By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said that federal government’s insistence on forcing its members to register on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System was the reason negotiations have continued to stalemate.
In a statement issued by ASUU president, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, the union said the federal government should release all what was due ASUU members and the union without the conditionality of IPPIS.
ASUU president said: “What has stalled meaningful dialogue was government’s insistence that payment of the withheld salaries and other entitlements of our members would only be effected through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS)”.
He said that government is punishing university teachers because they rejected IPPIS, which was imposed on the universities against the provisions of the law on autonomy and universal practices.
He also accused the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) of illegally witholding all the deducted union check-off dues of ASUU members in the last nine months.
Regarding the lack of progress on the meeting between the leadership ASUU and the federal government team, the union said that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator. Chris Ngige, had promised to send to the union government’s written position on their demand after their meeting last Wednesday.
He said government agreed to consult all concerned Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) would be consulted on Friday, for their inputs into government’s new position.
While pleading with Nigerians for their understanding, Ogunyemi said the union was trying to ensure the children of the poor who cannot afford prohibitive cost of private universities get quality education.
“Our Union is struggling to ensure that the children of the poor, who cannot afford the prohibitive cost paid in private universities or do not have opportunities to study outside Nigeria, get quality education which is not priced beyond their reach. This will only happen when government adequately funds public universities and addresses the rot and decay in them,” he said.
Ogunyemi explained that ASUU had shifted positions, adding that the members have reduced their demand of one tranche N220 billion of the outstanding revitalization fund by 50%.
He said the Union has also agreed that N30bn out of the so far verified arrears of N40bn of the earned academic allowances (EAA) be paid to our members while the balance of N10bn could be spread over the next two tranches. We were equally making steady progress on other issues.
He further urged government to release all what is due ASUU members and the union without the conditionality of IPPIS so that the two sides could meet to conclude on the outstanding five demands, which include, “revitalisation fund, Earned Academic Allowances, renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement, inauguration of the Visitation Panels, proliferation of state universities and governance issues in them) of the Union to pave way for the quick resolution of the lingering crisis. It is government that is prolonging the matter, not ASUU”.
According to Ogunyemi, ASUU is at the final stage of the integrity test of the Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) with the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
He said that UTAS was developed locally by ASUU members, unlike IPPIS which was engineered by the World Bank.
“UTAS has been presented to the Minister of Education and senior management staff of the Ministry, the President and leadership of Senate, and the Office of the Accountant-General where NITDA and Office of the National Security Adviser and other MDAs were fully represented. Last Thursday, 5th November, 2020, the National Universities Commission (NUC) facilitated the presentation of UTAS to Vice-Chancellors and Bursars of federal universities. All questions raised at the four levels of presentation of UTAS were satisfactorily answered.
“With the full cooperation of the concerned agencies, the final test with NITDA could be completed as a matter of days and UTAS adopted in place of IPPIS in our universities.
ASUU disagrees with government on the use of IPPIS during the so-called transition period.
“In practical terms, there is no transition period if government is sincere. It would take a longer period to capture more than three-quarters of our members who are not yet on IPPIS than the time required to run through the last stage of the integrity test for UTAS. “The claim by government that the platform used in paying our members’ salaries before the imposition of IPPIS has been dismantled is not true. Some of our members who have not enrolled in IPPIS were paid part of their withheld salaries last week. “