based on the assessments of people on what they did or did not do for Nigerians and how to improve on their promises?

A: First of all, let me make it clear that you are asking the wrong question here because I am not a member of the economic team of this administration. Secondly, what I hear people saying may be different from what you hear that people are saying, so do not expect me to give an answer to what is going on about what you hear. However, I can speak for what I hear, and that is a positive note on the many challenges that this administration was able to sum up. Two key issues have been on the board since this administration came on board on May 29, 2023. That is the issue of insecurity and Nigeria’s economy. I think that you would agree with me that the Tinubu-Shettima partnership has done creditably well in tackling these menaces in the areas of security and economy. If you do agree with me, then I can tell you that the government by measurements has done well and should be given the passing mark for demonstrating rear leadership.

Kashim Shettima is focused, trying to bridge gaps across people, culture, and religion in Nigeria. – Dr. Bwala

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The challenges with IEDs at the “Hadin Kai” theater will soon be history – Former TC General Ali

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The challenges with IEDs at the “Hadin Kai” theater will soon be history – Former TC General Ali

Before becoming the 10th Commander of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in Chad, General Ibrahim Ali was the last theater commander (TC) of Operation Hadin Kai in North-East Nigeria. He succeeded in getting three Chibok girls and their children out of the Sambisa and vowed to get Lear Sharibu anywhere credible intelligence could locate her. He spoke with Bodunrin Kayode just before proceeding to his present command in N’djamena. Excerpt:

Q: General, before I proceed to matters of this war theater, I would like you to compare and contrast your last command with “Hadin Kai,” which you are about to leave after only 6 months.

The level of threat in the Jos. 3 Division area is quite different from the one in the North East Theatre Command. We know that the threats in the theater Command are more. This is because in the 3 division area, the threats are more like intercommunal clashes—you know, farmers and herders crises, kidnapping, cattle rustling, and things like that—but here in the Northeast, it is insurgency and terrorism. Which is higher in terms of mortality than those ones. So it was not easy, but I came with the experience I had from Jos, and before getting to Jos, I had been to the Northeast five times, and this will be my sixth time coming here. So I came with all those experiences I had earlier, and it really helped me. I had a fair knowledge of the modus operandi of the insurgents and the terrorists, and I was able to counter them. And this time around, we had better equipment to confront the insurgents than we used to have when I came earlier in the five times I mentioned. So, with the additional and improved equipment level and other platforms, we were able to degrade them to a very appreciable level.

Q: Is it true that the rule of engagement in the 3D theater was that soldiers were not allowed to take out anybody, even if the bandit was the aggressor messing around with ancestral lands and you were seeing him live?

A: No! No! That is not true. Because I remember the former President, commander in Chief, shortly after I went to Jos, especially the early period of my stay there. There was a directive from the Presidency in which the President said that “any person seen with an AK-47 rifle should be taken out. I remember that vividly, and it trickled down the Chain of Command and came to us. Which was equally sent to all my troops. Any person carrying an AK-47 rifle and attacking another community will be taken out. This is because he is an aggressor. And I can tell you, if you check the record, that there were a couple of militants that we took out, in Plateau and in Sabon Kaduna. I lost, during my stay as a junior officer in 3 divisions, about 3 to 4 soldiers, if I remember well. So, we cannot sit down and see them eliminating our troops, and we say that we are not supposed to fire because of the rule of engagement. It’s not true; any person carrying a weapon, at least an AK-47 rifle, is an aggressor, and he should be taken down. And that is what I was doing. The only peculiarity of the Jos area, of course, was when you talked about the inter-communal crisis. Communities or tribes fighting themselves, we had to come in between. And in that situation, as long as they are not carrying arms, we cannot start shooting them. Unless, of course, any of the other groups are carrying arms, then you definitely have the go-ahead to take them down.

Q: But is it true that mostly in the night beyond Mangu, Riyom, Ganawuri, etc.,troops were non-operational just pinned down, which is why the senator representing Plateau South, a retired general, was saying recently that he wants the defense chief to re-enact the rule of engagement to make them operational during the night too, to counter the bandits who operate mostly in the night or the wee hours of the morning?

No, we carried out patrols when I was the GOC. You know, I left there almost six months ago. When I was a GOC, we carried out patrols in the daytime and at night. We did carry out our night patrols. So, I am not aware of the fact that troops just stay confined to their locations. We carried out our patrol both day and night when I was there.

