Again, ASUU Threatens Strike Over Payment Platforms, MoU implementation, Others

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Again, ASUU Threatens Strike Over Payment Platforms, MoU implementation, Others
Obiajulu Joel Nwolu

The Federal Government has debunked allegations that it had reneged on its agreements with the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.

This was disclosed by the Spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Ben Gong, in an interview with Punch in Abuja on Tuesday.

Gong explained why the Federal Government could not adopt the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, a payment platform developed by ASUU.

According to him, UTAS does not make provision for tax deductions from salaries. He added that ASUU members cannot collect salaries without paying taxes.

Recall that the President of ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday, accused the Federal Government of violating agreements it reached with the lecturers before they called off their strike on December 24, 2020.

He specifically accused the government of not paying the earned academic allowances as contained in the agreements.

He also faulted what he called the selective payment of salaries to ASUU members, saying professors in some institutions received N80,000 in June and senior lecturers got N25,000.

Osodeke said the union had been proved right in its opposition to the IPPIS. He said in June, a number of lecturers in Nigerian universities received different salaries.

But Gong, challenged the union to be more specific in its allegations that government had violated agreements.

He said the ministry was preparing an official letter to seek clarifications from ASUU over its recent pronouncements.

Gong stated, “Let them (ASUU) be specific on their accusations. Let them state the parts of the agreements which have not been met.

“Let them also mention the ministries responsible for not meeting the agreements.

“For example, if we say we want to pay them this amount of money, is it not the ministry of finance who will do the payment?

“For the UTAS platform, there is no provision on that platform for tax deduction. How do you pay someone’s salary without tax deductions? Let them list their issues.

“When we saw the publications (by ASUU). We wrote to the permanent secretary to notify him of the allegations by ASUU and we pleaded with him to tell the Chairman (Executive Secretary) of the National Universities Commission to launch an inquiry.”

Besides the issue of payment, ASUU also accused the Federal Government of appointing non-graduates into the governing boards of universities.

Responding to this, Gong stated, “The permanent secretary has directed that a letter be written to ASUU.  This was what the permanent secretary said, ‘Write to the ASUU president to indicate those he claimed are not graduates among the members of governing council for further investigations.’ I am already writing the publication.”

ASUU, a few days ago, issued a fresh strike notice to push for the payment of outstanding allowances and adoption of UTAS for the payment of lecturers’ salaries, instead of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.

Recall that in March 2020, ASUU embarked on a strike following its disagreement with the Federal Government over the funding of the universities and implementation of the IPPIS.

ASUU, however, developed UTAS and had several meetings with the ministries of Finance, Education, Labour and Employment, and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

Government agreed to pay outstanding salaries to the university lecturers and resolve all other issues which ASUU raised.

Before calling off its strike last year, ASUU insisted that its members would not register the IPPIS.

In response, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, said the UTAS platform would first be subjected to an integrity test.

The National Information Technology Development Agency is saddled with the responsibility of subjecting the UTAS platform to an integrity test.

When contacted on Tuesday, spokesperson for the NITDA, Hadiza Umar, said, “I do not have any update on it at the moment, I will contact the team tomorrow.”

When contacted, Spokesman for the Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning, Yunusa Abdullahi, said, “I guess you should direct your inquiry to the Ministry of Education. Thank you.”

Commenting on payment of member, the union said, “They know that UTAS, which is the major one has not been implemented. The revitalisation fund has not been released. They agreed that they would mainstream our earned academic allowances into the salary system in 2021.  We are in August already and preparing 2022 budget, yet nothing has been done.  They said by December they would pay the backlog they are owing our members and till now they have not paid a number of them.

“They agreed that they would review the NUC law to ensure that no government would wake up one day and be proliferating universities, they haven’t gone to the National Assembly.”

This post was written by Obiajulu Joel Nwolu.

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.

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