2nd August, 2021
All eyes are on the scheduled meeting today between the Federal Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), with Nigerians hoping the dialogue will avert another strike.
ASUU went on strike in 2020 for nine months. The strike was called off in December.
The Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations at the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr. Charles Akpan, said the minister Chris Ngige, will host the leadership of the ASUU to a meeting at the ministry’s conference room, Federal Secretariat in Abuja today.
“The Minister for Labour and Employment Dr. Chris Ngige will be hosting a meeting with ASUU. The meeting is scheduled for Monday, August 2, 2021 at Minister’s Conference Room,” Akpan said.
Chairmen of ASUU branches had warned they would proceed on a fresh strike over the non-implementation of their agreement with FG on IPPIS.
Dr Ibrahim Inuwa, ASUU Chairman Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, said its long strike was suspended last December after the two parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the various issues.
The parties also agreed timelines for the implementation of each of the eight items in the agreement.
Inuwa said since then, only two out of the eight issues had been addressed,
Outstanding issues, according to him are the payment of the earned academic allowance, funding for revitalisation of public universities, salary shortfall, proliferation of state universities and setting up of visitation panels.
Others are replacement of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System with the University Transparency and Accountability Solution and withheld salaries and non-remittance of check-off dues.
The National President, ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, had told The PUNCH that the union was invited by the Ministry of Labour to discuss issues surrounding the Memorandum of Action, which was signed with the Federal Government in December 2020.
However, Osodeke, explained the last time the union met with the government was around March/April.
“The Ministry of Education, which is our ministry, has not called us to any meeting since we signed the Memorandum of Action. But the Ministry of Labour, which is just an intervention ministry, around March/April called us to a meeting in which we discussed and they promised to implement all those things.”
In June, chairman of ASUU at UNIJOS had threatened a new strike if the 13 months’ salaries of over 1,000 of its members across the country were not paid.
Dr. Lazarus Maigoro accused the Federal Government of withholding the check-off dues of the affected members.
He accused Ahmed Idris, the Accountant General of Federation (AGF), for systematically denying the lecturers their remuneration, even after government and the union had reached an agreement on non-victimisation of its members following their last strike.
The chairman alleged that the affected members were being threatened to either enrol into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform, or have their salaries withheld.
He said despite the directives of President Muhammadu Buhari, that members of the union be paid their full remuneration, the AGF had denied the affected union members their pay, in complete violation of the terms of the agreement signed between the union and government.
Maigoro said that the office of the AGF had continued to feed the public and some sections of government with false reasons over the matter, such as incorrect BVN numbers, incorrectly spelt names and their sequential arrangement, among others.
He, however, added that such excuses were not tenable, because the bursary departments of their various institutions had submitted the names severally to the authorities, but the problem had continued to persist.
“ASUU wants to bring to the attention of the Nigerian public the deliberate, systematic and unpatriotic actions of the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, on the future of education in Nigeria.
” Idris, from all intent and purposes, is bent on withholding the salaries of over 1,000 members of ASUU spread across the country, with more than 100 of such lecturers being members of our branch at the University of Jos.
“This is simply because they participated in the last strike and refused to enrol in the much discredited IPPIS, despite the non-victimisation clause signed in the Memorandum of Action (MoA) that led to the suspension of the strike in December 2020.
“Despite the directive given by Mr President to pay the salaries of all lecturers, the AGF has refused to pay their salaries, for periods ranging from four to thirteen months, respectively.
”More worrisome is the fact that while the AGF is refusing to pay the salaries, his staff are busy calling the affected lecturers and insisting they have to register with IPPIS before they are paid; some are even asked to forfeit a part of their salaries in order to be paid. So, it is very clear that this is a deliberate act on the part of the AGF and his staff.
“Many of our members at the University of Jos have not been paid salaries from February 2020 till date. How they are expected to go to the classroom and teach beats my imagination.
“It is not news, that our union has vowed to fight back at any cost in order to salvage our colleagues from his tyranny and unpatriotic act against not just ASUU members, but the future of education in Nigeria and so, if nothing is urgently done, we will be forced to take action,” Maigoro said.
“Apart from the refusal to pay the salaries of our members, the lack of payment of allowances of sabbatical, visiting, part-time, contract staff is further killing the federal universities in Nigeria, and this is all because of IPPIS.
“We hope that whatever decision the union takes, will not be misconstrued by the Nigerian public, especially seeing the seeming silence of the public and the government over the complete violation of our 2020 MoA,” he said