Q: Do we have night patrols or operations here in Operation Hadin Kai?

A: ….. Cuts in. Off course we do.

Q: Except that certain areas are shut down as early as 4 p.m., like the Maiduguri-Damaturu road, because of the aggression of the insurgents.

A: Yes, those are supply routes, main supply roads. We shut them down for security reasons, and that has been going on for a long time. You know. It’s for the security of the civil populace that plys the route that we can control the movement. And we make sure that people are not exposed to attacks.

Q: So, looking at the Northeast theater that you managed for about 6 months before shipping out, What, in your own perception, are achievements?

A: I will just mention a few; there are quite a lot of achievements, several achievements in the 6 months I have stayed. First of all, I, my staff, and my officers and men conducted Operation Desert Sanity 2 and Lake Sanity 2. We conducted Operation Mountain Sanity as well. So, these operations have to a large extent degraded the terrorist. 

Q: Cuts in. Mountain sanity is the Mandara stretch in Gwoza.

That is right, Mandara Mountains; we made a lot of recoveries. In Ukoba, Sambisa, we made a lot of recoveries. We were able to get very sound intelligence on where they have stashed their arms, ammunition, and weapons. The records are there, the photos are there, and I am very happy to say that I was able to rescue three out of the many Chibok girls that were abducted several years ago. I was able to rescue three of them from the operations we conducted. And there were two non-governmental organizations (NGO) staff that we rescued. Three others have not been seen, and we heard that they were killed by the terrorist. So, I am happy that we were able to rescue those two as well. I am talking about those that were picked up in Gamboru Ngala. Also, we were able to at least reduce the frequency of attacks on people. You can attest to the fact that the attacks that we used to experience in the past have been reduced by the terrorist attacks. We don’t have such attacks as we are used to any more. So, what they are trying to do now is attack farmers. Now that they have been degraded to an appreciable level, they are trying to get soft targets like the farmers. And we are taking adequate measures to counter that. You will know the terrorists once you are able to degrade them. They will look for other exit routes to cause damage. We are happy that we are able to degrade them, even though they will always change tactics. So now the tactics that were adopted were that they were trying to kill farmers to stop them from farming this year. And they intensified the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and bombs along our routes of movement. So we are contending with that as well.

Q: So, what about Lear Shaibu? Did you get close to her?

Lear Sharibu; we are not sure where she is. We have been getting conflicting information about where exactly she is. But we have not lost hope yet; we think she is alive, and if we get good intelligence, we will definitely try to rescue her.

Q: So, what were some of the operational challenges that clogged the progress of troops in sectors 2 and 1?

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The challenges I experienced were, first of all, the issue of equipment. Another challenge is the high attrition rate of the equipment. So, it’s not that the equipment is not available. What I am saying is that the equipment is available, but before you know it, it is damaged. How? Because of the bombs encountered and the IEDs on the way, ok. A lot of Emeralds were bombed. Before you know it, when we go out for any major operation and come back with the troops, those vehicles will have gone over mines, which will damage most parts of the vehicle. We have the time to repair it, so we can deal with the subsequent operations. However, some of them are not going to be repairable at all. So, we need replacements, and this thing takes time. So, these are some of the challenges that we faced.

Q: IEDs have been a major challenge since your predecessor was here. Now you are facing them as a major challenge too. Is there any long-term plan to deal with these IEDs once and for all because the insurgents will still do them anyway?

A: Of course, that is the most preferred weapon for terrorists and insurgents. Especially now that they don’t have vehicles, they lack arms and ammunition. They have resorted to the widespread use of IEDs. We have just identified counter-IED equipment, which the Nigerian Army has purchased and will very soon deploy in the theater.

Q: Sector 3 is very peculiar. Lots of meshes: the Tunbus, the Timbuktu triangle. So how did you handle those challenges in Sector 3? Are they still IEDs, or are there other natural issues other than IEDs and flooding?

A: Of course, one of the major issues in Sector 3 is flooding. So now that we have had some experience in some areas, we have worked out ways to counter it the next time so that it doesn’t happen. By creating dykes, water floods areas to channel the water when it comes back. So, these are some of the things we have done. And we are clearing the waterways of the hyacinths and the giant grasses. So, this thing will also allow us to freely go through the channel linking the Lake Chad Basin area.

Q: And were you satisfied with the cooperation from your colleagues in the air?

A: Yes, absolutely yes.

