Education

FG, ASUU meeting ends in stalemate amidst acrimony

*Ngige says strike fuelling EndSars protest
…as ASUU directs members to distance selves from IPPIS activities

Regina Otokpa, Abuja

The meeting between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) with a view to ending the lecturers’ strike, last night ended in stalemate amidst deep, heated arguments.
The implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), remains the main bone of contention, as both parties maintained their positions on the issue.
Trouble started when during the meeting on Thursday, when a top member of the ASUU delegation accused the minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, of conspiring with other government officials instead of playing his role as chief reconciliator as he claimed, and for always keeping the unionists waiting for hours, as he and some government officials had formed the habit of attending the meetings late.
“You scheduled a meeting for 2pm, you came two hours after, you wasted our time, and you’re still here telling us to take an offer we had rejected. What kind of mess is that?
“See, you are talking to intellectuals, we will respect the constituted authorities as possible as we can because that is what we teach also in our various institutions but you must stop taking us for granted and stop treating us like kids,” a source, who craved anonymity, had quoted the ASUU official to have said.
ASUU, it was learnt, had also rejected the appeal from the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, to receive their salaries through IPPIS platform pending when UTAS would be ready after the series of integrity tests, as they insisted IPPIS was not demonstrated to them before government started using it for workers.
The academics, however, insisted that payment of their outstanding salaries could be made through on GIFMIS before full implementation of UTAS but FG maintained that it must be on IPPIS.
Meanwhile, the union directed all his members to reject IPPIS officials reportedly coming to various campuses on Monday for biometric data capturing of its members.
Earlier, Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, had said the strike by ASUU was contributing to the heightening ENDSARS protest in the country, saying several undergraduates have joined the match.
Ngige, who made this known before stepping into a closed door technical meeting with the leadership of ASUU, also debunked reports in the media that government had agreed to replace the the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), with the  University Transparency and Accountability System (UTAS).
While noting that UTAS would only be applicable to university academic staff if it was eventually accepted by government, he said it has been approved to undergo three credibility tests with the first test completed on October 14, 2020.
ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, who noted that the lecturers were willing to return to classes, accused government of refusing to attend to its demands to push the tertiary education sector forward.
Meanwhile, ASUU in a directive signed by Prof. Ogunyemi, has warned its members not to engage in any activity related to IPPIS, to avoid jeopardizing the ongoing engagement with the Federal Government on accepting UTAS.
The Union noted that it was fully aware of the hardship the non-payment of salaries by the Accountant-General and other forms of intimidation by over-zealous Vice—Chancellors have unleashed on its membership, and were leaving no stone unturned to redress the situation.
“We have received information that IPPIS officials from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation will be visiting campuses as from Monday, 19th October, 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 enroll in the IPPIS in Abuja as false. The enrolled number is inconsequential.
“On Monday, 12th October, 2020, UTAS was presented to the President and other leaders of the Nigerian Senate. Discussions on the withheld salaries EAA, renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement, visitation to federal universities and proliferation of state universities started at the meeting.
“On Tuesday, 13th October, 2020, the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, the 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.
“Yesterday, 14th October, 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. Today, 15 th October, 2020, we shall meet with representatives of government to have decisive engagement on UTAS/IPPIS and thrash out the main demands in the ongoing struggle.
“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 over-zealous 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 jeopardize the ongoing critical engagement with the Federal Government.”

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