The federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), on Tuesday, progressed in their negotiations to end the ongoing two weeks warning strike by the lecturers. However, the ASUU strike continues as ASUU said it would have to take the proposals to its members for review and possible approval. Neither party provided elaborate details of the agreement.
However, the labour minister, Chris Ngige, said the government had tabled a new proposal regarding the agreement on the Integrated Payroll Personal Information System (IPPIS). The meeting, which started at 3:30 p.m., ended at about 11:01 pm. The two-week warning strike, which the union declared would elapse on Monday next week.
ASUU declared the strike over the non-payment of salaries of their members who failed to enroll in the federal government’s IPPIS, a payroll software mandated for all public officials. The government last Thursday also reached an interim agreement with striking university lecturers to integrate the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) into the IPPIS.
The IPPIS is the government’s accountability software that has been made compulsory for all public institutions, mainly for personnel payroll. ASUU is opposed to the use of IPPIS for lecturers, saying it does not consider some of the peculiar operations of universities. The lecturers’ union then developed its own UTAS, which it wants the government to adopt for universities.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr. Ngige said the issues discussed ranged from funding, revitalization of public universities, earned academic allowances, and salary shortfalls.
The issue of IPPIS was also discussed and options and solutions were advanced. The government has a proposal that has been given to ASUU. ASUU will take these outstanding issues back to its National Executive Council for them to be on the same page before they get back to the government. We have agreed that a tentative date to get back to the government is before the weekend runs out. “We expect ASUU to write to the government before then to see if there will be a need for a further meeting,” he said.
According to Mr. Ngige, they also addressed the payment of earned academic allowances to the University of Ilorin. At the Nigerian University Pension Management Company (NUPEMCO), a certificate was issued last year but an operational certificate had not been issued because we do not have a permanent PENCOM board in place, he said.
He said the government has made a proposal on how the NUPEMCO board will be able to fulfill its obligation, especially in terms of the preparation of annual audit reports. The issue of a visitation panel for the universities has been on the table since last year. The government side made progress in that approval has been gotten and we are waiting for the gazette of the membership of the visitation panels, “he said.
Also speaking, the ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, said both parties have improved on where they stopped in the previous meeting. He said the government has made “concrete proposals to our members but as we usually say, “those of us here cannot make a final pronouncement on any of the proposals.”
”We have assured the government team that we will report to our principals and get back.” We want to assure Nigerians that we are concerned with going back to our work because that is where we are happiest. We are not happy staying outside the classrooms, laboratories, and laboratories. We will do our best to ensure that all concerned have the maximum benefit from this action because it is of national interest. If academics don’t defend the universities, who will defend the academics?”
ASUU STRIKE TREND
In the 19 years since Nigeria returned to civil rule after years of military dictatorship, university teachers in the country have embarked on 14 strikes, which saw them stay away from work for about 40 months.
The last strike by the teachers was in November 2018.
ASUU has been locked in a protracted dispute with the Nigerian government over issues of poor funding of public universities. Every time the dispute boiled over to a strike by the teachers, negotiations between the two parties always produced agreements.
However, the government’s failure to meet the teachers’ expectations within the context of the agreements has been a primary reason ASUU has been on strike almost every year since 1999.