The Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have taken considerable steps to resolve the controversy over the implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and other related issues in order to end the two-week warning strike declared by ASUU over a week ago.
Indications to this development emerged after a closed door meeting between the two sides which ended at about 11 pm Tuesday. At the end of the resumed meeting the government said that it has made proposals to ASUU on how to amicably resolve the issue of IPPIS and other issues in dispute.
The Minister of Labour and Employment who addressed journalists said the meeting discussed a wide range of issues, more than was anticipated. Ngige led the federal government team including the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, Accountant General of the Federation, Idris Ahmed and the acting Director of the Salary and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta.
“The issue of IPPIS was also discussed and options and solutions were advanced and government has a proposal which they have given to ASUU. So some of these issues that are outstanding, the ASUU team will take them back to their bigger council which is the National Executive Council (NEC) to be on the same page before they get back to government,” Ngige said.
He added that the government expects ASUU to get back to it in writing before the weekend runs.
He listed the issues which federal government made proposals to ASUU, saying “We have to look at the issues that are part of the 2019 Memorandum of Action issues (MOA) that have not been fully addressed and we made some new proposal on behalf of the government to ASUU.”
He added that the issues range from funding for revitalization of universities to earned academic allowances, salary shortfall that existed in only one university, that is the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) , the issue of state universities and the coordinating committee and the issue of their meetings and interaction with National Economic Council.
Others are; payment of earned academic allowances which he said has been done as well as the issue of the issuance of operational certificate to National University Pension Commission (NUPENCO) to lecturers’ pension scheme for lecturers.
With regard to getting NUPENCO to become operational, Ngige said that government side had made proposals on how to put the board in place.
He also that the issue of having visitation panels for the universities has been sorted out and approvals given, adding that what remains is its gazetting of the membership of the various panels.
In his reaction, ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, said discussions were fruitful. He said “we have what we can call concrete proposals that we can take back to our members. But as we usually say, those of us here cannot make final pronouncement on any of the proposals and we have assured government team that we report faithfully to our principals and get back to government accordingly.
“We want to assure all Nigerians that we are concerned, we are going back to our work as every other person because we know that is where we are happiest. We are not happy staying outside our classrooms, our laboratories, our libraries. So in view of this we will do our best to ensure that all concerned have the maximum benefit from this action because it is in national interest,” he said.
Tuesday’s meeting was meant to reach agreement on the modalities for a workable arrangement of the two payment platforms, Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPIS) and University Transparency and Accountability System (UTAS), proposed by ASUU as alternative to the IPPIS.
Both sides had met on Thursday last week and accepted in principle to seek for ways of accommodating the identified differences inherent in the two salary payment platforms, IPPIS and UTAS.
Both sides agreed to adjourn negotiations to allow ASUU to take the proposals to its members and to respond to the federal government in writing on the issues raised.
The ASUU President had earlier denounced the IPPIS, stressing that it is simply incapable of accommodating academic staff salary structure at the tertiary level, even as he blamed the government for allegedly igniting the crisis by trying to impose IPPIS on the university union.
The university union has been having a protracted face-off with the Federal Government over the introduction of the IPPIS in October last year, which the government said was to ensure transparency in salary payment.
The Federal Government had maintained its position that all members of the union must be enrolled on the platform just like other government employees. The government had threatened that those who did not register for the IPPIS won’t be paid their salaries.
However, ASUU had faulted IPPIS policy, claiming it was in gross violation of the autonomy of universities as enshrined in the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Amendment Act 2003.
ASUU said the strike was to compel the FG to implement the outstanding agreement and resolution of it Memorandum of Action it had with the union in 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2019