Indications emerged on Friday, October 16 that the faceoff between the Federal Government and the striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) may not end soon.
Despite the ongoing discussions between the two, ASUU said the government had sent officials from the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to commence enrolment of lecturers on the controversial Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.
Pointloaded reported that despite offers of N20bn to cater for the revitalisation of public universities and another commitment of N40bn for Earned Academic Allowances, ASUU had remained adamant that they would not enlist in the IPPIS scheme.
It would be recalled 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 IPPIS.
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.
The union also in November 2019 berated the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, AGF for threatening to withhold the salaries of its members over IPPIS, adding that it would not be moved by such threats. ASUU has also insisted on having an alternative model to IPPIS, called the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, UTAS which it urged the Federal Government to adopt for the universities.
The ASUU President, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, in a memo sent to the zone coordinators and members of the union on Friday titled, “Update on engagement with government”, advised members of the union to “stay away from anything related to IPPIS.”
He said, “We have received information that IPPIS officials from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation will be visiting campuses as from Monday, October 19, 2020, for biometric data capture of academics.
“All ASUU members should have nothing to do with them. Fact-check by ASUU with the figures from the OAGF has proven the claim that our members are trooping to enrol in the IPPIS in Abuja as false.
“The enrolled number is inconsequential. On Monday, October 12, 2020, UTAS was presented to the President and other leaders of the Nigerian Senate.
“Discussions on the withheld salaries, Earned Academic Allowance, renegotiation of 2009 agreement, visitation to federal Universities and proliferation of state universities started at the meeting.
“On Tuesday, October 13, 2020, the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Senate Leader, Chairman of Senate Committee on Tertiary Education, Minister of Education, Minister of Labour and Employment, Accountant-General of the Federation, among other government officials, met with the ASUU leadership on UTAS and other matters.” Ogunyemi added that members must therefore “stay away” from the IPPIS so as not to jeopardise the ongoing engagement with the Federal Government.
He said, “On October 14, 2020, the UTAS was also demonstrated to the Accountant-General of the Federation, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chairman of Senate Committee on Tertiary Education and TETFund, Executive Secretary of NUC and other stakeholders.
“The first stage of UTAS testing has been completed. What is left is the technical testing, which is commencing immediately. All stakeholders applauded the innovation that UTAS represents. IPPIS is a World Bank creation imposed on Nigeria. UTAS is a creation of Nigerian scholars to secure our data, ensure autonomy of Nigerian Universities and reposition our university system for global competitiveness.
The leadership of our great union is fully aware of the hardship the non-payment of salaries by the Accountant-General and other forms of intimidation by overzealous vice-chancellors have unleashed on our membership and we are leaving no stone unturned to redress the situation.
“Therefore, all members of ASUU should stay away from anything related to IPPIS; so as not to jeopardise the ongoing critical engagement with the Federal Government. The struggle continues.”
Meanwhile, the ongoing negotiation between the Federal Government and the ASUU will continue on Wednesday, October 21 to enable the leadership to consult their organs on the conclusions reached at Thursday’s meeting.
The parley was convened to resolve the lingering issues that led to the strike by the university lecturers.
Presenting the outcome of the meeting, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, said that the government had pledged to pay N40bn, being the pending Earned Academic Allowance of the university teachers.
He explained that out of that amount, N30bn would be paid on or before November 6, while the remaining N10bn would be spread equally over two tranches to be paid on May 2021 and February 2022.
A statement on Friday by the Ministry of Labour and Employment spokesman, Mr Charles Akpan quoted Ngige to have said that the government’s commitment to pay was in response to “the demand by ASUU for the payment of two tranches of EEA which cumulate to N40bn that has become overdue since November 2019.”