THE Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has faulted claims by Chris Ngige, Minister for Labour and Employment, that the Federal Government has scheduled a meeting to resolve the strike the union has embarked on since March.
Ngige had claimed on Tuesday when he appeared on Channels Television’s Politics Today, that the ministries of Finance, Education, Labour and Employment, and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation would meet with ASUU to resolve the disagreement on Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
He noted that ASUU has invited the Federal Government to examine its University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), a software the union has developed in replacement for the government’s IPPIS.
“The issue of ASUU will soon come to an end for two reasons – ASUU has called the Federal Government, to be represented by finance and the office of the accountant-general and the education ministry to come for the test,” Ngige had said.
“We are ready to do that. After the Independence Day celebration, the four ministries and agencies involved will gather together with ASUU. We will look at the UTAS. If there are shortcomings with IPPIS as complained which UTAS has corrected. What’s wrong about it? It is software, we will look at it.
“Secondly, ASUU members have been collecting their money since COVID-19 came and I wrote a memo to Mr President that ASUU members are still Nigerians. Even the members have families that they care for. By upper week, we are going to arrange for this demonstration.”
But Olusiji Sowande, Lagos Zonal Coordinator of ASUU in a statement seen by The ICIR on Wednesday, said the Minister was misinforming Nigerians on the strike.
He stated that not only that the Minister’s statement was untrue, but the Ministry of Labour and Employment that the Minister supervises also has not acknowledged the letter the union wrote to it on UTAS over a month ago.
“The Minister informed the public that a meeting has been scheduled next week (after independent celebration) for our Union to demonstrate the efficacy of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) software developed by our Union to the stakeholders at the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education and Minister of Labour and Employment to watch as arbiter,” he said.
“The general public should please note that our Union, over a month ago, had written the MoL&E of our readiness to demonstrate the efficacy and superiority of UTAS over IPPIS and that as at the time of this press release no acknowledgement of receipt of our letter or letter of invitation for meeting has been received by our Union.”
Olasuyi who chided the Minister for narrowing down the strike embarked by the union to the IPPIS added that “other issues in contention for which our Union is currently on total, comprehensive and indefinite strike include failure of the government to fully implement the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement and February 2019 Memorandum of Action with timelines for release of funds for the revitalization of dilapidated infrastructure in public Universities, payment of outstanding Earned Academic Allowances, conclusion of the renegotiation of 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement, setting up of Visitation Panels to Federal Universities and proliferation of State Universities.”
Contrary to the claim by the Minister that the Federal Government has been paying members of the union since the strike, Olasuyi said the government has only paid the salaries of some of its members till June while some of their members have not been paid since February.
“Dr. Chris Ngige was also economical with the truth by misinforming the public that government has been paying the salaries of members of our Union to date. The correct position is that government only paid our salaries up to June 2020.
“As of today our members are been owed three (3) months salaries while in some Universities our members have not received salary for six (6) month. In addition, government through the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation have criminally withheld five months (February-June, 2020) Check-Off deducted from our members salaries.
“We are therefore surprised that MoL&E could go on air to present information which he has not verified as truth to the unsuspecting public. The ongoing total, comprehensive and indefinite strike action by our Union will continue if this propaganda and lies against ASUU persists.
The general public and well-meaning Nigerians should prevail on government to do the needful in ending the current strike action.”
ASUU has been on strike over alleged shortcomings of IPPIS and the failure of the federal government to honour its 2019 agreement, among other matters since March this year.