Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have pleaded with the federal government to have mercy their children and those of ordinary Nigerians bearing the brunt of the protracted strike by quickly attending to their demands to enable them resume immediately.
The union had in March, 2020 embarked on the industrial action to press for their demands and kick against the use of force by the federal government to enroll its members on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
But eight months into the nationwide strike, the federal government has remained adamant about getting committed to meeting their demands, while the union is insisting it will not call off the strike.
Addressing a press conference at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife yesterday, members of the Akure Zone of the union cried out, saying they were tired of the strike.
The Zone which was represented by the chairman of the Federal University of Technology Akure, Dr Olayinka Awopetu, Ekiti State University, Dr Kayode Arogundade, Obafemi Awolowo University, Dr Adeola Egbedokun and Federal University Oye- Ekiti, Dr Gabriel Omonijo alleged that the federal government was rushing them to resume because of fear of protest by youths.
In the address which was read by the union zonal coordinator, Prof Olu Olufayo, the ASUU members explained that the lingering industrial action of the union was to get the federal government to fulfill the agreement of 2013 and 2019 and not primarily about Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPIS).
They stated: “For the avoidance of doubt, our issues remain; funding for revitalization of public universities, payment of earned academic allowances, visitation panels to universities and renegotiation of 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement. Since 2009, we have conscientiously approached the government to be faithful to implement the agreement it freely entered into with the union. The current struggle is derived from this history.
“We are tired of the strike. Our children are attending the public institution and it is sad that those frustrating our agitations, their children are not attending schools in Nigeria. It is so unfortunate. FG is intentionally starving us for our members to compromise and resume.
Prof Olufayo noted that meetings with the federal government recently have failed to solve their demands because the government is bent on dishonouring the agreement earlier reached.
He urged FG to pity the children of ordinary Nigerians and quickly attend to the lingering issues without delay saying.
He continued: “The public should not blame ASUU for further damage to the university educational system but hold the federal government responsible.
“Our students have stayed home for almost a year, we are not the cause, we started our strike before COVID-19 and those students are fed up and it was part of what contributed to #EndSARS and the FG realised that. They are now calling for negotiations that they turned down months back.
The students during #EndSARS also included End bad governance. I know that students in Kwara State universities gave FG two weeks ultimatum to sort the issue with ASUU else they will hit streets with protest, that scares the government and they are rushing us to resume”.
In the same vein, the Academic Staff Union Of Universities (ASUU), Abuja zone, has stressed that the ongoing industrial action by the union is for the interest of the university system and Nigerians in general.
Speaking in an interview with LEADERSHIP Weekend on behalf of the zone which comprises Federal University of Technology, Minna, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Federal University of Lafia and University of Abuja, chairman of the zone, Professor Theophilus Lagi said what the union is doing is patriotic.
He said Nigerians should always blame federal government for failing to fulfill its agreement by implementing the MoA of 7th February, 2019, and other issues such as Renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, Revitalization fund to public universities, Earned Academic Allowance, Visitation Panel to public universities and proliferation of state universities and governance Issues in them.
Lagi who further stressed the need for government to allow theunion adopt University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) said, “Not just federal government accepting the UTAS because in principle we have agreed over time that once UTAS is accepted and it is has passed through integrity test then federal government will deploy it to be use within the university system and that the understanding between the union and government but to our shock and recently when the government invited the union for discussion government is still insisting that our members should go back and register with the IPPIS pending when the UTAS is ready.
“It is not very logical as if the government is still bent on forcefully encouraging our members to migrate to the IPPIS. The reason behind all these is what is not very clear to us because over time we have demonstrated the superiority of UTAS over IPPIS it captures our peculiarities and it respects agreement between individuals, even state universities what they have entered into concerning tax which ofcourse, does not recognize. “IPPIS is purely designed for civil service but it does not take cognizance of the peculiarities of the university system.”
On the claim that so many ASUU members had already registered on the IPPIS platform, Lagi said, “It depends on where you are getting the statistics from because you can lie with statistics because as far as we are concerned insignificant number of our lecturers did not only willingly register with IPPIS.
“Some of them were forced to register and that is the major reason while government decided to stop salaries of academic staff across Nigerian universities to force them to be hungry so that they will run and register with the IPPIs and we think that is callous on the side of whoever is thinking that by starving university lecturers they will migrate on the platform.
“I am calling on the government to at least respect what we are doing, what we are doing is patriotic and is for the interest of the university system and for the interest of Nigerians. We should be encouraged instead and not to be treated with disdain,” he appealed.