The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, on Wednesday, said that the Federal Government is working round the clock to resolve the issues that led to the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Ngige, who said this while defending the budget of his ministry before the Senate Committee on Labour and Employment, revealed that the FG has met five out of the eight demands of the striking lecturers.
He added that the FG is approaching the issues holistically to accommodate and address concerns of other unions in the university system.
Ngige, who was reacting to the concerns raised by the senators on the ongoing ASUU strike, stated that the government has met almost all the demands of the union.
He further stated that the government has made N50 billion available, noting that the money constituted by the total sum of N20 billion for the revitalisation of the universities and N30 billion for Earned Academic Allowances (EAA).
The minister said that the union agreed and went back to their members, only to return and say that the money for EAA should be for ASUU members alone, excluding other unions, namely the Senior Staff Association Nigeria Universities (SSANU), Non Academic Staff Union (NASU), and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
Ngige through a statement from his office explained that the Federal Government cannot ignore the other unions as such could be counter-productive to the smooth running of the university system.
“We cannot ignore the other unions whose services are indispensable for the full functioning of the university. If we ignore them, even if ASUU calls off the strike, the other unions will down tools-close the lecture rooms, the libraries, the laboratories- and in fact, even the university gate,” he said.
Commenting on the issue of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), the minister said that the alternative payment platform, the University Transparency and Accountability Solutions (UTAS), has been sent to the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) for assessment.
The minister said that the claim by ASUU that the IPPIS would erode the autonomy of the universities is false, noting that autonomy cannot work when the government is paying the lecturers.
He added that such can only work only when the governing council generates its own resources to pay workers.
Ngigie also said that the IPPIS will blocked all leakages and expose those who are not paying taxes, as well as those who underpay.
He revealed that the FG will meet again with ASUU soon, suggesting that there could be a twist to the crisis as other unions in the university have developed their own payment system against UTAS.