The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has again explained why its seven-month-old strike has not come to an end, despite many meetings with the federal government on the crisis.
The union accused the federal government of insincerity, saying it has “shamefully resorted to blackmail, intimidation and propagation of falsehood to the public instead of making a sincere effort at resolving the lingering crisis.”
The union’s explanation was contained in a statement issued on Monday by its Lagos Zone and signed by the zonal coordinator, Olusiji Sowande.
According to the statement, the contending issues include government’s reluctance to fulfil the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement bordering on the provision of funds for the revitalisation of dilapidated infrastructure (hostel accommodation, befitting lecture theatres, state-of-the-art laboratories and good working environment for lecturers).
“It also includes payment of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), setting up of visitation panels for the purpose of accountability and good governance of our public universities,” Mr Sowande said.
“Arresting the trend of proliferation of universities at both federal and state levels while neglecting the funding of existing ones and the renegotiation of 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement,” he said.
Mr Sowande said the issue of enrolment of university teachers into the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) was deliberately introduced by the government “to draw away the attention of the public from the insincerity, lack of interest and disregard for the education of the teeming Nigerian youth, especially university students.”
Mr Sowande said the government is withholding the salaries of its members and the check-off dues of the union as a war strategy to weaken the union’s resolution.
According to him, it is in the course of the strike and the lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic that the salaries of our members in federal universities were withheld by the government under the guise that members did not enrol on IPPIS.
“It is important to inform that government is owing to our members the arrears of unpaid full salaries in all federal universities from July 2020 to October 2020 (four months); arrears of unpaid salaries to some members in University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), Michael Okpara University of Agriculture (MOUAU) and some Federal Universities from February 2020 to June 2020 (five months),” he said.
He alleged a high level of fraud by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF); “a self-acclaimed apostle of anti-corruption, and the Ministry of Finance.
“It would interest the Nigerian public that, while government claimed to have fully paid “amputated” salaries of February to June 2020 to Academic Staff in Federal Universities, the OAGF deducted check-offs amounting to millions of Naira from our members’ salaries and refused to remit the deducted check-off to the union up till now,” he said.
He said deducting check-offs and other third-party funds on behalf of unions without remittance is illegal, unlawful and criminal.
“It is our union’s belief that the illegally withheld check-offs would be collected by Union with interests without further delay. We are aware this is deliberate.”
Unresolved EAA’s issue
Mr Sowande said the union’s EAA has been calculated and verified to be N40 billion up to 2013.
“Several million is still being owed from 2014 to 2020. While we are still considering the government’s proposal to release N30 billion, the government demonstrated its insincerity by insisting that it has to be disbursed through IPPIS instead of releasing the fund to the universities,” he said.
He said the federal government “was also quick to announce the proposal to pay N30 billion as part of our outstanding EAA to the public with a view to blackmailing members of our Union.
“Despite the fact that this is a budget season, the over two years promise to mainstream our EAA into the annual budget in order to end the EAA payment problem is not being actualized,” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how labour minister Chris Ngige said the University Transparency Account System (UTAS) presented by ASUU was homegrown and worth giving a thorough assessment test.
“We agreed at the meeting to give required consideration to the UTAS alternative they came up with as a way of finding a lasting solution to the lingering crisis over the implementation of IPPIS. We have neither jettisoned the implementation of the IPPIS nor fully accepted UTAS,” Mr Ngige had said.
Since March, Nigerian university lecturers have been on strike as a result of which public universities, especially those owned by the federal government, are yet to resume academic activities since the government announced the reopening of schools after the COVID-19 lockdown.
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