An official of the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said there is no basis for the union to suspend its ongoing roll-over strike. He accused the Nigerian government of delay tactics.
The coordinator of the Lagos zone of the union, Adelaja Odukoya, who spoke in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, also listed the minimum conditions that are to be met by the government before the strike could be suspended.
Mr Odukoya suggested that the response of the union’s national president and leader of its national strike coordinating committee, Emmanuel Osodeke, to journalists that he would report the outcome of the Tuesday’s meetings to the members nationwide, could be “dissuasive.”
“There is really nothing on ground to warrant ASUU convening either congresses or national executive committee meeting. The government isn’t serious yet and we have stated very clearly at the beginning that there is no longer any room for memorandum of understanding or action, but the action itself,” he said.
Conditions for resumption
According to Mr Odukoya, two major issues that must be addressed immediately by the government include the lecturers’ conditions of service which he noted are contained in the renegotiated agreement, and the adoption of the Universities Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) in replacement of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) that is currently in use.
The ASUU official said it has been demonstrated clearly that IPPIS is “a monumental fraud,”. Its replacement by UTAS that ASUU members developed has been tested and passed the integrity test.
He said; “Two things are critical to calling off the strike; one, Nigerian lecturers keep on getting the same salary they’ve been receiving since 2009. The condition of service which is contained in the renegotiated agreement is non-negotiable, and secondly,the IPPIS must be jettisoned and replaced with what we have put on ground –UTAS– which has been demonstrated to be superior.
“Even the auditor general of the federation has confirmed that IPPIS is a monumental fraud. So those two are non-negotiable, they are the irreducible minimum. So when you have not heard that one, whatever they (the government) say, they are joking. And from the timeline set by the government, the conditions of service will take another six weeks to address.”
Mr Odukoya said professors receive N416,000 as monthly salary, adding that the ‘ridiculous’ amount is what some employees earn at entry level.
“Isn’t that ridiculous? Earning the same salary for more than 12 years despite the rising inflation and exchange rates. I think Nigerians should understand this situation,” he said.
Meanwhile, speaking at the end of the last conciliation meeting with ASUU on Tuesday, the minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige, who led the Nigerian government team, said although both parties agreed on a lot of things, the conditions of service and the deployment of UTAS are already still being worked on.
The minister said within six weeks, the committee set up at the education ministry will wrap up everything and send its recommendations.
He said: “A new team has been set up because they needed to have a second look at the Professor Munzali’s committee’s report which concluded the renegotiation agreement, and make sure, with ASUU’s contribution, that some of the allowances are not against the national salaries and wages commissions’s fixed salaries and allowances.
“If that is not done and we simply propose it to the government, it will not be accepted. So, it is important that they work well. So that whatever they present can be approved by the federal executive council.”
He also noted that the team comprising representatives of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and ASUU technical team has until March 8 to report the final resolutions onUTASe deployment.
“So NITDA’s team and some external IT experts will meet with ASUU to address the grey areas. Their recommendations will determine the next step,” Mr Ngige said.
Meanwhile, Mr Odukoya has said that the government is doing with “the committee strategies” to buy time, saying the “delay tactics wouldn’t work this time.”
He said the government had 2021 to do what it is currently doing and “as long as it continues to delay, ASUU members would remain at home.”
Mr Odukoya also queried why the committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari, comprising his chief of staff, Ibrahim Gambari, and the ministers of education and labour and employment, Adamu Adamu and Mr Ngige, are yet to meet.
He said Mr Buhari had set up the committee to fast track the process when the leadership of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Committee (NIREC) visited him in February.
“So what has stopped that committee from the meeting? Why is the labour minister the conciliator and the conspirator simultaneously? They are deliberate about their actions, but such tactics can’t work again,” the official said.
ASUU Congress resolutions
Meanwhile, ASUU members held their congresses on Wednesday to appraise the situation and inform members of the latest developments.
At the end of its congress, the union’s branch at the Bayero University, Kano (BUK), said there is no development to warrant resumption by its members.
It thanked the leadership of ASUU for the representation at the meeting with the government but insisted that there is no development to deserve suspension of the strike.
PREMIUM TIMES learned that the union’s congress reached the same resolutions on Wednesday at the University of Lagos.
ASUU embarked on a roll-over strike from December 2020 to February 14, 2022 when it accused the government of failing to deliver on the agreement that led to the suspension of the strike in 2020.
Since ASUU downed tools three weeks ago, it has twice met with the government delegation for resolutions.
The first meeting ended in a deadlock, with ASUU insisting on seeing actions rather than promises.
At the end of the second meeting on Tuesday, Mr Ngige said both parties ”agreed on a lot of things”, and that ASUU was expected to “talk to its members, show them the proposal that has been offered by the government so that they can call off the strike”.
ASUU’s demands include the renegotiation of the ASUU/FG 2009 agreement, sustainability of the university autonomy by deploying the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) to replace the government’s “imposed” Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS).
The union has also demanded the release of the reports of visitation panels to federal universities and distortions in salary payment challenges.
Others include funding for revitalisation of public universities, earned academic allowance, poor funding of state universities and promotion arrears.
While the minister of education, Adamu Adamu, had days after the commencement of the strike constituted the white paper panel of the visitation panels, the committees are yet to be inaugurated.
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