The Federal Government has said the non-acceptance of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution by the National Information Technology Development Agency is not a tangible reason for the Academic Staff Union of Universities to embark on strike.
Speaking in an interview with one of our correspondents, the Minister of State for Education, Mr Emeka Nwajiuba, said the priority of ASUU leaders should be the welfare of their members and not on the choice of payment platform that government should use.
ASUU had declared that its ongoing strike would not be suspended until the government adopted UTAS as its payment platform, implemented the renegotiated agreement, and paid all outstanding allowances.
But Nwajiuba said, “They are complaining about the IPPIS not paying their money but they are getting their IPPIS payroll. So why are you going on strike? Why they are on strike because of this is something I don’t understand.
It is understandable when you talk about the welfare of your members, but saying why should the government buy Peugeot instead of Renault is what I don’t understand.
IPPIS is paying people. If there is any disparity, they should request for their balance. If there is any deduction, their complaint will be to be paid. Going on strike because of UTAS is something I don’t understand. Does that mean we can go on strike for not using Innoson cars?
The minister explained that the government and ASUU had been going back and forth on the creation of UTAS, adding that NITDA was also involved and consultations had been ongoing.
Nwajiuba added, “Government felt they could not shut down lives concerning this thing you are developing. It doesn’t mean that the government must use yours because it’s home-grown, it is an option of the government.
If it is a good technology, it cannot be only good in Nigeria; it can also be useful in Uganda, or any other place, where people can also sell the technology just the same way we purchased this one from somewhere else. I mean you don’t even need to insist that it is only a particular government that gets it.
Some other people may buy your technology. Now, if it is good enough for the government, the IPPIS service has an expiry date, so when that one comes to an end, we can opt for a better one. It may not be UTAS the government may consider as it might go for another one. As soon as we find the one that is better than others, we move on with the better one.
“However, if NITDA and ASUU have not reached a point where they can say the technology is wholesome to use and the government starts negotiation, that is work-in-progress.
If someone is paying you with your BVN, it has nothing to do with the government, and your complaints can be sent to the bank or technology platform if there are problems. But to insist that the government should use it and make it the thrust of your strike sounds somehow.
Meanwhile, ASUU on Thursday accused the Federal Government of misplaced priorities and playing lip service to education especially as it affects tertiary education.
The Chairman, ASUU Akure Zone, Prof Olufayo Olu-Olu, said, “ASUU is not the one delaying negotiation as it is always open to renegotiations, but will only return to classes when the government has shown enough commitments to the fulfilment of its own signed agreement.”
Olu-Olu spoke in Ado Ekiti at a press conference jointly addressed by the ASUU chairmen in the universities in the zone – Prof Yinka Awopetu (Federal University of Technology, Akure), Dr Kayode Arogundade (Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti), Dr Adeola Egbedokun (Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife), and Dr Akin Omonijo (Federal University, Oye Ekiti).
The zonal chairman said, “It is indeed sad that since 2009, government finds it difficult toeing the path of honour to implement the agreement reached by the negotiating team and ASUU, but finds it easier embarking on political jamborees across the nation, spending billions on school feeding programme and proliferating more higher institutions when existing ones are in comatose. What an irony!”
He expressed surprise that the Federal Government had yet to get into action despite the eight weeks old ASUU strike, saying, “It is an embarrassment to the nation and the international community that government has continued to pay lip service to the issues raised despite the uproar of the great Nigerian students and their helpless parents.”
The zonal ASUU, which accused key players in government of peddling lies to cover up their dirty roles in the destruction of the nation’s education system, called for the sack of NITDA boss, Kashifu Inuwa, for allegedly misleading government on UTAS.
It stated that the Federal Government had been bent on IPPIS despite UTAS, which ASUU described as “trusted alternative provided by the union to save the government million of dollars being squandered on foreign agencies, even when integrity test conducted on UTAS by NITDA scored it 99.3 per cent.”