The Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are yet to finalize agreement on a mode of payment to university teachers acceptable to both parties.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, stated this in Abuja at the end of a meeting between the Federal Government and ASUU on resolving the issues that led to the ongoing industrial action by the union.
He said that while the government had offered to pay ASUU their earned allowances and other payments, ASUU had continued to reject the use of IPPIS as an interim platform of payment pending when the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), its preferred system, would be finally ready for use.
Ngige observed that ASUU needed to key in to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform as an interim measure to access the earned academic allowances and other entitlements of its members, which the government was ready to pay.
The Minister maintained that the problem was not about the government’s unwillingness to perform its financial and other obligations, but about ASUU’s reluctance to meet the government halfway, in order to resolve the knotty issues.
According to him, “On the revitalization fund, the government has offered ASUU N20 billion as a sign of good faith based on the MoU they entered into in 2013 as a result of the renegotiation they had with the government in 2009. This present government is still committed to it; but because of the dire economic situation occasioned by COVID-19, it cannot pay the N110 billion which ASUU is demanding for revitalization.
“We offered N20 billion as the 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.”
Ngige also noted that another issue that needed to be resolved is ASUU’s insistence on not sharing with other unions, the N30 billion governments had offered to pay as Earned Academic Allowance to all the unions in the university system.
According to him, “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.”
Regarding the universities’ preferred payment platform, UTAS, Ngige disclosed that the necessary journey towards acceptance was on course, as ASUU had on Wednesday submitted their document on UTAS for onward submission to National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) for integrity test.
He stated that the test would be conducted without bias and as early as possible.
The Minister disclosed that the government side would meet again on the stance of ASUU and would thereafter communicate the outcome of its meeting to the union.
While speaking at the commencement of the meeting, the Minister had appealed to the striking university teachers to return to the classroom in the interest of their students.
He advised the lecturers to see how they could agree with the Federal Government to bring an end to the strike.
“Our aim is to end the strike. We have to get the strike to an end, so that you will resume work and the students will benefit from your teaching.
We will address all outstanding issues here and solve them on a permanent basis. We ask you in the spirit of the meetings we have held before now to see how you can meet the government half-way. If you don’t do it, the students will continue to stay at home,” Ngige said.
Responding, President of ASUU, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, said the union was pleased to be at the meeting and believed in a quick resolution of the matter.
As soon as the required action is taken, our members are willing to resume at their duty posts. We like doing our job. We are expecting that at the end of the meeting, we would have something to give our members beyond what the government has given so far,” Ogunyemi said.
Others from the government side at the meeting include the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Dr Yerima Peter Tafa; Director General, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, Mr Ekpo Nta, as well as the representatives of the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.