Lecturers insist on UTAS payment system
The Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, has blamed a previous administration for the continuous strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
This is coming as the union has insisted on the adoption of its recently invented payment system for universities with the name University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as payment platform, against the federal government’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
Although Adamu did not refer to any particular administration, he said that that government shouldn’t have entered into an agreement with ASUU to pay them N1.3trilion when it knew it couldn’t pay it.
He said this while answering a question asked by a Corp Member, during a Town Hall meeting on security issues tagged ‘Engaging the Youth and Communities’ at the Multi-Purpose Indoor Sports Hall Complex Bauchi yesterday.
The event was organised by the state government at the instance of the federal government.
He said the insolvable problem that had resulted in incessant strikes by the ASUU was that ‘a government in this country went and sat down with ASUU and agreed on some conditions that it would pay universities N1.3 trillion’.
“I do believe that while they were signing that agreement, they knew that it is not possible for them to implement it. There is just nowhere N1.3trillion will come out from.
“I think the basic problem between the ASUU side and the government side has been deciding on what to do about this N1.3 trillion. If a government appends its signature to an agreement, it is an agreement,” he said.
The education minister said that the government was not happy that the strike was still on promising, however, that an agreement would soon be reached by the government and ASUU.
“We are not happy that our campuses are closed, we are not happy that the calendar of schools has been disrupted. But the fault is the government that signed to do what it knew it could not do
“But I assure you that we are on the verge of reaching an agreement and very, very soon, we will reach an agreement with them.”
Also responding to a question raised by a teacher, Adamu said the President has pledged to be paying anyone who intends to be trained as a teacher immediately after secondary school.
He said: “There is a pension scheme exclusively for teachers. All teachers’ children will be taught free in school. They won’t pay a single Kobo in the course of training their children.
“The government also approved special allowances for rural postings, like hardship allowance.”
Meanwhile, ASUU has insisted on the adoption of its recently invented payment system for universities with the name University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as payment platform, against the federal government’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
ASUU also argued that the IPPIS, which is made compulsory to university workers, including ASUU members is against the law of the land that granted autonomy to universities.
Besides, “the IPPIS is not temper-proof as presented, adding to the fact that it has national security risk being that the server is hosted from outside the country by an American company.”
The Coordinator, ASUU Calabar Zone, Comrade Aniekan Brown, covering seven universities within four states of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Ebonyi states, told journalist in Calabar yesterday that “we consider the IPPIS which is a payment system offer by the federal government as uncongenial with the modus operandi of the university system, given the peculiarities of universities. Government has made it a front burner; but we consider it a distraction.”
“Kindly note that our union has been rejecting the IPPIS since 2013; Government challenged us to produce an alternative to IPPIS. The union took up the challenge, and has produced one. This is called the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, UTAS. Presentations have been made to the appreciation of some quarters.”
“The union has been ready for the final stage presentation to NITDA. Sadly, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGoF) is of the position that our members migrate first (during the intervening period) after which if UTAS is approved, we would be re-migrated to UTAS. We argue that it is a case of economic waste.”
The ASUU zonal chief maintained that in the interim, their members have not been paid variously for periods ranging from four to nine months. “We are still in the trenches. And we will not return to the classes with empty stomach.”
He debunked the figures pandered in some quarters by the government that over 50,000 members of ASUU have voluntarily joined the IPPIS platform in obedience to the federal government directive as against about 14,000 yet to comply.
“That is just a divisive and blackmail tactics. We don’t have such number of academic staff members in the country even if you put together both federal and states’ universities. May be there are counting other unions’ members within the university.”
He further insisted that “the university system is peculiar in its modus-operandi. The mode of employment, retirement age, sabbatical leave, adjunct engagements, part-time engagements, contract engagements, etc. are concepts that are unique to the university, and obviously alien to IPPIS. The OAGF has told a lot lies about addressing these peculiarities. Unfortunately, our Union had a number of meetings with the OAGF and, for all that the meetings are worth, they were opportunities to convince ASUU that the IPPIS is capable of addressing the concerns of our Union. This did not happen!”