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Strike: How House of Reps brokered truce between Fed Govt, ASUU


Strike: How House of Reps brokered truce between Fed Govt, ASUU

The Nation Newspaper

There were fresh facts yesterday on how the House of Representatives persuaded striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to review their position.

It was learnt that the leadership of the Green Chamber went as far as laying the fact-sheet on the N20.5 trillion 2023 Budget, to ASUU representatives led by Prof Emmanuel Osodeke.

A source told The Nation that Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and other principal officers of the House showed ASUU concrete evidence that the Federal Government plans to spend about N470 billion on public varsities next year.

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The estimates include N300 billion for revitalization of universities and N170 billion for salary adjustment.

The source said the lecturers rejected a plot to proscribe the union by the government.

On the “no work, no pay policy”, the ASUU leadership succeeded in extracting a commitment that the government will pay part of the lecturers’ salaries and spread the rest over a period of time.

The Federal Government invoked the “no work, no pay” after the teachers shunned pleas to suspend the strike which they embarked on since February 14.

It was also learnt that ASUU conceded to Integrated Payroll and Personnel information system (IPPIS) instead of University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) with a clause that IPPIS will take care of the peculiarities of the university system.

The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu; his counterpart in the Labour and Employment Ministry, Dr. Chris Ngige; Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HoCSF), Mrs. Folasade Yemi-Esan; Acting Accountant-General of the Federation (AG-F), Mr. Sylva Okolieaboh, Director-General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, were able to prove to the House on September 29 that ASUU’s case for UTAS fell short of an effective solution to IPPIS.

But despite concessions by all the parties, ASUU insisted on an agreement with the House of Representatives and all relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

According to a source, ASUU and the House leadership had a session during the public holiday on Monday to put an end to the strike action.

The source, who was part of the ‘special session’, described the parley with ASUU as “far-reaching.”

The source said: “What has renewed the confidence of ASUU was the fact that at the meeting, the House leadership made the 2023 Appropriation Bill available to the lecturers, be pumped into the university system. This includes N300 billion for revitalisation of universities and N170 billion for salary adjustment.

“Gbajabiamila and others succeeded in showing concrete proof that President Muhammadu Buhari was ready to improve the nation’s varsities.

“Of course, the House pleaded with ASUU to have a rethink on its action. The lecturers also joined issues on the government’s policy of no work, no pay. We made it known to them that there is no way the government will pay at once. We will push for the payment of part of it and how to spread the rest over time.

“ASUU asked the House to ensure that it facilitates an agreement with the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, House Committee on Tertiary Education and other relevant MDAs.

“They have however, been asking the House to prevail on the Presidency not to proscribe ASUU as it is being contemplated.”

The source added: “ASUU also conceded to Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) instead of University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) with a clause that IPPIS will take care of the peculiarities of the university system.”

Investigation showed that a government team had on September 29 convinced the House of Representatives that ASUU’s case on UTAS was unworkable.

Top government officials, who appeared before the leadership of the House Representatives on Thursday, September 29 2022 explained why the adoption of UTAS as a separate salary payment platform for Universities is not in the public interest.

They appealed to the striking teachers to sheath their swords.

The transcripts of the closed door session were obtained by The Nation yesterday.

Mallam Adamu, who was represented at the meeting, said: “We have all been very worried and therefore, tackled this matter, met with ASUU, did all manner of thinking and consultations that we thought would have been able to resolve this matter, but there is no solution so far.”

Speaking during the session, the acting AG-F pleaded with the lecturers not to crucify the nation’s varsity system because of UTAS, but to focus on a mutually agreed and sustainable solution.

He said in his career, he has been able to resolve difficult challenges and urged ASUU to consider the government’s position.

Okolieaboh said the government was ready to accept any solution that can help it to reduce wage bill.

He, however, said that as it is now, UTAS is only about the university system and therefore, cannot be operated in isolation because the government has to build the salaries of other sectors into it.

The AG-F said: “In the spirit of reconciliation, just to move together with ASUU, if ASUU knows any solution or any infrastructure or fibre that will reduce the cost of what we are currently doing, we are willing to accept it if that is also going to help to resolve the issue that we have.

“If we are going to adopt UTAS we are going to build the salaries of other sectors, indeed, the entire Civil Service into UTAS. Going back to what Hon. Okechukwu said; even if we are going to take this (UTAS), there are still steps that need to be taken. It is not something that can happen today or tomorrow.”

Responding to ASUU’s suggestion that the use of IPPIS negates university autonomy, Okolieaboh clarified that IPPIS is just a platform provided by government that allows individual agencies to take full control of their internal operations.

He said: “On payment of salaries and autonomy, the way IPPIS works is that we give you a platform. It is the responsibility of the universities to enter their salaries. We are not the ones that do it. They do it right from their own end. The same way that SAMSUNG gives you a phone and you make your phone calls.”

The HoCSF Dr. Yemi-Esan said the nation cannot afford two payment platforms.

She said: “This country cannot afford two payments platforms that are running at the same time. If government wants to use IPPIS, let us flesh up IPPIS and use it. If it is UTAS, let us work on UTAS and use it. But running two parallel platforms will be extremely expensive for government at this time.

“The second issue I want to address is the issue of the Office of the Head of Service hamstringing the universities and not allowing them to employ as and when they want to and the number of people they want to employ. It is on record that it is not the Office of the Head of Service that went to look for work.”

Okolieaboh was said to have appealed to the union not to cling to its hardline position.

“Lastly, I want to make an appeal to everybody. I want to appeal to our friends in ASUU, let us avoid a situation whereby we crucify the Nigerian university system on the cross of UTAS,” the AG-F was quoted as saying.

ASUU to hold emergency meeting tomorrow.
ASUU has scheduled an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting for tomorrow.

Expectedly, the leadership of the union will review unfolding developments, following the Appeal Court ruling, which ordered varsity teachers to call off their strike and the intervention by the House of Representatives leadership in the face-off between ASUU and the Federal Government.

Ahead of the meeting billed for its Abuja headquarters, ASUU had directed its zonal branches to collate the views of members through vote during the meetings expected to hold tomorrow across the country.

The outcome of the meeting would result in the suspension of the strike tomorrow, or in the wee hours of Friday.

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