ASUU to FG: No talks on calling off strike without payment of withheld salaries

• Says UTAS now ready for integrity tests

The leadership of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has asked both Federal and State Governments to immediately pay all the arrears of the withheld salaries of its members to pave for further discussion on the outstanding issues that led to indefinite strike declared on March 23rd 2020.

The Union also, on Tuesday, unveiled its most touted Universities Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), saying the software is now ready for integrity tests as requested by the Federal Government that had approved it in principle.

UTAS was developed by ASUU as an alternative to the Federal Government’s Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), which the Union rejected.

President of ASUU, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, announced that UTAS was ready for integrity tests at a news conference in Abuja where he also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to wade into the University of Lagos (UNILAG) crisis by setting up a Special Visitation Panel to the University.

He rejected and condemned the purported removal of the Vice-Chancellor of UNILAG, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, by the Governing Council chaired by Dr Wale Babalakin (SAN) without due process, saying the President as Visitor to the University must act immediately to save the crisis from further degeneration.

Ogunyemi disclosed that UTAS software was presented to the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu and other senior management of the Federal Ministry of Education, including Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, for government to subject the software to integrity tests.

The Union embarked on an indefinite strike on March 23rd 2020 over an attempt to force the lecturers on IPPIS platform and failure of the government to meet other demands of ASUU.

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Other issues in contention are; revitalisation fund for public universities, arrears of Earned Academic Allowance (EAA), visitation to universities, the proliferation of state universities and issues of governance in them and conclusion of the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement.

He insisted that the Union would not suspend its ongoing strike until the federal government honours its 2019 agreements with the union.

Ogunyemi lamented that five months’ salaries of members of Union a the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) and the Michael Opera University of Agriculture were still being withheld by the Accountant-General of the Federation allegedly on account of non-registration on IPPIS.

He warned that ASUU would not be ready for further discussion on calling off of the industrial action, if the withheld salaries were not paid to the members, saying thousands of other academics across the universities are suffering the same fate.

He said: “While we counsel that government at both federal and state levels must meet the Presidential Task Force specified guidelines for reopening of educational institutions, we insist that all the arrears of the withheld salaries of our members in federal and state universities must be paid immediately to pave further discussion on the outstanding issues in the memorandum of action of February 7th 2019”.

Ogunyemi, maintained that UTAS still remained a far more than just an alternative to IPPIS which does not respect the nature, structure and character of the Nigerian University System.

According to him, “We had always promised that ASUU would produce a robust software solution that would be sensitive to the uniqueness of the university system in addressing personnel information and payroll system, among other things.

“Following our engagements with the Federal Government over the issues that eventually led to the declaration of the ongoing strike action on March 17th 2020, the government declared that it “accepts in principle the
University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), which is being developed by ASUU and its researchers for the financial administration of the University’s FG’s staff monthly payroll and accounting processes.”

“In addition, the Federal Government pledged that when fully developed UTAS will be subjected to various integrity tests in order to verify its efficacy to see whether this final product will pass the necessary technical attribute test as specified by NITDA.” On our part, ASUU had given a timeframe of eighteen (18) months to the government to develop, test and deploy UTAS.

“In keeping with this promise, ASUU is pleased to announce that UTAS is now ready for the “integrity tests” required of it by government. Indeed, the software was unveiled by way of demonstration to the Minister and Senior Management Staff of the Ministry of Education, including the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), yesterday, August 17th 2020.

On the purported removal of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos by the Governing Council of the institution, led by Chairman Dr Wale Babalakin, the Union expressed shock and absolute disappointment, saying that Babalakin’s spirited efforts to defends the indefensible is a clear indication that there is more to the story coming from the senior member of the bar as other senior advocates like him, including professors from the Faculty of Law telling him that he goofed because the due process as required by the universities Miscellaneous Provisions Amendment Act, 2004 was not followed.

He said: “ASUU fully supports the UNILAG Senate’s rejection of Dr Wake Babalakin-led Governing Council’s ill-informed decision to remove the Vice-Chancellor. We call on Mr President, as Visitor to University of Lagos, to immediately constitute a Special Visitation Panel to look into the immediate and remote causes of the events that led to the purported removal of Professor Oluwatoyin T Ogundipe as VC of UNILAG with a view to bringing all found culpable to book.”

Furthermore, he lamented the attitude of some Vice-Chancellors who are deceiving and defrauding unsuspecting students and parents by pretending to keep the session running during the nation-wide lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in universities bereft of the required ICT infrastructure.

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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