Q: Cuts in. At times we see them bombing and producing their own reports outside the theater, or are those bombing under your command?

A: Yes, we plan everything with joint operations; you know, we plan together. You know, we mostly get the intelligence, and we pass it on to them to carry out the air rides. Yes,  they do conform to our directives here.

Q: What about the Navy guys in Baga and your amphibious troops? What’s next for them? What is their plan to end all of this?

A: The Navy, like I said, is involved in actively clearing the waterways that have been overtaken by the water hyacinths and going forward. They are going to be carrying out more serious amphibious operations in the Lake Chad Basin area.

Q: I believe that when you get over there in Chad, there will be a correlation between that side and this side, so that they will be able to weed out the criminals. This is because I learned that even on Tumbus Island, there are so many that nobody actually knows the number of them for effective planning. But I believe you people will take each day as it comes. Is that correct, General?

A: Yes, that is it.

Q: What then is your message to the people of this whole theater as you are leaving, especially concerning the defected insurgents surrendering daily? We have heard so many reports about them, you know, especially now that you are going to the other side of Lake Chad to do the same job in conjunction with foreign troops.

A: What I will tell them is that they should not look backwards. Of course, they shouldn’t lose hope either; they should continue to give support in times of information and intelligence. They should continue to talk to their brothers who are out fighting and tell them to lay down their arms and come out. I think the Governor has a good heart and wants the best for them. They should give him a chance and listen to him. They should come out of the bushes and lay down their arms. Now we have over 100,000 who have surrendered. Over 100,000. I think that is a sign that we are getting to the end of the tunnel. The crisis is coming to an end. Of course, there will be some die-hards. But of course, such die-hards will find themselves to blame at the end of the day. That is my message to them.

Q: My mind is on the wounded soldiers at the 7th Division hospital. Are you satisfied with the facility, having spent just six months managing the troops? In case you were here for another 6 months. What would you have done differently with the functional medical facility in the barracks?

A: Of course, it is to improve the hospital by buying more equipment. We can increase and buy more. Even though what we have is adequate and there is a system whereby we move some of them to 44 in Kaduna, you know, And even in Damaturu now, we have a few hospitals there. So, we have the capability to take care of the strength of the troops here.

Q: And we believe the new Chief will take care of the tertiary one being built here to ease the pressure on the UMTH and 44?

A: Of course.

Q: Thank you very much, General Ali. I wish you the best.

A: Thank you.

The challenges with IEDs at the “Hadin Kai” theater will soon be history – Former TC General Ali

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In spite of the insurgency in our backyard coupled with dangerous chemicals we work with, my people are uninsured  – Chairman NAAT unimaid chapter

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In spite of the insurgency in our backyard coupled with dangerous chemicals we work with, my people are uninsured  – Chairman NAAT unimaid chapter

Comrade Yusuf Bulus is the Chairman of the National Association of Academic Technologists NAAT. Pinning him down for a chat was a long struggle which ended up in his laboratory at the department of Pharmacy, University of Maiduguri. Before the interview, there was a tour of one of the small spaced  laboratory of the faculty of pharmacy. So many lapses were pointed at. It was obvious management backed by the federal government who are the owners of the institution must hurry up to give the faculty more lab spaces if they want their graduates to be of contemporary standards. Bodunrin Kayode sends extract of the interview with the Comrade chairman Yusuf. 

Q: How has it been over the years working without the required upgrades in the faculty of pharmacy? 

A: The students are coping, but we need to be supervising them. So that’s the major aspect of it. That’s why I would have loved you to see the laboratory while in session so you understand the challenges. The other side is the store and preparation room where we keep some equipments and reagents. When the students need to carryout their practicals, we ask the junior staffs to bring them so that we perform their experiments. We keep monitoring and observing other things because there are some of the reagents that you may likely not put inside that place. You need to keep it inside your office, so that your eyes will always be there.

Q: How far has the Federal Government kept its word concerning equipment upgrades because I know President Goodluck approved funds for these things before he left office after the first agreement. 

A: Yes, it was N 30 billion.

Q: What is the situation now in terms of the fight for upgrades between ASUU, NAAT and the Federal Government?

