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ASUU strike, UTAS platform and Nigerian students

By Zeenat Sambo
17 March 2022   |   8:54 pm
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has extended the one-month warning strike by additional two months, meaning Nigerian students may stay at home for another three months. With the development, the lecturers would not work for a whole quarter of a year though would receive their monthly salaries and allowances while demoralized learners will…

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has extended the one-month warning strike by additional two months, meaning Nigerian students may stay at home for another three months.

With the development, the lecturers would not work for a whole quarter of a year though would receive their monthly salaries and allowances while demoralized learners will remain idle, away from academic activities.

It is sad and irrational that at this point of economic meltdown, insecurity and educational challenges, students are at the receiving end of the fight between ASUU and the Federal Government.

We often blame political leaders for being self-centredness but lecturers, becoming activists than scholars, are not different from their nonchalant attitude with regards to the plights of hundreds of thousands of undergraduates.

What is even more disturbing is the needless controversy over the payment platform to be used for the lecturers. ASUU has been on strike since February 14. A part of the reasons for the industrial action is Federal Government’s alleged refusal to accept UTAS.

ASUU has demanded the adoption of the Universities Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) payment platform in place of the Integrated Personnel and Payments Information System (IPPIS).

The IPPIS is used for its workers including those in the military, security and intelligence services. The system combines and harmonizes the payments of employees’ salaries and wages directly into their bank accounts with the appropriate deductions and remittances of third-party payments.

More than 700 Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are registered on the IPPIS platform. The allowances of personnel are duly paid and received even where they go for study and leave.

Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa recently disclosed that UTAS failed three integrity tests. The lectures are currently reviewing the automation.

Inuwa explained that by building a complex system like UTAS that involves employees’ personal data, the platform must be subjected to best practice tests before getting approval.

The DG added that NITDA conducted a user acceptance test, a vulnerability test to check for the possibility of hacking, and a stress test to prevent the system from crashing.

“We did three tests with them and the system couldn’t pass. We wrote the reports and submitted to the honourable minister, which he forwarded to relevant institutions, including ASUU. ASUU is trying to fix issues we highlighted, we will review again”, he confirmed.

Reacting, ASUU president, Emmanuel Osodeke, denied UTAS failed integrity test. He said the integrity test was carried out by NITDA on August 10, 2021, at the National Universities Commission (NUC). Relevant government agencies and all the end-users in the university system were present.

“At the end of the exercise, all, without exception, expressed satisfaction with UTAS as a suitable solution for salary payment in our universities. This was attested to by the NITDA to the effect that UTAS scored 85 per cent in User Acceptance Test (UAT)”, he said.

Osodeke recalled that the NITDA technical team, after conducting a comprehensive functionality test, mentioned that out of 687 test cases, 529 cases were satisfactory, 156 cases queried and 2 cases cautioned. On its face value, he noted, the percentage score was 77 per cent.

I was a bit curious by the argument of the ASUU president, a professor, who insisted that 77 per cent in any known fair evaluation system cannot be categorized as a failure. Really? This is 2022!

Considering the level of global advancement, any technology meant to be used by several people should be 100 per cent accurate. Can a car be described as brand new if it scores 77 per cent after general checks? UTAS should be 100 per cent.

The face-off between ASUU and the Federal Government has negatively affected students, the leaders of tomorrow. They are sick, tired of repeated interruptions to their education and are eager to return to the classrooms.

The amount of money ASUU is demanding, contained in the 2020 Memorandum of Action (MoA), is another matter still pending. I pray and hope the government and ASUU will meet at a common ground to end the current impasse. When two elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.

Zeenat O. Sambo writes from Citec Estate, Jabi, Abuja
zeenatsambo@yahoo.com