There were strong indications on Monday that students of public universities in the country would stay at home further as the Academic Staff Union of Universities dismissed the Federal Government’s directive that all educational institutions should resume on Monday next week.
The National President of ASUU, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, in a telephone interview said the Federal Government was not sincere about negotiations with the union, adding that lecturers would not resume on an empty stomach.
Ogunyemi specifically took a swipe at the Accountant General of the Federation, Mr Ahmed Idris, for violating a directive of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), that lecturers’ salaries should be paid.
He hinted that Nigerians should be ready for a long-drawn strike in universities with the way government was handling negotiations.
Also, the Non-Academic Staff Union on Monday said the Federal Government’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System was not transparent, saying many of its members were being cheated.
Both NASU and the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities began a 14-day warning strike on Monday over the adoption of the IPPIS in universities and non-payment of minimum wage to their members.
The Minister of Education Adamu Adamu, had, at a media briefing in Abuja on Friday, said government had approved the reopening of educational institutions beginning from Monday, October 12.
Recall that all educational institutions in the country were shut in March following the outbreak of COVID-19.
But before March, the Federal Government and ASUU had been at loggerheads over the IPPIS, which the later said should not be adopted in universities because it would violate their autonomy.
Buhari, during the presentation of the 2020 budget in October last year, ordered ministries, departments and agencies to migrate to the IPPIS as part of efforts to check fraud.
On March 23, ASUU began an indefinite strike to force the Federal Government to implement its agreements with lecturers and protest against the IPPIS.
Responding to a question on when the strike would end, Ogunyemi stated, “You can’t expect people to go back to their offices on an empty stomach. You don’t expect my members to suspend this action when their demands have not been met. It is a very clear decision that anybody will make in this circumstance.”
He said that on August 18, ASUU wrote the Federal Government, stating that it was ready to demonstrate its University Transparency Accountability Solution, which it designed as alternative to the IPPIS.
According to him, the union did not receive government’s reply until September 30.
Explaining contents of the letters, he stated, “They said they were considering our requests for a meeting. Mainly, we raised two points in the letter we wrote to them, that we are ready to demonstrate our platform which is the alternative to the IPPIS. We had earlier presented it to the Ministry of Education, although we told the Ministry of Labour that they should facilitate presentation to other stakeholders, particularly the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation. It is from there we are being dribbled.”
Withholding our salaries not good for negotiations – Union
Berating the AGF, ASUU president stated, “The AGF has withheld salaries of our members. The salaries withheld range from three months to eight months and I don’t think that is good negotiations. If you think you can use hunger as a weapon of war against Nigerian academics, it means the government is not sincere about building an enviable university system in Nigeria.
“All these games of arm-twisting, intimidation and manipulation will not take them far and that is why we want Nigerians to prevail on the AGF to stop this attack on our members. He is using hunger as a weapon of war and he should get ready to be tried for genocide.
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Govt wants to frustrate our payment platform – Lecturers
“We have reasons to believe they are trying to frustrate the new platform we have developed and we are not going to take that kindly because we used the contributions of our members to develop that platform. We didn’t take a kobo from government because we thought we should demonstrate patriotism.”
He recalled that at a meeting between the union and the government held on March 17, issues such as visitation panel to universities, earned academic allowances and revitalisation of the institutions were discussed.
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