The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, says there is ‘absolutely nothing’ stopping lecturers from returning to the classrooms ‘tomorrow’.
According to him, the Federal Government has done all that it ought to do for the striking lecturers to return to the classrooms.
The minister, who spoke on Tuesday evening while featuring on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme, said there was no truth that the government has not paid members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities in eight months.
The PUNCH had earlier reported that on March 23,2020, ASUU declared a “total and indefinite strike” over the failure of the Federal Government to keep to the 2019 Memorandum of Action and over the lingering crisis on the controversial Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.
The union had brought forward five contentious issues in the 2019 MoA which are; revitalisation fund for universities, outstanding earned academic allowances, renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, proliferation of universities, particularly by state governments and establishment of visitation panels to universities.
The IPPIS crisis had joined in around October 2019, after the union accused some vice-chancellors of forcing its members to enrol on the IPPIS platform.
ASUU has also insisted on having an alternative model to IPPIS, called the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, which it urged the Federal Government to adopt for the universities.
But speaking on Tuesday night, Nwajiuba, “I have not said there is no way the government will not ever have a different application. But I am saying this is what we have now. The government will continually improve its service. If UTAS, as we go ahead, becomes even a better platform for everybody and they offer it free to government, of course, we are a responsive government, we will simply migrate to it.”
He, however, urged the striking lecturers to get on the IPPIS platform to get their salaries and return to the classrooms.
When asked to clarify how many months salaries the government owes the lecturers, the minister said during the lockdown, “We asked all our Vice-Chancellors across the country to give us the BVN of all of their people who are eligible for salaries which they did. The BVN marries with the IPPIS and they were migrated to the IPPIS and they were all paid. Of course, there may be people who didn’t submit at the time but that is being sorted out in the office of the accountant general.
“But I think it is a lie to say the government has not paid them in eight months. It will be unfair to the government.”
“The lecturers can be back in the classroom tomorrow if they say they want to go back. There is nothing withholding lecturers from going back to the classroom tomorrow. Absolutely nothing. Everything the government should do has been done. If you want your salaries, get on the platform and collect your salaries,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government and ASUU will again meet on Wednesday to resolve the disagreement over the payment platform to be used in disbursing the salary arrears and the N30 billion Earned Allowance of the university lecturers.