On Monday, the Academic Staff Union of Universities issued a 21-day ultimatum to the Federal Government for failing to follow the deal struck with it.
This is because the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, said in an interview with The PUNCH that the union failed to submit a breakdown of the workers eligible for the N22.1 billion earned allowances.
Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, President of ASUU, criticized the Federal Government for failing to honor the deal it signed with the union in December 2020, which required the group to put off its strike.
Recall that ASUU began a nine-month strike in March 2020 in protest over the Federal Government’s funding of universities, as well as the claimed ineffectiveness and anomalies surrounding the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System and others.
ASUU, on the other hand, developed the University Transparency and Accountability Solution to replace the IPPIS and met with the ministries of Finance, Education, Labour and Employment, and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation prior to its approval, but it has yet to be implemented.
Similarly, the government and ASUU reached an agreement resolving several of the union’s demands, which resulted in the suspension of the strike on December 23, 2020.
Osodeke stated that following a meeting with the government on August 2, 2021, the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency insisted on re-presenting the UTAS to end users.
At the meeting, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, promised ASUU that university workers would soon be able to access the N22.1 billion earned allowances captured in the 2021 supplementary budget.
Additionally, the National Universities Commission committed to providing N30 billion as a revitalisation fund for federal universities.
However, the ASUU president told journalists that the Federal Government had yet to implement the agreements and was providing no rationale for its failure to do so.
Osodeke also criticised the government’s reluctance to expedite the deployment of the UTAS platform, which had resulted in anomalies in the payment of salaries to university teachers via the IPPIS platform.
“After the initial refusal, the anomalies in our members’ payment via the IPPIS platform were acknowledged; the director of the IPPIS pledged to produce a template for resolving the situation. However, for some reason, this has not occurred. The long-term solution, in our opinion, is for UTAS to be expedited in order to stop the unjustified imposition of the IPPIS on our members,” he continued.
However, in an interview with The PUNCH, the Minister of State for Education said that the union failed to provide a breakdown of the people to be paid.
Nwajiuba explained that the finance ministry was responsible for payment.
He added that the problem of earned allowances is an individual one, not a collective one; they informed them that they desired to pay them earned allowances based on their assertions that they earned them.
The minister contended that ASUU was aware that the Ministry of Education did not manage payments, but continued to target it through school closures.
Nwajuiba urged ASUU to instead contact the Federal Ministry of Finance.
“They have no beef with the education ministry, yet they go ahead and close schools, which impacts the ministry of education; they are well aware that our ministry does not deal with payments,” he continued. We are responsible for the schools.
“ASUU has advanced to the point where they understand who to deal with and who not to deal with. We are not in the business of money. Does the Ministry of Finance collect money, or did they inform you that we did? As for the education ministry, we will carry out the government’s requests; they should meet with the finance ministry.”
However, the ASUU president stated that citizens should hold the government accountable if it goes on strike.
“We appeal to all patriotic Nigerians and lovers of Nigeria to persuade the Federal Government and state governments to act swiftly to avert another wave of industrial unrest in Nigeria’s public universities,” Osodeke remarked.
“If ASUU is compelled to renew the strike it patriotically suspended on December 23, 2020, the Nigerian government should be held accountable.”