Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, has appealed to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) not to embark on a fresh strike, eight months after the union suspended a nine-month long strike action that paralysed the nation’s universities and disrupted academic calendars.
Nwajiuba says the reason why ASUU hasn’t received monies as promised in 2020 before the last strike was called off, is because bureaucracy at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is delaying the disbursement.
University lecturers had gone on strike in March 2020 following their disagreement with the government over the funding of the universities, discrepancies around the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), among others.
However, ASUU developed the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) to replace the IPPIS and held several meetings with officials of the ministries of finance, education, labour and employment, and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, before the UTAS was approved and before the last strike was suspended.
UTAS is yet to be implemented, however.
On August 2, Labour Minister Chris Ngige, said the government had paid the revitalisation fund as contained in the Memorandum of Action (MOU) signed with ASUU.
Ngige also stated that the money is in the coffers of the CBN, pending the conclusion of an audit. A statement Nwajiuba has now rehashed.
“We are pursuing the CBN to be clear on the timing. Let ASUU reach out to us,” the Minister of State for Education tells Punch.
On allegations by ASUU that federal government officials have not been picking calls, Nwajiuba says: “Why won’t the federal government take their calls? You called me with an unknown number and I picked your call, so why won’t we pick calls from ASUU? Who did they reach out to?
“Talks on the funds for the revitalisation of universities and ASUU are in progress.”
In its response, ASUU President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, says: “I don’t think they are honest with what they are saying. If they are interested in the children of the poor, who cannot afford private universities, they would have written to us that they are sorry. This is the normal thing they should have done in a system.
“The CBN and the ministry are the federal government. They showed us a document that the money is with the CBN. What is difficult in transferring money from one CBN account to another CBN account? That means the document they showed us was fake.”
The deadline ASUU handed the federal government to pay up or watch another strike unfold, elapses today, August 31, 2021.
However, universities won’t be shut at the expiration of the deadline until ASUU’s National Executive Committee (NEC) holds a meeting to decide on what date to kick off the strike.