…Directs members to seek alternative means of survival
…Why FG will continue to pay ASUU through IPPIS — Ngige
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Joseph Erunke
ACADEMIC Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, yesterday told students and their parents not to expect suspension of ongoing strike by its members soon, advising lecturers to seek alternative means of survival.
The union’s Abuja Zonal Coordinator, Prof. Theophilus Lagi, who stated this at a briefing at the University of Abuja campus, vowed to press home with the strike until government bowed to its demands.
It accused the government of not showing commitment in resolving the issues that necessitated the ongoing industrial action.
The union stated: “Today, we wish to let Nigerians, especially our students and parents know that there is no hope in sight to ending or suspending the ASUU strike that has lingered for several months as government is yet to show serious commitment towards addressing our core demands.
“Our members have been advised to seek other legitimate means of survival as the government has not released salaries withheld since February, 2020.’’
The union particularly accused the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige of showing what it described as disdain for Nigerian academics.
It stated further: “One needs not be a psychologist to understand the behaviour and recent utterances of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige. The Minister has clearly shown his disdain for Nigerian academics and has failed to play the role of an unbiased umpire in moderating the imbroglio.
“He has now become the spokespreson to the Accountant General of the Federation and the Ministry of Finance, instead of finding solution for lecturers to get back to work,he is turning the wheel of progress backwards by setting ASUU on a collision course with other presure groups in the university. Clearly Dr Ngige is on a war part with ASUU.
“As men of letters, we would have elected to ignore Senator Chris Ngige’s deliberate misinformation and deceit. So, this response is more to straighten the record than it is to massage the minister’s ego.
‘’In one of his comedies of error, Ngige told the nation that the striking lecturers had been paid salaries up to date when he knew university lecturers were being owed salaries for between nine and six months for no just cause.
‘’In another fit of treachery, the Minister during a recent budget defense at the National Assembly, while upholding the existence of University Autonomy Law, attempted in vain to redefine its provisions.
“In the past few weeks, for instance, Ngige has said one thing when he met with the union and a different thing on the same subject in interviews with the media. This double character of a Minister and a purported negotiator in the face-off should be a source of worry to not only the body of Nigerian students but also parents who patronize public universities as the minister’s untoward attitude is undermining the reopening of these schools.
“In furtherance of his intimidation of the lecturers and misinformation of the public, Ngige argued that autonomy could not hold in the prevailing circumstance. On this, we would like to educate the Minister that public universities in Nigeria are creatures of law as each university is established by an Act enacted by the National Assembly.’’
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said that for the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, UTAS, to be used as an alternative platform to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, there must be a hardware backing the system.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, had opposed the introduction of IPPIS as the payment platform, claiming that it did not take care of their peculiarities and came up with UTAS.
Speaking to State House correspondents after meeting behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja yesterday, Ngige said even if government accepted the payment mode for lecturers who had rejected being placed on IPPIS, ASUU had no money to procure the necessary hardware for its implementation.
He said the Federal Government did not make any budgetary provision for the procurement of the UTAS hardware and wondered if the union had the required finances for such a project.
Ngige, however, said government had already forwarded the UTAS software to the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, for integrity test, adding that government would not want to discourage any Nigerian from providing homegrown solutions to issues.
Asked if government had shifted grounds on its negotiations with ASUU, the minister stated: “No, the UTAS, that is the University Transparent System which they brought, is not yet ready. It is not fully ready, it is undergoing integrity test for the software.
‘’I am not a computer scientist, but you must also know that you must test the hardware in the integrity test for the software. As we speak, ASUU has no hardware and UTAS does not have hardware backing.
“I am waiting for the NITDA full report but the preliminary report they gave me, the software integrity test will take them about six to eight weeks and thereafter, we go to the hardware. But the big issue is, who will provide the hardware?
“ASUU doesn’t have the finances to do so. Has government budgeted for it now as we speak? So, that one is a major problem. But we don’t have to dissuade anybody, we don’t have to tell anybody not to carry on, we like local content development, we need our things to be home grown. So, we are really encouraging them.
“By the time we finish with this other software test to look at its capacity, its ability to withstand shock and hacking etc, the hardware test is in, hacking and security. So, by the time we finish it, we will decide on what to do.
“But do not also forget that we need to have something for us to make payment to them as we speak.