ASUU Opens Talks with FG over 2009 Pact, IPPIS

National President of ASUU, Prof Abiodun Ogunyemi

•Blames state govts for insecurity

Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Hammed Shittu in Ilorin and Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan

As part of moves to halt an impending strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over its standoff with the federal government on the non-implementation of the February 2009 agreement and government’s insistence that the union members must enroll on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), leaders of the union and the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, have commenced fresh talks, THISDAY has learnt.

The union has also accused the federal government of plotting to embark on what it called the “dilution” of the academic ranks of its members, through a 11-member committee set up by the acting Head of Service of the Federation (HoS), Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan.
In addition, it blamed state governments for the insecurity in the country, saying rather than tackle the causes of insecurity, they are busy organising their internal security networks.

THISDAY gathered that the latest meeting between the ASUU leadership and the federal government team led by Adamu took place last week at the ministry’s board room in Abuja.
A source privy to the meeting told THISDAY yesterday that the resumed talks were being held without media coverage because both parties considered the discussion very sensitive at the moment.
The source added that the talks also involved the Wale Babalakin-led committee set up to renegotiate the 2009 agreement with the university lecturers.

“ASUU has started meeting with the minister of education and the union is engaging him on the issues. They hope to do more follow-up meetings and that is why much cannot be said on the things being discussed at this stage.

“The issues being discussed include: the Memorandum of Action (MoA) that led to the suspension of the last strike in February 2009, all the issues that are outstanding in our 2009 Memorandum of Action, visitation to universities, funds for recapitalisation, the issue of payment of arrears of Earned Allowances for lecturers as well as funding of state universities are all part of the outstanding demands being tabled for discussion at the meeting,” the source stated.

When asked the date of their next engagement with the federal government, the source declined to disclose it, saying it was resolved that nothing of such should be announced in the media to avoid distractions.
He also added that the issue of IPPIS is also being addressed, saying that it is expected that the negotiations will produce “fruitful results very soon.”

Meanwhile, ASUU has accused the federal government of plotting to embark on what it called the “dilution” of the academic ranks of its members, through an 11-member committee set up by the acting HoS.
The HoS had inaugurated an 11-man committee on operational guidelines for Contract Appointments in the Nigerian civil service.
Inaugurating the committee, she said the committee was constituted to develop modalities for the implementation of short-term engagements in service, which cover contract appointments, sabbatical leave, exchange programmes and talent sourcing in the civil/public service.

The HoS asked the committee to see the task as another opportunity to rejig the public service system to meet the change agenda of government.
She said the assignment was necessary given the need to streamline the provisions of contract appointments in the civil/public service in line with PSR 020401.

“It is also necessitated by the need to revisit PSR 100222, which provides for one-year sabbatical leave for officers on Salary Grade Levels 15 and above in the civil/public service but which has been observed to be predominantly implemented in tertiary institutions and some research institutions.

The committee’s terms of reference are to cover the circumstances that may require contract appointment, career exchange and talent sourcing; the tenure of such appointment/engagements; the qualifications and requirements for engagement of an officer on those provisions and the guidelines for determining the commensurate remunerations for officers engaged under the provisions.
It is expected to complete the assignment within four weeks

But reacting to the setting up of the committee, ASUU said the move was part of the efforts by the federal government to trample upon the rights of lecturers and ensure the “dilution ” of academic ranks of its members.
ASUU has charged its members to come together to resist the plots saying, “no one will come to fight for you except we fight for ourselves so as to protect the university autonomy in the country”.

The Ibadan Zonal Coordinator of the union, Dr. Ade Adejumo, spoke on the issue in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, when members of the National Executive Committee of the union addressed members of the University of Ilorin branch as part of ongoing efforts to mobilise its members across the country.
The mobilisation is for an impending strike in case the federal government fails to pay February salary due to the union’s continued opposition to IPPIS.

He said: “As we are here seated, I know some of us want to go on sabbatical leave, collect our accumulated leave, contracts appointment and host of others, before our very eyes, very soon, that will be taken away from us by the federal government.
“And a tone has been set on that plot and anytime from now on, because a one-member committee has been inaugurated by the acting Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Folasade Yemi- Esan, to review sabbatical and contract appointments and what that means now to academics.

“And when you listen to the comment from the government circles, especially when the issue of IPPIS lasted, there were insinuations that lecturers worked on multiple campuses.
“Even during our meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said that lecturers worked in multiple campuses but we let him know that accumulated and sabbatical leave, contract appointment and others are our rights that cannot be infringed upon and the government quickly set up committee to look into our rights.

“Don’t be surprised that by the time the committee is being set up, the report is already written to put an end to our rights like accumulated and sabbatical leave, contract appointment, among others, thereby putting you permanently where you belong.”
Adejumo added that politicians considered ASUU members as arrogant and people who cannot be controlled and urged the union to resist the plot.

“Apart from this, there is another plot to dilute the academic ranks of union members in the nation’s universities. Normally, appointment to academic positions must originate from the departments because the department is supposed to identify who it may need for such a position.

“By the time the IPPIS runs its cycle, the government will start posting staff from Abuja. When you get to your department, you will start seeing new faces.

“Don’t be surprised also that your students that managed to pass your courses will be sitting with you in your offices and by the time they have achieved that, they have diluted you and lower your ranks and it rests on us to resist the plot so as to protect our rights and ranks in the universities,” he explained.

Earlier, the ASUU Chairman, University of Ilorin, Professor Salihu Moyosore Ajao, who lauded the massive attendance of the union at the meeting, had said the development had changed the past notion that the national leadership of the union had been having about the branch.

Also, ASUU yesterday blamed the federal and state governments for the rise in insurgency in the country.
The union alleged that many state governments are reverting to organising their internal security networks without treating the causes of insecurity.

The ASUU Chairman, University of Ibadan, chapter, Prof. Deji Omole in a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday, said the union had been warning governments to cater for the needs of the vulnerable in the society, adding that the warnings appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

According to him, instead of budgeting for people’s welfare, the federal and state governments now spend billions of naira to buy security equipment from countries that have invested heavily in research and training.

According to him, due to years of neglect and unbridled corruption in high places, many Nigerians have lost interest in being upright since those leading them have mortgaged their future.
He said the union had warned that a time would come when the children of the poor would have nothing to eat, noting that the observation is becoming a reality now.