Nigeria’s minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige, has accused the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of trying to bully the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to certify the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) developed by the union as satisfactory, “despite not meeting the set criteria.”
The minister said the suspension of the ongoing strike is solely at the discretion of the university lecturers.
ASUU has been on strike since February 14, demanding among others, the deployment of UTAS to replace the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement between the union and the Nigerian government as minimum conditions to achieve peace.
Shortly after declaring the strike, Mr Ngige’s ministry set up a joint committee of ASUU members, officials of NITDA and independent IT experts to come up with the report of a joint review of UTAS.
But ASUU accused the minister of communications and digital economy, Isa Pantami, and NITDA DG, Kashifu Inuwa, of deliberately frustrating the deployment of UTAS by constantly misinforming the public on the results of the tests carried out on the payment platform.
NITDA has, however, consistently claimed that UTAS failed some tests even as ASUU wondered how a total pass of over 90 per cent amounted to failure.
The lecturers union said it is convinced that the frustration of the process was due to its opposition to Mr Pantami’s controversial professorial appointment.
However, seaking on Thursday while appearing on a programme, Politics Today, on Channels Television, Mr Ngige, the chief conciliator between the government and the striking lecturers, said ASUU has adopted the approach of bullying government agencies to meet its demands.
He said; “The solution is that ASUU has to come down from their high horse.
“You cannot go and be intimidating people at NITDA, and threatening the minister of communications and digital economy with revocation of professorship.
“…and you go to ABU, saying you are going to withdraw the certificate of director of NITDA. That’s bullying, it’s not allowed in labour negotiations.”
On 2009 renegotiation
Speaking further, the minister said the draft proposal by the dissolved Munzali Jibril’s renegotiation team cannot be used, hence the constitution of the Nimi Briggs-led committee to come up with another draft in six weeks.
The six weeks ends on Friday.
Mr Ngige said the draft by Munzali Jubril, a professor, included a review of lecturers’ salaries by 180 per cent which, he noted, is not feasible for the government.
He said: “They finished it (the proposal) and said every side goes back to their principals with this proposal. But there are no signatures. Nobody signed.
“They (education side) came back and budget and planning, National Income, Salaries and Wages Commission, ministries of finance and education, National Universities Commission, were in that committee and they pointed out that this proposal will not fly in government because the government does not have the means to start adjusting salaries of university teachers by 180 per cent.”
How to end strike
Mr Ngige, who said the power to call off the strike lies with ASUU, said the solution is for ASUU to cooperate with the Mr Briggs-led committee to come up with a workable proposal.
“They (ASUU) should go and meet the Nimi Briggs-led committee and look at what they are doing and make further inputs so that the work can be accelerated,” he said.
He added: “They have refused to even go to the committee. They said the last proposal, as far as they are concerned, is the agreement.”
Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe.
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