No Pact As Govt, ASUU ‘Shift Grounds’
Both the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on Sunday claimed to have shifted grounds in the knotty negotiations to end the seven-month strike by public university lecturers.
However, there is no agreement yet to pave the way for the reopening of schools.
ASUU has been on strike since March 23, leaving the students stranded at home. They have now lost an academic session.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, said the Federal Government had tried its best to meet the demands of ASUU.
Ngige listed the additional concessions given to ASUU as follows:
- Receipt of ASUU’s University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) salary payment proposal and presentation to NITDA for verification
- Readiness of the government to pay N40b for Earned Allowances for ASUU members, other unions.
- Setting up of visitation panels for all universities
- The FG-ASUU renegotiation team now likely for inauguration week, now headed by ex-NUC Secretary, Prof. Munzali Jibril.
- Availability of N20billion for the revitalization of universities.
He said: “As we are now, the Visitation Panels for all the universities have been approved and it is in the Federal Ministry of Education for gazetting. The gazetting will make for the announcement of the lists and swearing in. All the panels will go to their various universities and work for six weeks. Hopefully, the list will be announced this week.
“Also, the renegotiation team will be named this week. Since Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN) is out as the chairman of the negotiating committee.
“ASUU leaders wrote to the government that they have developed their UTAS and it is ready for testing. The Federal Government wrote to the agency that can do testing, which is the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), to accept from them their system and subject it to test without fear or favour or bias and as quickly as possible.
“It was only last week Thursday that ASUU passed on the documents on UTAS and everything for transmission to NITDA. Just last week.
“ But the government still insisted that they must be on IPPIS because whether you like it or not, even with UTAS developed, you must have a handshake with IPPIS.”
He said the development of UTAS by ASUU has been rejected by other unions in the universities.
He said:” Again other unions in the universities claimed that they have developed their own system too. These are National Association of Technologists, SSANU and NASU.
“They said they have developed a system which they gave another name too. They said they will never be part of UTAS; they said they should be counted out of UTAS.”
The Minister said “only three key issues needed to be resolved.”
“The first issue is that ASUU is insisting that the Revitalization offer of N20billion for universities is unacceptable. They said they can only take N110billion. The government is saying we do not have N110billion to give you, it can only afford N20billion.
“Secondly, they said N30billion for Earned Allowances is for ASUU members only. The government says no, it is for all the unions in the universities because that is the agreement we reached earlier before we went into subsequent negotiation with these other unions and made offer to them.
“Thirdly with all these agreements, what is the mode of payment if we are going to pay you all these salaries and allowances tomorrow. In the meanwhile, you said you should be exempted from payment portal. The GIFMIS portal for universities has been dismantled, it does not exist anymore.
“The government is saying ASUU should get on to IPPIS, whenever your portal is ready, you migrate back to UTAS. That is where we are. Those are the three issues for determination.”
ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi in a statement on Sunday said the union had shifted positions in some respects by reducing their demand of one tranche (N220b) of the outstanding revitalisation fund by 50 per cent.
For instance, our members have reduced their demand of one tranche (N220b) of the outstanding revitalization fund by 50%. The Union has also agreed that N30b out of the so far verified arrears of N40b of the earned academic allowances (EAA) be paid to our members while the balance of N10b could be spread over the next two tranches.”
The ASUU president said the union had made progress on other issues except on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
While ASUU asked the government to pay its members their withheld salaries and other entitlements through other platforms, the government is insisting on making the payments through IPPIS.
“We were equally making steady progress on other issues. 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).
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.
“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. But, in furtherance of the attack on ASUU, the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) has illegally seized all the deducted union check-off dues of our members in the last nine months.
“So, government should release all what is due ASUU members and the union without the conditionality of IPPIS. That would enable us conclude on the outstanding five demands (revitalisation, EAA, renegotiation of the 2009 “It is government that is prolonging the matter, not ASUU,” Ogunyemi said.
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