The Academic Staff Union of Universities has said it would not honour the October 12, 2020 resumption date announced by the Federal Government for public universities in the country following the easing of the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19.
The union said this through its National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, in an interview with The PUNCH.
Ogunyemi told The PUNCH that the Federal Government was not sincere about negotiations with the union, adding that lecturers would not resume on an empty stomach.
He specifically took a swipe at the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, for violating a directive of the President, Muhammadu Buhari, that lecturers’ salaries should be paid, adding that Nigerians should be ready for a long-drawn strike in universities with the way government was handling negotiations.
He said: “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.”
The main crux of the face-off between the Federal Government and ASUU has been over the payment solution to use for universities.
While the Federal Government said like other workers on its payroll, the ASUU should key into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, the union wants the University Transparency Accountability Solution, which it designed, adopted.
Owing to this disagreement, the lecturers that submitted their details had been captured on the IPPIS and paid their salaries till date, though some complained about discrepancies.
However, those who are not on the IPPIS are being owed about three months salaries.
Ogunyemi, however, told The PUNCH that the Federal Government had not allowed it to even demonstrate how the UTAS works.
He said on August 18, ASUU wrote the Federal Government on the issue but did not receive any reply until September 30.
He said: “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.”
Ogunyemi said their salaries are being withheld contrary to the directive of President Buhari.
He said: “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 negotiation.
“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.
“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.
“I want to assure Nigerians that while the AGF may claim that he is achieving his objectives by humiliating some lecturers, we have a vast majority of our lecturers who are resolute and they are ready and steady in the ongoing struggle and at the appropriate time the showdown will come and Nigerians will see the truth about what is behind the IPPIS.”
But the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, told The PUNCH that all lecturers had migrated to the IPPIS.
Nwajiuba said: “I think every ASUU member has been paid.
“They received their last salary in July, which was the period transfers were made last.
“What they haven’t received are their August and September salaries.
“You remember that the President gave a directive that they should be paid, so they submitted their details, which were then used to migrate them to the IPPIS.
“So while they were still protesting that they didn’t want to be on the IPPIS, the IPPIS platform accommodated and paid them.
“Even when they were on strike, we kept paying them.
“We paid in March, April, May, June and July.
“They are now on the IPPIS because during the period of the lockdown, there was no other way to pay them.
“When they gave us their bank verification numbers, we migrated them to the IPPIS and we are now paying them on the IPPIS.”