Anxiety as students, parents await ASUU’s decision on strike
Parents and undergraduates waited anxiously, yesterday, as leaders of the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) met to review their one-month industrial action.
They had repeatedly appealed to the university teachers to give peace a chance, resume dialogue with the Federal Government, and return to classrooms.
The union, on February 14, declared a one-month warning strike to protest non-implementation of the 2009 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reached with it.
Rising from its two-day National Executive Council (NEC) meeting at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), the union said though the decision to disrupt the academic calendar was painful, it had no other choice as government had failed to fully meet its demands.
President of the union, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, had told The Guardian that the group would meet on Sunday to appraise the strike and deliberate on the next line of action.
Osodeke said the meeting would look at the University Transparency and Accountability Solutions (UTAS) developed by the union to replace the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), which, according to the Federal Government, failed integrity tests.
He said UTAS is currently undergoing another round of tests, and that earlier tests were not subjected to the peculiarities of universities.
The director-general of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa, had said UTAS failed three integrity tests – user acceptance, vulnerability and stress tests, which were conducted by his agency.
He noted: “We did all these three tests with them and the system couldn’t pass. We wrote the reports and submitted them to the minister, which he forwarded to all relevant institutions, including ASUU. As we speak now, ASUU is working, trying to fix all the issues we highlighted and we will review it again.
But Osodeke accused the government of telling lies. He said UTAS passed between 77 and 85 per cent, wondering why a software that scored almost 80 per cent would be described a failure.
He said: “We found out that in testing, they didn’t look at the peculiarity of the universities, which we explained at the meeting we had last week. They said they wanted to do the test again because what they did before was not correct. Those who did it did not know the peculiarities of universities, which they are doing now. And by the time they are through, you will get a proper report.”
Speaking on the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, Osodeke said the three months given to the renegotiation committee is not for ASUU, as the union is done with renegotiation, while government is yet to reach out to the union on the new development.
Osodeke said the strike is in its fourth week and government is yet to settle with ASUU on pending issues.
One of the union leaders, who spoke with The Guardian on the strike, said: “NEC is very clear on its position about conditions of service. It said until that is resolved, and the deployment of UTAS in the university system is achieved, the strike shall continue”
The strike was embarked upon to press home some demands ASUU said government failed to meet despite repeated promises.
The source identified the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN- ASUU agreement, bordering on the working conditions of Nigerian academics and deployment of UTAS as two key issues that must be resolved before the union can suspend its strike.
Other demands include payment of earned academic allowances, revitalisation fund for universities, distortions in the payment of salaries, funding of state universities, and release of white papers on visitation panels sent to the universities.
While the minister of education has released names of the teams to draft the white papers from reports of the visitation panels, government is yet to inaugurate them to commence work almost four weeks after.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said the Federal Government is working on measures to resolve the issues, which led to the current strike by ASUU.
Ngige said government has so far paid over N92 billion as part of implementation of the agreement reached with the union in December 2020.
Ngige said: “Why I said that the 2020 December agreement we had with ASUU is on course in terms of implementation is that in that agreement, there is a line that says the Federal Government should pay N40 billion for earned academic allowances (EAA) for ASUU and other unions. That has been paid.
“N30 billion was also budgeted or was to be paid for revitalisation. That also was paid late last year. N22.127 billion was agreed also in that December agreement, to be paid from the supplementary budget as earned allowances for 2021. That money was also paid last year; it was put in the supplementary budget, which was passed around June-July and the money was remitted.”