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Senate Passes Bill To End HND/BSc Discrimination

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The Senate, on Wednesday, read for the third time and passed a Bill that seeks to end discrimination between First Degrees graduates from universities and Higher National Diploma (HND) holders from polytechnics in the country.

The passage of the Bill followed the consideration of the report of the Senate Joint Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matters; and Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND, during plenary.

Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, in his report, said: “The enactment of the bill to abolish and prohibit discrimination between First Degrees and Higher National Diploma for the purpose of employment in Nigeria will no doubt free holders of HND from stagnation and ensure balanced treatment with their counterparts from other higher tertiary institutions in Nigeria.”

He added that the abolishment of the existing dichotomy between HND holders and graduates of Universities would meet the huge manpower needs of Nigerians, ensure social justice and enhanced corporate governance as well encourage patriotic contributions amongst HND employees in both public and private sectors.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in his contribution, said the passage of the Bill would serve as motivation for polytechnic graduates.

He called on the public and private sectors to ensure the implementation of the Bill’s provisions as soon as it is signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“This particular issue has been in the front burner for a long time. I recall that in the House of Representatives between 2003 and 2007, this was one bill that was so important, and is one way of encouraging our Polytechnic graduates.

“That should not take away from the kind of training they receive, but, in fact, it is supposed to be a motivation for our polytechnic graduates.

“I pray that the Federal Government and all those government agencies and the private sector would start to implement this by the time the President assents to this Bill.”

The Bill which was sponsored by Senator Patrick Ayo Akinyelure seeks to resolve the lingering controversy, discrimination and wage and entry level disparity against HND holder in the public and private sectors of the economy.

It also seeks to promote Nigeria’s technological advancement by encouraging many qualified candidates to pursue polytechnic and technological studies.

It could be recalled that in his lead debate during the second reading of the Bill, Senator Akinyelure had insisted that discrimination against HND holders could ruin the nation’s core policy thrust of evolving a technological and scientifically based society.

Findings, he said, had proved that some polytechnic graduates were in some cases better on the field than their university counterparts.

“A government employment policy that places degree holders ahead of HND holders without recourse to skill and ability of the HND holder thereof does more harm than good to the nation’s development plans,” Akinyelure had said.

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Southern States Skeptical as NELFund Disburses First Loans

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The National Education Loan Fund (NELFund) officially launched on Wednesday, a significant step in providing financial aid to students across Nigeria.

However, the initiative faces skepticism, particularly from the southern states.

President Bola Tinubu inaugurated the first tranche of funds, amounting to N32 billion, aimed at empowering Nigerian youth and breaking financial barriers to education.

The NELFund portal has registered 164,000 students, with 103,000 applying for loans.

Despite the promising start, many southern states remain doubtful about the fund’s implementation.

Akintunde Sawyerr, NELFund’s Managing Director, acknowledged these concerns, citing data challenges in verifying indigent applicants as a primary hurdle.

Sawyerr highlighted the lack of comprehensive data needed for credit assessments. The fund relies on bank verification numbers (BVN), National Identification Numbers (NIN), and educational institution data to determine eligibility.

More applications have been received from northern states, where students have shown greater confidence in the fund.

Sawyerr pointed out that skepticism in the south might stem from uncertainty about the program’s viability.

NELFund offers two types of loans: educational fees paid directly to institutions and upkeep loans for student stipends.

The focus is currently on government-owned institutions to ensure a smooth rollout.

President Tinubu emphasized education as a critical tool against poverty and insecurity, linking the nation’s challenges to a lack of educational opportunities.

He reaffirmed his commitment to inclusive growth through education.

As NELFund continues its rollout, efforts to address data issues and regional skepticism will be crucial. By building trust and ensuring transparency, the program aims to support more students nationwide and foster a fairer society.

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Federal Government Shortlists 5,000 for Oil and Gas Sector Overseas Scholarships

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The Federal Government has shortlisted 5,000 candidates for its prestigious overseas scholarships.

The announcement was made through the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) in Abuja.

Bolanle Agboola, the Head of the Overseas Scholarship Scheme at PTDF, disclosed that the selection process for the 2024 scholarships had reached its final stage.

She revealed that the shortlisted candidates had participated in rigorous examinations across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.

“The purpose of this initiative is to empower Nigerians with high-tech skills required in the oil and gas industry,” Agboola stated. “The selection process was conducted simultaneously in various universities across the country.”

Highlighting the importance of the scholarships, Agboola emphasized the need for Nigeria to indigenize its oil and gas sector.

“Our target is to select the best candidates for the overseas scholarships,” she said. “This initiative aligns with the government’s goal of building local capacity in the oil and gas industry.”

When asked about the number of participants to be selected, Agboola explained that each state of the federation would receive an equal allocation of successful candidates based on the budget for the year.

However, she refrained from disclosing the exact budget allocated for the scholarship scheme.

Agboola defended the decision to send scholars abroad, citing the high-tech nature of the oil and gas industry and the need for hands-on experience with cutting-edge equipment and technology.

She also mentioned PTDF’s in-country scholarship program, where participants are trained in Nigeria.

The overseas scholarships will be offered in various universities in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Malaysia, providing Nigerian scholars with access to world-class education and training in the oil and gas sector.

With this initiative, the Federal Government aims to equip Nigerian professionals with the expertise needed to drive innovation and development in the nation’s vital oil and gas industry, ensuring its sustainability and competitiveness on the global stage.

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JAMB Releases 36,540 Withheld UTME Results, Dismisses Cyber Breach Claims

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The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has quelled concerns over the integrity of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) results by releasing an additional 36,540 previously withheld scores.

This move follows earlier revelations of withheld results and assertions of a cyber security breach.

Fabian Benjamin, the spokesperson for JAMB, confirmed the release of these results in a statement issued late Tuesday in Abuja.

This latest batch of released scores, when combined with the 531 previously unveiled, brings the total number of results made public to 1,879,437.

Benjamin took the opportunity to address circulating rumors regarding the security of the UTME results.

He categorically dismissed claims of a cyber security breach, saying that the examination outcomes remain intact and securely stored.

He stressed that the results are not stored in any cloud system and thus cannot be compromised by external entities.

At the time of the UTME release, JAMB had disclosed that certain results were withheld pending further investigation.

Subsequently, 531 of these results were recently unveiled with the remainder still under scrutiny.

Benjamin explained that any candidates implicated in examination malpractice are undergoing thorough investigation.

The examination board intends to meticulously review footage from CCTV cameras installed across all accredited centers to ascertain each candidate’s involvement.

Benjamin urged the public to remain vigilant against misinformation originating from sources not affiliated with JAMB.

He attributed the discrepancies in minimum admissible scores to variations among tertiary institutions. Some institutions, he noted, proposed lower minimum scores than others, resulting in varying benchmarks.

Benjamin clarified that these benchmarks are determined collectively by all Heads of Institutions during the annual Policy Meeting on Admissions, ensuring uniformity across the country.

Also, Benjamin cautioned religious organizations against overstepping their designated roles.

He warned against the dissemination of false information to governmental bodies for personal gain.

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