The lingering industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on March 23, may linger for a while as the Federal Government and the university union has again disagreed over the N110 billion that ASUU requested for the revitalization of the universities.
The two sides during a reconvened meeting on Wednesday, November 4 in Abuja also did not make any significant progress on the issue of the disputed Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
Leader of the government negotiating team and Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said the government cannot give ASUU N110 billion because of the current economic situation in the country, adding that the Government has offered N20 billion for revitalization and another N30 billion for Earned Academic Allowances (EAA).
He said “There are three issues, revitalization fund where the government offered ASUU N20 billion as a sign of good faith based on the MoU they entered into in 2013 as a result of the renegotiation they had with the government in 2009. This present government is still committed to it. While we are giving them offers of some funds. This government is not against revitalization but this government says that because of dare economic situation, because of covid-19, we cannot really pay in the N110 billion which they are demanding for revitalization.
“We offered N20 billion as revitalization fund. On Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), the government offered N30 billion to all the unions in the universities, making it N50 billion altogether.”
However, ASUU led by its President Biodun Ogunyemi insisted that the N30 billion should be for lecturers alone, irrespective of the fact that there are three other unions.
On the vexed issue of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) versus IPPIS, Ngige noted that ASUU submitted their document on UTAS for onward submission to the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), which the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy had approved that NITDA should subject UTAS to integrity test.
The Minister said further that one other issue that has arisen is the issue of the transition period, especially how to get the Earned Academic Allowances that are due to the university teachers.
ASUU had insisted on an exemption from IPPIS, but the government side headed by the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris said that IPPIS is the only government-approved payment platform.
“So we are all going back to our principals and they will receive via me the irreducible minimum of what the federal government has to offer. The government side will meet on Friday and after that, they will communicate ASUU and in communicating them, if there is a need for a meeting, a date will be fixed for it,” Ngige said.
BusinessDay had earlier reported that although the government in their last meeting on Thursday, October 15 offered N20 billion funding for the revitalization of public universities and another commitment of N30 billion for Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) for ASUU, the university union has hardened their position against the use of IPPIS to pay its members, stressing that imposition of the IPPIS on its members, will erode the autonomy of the university system.
ASUU had maintained that the UTAS has been developed by the universities to pay their staff and therefore argued that it should be exempted from IPPIS.
The government team insisted that since the UTAS has not been adopted, the Government can only pay through the IPPIS, while also rejecting ASUU’s proposal to use the Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System (GIFMIS), which the Government said has been dismantled and cannot be used again.
So far, ASUU is said to have met its timeline regarding the first stage of the initial demonstration of the efficacy of the UTAS to Government as this was done on Wednesday, 14th October 2020.
Both sides had agreed in previous meetings that if UTAS passes all the different stages of the integrity test which would involve NITDA and the Office of the National Security Advisers (NSA) and after ascertaining its efficacy; it would be adopted for the payment of the University staff.
However, both sides have not agreed on how payment would be done for ASUU members during the transitional period of UTAS tests as the Government side again appealed to ASUU to enroll on IPPIS platform in view of the Presidential directive that all Federal Government employees should be paid via IPPIS. The Government also appealed that ASUU can thereafter be migrated to UTAS whenever certified digitally efficient and effective with accompanying security coverage.
ASUU however, maintained that given its invention of UTAS, it should be exempted from IPPIS in the transition period.
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