President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to consider the plight of students and call off the ongoing strike.

The President also urged students affected by the strike to exercise patience as government strives to address the nagging issues in the nation’s university system, within the ambit of the resources available.

He made the appeal 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, for their high productivity, hardwork and excellence.

President Buhari recalled that he had earlier directed the Chief of Staff, Hon. 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 other university-based labour unions.

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 country’s education system, adding that his administration recognises that the future of any nation is contingent on the level of its education development.

He said if stakeholders desired to transform Nigeria into a competitive, strong, vibrant, productive, and sustainable economy, improving the education system should be accorded the highest priority.

Highlighting notable achievements in the education sector including the drastic reduction of the number of out-of-school children from 10.1million 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, the President said more would still be needed to be done.

He noted that ignoring the productivity dimension of education would endanger the prosperity of future generations, with widespread repercussions for poverty and social exclusion.

Similarly, the President said the government has also approved a special salary scale for teachers in Basic and Secondary schools, including provisions for rural posting allowance, science teachers allowance and peculiar allowance, while prioritising timely promotion and prompt payment of salaries.

Furthermore, the President said the reintroduction of bursary award to education students in universities and Colleges of Education cames with assurance of automatic employment upon graduation, as well as payment of stipends to Bachelor of Education students.

Congratulating the awardees for their various accomplishments and well deserved recognition, the President said they had been carefully selected from a multitude of competitors, saying that the award should spur them to greater heights.

The President 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.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, had said since the inception of the award in 1991, 382 individuals and 97 organisations had been benefit from it.

Dr. Stella Adadevoh and Mr. Babatunde Lawal, received posthumous awards at the 2019/2020 edition of the National Productivity Day.

Dr 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 Mr. Lawal, who until his death on November 6, 2020, served as Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Affairs Office.

Babatunde, 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 include 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, Dr Chike Ihekweazu, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi;l, Chairman and Founder, BUA Group, Abdusamad Rabiu, Chairman of Globacom, Mike Adenuga Jnr, Professor Stanley Okolo, Director General of the West African Health Organisation, and Allen Onyema, Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace.

BELLO WAKILI