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Lecturers’ Strike Ends, Yet COVID-19 Threatens Nigerian Students Resumption

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Nigerian public university students have had forced holidays for almost a year, thanks to an industrial action by University lecturers and COVID-19.

The onset of the pandemic in Nigeria coincided with a strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) but the real impact would not show its face until the first wave of the disease settled and academic activities resumed in the country, except in public universities.i

Endless negotiations, multiple deadlocks and a lengthened strike frustrated Nigerian students, thousands of whom were about graduating from school. The delay in resumption ensured many missed out on scholarships, foreign postgraduate admissions and many other opportunities.

Nigerian undergraduates are some of the smartest in the world, with regular appearances in global contests standing them out on occasions. They are also some of the best postgraduate students in foreign universities. However, constant strike actions by lecturers and recently, an unseen and never-seen-before disease has ensured they wait at home for longer than expected.

Most of these students have taken up other means, with many of them chasing livelihood outside the confines of their classrooms. While many have enrolled in Forex trading, some others have taken up buying and selling of cryptocurrencies, with no exclusion of the many who have taken to different crafts. The belief is Nigerian universities are known to delay students’ graduation and just studying is not enough.

ASUU has since reached an agreement with the Nigerian government and called off the 9-month long strike, but the resumption date set by the government may not be feasible.

University lecturers in the country say the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is scary and without adequate structures and safety provisions in place, it is risky allowing students back into classrooms.

Nigeria’s coronavirus numbers are growing geometrically and citizens are scared. With over 100,000 cases already reported, there are fears that huge infection numbers may come out of Nigeria’s large students population.

ASUU is demanding the Nigerian government’s assurances that lecturers and students will be kept safe.

“We have no objection to the resumption of universities. ASUU has suspended its strike and our members are ready to work, ” the group’s President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi said.

“However, the health and safety of our members as well as our students must be guaranteed.

“I hope the government will work it out together with the university authorities to ensure that this second wave of COVID-19 does not affect the health and safety of the university communities.

“We ask the government to do what they did in the aviation industry: let them evaluate the level of preparedness and let them tell Nigerians that with what they have seen they can guarantee that if the students return, if lecturers have classes, there will be no adverse consequences.”

The Nigerian government in its response has said the resumption date, 18th of January, will be reviewed amid growing number of infections but there are no promises that the date will be extended.

There are divergent opinions by Nigerian students on the resumption with many demanding that the date stays, while others want it extended.

“As regards schools, I just want to make a clarification, what the minister said yesterday was that they were going to review, he didn’t say that they were going to change the date. He said they will review the situation and let the nation know, ” Dr. Sani Aliyu, the National Coordinator of Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 said.

“So, for the moment, it is still 18th January until the ministry of education comes back either with an alternative date or reconfirm that.”

Chairman of the Task Force and Secretary to the Nigerian government, Boss Mustapha blamed the rising COVID-19 cases on the reopening of some schools (mostly private), airports without adequate measures for orevention of the disease.

“It is however very instructive to stress that factors that have contributed to rise in numbers from late November 2020 included increased local and international travels, business and religious activities, reopening of schools without strict compliance with COVID-19 safety measures, ” he said.

Nigerian students may have to wait on the government to see if academic activities will finally resume but in the absence of the physical opening of schools, some public universities like the University of Ilorin, in Nigeria’s North Central have embarked on virtual classes.

This hasn’t come without its challenges and criticisms, with internet connection in the country and power, being big bottlenecks.

The coming days will tell if university undergraduates in the country will have an extended, albeit, enforced holiday or finally resume classes, after almost a year’s pause on their academic progression.

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Tunisians Protest over Viral Video of Police Officer Assaulting Shepherd

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Tunisians took to the streets in protests after a video showing a police officer assaulting a shepherd went viral online.

The video had shown the police officer scolding and pushing a shepherd whose sheep had entered the governerate headquarters in Siliana, Northern Tunisia.

After going viral online, violent protests broke out in no fewer than six Tunisian cities on Saturday night, including the capital Tunis and the coastal city of Sousse.

Security forces fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who blocked roads and burnt tyres in Sousse, where young men also broke into shops.

Clashes were reported in the nearby city of Kalaa Kebira and in several areas of Tunis, including Ettadhamen, Mallassin and Fouchana and Sijoumi.

There were also night protests and riots in the northern towns of Kef, Bizerte and Siliana.

Activists said that it was unacceptable to harm the dignity of any citizen, a decade after Tunisians revolted against injustice and oppression.

The Public Prosecution office opened an investigation into the incident.

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Oil Spill Reported at Chevron Nigeria’s Facility in Bayelsa

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An oil leak has reportedly been spotted from the Funiwa oilfield operated by Chevron Nigeria (CNL).

The leak was reported on Sunday by fishermen, operating on the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean near Bayelsa State.

The fishermen, from Koluama in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa, raised the alarm in a chat with newsmen on Sunday in Yenagoa.

The fishermen, who operate on shallow waters near the ocean, said they noticed that crude was on the waters near the oil facility as helicopters were seen overflying the area.

Tombra Ebitimi, a fisherman from the coastal settlement, said that he observed the incident on Saturday night and subsequently reported the same to the community leadership.

He said that apart from helicopters sighted around the area possibly for assessment, meaningful response efforts had yet to begin.

“Some of us, who went on fishing, sailed into the oil-contaminated area near the Funiwa oilfield got our nets and fishing gear soaked with crude on Saturday.

But we noticed some helicopters hovering around the facility by today,’’ he said.

Ebitimi said it could be that community leaders have informed the company of the development, which made them deployed helicopters in the area.

He appealed to the company not to apply toxic chemicals from the sky to dissolve the crude oil, saying, “those chemicals are unfriendly to fishes and marine life generally’’.

He said that fishermen in the area had temporarily suspended fishing to avoid catching contaminated fishes that could jeopardise public health.

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Militia Kill 48, Injure 97 in Sudan

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No fewer than 48 people died in militia attacks on El-Geneina in West Dafur, Sudan.

A statement by Doctors Syndicate of West Darfur, on Sunday, said that 97 people were also injured, adding that the attacks began on Saturday.

The statement said that the medical personnel were making efforts to provide medical care to the wounded despite a shortage of supplies and nursing staff.

The Doctors Syndicate also appealed for armed transportation in order to transport medical personnel to government and private treatment institutions.

This recent attacks came weeks after UN peace-keepers began withdrawing from the region, where violence is increasing.

The Dafur Bar Association said the attacks were triggered when a member of the Masalit tribe stabbed a member of an Arab tribe.

“Armed militias took advantage of the incident and attacked El Geneina from all sides,” the association said, as well as the nearby Kreinding camp for internally displaced people, from where SUNA said there was now a wave of people moving towards the city.

The association accused the militias of looting and human rights abuses.

On Saturday, the governor of West Darfur declared a state of emergency, authorising the use of force in order to stabilise the situation and imposing a curfew.

While the military had begun to deploy, the bar association said the commander for the region had not responded to the state governor’s directives.

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