By Felix Khanoba
The hope of universities’ students to return to classrooms anytime soon was again dashed last week as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government failed to reach a deal that would have ended the ongoing strike embarked upon by the union.
The industrial action, which commenced in March 2020, has turned several public universities into ghost schools, while many students who scaled through admission hurdles since last year but supposed to resume have been left in frustration.
Speaking on the recent effort to end the impasse, Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, said the conciliatory meeting between the union and government last week failed to achieve the desired result.
“There are three issues and these include the revitalisation fund where the government offered ASUU N20 billion, on good faith based on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered into in 2013 as a result of the renegotiation with the then government in 2009.
“This present government is still committed to it, while we are giving them offers of some funds.
“This government is not against revitalisation but this government says that because of the dire economic situation due to COV1D-19, we cannot really pay in the N110 billion which they are demanding for revitalisation.
“We offered N20 billion as a 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.
“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 do not have any money to offer apart from this N30 billion,” he said.
He, however, said that the cardinal issue was the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) versus the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System(IPPIS).
Ngige added that ASUU had submitted its document on UTAS for onward submission to National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
“As you know last week, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy had approved that NITDA gets ASUU system (UTAS) and subject it to integrity test.
“This test should be conducted without fear or favour and as early as possible. So today, they have submitted the document for onward transmission to NITDA.
“One other issue that has arisen is the issue of the transition period. How do ASUU get the Earned Academic Allowances that is due to them and any other entitlement that the government wants to pay them,” he said, adding that ASUU wanted an exemption from IPPIS.
According to him, on the government side headed by the Accountant General of the Federation, we have said that IPPIS is the only government approved payment platform.
“So that is where we are for now. So we are all going back to our principals,” Ngige said.