Varsities To Remain Closed As Government, ASUU Talks Collapse

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Hope dimmed on Wednesday for the reopening of public universities that has been shut since March.

Talks between the government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) collapsed.

Wednesday’s meeting was expected to finally break the ice in the disagreement to pave the way for resumption of academic activities.

The first setback was the absence of Minister of Education Adamu Adamu and Minister of Finance Mrs. Zainab Ahmed.

Both ministers were said to be away at the National Assembly for Budget 2021 defence.

But Minister of Labour and Employment Dr. Chris Ngige was on hand.

After the meeting, ASUU President Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said “there was nothing new”. He declined to elaborate.

Ngige, however, shed some light on the unresolved issues.

The lecturers’ insistence on the release of N110 billion Revitalisation Fund for the universities
Allowing lecturers to be sole beneficiaries of the N30 billion to be released as Earned Allowance
Government’s decline to drop the Integrated Personn el Payroll System (IPPIS).

Ngige said the government lacked the financial wherewithal to meet the demand for N110 billion to revitalise the varsities.

The government two weeks ago announced the release of N30 billion as Earned Allowance for varsity workers and N20 billion for the Revitalisation of the universities.

ASUU’s insistence that the N30 billion Earned Academic Allowance should be for its members alone was also not granted. It said the promised N50 billion was a far-cry from what could keep the varsities running.

There are other unions in the varsities. They are the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).

After hours of deliberation, the parties again failed to reach an agreement on all three issues.

The minister said: “There are three issues: revitalisation fund where 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 government in 2009.

“This present government is still committed to it. While we are giving them offers of some fund. This government is not against revitalisation but this government says that because of dire economic situation, because of covid-19, we cannot really pay in the N110 billion which they are demanding for revitalisation. We offered N20 billion as revitalisation fund.

“On Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), the government offered N30 billion to all the unions in the universities, making it N50 billion all together, if you add the N20bn for revitalisation.

“ASUU is saying that the N30 billion should be for lecturers alone, irrespective of the fact that there are three other unions. So, there is a little problem there. We don’t have any money to offer apart from this N30 billion.

“Again, the cardinal issue is the University Transperancy and Accountability Solution (UTAS) versus IPPIS. Today ASUU submitted their documents on UTAS for onward submission to National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). As you know last week, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy had approved that NITDA gets their system (UTAS) and subject it to integrity test.

“This test should be conducted without fear or favour and as early as possible. So today they have submitted the documents for onward transmission to NITDA.

“One other issue that has arisen is the issue of the transition period. How do you get the Earned Academic Allowances that is due to you any other entitlement that government wants to pay you? They want an exemption from IPPIS and the government side headed by the Accountant – General of the Federation said that IPPIS is the only government approved payment platform.

“So, that is where were are for now. So we are all going back to our principals and they will receive via me the irreducible minimum of what 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.”

The minister said the government wants to block all the leakages associated with humongous rise in personnel cost.

“If you remember the federal budget, about 80 per cent is drawn on recurrent out of which personnel cost takes more than 60 per cent.

“There is nothing to cheer. Government had laid out plans to blockage leakages and to make sure there is transparency in terms of expenditure of government funds.

“Even under international laws and Nigerian laws, an employers’ business must be allowed to thrive. Workers and employees do not dictate to their employers how they will be paid their emoluments. The only thing there is that the emoluments should be paid as at when due. If that is not done then there is a breach of the Labour Laws of the country, even the International Labour Organisation (ILO).”

The union on Wednesday accused the government of using hunger to punish its members during the strike.

It accused the Accountant-General of the Federation (AuGF), Mr. Ahmed Idris, of frustrating the resolution process between the parties during in the protracted face-off.