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The Federal Government has explained that the demands by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to be paid a backlog of salaries spanning the six-month strike duration is delaying its negotiations with the union.
The FG insisted that ASUU members will not be paid the backlog of salaries withheld during the strike period.
This was disclosed by Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education, in an interaction with newsmen at the 47th session of the State House Ministerial Media Briefing organised by the presidential Communications Team at Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, on Thursday.
Recall that ASUU had on February 14, 2022, declared an industrial action over a dispute with the FG. Other university-based unions equally embarked on strike. Among the unions are the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions, and National Association of Academic Technologists.
Adamu in his reaction stated that five of the striking unions have agreed to suspend their strike within the next one week, whereas the decision of ASUU remains uncertain.
The education minister debunked claims that he was given a two-week ultimatum by President Muhammadu Buhari to resolve issues with the university-based unions.
He said, “The President never gave me any deadline. I promised that I could do it within the shortest possible time. And for your information, one week after that pledge, I had already finished my job because I had given all the six unions the offer made by the government, and I want to tell you, in principle, all of them accepted it. The only exception was ASUU which gave me two other conditions, which I told them would not be acceptable to the government.
“Let me seize the opportunity to commend ASUP (Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics). ASUP were on strike. But at the time I was given this (negotiation) responsibility, they were threatening to go back. So, I called ASUP and I made them withdraw the threat and they agreed.
“The next I met were the College of Education Academic Staff Union, they are on strike already. I gave them the offer and this is a final offer. And they accepted it. But you know the mechanism of acceptance, they will not just tell me, okay, the strike is called off. They have to go and tell their unions. And that is what is happening with NASU. I met NASU and SSANU. And they have accepted but they need time to go and tell the unions. The last group I met was NAAT.
“So, I can tell you within the next one week, these five unions will call off the strike. But I cannot say the same for ASUU because what they’re asking is, they can accept this offer if the federal government will agree to pay the salary for the month they have not worked. And I told them the federal government will not. All contentious issues between the government and ASUU had been settled except the quest for members’ salaries for the period of strike be paid, a demand that Buhari has flatly rejected.”
Commenting on the payment system, Adamu said that although the ASUU-developed University Transparency Accountability Solution and University, UTAS, and Peculiar Personnel and Payroll System, 3PS, performed better than the government-backed Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System, IPPIS, in the efficiency tests conducted, the FG has not approved UTAS as claimed in some quarters.
He said the government would take note of ASUU’s peculiarities in any of the platforms chosen.