A: Actually, as you stated, this strike is as a result of the 2009 agreement. When the 2009 agreement was signed there were components of it not fulfilled. Now let me be specific to that of NAAT and then talk about that of ASUU. The 4 affiliated unions in the University which are ASUU,  SSANU, NASU and NAAT, had their own separate agreements. ASUU did their own, SSANU did their own, NASU did their own, NAAT did their own and the four unions were fighting the Federal Government and that led them into unfulfilled promises. The components of the agreement was different as each union had its own separately. Federal Government in its own logic gave us 30 billion naira, in 2007 and  that was released during Goodluck’s period, you know it was supposed to be Goodluck and Yar’adua. But actually, it was Goodluck that was on seat, they now released that money. So that money was shared  based on seniority.

Q: Is NAAT entitled to EARNED allowances, like ASUU?

A: No, you see in our components, we have responsibility allowances, we have occupational hazard allowances, SWIS allowance, we have field trip allowances. That occupational hazard allowance is to be paid N30,000 monthly for each technologist, that’s for NAAT members, which we have started benefiting as from last year when we joined the IPPIS. Now, responsibility allowances, for heads of the labs, like me who is heading this lab and the excess of that money is for somebody who is taking care of that inventory of what is coming in and what is going out. So we are able to hold one and Federal Government has considered and have started implementing the payment of N25,000 every month.  So when they paid that money, they just shared it like that. When it comes to this hazard allowances, junior staff is collecting N15,000, senior staff N30,000 that’s what I am specifically talking about NAAT. But when it comes to the issue of this 2009 agreement, that’s what I am trying to tell you that u77each union has it own agreement, now ASUU has its own agreement, NASU has its own, NAAT, SSANU all of us have our own. But when the money came in, the lion share was carried by ASUU, so the other ones were shared to SSANU, NASU, NAAT based on seniority. But from that one too, NAAT got the second lion share, because as of then, our chiefs who are the most senior by ranking got about N900,000, while the junior ones got the least of N300,000 that is how the money was shared. But in the subsequent one, when we fought, they gave us our rights. The Federal Government now sent an audit committee to come and audit what was collected from them and that is how we shared what is our outstanding. So from then on Federal Government gave us another money for good 3 terms. Until this recent strike which started around February last year our encounter with them has not been easy. Lets be specific ASUU was fighting for revitalization in the 2009 agreement, that’s the revitalization we are talking about and you can see the stands of the University and the equipments in this lab.

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Q: But how much did  NAAT get from that N30 billion? 

A: The N30 billion was for the whole country, for the 4 unions. They didn’t share it in Abuja. It was shared in each institution. 18 percent of the money was given to  the three unions. And that was to take care of Earned and other related allowances.

Q: So how many years of EARNED allowances is minister Adamu Adamu owing the Federal Universities? 

A: Let me be specific with that of NAAT, when we calculated and gave our outstanding, what was given to us was not up to 30 percent of what we expected from Federal Government. Lets say you are expecting N200 billion they now gave you N30 billion and that is for EARNED allowances. As for revitalization, Federal Government has been sending money for revitalization. And we and the other non teaching staffs have been benefitting. We were even expecting before joining the strike. And the money that is coming for revitalization is to buy equipments, reagents and consumables. But where we have problem is that the end users were not incorporated in using that money. The money will come to the University which is supposed to be taken care of by the governing council and then buy those things, but because of the situation we find ourselves, we cannot access it. So the issue of the state of the Universities is that the Federal Government may give that money, but it is not used judiciously. 

Q: Are you saying that some people will deep hands into the funds and divert?

A: Sure, and divert it, instead of making proper appropriation for it to go round where the needs exists. 

Q: I see tarred roads on campus, could it not be that management here is benefiting from the upgrade support to fix the school already? 

A: No, if you are talking about those newly tarred roads you are seeing, it’s not only Zulum’s support, I know of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporations NNPC’s, Federal Ministry of Works and other interventions. The needs assessments normally takes care of equipments, roofing, hostels, the structure in classrooms, laboratories, workshops, studios teaching facilities, this is where revitalization is coming into. 

Q: So can we say Federal Government has not paid any of the aggrieved allowances for 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018?

A: Yes, in fact from 2017 to date.

Q: So even ASUU has not seen 2017?

A: Yes, what has been given was the backlog. The last money that dropped for say from 2013 to 2016, so 2017 to date nothing has been received.

Q: At least for a lab small as this?

