ASUU: FOUR-MONTH OLD STRIKE TO END SOON AS BUHARI SET TO DECIDE ON UTAS THIS WEEK, INCREASE LECTURERS WAGES- MINISTER

President Muhammadu Buhari will soon take a decision on the controversial University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) and the condition of service for varsity teachers, Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige hinted yesterday.

To guide the President in taking a decision, the inter-ministerial departments and agencies committees of the Federal Government will turn in their reports on Wednesday.

The reports of the committees could bring an end to the four-month old strike embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Dr. Ngige dropped the hint in a statement yesterday by his ministry’s spokesman Olajide Oshundun.

The striking lectures are at war over which payment platform to be adopted in public varsities between the government-approved Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and ASUU-preferred UTAS.

Yesterday, Ngige said last Thursday’s meeting was with the government side and not with ASUU members as assumed by their leadership.

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The minister noted that the meeting was with the representatives of the Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Budget Office of the Federation, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

He explained that the meeting was geared towards accelerating the resolution of the multiple strike actions o ASUU, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).

The leadership of ASUU began a one-month strike in February which was extended at the expiration by two-month. The union further extended the strike by another three months to give the government ample time to meet its demands.

They were soon joined by other varsity-based unions to demand for improved condition of service, deployment of a new payment platform among others.

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The statement reads in part: “The meeting was meant for the inter-ministerial departments and agencies committees of the Federal Government, including the Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Budget Office of the Federation, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). The committees are reporting to the office of the Chief of Staff to the President and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.

“The meeting in question was called to assess the progress made so far on addressing the few outstanding demands of the striking university workers, such as the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of their conditions of service. These two committees were empaneled by the Honourable Minister and the Chief of Staff to the President at the last tripartite plus meetings of the unions and the government side.

“For the avoidance of doubt, none of the unions was invited to last Thursday’s meeting and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Dr. Chris Ngige, while briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting last Wednesday, June 22, 2022, clarified that the meeting would hold the next day (Thursday, June 23, 2022), for the government side alone.

“As expected, the meeting was held and all the stakeholders reported on the various assignments given to them and accordingly, received further briefing and directives from the President in order to accelerate discussions with ASUU.

“It is hoped that before Wednesday this week, all the various sub-committees will turn in their reports, to enable Mr. President to be briefed fully and for decisions to be taken on the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of the conditions of service, especially the issue of wage increase.

“It is after receiving briefings from the government side that the Ministry of Labour will bring all the stakeholders, including the unions, to a conference table to look at the agreement before signing or endorsement.

“Consequently, all insinuations that the Ministry of Labour does not sympathise with the students, unions and parents, of which the Minister is one, should be disabused. The Minister had on several occasions received commendation from the ASUU leadership for his role in the resolution of the impasse in the education sector.

“Acting with the Chief of Staff to the President, he empaneled the two committees to work assiduously and according to the law, towards the resolution of the teething issues of payment platform and renegotiation of the conditions of service. The claims made here are verifiable, being out there in the public domain.

“Nonetheless, the ministry will not allow itself to be bullied by any union into forcing any payment platform on the government, which took a decision to adopt the IPPIS a long time ago in 2017.

“ASUU should know that we are arbitrators and conciliators. We cannot manufacture agreements. Regardless, we are not constrained from listening to the government and pushing them to do their own bit as quickly as possible.

“These clarifications are necessary so that the public will understand our role in the Ministry of Labour as conciliators and arbitrators in a Labour dispute.”

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