The Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, has blamed the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for the lingering strike of university lecturers now in its seventh month.
Speaking in an interview at the Nigerian Annual Education Conference in Abuja on Tuesday, the minister said the union has no reason to be on strike because the federal government has met all but one of their demands.
He said, “I’ve said repeatedly that government has met all ASUU’s demands. The one outstanding demand is that ASUU insists on having their own Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) instead of being subject to the government’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).”
According to him, the federal government’s IPPIS payment platform is not designed to be punitive to anybody. It is a holistic system, if you have a superior one, then we can migrate to it when it is proven to be superior, he said.
He said the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is currently evaluating ASUU’s UTAS platform.
Nwajiuba said the government is in agreement with ASUU on Earned Academic Allowances and is “not worried about earned allowances.”
“Schools have to be in session to know who is earning what. Government has made provision for that and we don’t think it is a one-off thing because you keep earning. You don’t need to be at home on strike in order to get something done for you, they may be right in the demands,
“This government has consistently done the things they said they would do so the issue of saying previous governments agreed and therefore, you cannot do that we are not previous governments,” he said.
The minister then said ASUU had to take responsibility for keeping millions of university students out of school.
“They’ve been at home for the past eight months. Nigerian students are not on strike, the Ministry of Education is not on strike, the federal government is not on strike. So I mean who is on strike?” he said.
But, ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, said the ongoing strike may continue if the government fails to meet its demands.
He said ASUU has shifted positions in some respects.
He said, “For instance, our members have reduced their demand of one tranche N220 billion of the outstanding revitalization fund by 50 per cent. The Union has also agreed that N30 billion out of the so far verified arrears of N40 billion of the earned academic allowances (EAA) be paid to our members while the balance of N10 billion could be spread over the next two tranches,” he said.
The ASUU president said what had stalled the discussion was the government insisting that payment of the withheld salaries and other entitlements of lecturers would only be effected through IPPIS.
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