There is a very strong indication that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), may call off her strike on Wednesday and direct the varsity lecturers to resume work after months of industrial action has paralysed university academic activities.
However, the issue of withheld salaries of ASUU members during the period of the strike, especially the mode of payment to be adopted in paying the withheld teachers’ salaries may still constitute a bottleneck to final resolution of the crisis.
Already, the Federal Government and ASUU had reached agreement on vital issues, leading to the assurance that the union would not overstretch its luck by calling off the strike, after reporting government’s efforts to its National Executive Council (NEC).
The NEC is expected to take a decision on the issue, which the ASUU leadership would report to the meeting between the Federal Government and the union tomorrow.
The last meeting held between the Federal Government and ASUU at the Ministry of Labour and Employment deliberated exhaustively on the issues in contention and reached conclusions.
On the issue of funding for revitalization of public universities, the agreement read: “Government, in spite of the economic downturn as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, brought an offer of N20 billion payable by the end of January 2021 and ASUU agreed to take the offer to its members for consideration and revert by Wednesday October 21, 2020.
“The Minister of Education will follow up with the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning on its earlier memo to Mr. President on sources of alternative funding for revitalization to facilitate the process of additional funding of the university system. This is with a view to reactivating the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of 2013 as agreed in the Memorandum of Action (MoA) of 2019”
Also on the controversial issue of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), the agreement said: “responding to the demand by ASUU for the payment of the two tranches which accumulated to N40 billion that has become overdue since November, 2019, the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) committed to release N30 billion on or before November 6, 2020. The remaining N10 billion would be spread equally over the two tranches to be paid in May 2021 and February 2022, respectively.
“The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) should quickly conclude the verification of figures of Earned Academic Allowances claims so as to clean up the figures from 2014 to 2020. To this end, a committee would be constituted by the National University Commission (NUC) to develop a template that would capture all the agreed allowances in the 2009 agreement for all the unions in the universities.
“Thereafter, the OAGF and the National University Commission (NUC) are to quickly conclude the verification of the EAA figures, so as to defray the payment from 2014 to 2020. ASUU is to work with the OAGF and NUC to achieve that by the end of December 2020. The process of mainstreaming of the EAA into the annual budget using the agreed formula shall be activated. NUC and Ministry of Education are to coordinate the activation process immediately and to be concluded by November 6, 2020.
“The National Assembly (NASS) has agreed to implement this process of mainstreaming, provided the amount involved is sent in as quickly as possible by the Ministry of Education”
To resolve the issue of state universities, the meeting agreed that the NUC Act would be amended in order to strengthen its regulatory capacity; while ASUU will work with NUC on this and then involve the relevant committee of the National Assembly.
Also, the agreement said the issue of payment of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) to loyal ASUU members at the University of Ilorin, has been resolved.
Other issues resolved are the Nigerian University Pension Management Company Limited (NUPEMCO) on which ASUU was satisfied and accepted the progress made thus far; the visitation panels to federal universities which has been approved by president Buhari, but not yet gazetted; and the reconstitution of the government renegotiating team.
The Federal Ministry of Education is to ensure gazeting within two weeks (October 29, 2020). The meeting agreed that the panel will be inaugurated latest by the end of November, 2020 and the panel will have a 4–6 weeks mandate to finish its work by December 31, 2020, and submit two reports per university covering a five-years period of 2011-2015 and 2016-2020.
The agreement said on the issue of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS): “The meeting was informed that ASUU has met its timeline regarding the first stage of the initial demonstration of the efficacy of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) to government as this was done on Wednesday, October 14, 2020.
“The meeting also agreed that if UTAS passes all the different stages of the integrity test, which would involve National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the Office of the National Security Advisers (NSA) and after ascertaining its efficacy; it would be adopted for the payment of the university staff.”
The agreement added: “Meanwhile the meeting could not agree on how payment would be done for ASUU members during the transitional period of UTAS tests as the government side again appealed to ASUU to enroll on IPPIS platform in view of the presidential directive that all Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) employees should be paid via IPPIS. They can thereafter be migrated to UTAS whenever certified digitally efficient and effective with accompanying security coverage. ASUU maintained that given ASUU’s invention of UTAS, it should be exempted from IPPIS in the transition period.
“The issue of withheld salaries of ASUU members was discussed. The meeting agreed that the government will pay this money as soon as the mode of payment is agreed upon by both parties.”