“This small fight has and might still keep students at home for a very long time” – Emmanuel Ndubueze
While students continue to hope that the Federal Government and the leadership of the Academic Union of Universitiee, ASUU would reach an agreement so would return to class but this seems to be very far from reality as there seems to be no resolution in sight.
In this report, UNIMAIDGIST’s editor-in-Chief takes a look at all the meetings held so far between FG and ASUU and exposes what the fight is really all about.
The negotiation between the Federal Government and the leadership of ASUU to end the ongoing strike which is approaching eight months already and so far, after series of meetings, no headway has been made of the government to pay the withheld salaries of the workers through other means than the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, IPPIS. UNIMAIDGIST understands that the government has agreed to pay the salary arrears of the University teachers but the insistence that it would be rolled out via the IPPIS platform has been a subject of argument between the two parties.
ASUU has vehemently opposed to the use of IPPIS as the payment platform in the university system. University lecturers across the country, especially, those owned by the Federal Government, are owed between four and eight months salaries all because they refused to be enrolled on the IPPIS and there appears no sign that they are going back on their decision to outrighly reject the IPIPIS.
During the last Wednesday meeting, no agreement was still reached on how to pay the outstanding salaries.
Speaking to journalists on Sunday, the National President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said there was no way workers whose salaries were withheld could be convinced to go back to work.
He said: “The first step to resolving the impasse is for the government to pay the withheld salaries of our members. It is between four and eight months.
“You cannot tell a person whose salaries have been seized unjustifiably to go back to work. Moreover, the salaries must be paid through the normal channel.”
Prof. Ogunyemi further explained: “Doing that would help in resolving other issues and make things return to normal. But for the government to insist on IPPIS, there may be trouble still.
“They are yet to enrol over 70 per cent of our members on IPPIS. It will take them between three to six months to do so.
“They are setting a booby trap saying we should enrol on IPPIS first and then they will migrate us to our own University Transparency and Accountability System, UTAS, that is even uneconomical when UTAS can be used to enrol us in a very short time.”
The issue of IPPIS first came up during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan and according to the National President of ASUU he felt the matter had been laid to rest.
He said: “We rejected it then and nothing was said about it up until late last year when they brought it up and insisted on us being part of it. We saw that as a distraction since other more important issues were at stake, but now they have thrown it into the front burner.”
The current ASUU strike started towards the end of March with the Union protesting against nonpayment of Earned Academic Allowances, revitalisation of the university system, setting up of Visitation Panels to universities, fulfilling conditions included in the 2004 agreement reached between the two sides among other issues which seem to have been swallowed up under the cover of the bigger picture.
ASUU was either intentionally or inadvertently ignored as the government claimed to have been busy combating a more serious problem (COVID-19) and coupled with the fact that there restrictions which included the closure of all educational institutions in the country hence the government felt there was no need to enter into negotiations with the Union. However, as the rate of infection seem to have decreased, and following the order that schools should reopen, the impact of ASUU strike came into effect.
Students on their part have been wondering if ASUU Strike will always be for their own personal gain at the detriment of the future of many poor Nigerians who study in public Universities. One once observed: “ASUU always start strike agitating against many issues top of which are funding for public Universities but once government offers to pay ASUU earned allowances strike ends.” This is also very evident in the current struggle which started as usual but has gradually been narrowed to the agitations as to which platform ASUU is to be paid.
It is common saying that when two elephants fight, it is the grasses that are left to suffer and this has been the plight of poor students studying in public Universities in Nigeria and one question always burdening my mind has been ‘when will the Government stop being insensitive and when will ASUU stop being selfish and inconsiderate?’