A: Not for this side lab, but for the standard of the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) or Pharmacy Council of Nigeria (PCN) considering Its students per ratio or students per staff. We are supposed to have 20 students per one staff. If you look at what is happening here in this lab, where I am the only technologist it’s not so. So if there was provision, and had it been five of us are here which means 5 multiplied  by 20 its supposed to be 100. And in a situation whereby I am the only person, which means the remaining  80 are excess workload, so that is why government is supposed to pay me my allowances. If you are talking about space. Here they calculate 20 students per one staff, if in a course, one course four lecturers are taken care of that course which means we are going to share it when the money comes. So they will calculate 20 times 4 which is 80, the remaining 20 is excess workload. Then if you are talking about revitalization where it affects the students especially in the lab here, the capacity of this building is supposed to be 48. They admit 130 students, so if they admitted 130 something, its triple. So we normally use to divide the students into groups. Group A, B, C.  Group A will come today 3 hours next group B will come next C will come that’s how we share. That’s why they complain about academic staff and even we the technologist that is if the space is available the equipments and material should be available. If you look at the size of this one and look at the equipments now, are they okay? How many Microscopes is available in this lab? Where we have 120 students and the capacity of the lab is 48, we are supposed to have 48 to 50 microscopes. That is one for the lecturer, one for the technologist, and each student should have one. Which means the students will not go and join another group for them to carry out their practicals. Two, if you look at lightening system, look at Air conditioners (AC’s) here, if you allow 40 students to be here you know how much you are going to contain. The ACs are not working. This lab is not even supposed to contain fan, but look at it in the absence of ACs you now put fan and you see its another problem which means its circulating. This means the place is not safe for learning.

Q: What is delaying the second pharmacy structure that will give you more lab spaces? 

A: Actually, I should not be in the best position to tell you, but out of experience I am a union leader because I normally used to ask questions. Its the system that is destroying itself, now if a building is given as a contract whereby some percentage will be given to you. You will be paid based on the stage you reach, but for the past three years now they gave that building and the time for that building is supposed to be 14 month, today its almost 72 months that they gave it out and it has not been built. That is why I said I am not in the best position to tell you what is going on. But I learnt that TET fund has given a direct contract from Abuja for the completion of the second pharmacy structure. The contractor would just come in and start working, and sadly that means we the end users that are supposed to correct them can’t talk to them. What you request is not what would be provided in most cases. That is the disadvantage.

Q: Big minus indeed for you the users of the facilities which are overloaded here. 

A: Yes and a lot of duplication from the contractors they make money out of duplication of items instead of them bringing this pen, somebody went and brought another variety of pen or even pencil. He said, I said that is the one that I want, why are you bringing pencil? Please the function of the pens and pencils are different just go and get what we asked for. So in the process of changing, they will say its like you are not cooperating with us, no problem we will go back and then they will dump and forget you. That is exactly what is happening with even the supply of equipments here. It’s sad. 

Q: What are those challenges that have been choking you here? 

A: Most of the challenges is electricity light especially for the labs. Electricity is one, two, water system. Three spacing, you know a situation whereby this lab is built for 48 students, because of the competition and the situation we find ourselves, they admitted 150 students. Then the big challenge is lack of consistent training of our technologists. Regular training, because the equipments that you got training in 1980, 1990, is not the one we are using now. Insurance is the fourth. lack of insurance is a major problem. I know NAAT has its, insurance policy but its not implemented. If you are working in the lab, there are some reagents here if you are working that can kill you and even destroy your reproductive cells. You see somebody with a fine wife, but he cannot give birth, the reagents has sterilized the reproductive cells. If he has an insurance, it will take care of that. But you know we have a policy, but the policy is not being implemented. Why the union was agitating for that renegotiation, this renegotiation the last time they increased the money was that 2009 agreement. From now if you look at the rate of, lets talk of dollars now or let’s talk of even the naira say as of 2009, a bag of rice was N2000. Today a bag of rice is N35,000. At 2009 you don’t pay any money for your student needs even government school, but today you must pay. Things have changed completely, so people are now moving helter skelter looking for other places where they can get extra jobs so that they can survive. And if you are going to talk specifically of unimaid, we have a peculiar problem, thank God you have that experience. You were here when the crisis was at its peak, everybody ran and left  Maiduguri, because life doesn’t have duplicate, so somebody will run and find another place. So these are the reasons why our welfare is supposed to be taken care of. 

Q: But has insurance been part of the findings of the Babalakin commission? 

