ASUU Writes FG, Seeks Resumption of Negotiations


•Wants members enrolled in UTAS

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has formally written to the federal government, requesting for a date for the reopening of negotiations, which were abandoned in February due to the disagreement over the implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

The union also urged the federal government to initiate a process that would lead to the validation of its alternative salary payment platform, the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).

It demanded that government should pull out all academic staff already captured on IPPIS and enrol them on UTAS.

ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, who revealed the latest move by the lecturers to THISDAY at the weekend, said ASUU is seeking for an opportunity to reopen negotiations stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic to also enable the union to demonstrate the efficacy of UTAS.

He said: “We expect that federal government will facilitate the conducting of integrity test on UTAS. We have written to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, telling him that we are ready for integrity test if it will be facilitated by government. We sent the letter on Friday.

“Yes, we have met the Minister of Education but the negotiation proper has not started. So, we are waiting for government to call us and we expect that the Minister of Labour is going to facilitate the process and also facilitate the resumption of talks, which were suspended due to our disagreement over IPPIS,” he said.

Ogunyemi said the union is eager to resume engagement with government which was earlier initiated by the Minister of Labour and Employment in April but could not hold due to concerns over the COVID-19.

He explained that the union did not accept the earlier invitation because the minister suggested a virtual meeting, “which we felt cannot be able to address the issues properly.”

“We said that physical meeting is better because we need to consult amongst ourselves during the talks. Since COVID-19 is being tackled, opportunity will soon come for us to have physical meeting and that is what is happening now – at least, we have had the first physical meeting with the Minister of Education and now the door is open for further discussion,” he added.

Speaking on ASUU’s claim of developing an alternative to IPPIS, Ogunyemi said they had formerly presented the software to the federal government through the Minister of Education.

“We met the Minister of Education, Alhaji Adamu Adamu, on August 17 – that was last week, and we formerly presented our alternative to IPPIS, which is called the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).

“What we have now, if government means well, our members should be pulled out of IPPIS. What we have will take care of the uniqueness of the universities.

“That was why we wrote the Minister of Labour and Employment to update him that the meeting he proposed in April, that we are ready for it now.

“We also need to present UTAS to him (Ngige) and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning. You know they were asking for UTAS then and we said it was still being worked on and now that UTAS is ready, we are ready for its demonstration.”

On the issue of a new date for recommencement of talks, he said ASUU is always ready to respond to invitation for talks.

He added that the union discussed the fixing of a new date for resumption of negotiations when it met with the Minister of Education last Monday and that the minister told them that he was going to make consultations on it.

“What we need from government is sincerity. If government is sincere with us and we come to a satisfactory understanding, we are not strike mongers; we don’t enjoy being on strike either. We only use it as a last resort, when government pushes us to strike. It is because successive governments do not listen to persuasive argument and do not honour agreements. That is why we always find ourselves embarking on strike,” he said.