By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The meeting reconvened yesterday between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over the poor funding of universities and the controversy surrounding the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPI), payment platform, ended without any resolution.
This is coming as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who hosted the negotiations said the federal government cannot afford the N110 billion demanded by the ASUU for funding of revitalisation of universities.
However, the federal government’s team would meet on Friday to decide on the final offer to be made to the striking lecturers.
Speaking at the end of the meeting, Ngige told journalists that the government cannot meet the demand of ASUU of revitalisation because of the damaging effects of COVID-19 on the economy.
Ngige disclosed that the federal government had offered the union N20 billion for revitalisation and N30 billion for Earned Academic Allowances, making it N50 billion.
The minister said the government side made all these offers to show its commitment towards the resolution of the prolonged strike of the union.
“There are three issues: Revitalisation fund where government offered ASUU N20 billion as a sign of good faith based on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) they entered into in 2013 as a result of the renegotiation they had with government in 2009. This present government is still committed to it. That is why we are giving them offers of some fund,” Ngige said. “This government is not against revitalization but this government says that because of dire economic situation and COVID-19, we cannot really pay the N110 billion which they are demanding for revitalisation.
“We offered N20 billion as revitalization fund. On Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), the government offered N30 billion to all the unions in the universities, making it N50 billion all together.
“ASUU is saying that the N30 billion should be for lecturers alone, irrespective of the fact that there are three other unions. So there is a little problem there. We don’t have any money to offer apart from this N30 billion.
“Again, another cardinal issue is the University Transperancy and Accountability Solution (UTAS) versus IPPIS. Today ASUU submitted their document on UTAS for onward submission to National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). As you know last week, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy had approved that NITDA gets their system (UTAS) and subject it to integrity test. This test should be conducted without fear or favour and as early as possible. So, today they have submitted the document for onward transmission to NITDA.”
They want an exemption from IPPIS. And the government side headed by the Accountant General of the Federation said that IPPIS is the only government-approved payment platform.
“So, that is where were are for now. So we are all going back to our principals and they will receive via me the irreducible minimum of what federal government has to offer. The government side will meet on Friday and after that they will communicate ASUU and in communicating them, if there is a need for a meeting, a date will be fixed for it”.
On what federal government will do if ASUU continues to reject government’s offers, Ngige said that it may be forced to approach the National Industrial Court for arbitration.