A: Yes. As I have said we have it in our own 2009 agreement, but even some parts of the 2009 agreement was silent. People were just agitating about where the money will come from. That is why, if you go out now asking Technologists, they would tell you that  our hazard, responsibility, student implementation ratio which is excess workload, our SIWES and all these allowances are known. But people are silent about insurance. We have been talking about insurance, but you know I don’t know how to classify it, is it because of the individual unions, the leadership interest. But I know that in our 2009 agreement it is there. People are silent all over about the matter. And they are talking about this IPPIS let us be sincere to ourselves, I am a union leader, these are what I am interested in, I don’t bother about how you pay but what I am going to get there is where I am interested in.

Q: How are you surviving with the IPPIS? 

A: The reality is, that sometimes ago when we were about joining this IPPIS as leaders, we were briefed that this thing is going to be captured that one is going to capture, but it was not realistic when we joined IPPIS.  I thought that this is something that the union leaders should fight and why is it that there are abnormalities. This was not what we agreed for, correct it or else. But if somebody is talking about IPPIS now I am surprise because why is it that some lecturers are going for sabbatical, if they are not paying you why should you go? I know of my people that went for  sabbatical, if they are not paid there, why should they go.

Q: NAAT too  go for sabbatical?

A: Yes, we go sabbatical, I know about 15 of my members went for sabbatical why are they going if they are not getting anything? why should you go and spend a complete year somewhere else if you are not getting money? There are people that have never gone for sabbatical. Is an agreement that you arrange with somebody. Like one visiting they don’t pay you full salary but they would say we are paying so for so either they would pay from internally generated revenue IGR or whatsoever the management is going to consider. We have enough money to pay these people because we don’t have them as contract staff. I know some of the contract staff that got their money from IPPIS.

Q: I don’t think they paid anything to contract staff, they are owing during the strike. 

A: Good, but other staffs yes during the strike let me tell you the worst strike that ever happen in this country is this strike. Even overhead, Federal Government refused to send it, how do they expect these people to run the schools? Are Vice Chancellors on strike, Registrar’s, Bursar’s essential services?

Q: That was a mistake, the government shouldn’t have done that? You are right

A: Its like they wanted to destroy, or eliminate the whole thing. Yes if not for the whole 7 month or 8 month you have not sent over head cost and you still expect to come and see that structure, in the system. So this strike is something very strange it was not a strike but another battle. Because its like people came with some of their interests to come and revenge or to come and destabilize things, if not, let me be specific like this primary school and secondary school they were called that if you are on strike and that you don’t want you will not come, how are you going to do with your children, they came and they were not given single kobo. Security men there were on duty, fire service they were on duty, nothing was given to them. And if you come back to the lab now look at the animals. If you go on strike for one month without feeding those animals, what will happen are you coming to meet the animals alive? 

Q: Now looking at salary raise of 35 percent that was given to Profs, did they give NAAT members of equivalent status this?

A: We got 23.5 percent. For NAAT, NASU and SSANU 23.5 percent. We suspended the strike for 3 month hoping that things will be okay. But if things are not okay we may go back for another NAAT meeting and review the stand of the association. As NAAT we always believe in dialogue and law, so that because of our number and the challenges that I said. If you go and meet a Professor of History, or of religious knowledge where he doesn’t know, he doesn’t bother about laboratory or talking about technology taking care of it. For you to graduate you must pass through technologists. Well ASUU is collecting students implementation ratio, we collect our student supplementation ratio. I am very proud to tell you that in this school we have enjoyed student supplementation ratio for almost 3 years collecting our salaries. Because that was our right and they know and they look at it that yes it is good to pay us. We stay and conduct practicals up to 5 o’clock or 6 pm. Sometimes we have to leave our houses 7 o’clock for practical in the mornings.

Q: The negotiation of the 2009 agreement continues as far as NAAT is concerned. Do you believe that it is solvable?

A:Yes, they have not accepted it, because the renegotiation is not talking about holding salaries but was talking about allowances and then services, scheme of services. The other ones we are talking about are health insurances, some other allowance that people are benefiting in other climes but we are not benefiting. Then I said renegotiation of, arrears of earned allowances. 

In spite of the insurgency in our backyard coupled with dangerous chemicals we work with, my people are uninsured  – Chairman NAAT unimaid chapter

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Nobody can escape from the wrath of the VAPP law if found guilty – Jumai Mshelia

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Nobody can escape from the wrath of the VAPP law if found guilty – Jumai Mshelia

Barrister Jumai Mshelia is the head of the Borno State office of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). This amiable rights activists hardly have time for her personal life because everyday is about hard work in her office. In spite of the lingering insurgency in the state which has taken so much from her in the area of arbitration over resultant marital and rape issues, she never gets tired of going back to her old office on Bama road in Maiduguri to respond to myriads of issues that gets to her table. She had a review interview with Bodunrin Kayode on her activities in 2022 which culminated in the 16 days of activities to sharpen the wits of stake holders on how far the state has gone in terms of progress on some vexed issues like rape and what to expect in 2023.

