FG, ASUU to reconvene next week as strike continues - SALIENT TIMES ONLINE

FG, ASUU to reconvene next week as strike continues

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As Gbajabiamila, House leaders mediate ASUU, FG face-off

By Gilbert Odey

The Federal Government on Thursday failed to pacify the leadership of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to reconsider their position on the ongoing two weeks warning strike embarked by the union on Monday, even as they adjourned to reconvene next Monday or Tuesday after wide consultations by both parties.  

 Addressing journalists after the over four hours closed door technical session between both parties, the Minister of Labour and Employment,  Sen. Chris Ngige, disclosed that the Federal Government has presented conditions to integrate the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) being proposed by the Union into the government’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

 This is coming a day after the government through the Labour minister described the ongoing ASUU warning strike as “illegal.” Although the conditions were not made public, the minister said the “two parties are expected to reconvene on Monday or Tuesday next week after various consultations.” 

On his part, the ASUU president, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said that the National Executive Committee of the union would meet to review the conditions set for the integration on UTAS into IPPIS even as he stressed that the decision would be based on the commitment shown by the Federal Government. 

Recall that ASUU on Monday embarked on a 14-day warning strike over the non-payment of salaries of lecturers not enrolled in the Federal Government’s Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS). 

Declaring the strike in Enugu after the union’s National Executive Council meeting, Ogunyemi said the strike was adopted being the only measure it could use to compel the Federal Government to implement the agreement and resolution of Memorandum of Action it had with the union from 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2019.

 “Having discussed the provisions in the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement, the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding and the 2017 Memorandum of Action which have not been implemented, NEC resolved to embark on two weeks warning strike action with effect from Monday 9th March 2020, to compel the Government to implement the agreement and resolution,” he said. 

Salient Times reports that the industrial crisis started when the Federal Government through the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation issued a directive to stop the January salary of lecturers who failed to enrol on the Integrated Personal Payroll Institution System (IPPIS). 

Reacting to the directive, the ASUU President had warned that Federal Government should be ready to take full responsibility for an industrial crisis midwifed by the directive. 

The ASUU President whom at several occasions opposed to the use of IPPIS for lecturers described the directive to stop salaries of tertiary institutions’ lecturers as provocative. 

“This circular is highly provocative, we condemn it, we reject it. It appears some individuals in government are trying to sabotage the process and they do not want us to present our alternative to IPPIS and we believe what we’re doing is in the best interest of the Nigerian university system,” Ogunyemi said. 

Meanwhile, the national leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has promised to review its ongoing two -week warning strike it commenced on Monday, following the intervention of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila. 

ASUU National President, Prof Abiodun Ogunyemi, said at a meeting convened by the speaker at the National Assembly on Thursday that the union will consult with its various structures across different universities in the country and get back to the speaker early next week. 

Disturbed by the strike action embarked upon by ASUU, Gbajabiamila convened a meeting with the leadership of the union, ministries of Labour and Productivity and Education, among other stakeholders with a view to finding a lasting solution to the industrial action. 

Speaking at the meeting, Gbajabiamila expressed concern that the ASUU strike has consequences that can only be imagined, noting that Nigerian students should not be allowed to face disruption in their academic pursuits. 

On the agreement reached between ASUU and the Federal Government in 2009, Gbajabiamila wondered why the government could not meet its commitment more than 10 years after it signed the document. 

On the issue of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), which ASUU has kicked against, Gbajabiamila appealed to the union to bend over backwards and support any government’s efforts at fighting corruption in the country. 

Gbajabiamila then appealed to ASUU to in the interest of Nigerian students, put on hold its ongoing warning strike so that a solution can be found. 

He also promised that the House would do everything within its powers to appropriate funds that would take care of the financial demands of ASUU, urging the union to work closely with relevant committees of the House to achieve that. 

Responding, ASUU President, Prof. Ogunyemi, said it has become public knowledge that government cannot respect the 2009 agreement it reached with the union, which resulted in disagreement with the union. 

He said the issue of IPPIS that government directed universities to be part of is against the practice all over the world and that would make Nigerian universities to be local in nature. 

Present at the meeting were principal officers of the House, including House Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa; Chief Whip, Mohammed Tahir Monguno; Deputy Leader, Peter Akpatason; Deputy Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha; Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu; Minority Whip, Gideon Gwani; Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechwukwu and Deputy Minority Whip, Adesegun Adekoya. 

Others were the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nawajiuba and former ASUU President, Prof. Nasiru Fagge, among others.