The Federal Government has lamented that the continuous closure of Nigerian Universities as a result of the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has contributed to the ongoing #EndSARS protest.
The Minister for Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige stated this at a meeting with the leadership of ASUU over the union’s stiff opposition to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) payment platform.
Mr Ngige also debunked insinuation that the Federal Government was contemplating to replace the IPPIS platform with University Transparency Account System (UTAS), the platform that the university teachers have come up with against IPPIS.
The Minister decried the prolonged strike that has paralysed academic activities in tertiary institutions across the country.
According to him, “For the past one week, we have all been on our toes, we have been meeting and we pray that this meeting will yield some good fruits. We don’t take very great pleasure, to the fact that the children who are supposed to be in school are being recruited into the #EndSARS, #EndStrike, #EndSWAT and all the kind of situations.
“As much as possible, we will try to see how we can meet ourselves halfway, so that we can resolve this crisis to the benefits of all and the country at large.”
Ngige said that government has commenced the process of testing UTAS which ASUU members claimed it accommodates the peculiarities of university systems, adding that all the three stages of test will be concluded within the time frame the union gave government.
He said, “We have had the preliminary report and testrun on the UTAS, which is the University Transparency Accountability Solution. We believe that with that, we will be able to get it right.
“Let me make it clear to members of the press, we never said UTAS will replace IPPIS as some of you are reporting, No! The UTAS developed by them is for the University systems and they feel that it captures the peculiarities that are configured to accommodate all the peculiarities of the University systems especially as it affects the Professors and other teaching staff, and even the Non-Academic Staff. That is the situation.
“We, as government feel we are going to put it up for tests – three stages of test. We have done the first stage of test which is within the timeline of six months that ASUU promised. We are going to do other integrity test, Alpha test, Beta test and the one they call roll-over and other whatever test. It is the technologists that know all those tests. But this is the round we are going on now.”
While reacting, ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, who led the union’s delegation to the meeting said Nigerians including members of the union expect so much from its leadership, insisting that it would not do anything that will jeopardize rights of its members, students and the country as whole.
Present at the meeting included the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris; Chairman Senate Committee on Tertiary Education, Senator Ahmed Baba-Kaita; Executive Secretary of NUC, Professor Adamu Rasheed and Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN,
Meanwhile the non teaching staff in the universities have warned that they will not be part of the arrangement to replace IPPIS with the proposed UTAS by ASUU.
University non-academics also threatened that if the Federal Government goes ahead to recognize UTAS, the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union and Associated Institutions (NASU) will come up with their own new payment platform.
A highly placed member of Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the two unions said that an employee cannot dictate to his employers the payment platform to be used, adding that what should be the concern of an employee was to receive his salary as at and when due.