Q: What is it about the 2022 activities of the national human rights commission that is different from 2021?

A: What makes 2022 unique is that it was the 75th commemoration of the international human right day, that coincides with the universal declaration of human rights with the theme dignity, freedom and justice for all. This is what makes it unique. And it’s unique in the sense that, dignity for human beings makes people have that freedom and justice and fairness to anybody as far as we are human beings. So for us as a commission, we commemorated it in the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). So for us honestly it’s a great celebration, because we have all the relevant stakeholders in our midst, we had the Commissioner of Police, the representative of the theatre Commander in the person of Brigadier General Idris, the Garrison Commander. We had the Controller of immigration,the NSCDC Commander, we had the representative of Commissioner of women affairs, her own is because of issues that they are having there at the commission of women affairs. So you can see the high caliber of people that are here. So if you talk of the issues of human violation, the people, the distinguished participants were happy so that at least, they can voice out their concerns that they have with security men listening. You can see during the plenary session a lot of issues were asked, and I commend their efforts for being all on top of all the questions that they were asked and their work in what they are doing in the state. We had the representative of the civil society, we had the women too on it. So they spoke a lot about issues around human rights violation and the role that all the security agency that are ensuring and respecting the rights of women in the state

Q: Lets zero down on the impact of your activism in the state over the years, can we say things are getting better or just averagely?

A: Its improving, this is because people are now cautious of their rights they know how and where to report each of the human right violation, and having known of their rights, they try to respect other peoples right. And whenever such issues comes on they don’t take laws into their hands, they report immediately. You can see from the two scenario, the drama presentation on the stage. You have seen how people were conscious of how and where to report issues of human rights violation, issues of early marriage was highlighted and you have seen how the girl child was able to know how where to report issue of anything that affects her rights.

Looking at the state and the extreme secrecy and shame phenomenon when it comes to some crimes like lingering rape, can you say Borno within a scale of 1 to 10 has started opening up, lets say 6/10 or we are still around 2/10.

No we are around 7/10, because people can open up and report issues. People are ready to come out and say their minds despite the threat, the intervention that people are coming to seat and tell them they should not report.

Q: But 7/10, when we have a school proprietor who doesn’t want a suspected rape case to be prosecuted and they are fighting to kill that case if possible?

A: You can see the level the father has taken his steps in ensuring that, no matter what, he wants justice for his daughter unlike then that it should have been shredded out or kept in secret, protecting it such that if I allowed it to go viral my daughter will not get somebody to marry. That is what makes it different.

Q: A five year old? Who will remember the case of this small girl 10, 15 years from now. Who is going to remember except her?

A:Some people then, before the consciousness of awareness people felt that such issues should not be talked in the middle of people, it should not be discussed at all. But now they know that there are people, we are here to support them no matter what and justice will be done to them. And the case is with the ministry of justice for legal advice.

Q: Will the ministry be under pressure to drop such a sensitive case?

A: No, no, no, for legal advice.

Q: What if the school tries to apologize and settle out of court with a huge plea bargain amount, will it be permissible?

A: No, with the recent Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) law, it’s not permitted. The vapp law said, “he who admits, there is punishment for death”.
You admitted now, so there is no issue of settlement. There is no issue of settlement under VAPP law. If you settle that will be abetment, you are abetting for the continuation of appropriation of certain crime. Even if the money speaks and I like what the father said, because the father was saying that no matter who is the person, he is not going to proceed and say he has forgiving them. He wants justice for his daughter.

Q:Finally, what would you say are the highest points of the 16 days of 2022 activity?

A: The commemoration of the international human right of last year was so special in the sense that we have gotten the normal support from stake holders.
We have equally seen the commitment of the relevant stakeholders’ in the cause of fighting human rights violation. And that shows that, whosoever is in conflict with the law will not go free. He will be punished. We enjoin every person to ensure the fight for human rights, because only human rights commission is everybody needs.

Nobody can escape from the wrath of the VAPP law if found guilty – Jumai Mshelia

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