Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, president of the Academic Union of Universities, ASUU, on Sunday said that the union had called off its eight-month-old strike based on trust and acceptance of the IPPIS interim measures.
It was said that the adoption of the IPPIS as the payment platform as opposed to their desire for UTAS was temporary, essentially a stopgap solution until a formal agreement was established with the federal government.
Osodeke spoke at a meeting with Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, which was a follow-up to the agreements established at previous sessions conducted prior to the suspension of the strike.
On the basis of the tripartite meetings’ decision to extract some of the idiosyncrasies of the Universities in the UTAS and integrate them with the IPPIS, the speaker called the most recent meeting on this basis.
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Osodeke stated, “We didn’t reach full understanding before we called off the strike because we did that on trust. We have really signed any documents that address all the issues but since we are talking about this now, I think, it will a small thing we could sit down between you and us as we did the last and reach a conclusively we can sign because the strike we called off, our members also did it on trust on is because we didn’t have anything we presented to them. It was just on trust and the way we had meetings with the speaker, it was that way we’re able to convince them. I think we should also look at other issues and reach a very meaningful conclusion on them.
“We are saying this because of the interest of our members but because of the interest of the country called Nigeria. It’s very vital. Our educational is in dire need of all sorts of things most importantly human resource. Now we are busy creating universities but we are not creating academics who will teach in those universities. What you have is four types of lecturers in the university. The first set are those who had made up their minds from the primary that they were going to teach etc.
“What we agreed on the issue of UTAS and IPPIS is a temporary measure because for a country like Nigerian, if we are really patriotic and we love this country; if there is a problem in payment, you challenge your university to develop a program for you. So, this idea of others will bring their own is not true.
“We were challenged to produce it. We feel sad that we had spend our money, time and resources to produce what we were challenged to produce to do by the minister of labour on behalf of the good in 2020. If they have a problem with the system, within 2 hours they will resolve it but for my colleague who is in Sokoto, if he has a problem, he will have to come here. Accountant general will not go there.
“We have agreed on that (IPPIS) as an interim measure, hopefully, subsequently, we will look for how to solve this problem once and for all. IPPIS has not solved problem. It has created more problems if you want to challenge us, check the wage bill before IPPIS was introduced and check the wage bill now. We are willing and have set up our team. Anything you are willing, we will be willing to meet as an interim measure because it will not solve the problem.”
However, in a fast response, Speaker Gbajabiamila, who had previously stated that the meeting was called to follow up on the topics discussed, refuted the assertions of the ASUU president, stating that a permanent agreement had been reached.
He also refuted the notion, held by some, that the series of sessions had yielded no useful outcomes.
“We are here as an institutions to make sure that whatever that is agreed is implemented as best as possible if not to the latter. The main issue for discussion today which was one of the major areas of conflict was the issue of payment platform whether or not it has to deal with the issue of UTAS as opposed to IPPIS.
“If you recollect, on that issue, we did agree that we will marry both whilst, IPPIS will remain the platform, that government will bring in the aspect and the areas under UTAS that are specific to the Universities and assimilate those areas into IPPIS. I believe that was what was agreed by both sides when we had last two meetings. So, we want to make sure that that box is ticked and is not just an agreement on paper or said for the purposes of moving towards the cancellation of the strike.
“The accountant general who is going to midwife that merger is here. So, I think the best way to move forward is for the accountant general to tell us and ASUU will also respond on how to go about the merger.
“Let me address one or two things that you said, first of all, like you said you called off the strike based on trust and I agreed with you but if you are now asking for written agreement, then where is the place of trust. Those two cannot really go together. If you trusted me and the institution, asking for a signed agreement like a contract is basically negates that trust. But be that as it may, I signed on behalf of the institution, I signed what appears to be a written agreement to you and I also sent a copy to the President, so there is something in writing. And you sent yours as well.
“We modify it and signed it. If it was not based on trust, for you to even appreciate that yes, I wouldn’t have even called this meeting to follow up the execution on what we agreed. This is a follow up to make sure that we we aggreed on this issue is executed and that is where the trust issue comes on.
“If you say that you had issues in the past on the issue of IPPIS, it’s those issues that we are trying to address. In the past, UTAS was not brought into IPPIS. It was IPPIS or nothing. So, what happened is what we are trying address. This is first time, I am hearing the word temporary or interim. That was never used. We have records of the meetings. That was not the agreement.
“The agreement was not that it was a stopgap temporary measure. The agreement was that to address the issue, UTAS will be brought I to IPPIS so that we can move. This is first time there is an introduction of the word temporary or interim. So, I can also say where is the trust. So, if we do this exercise and it works, then why do we need to change it? So, let’s give it time instead of saying temporary. Let’s stick to the agreement.
“On the issues which require funding, I gave you my word that we will find one way or the other in the budget and accommodate that in the budget and we did that even prior to the presentation of the budget. We know the leg work that we had with the ministry of finance and the budget office to make that almost N500 billion was included in the budget for ASUU. I have written to the ministry on the issue of panel report, the white paper. We are taking these one by one.
“Those who said we might have achieved nothing, I am really surprised. N500 billion, the white paper, UTAS being accommodated and somebody sits down on the TV and say we have achieved nothing? A lot has been achieved and ultimately you have been committed enough to go back to the classroom. We will continue to work on all the areas we have agreed on based on trust like you rightly said. We need to talk about the timeline”, Gbajabiamila said.
On his part, the acting accountant general of the federation, Silvia Okoliaboh, set a deadline of three months to sit down with the ASUU committee and resolve all the peculiarities of the university in the anticipated merger of UTAS into IPPIS. He also stated that a letter to this effect will be sent tomorrow (Tuesday).
The accountant general also allayed the concerns of ASUU on the updating of IPPIS, stating that it is a reliable payment system that has been in use for years.
“Mr. Speaker, I think you have said it all. We were here on two occasions and we made it very clear that we are more than willing to accommodate all the peculiarities of ASUU and the academia community. There is really nothing complicated about it. I believe ASUU has ICT experts and they know that in every technically, you can virtually do anything. It’s a matter of can you do what you want? And I have made this commitment and I am repeat it that we in the accountant general office are going to accommodate all the legitimate peculiar of ASUU and the university community. That’s just the way to go.
“The challenge is if you allow ASUU to have their own, you are going have the colleges of education, universities of educational, polytechnics, unity schools, everybody is going to come with their own and Mr. Speaker, I think we just have to agree that it is a way to go. I want to join Mr. Speaker to commend ASUU for calling off the strike. I want to say that if this is the only thing we will achieve here today, let us put it to rest. We will sit down together, look at all the issues we have, we list them, as we are address them, we are ticking them. We are not going to ask you to accept until you are sure we have addressed them. On this note, I am going to call on colleagues in ASUU to allow this matter to be rested so that our universities will know peace.
“I think the starting point will be for us to have a comprehensive list of all the peculiarities of ASUU and their members. Whatever level of complications it may be, I believe that in 3 months, we should be able to clear this. We will continue to pay ASUU because they need their mony. But what we will do now is to sit down with ASUU, look at what we have at the moment so that we will continue to pay them. Then, gradually, incrementally, we are accommodating some of those material peculiar ASUU is complaining about”, he said.
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