The Nigerian government says the strike by the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) has allowed university students to join the ongoing protest against the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) across Nigeria.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said this at a meeting between the government and ASUU on Thursday in Abuja
According to Mr Ngige, “for the past one week, we have all been on our toes, we have been meeting and we pray that this meeting will yield good fruits.
“We don’t take pleasure in the fact that the children who are supposed to be in school are being recruited into the EndSARS, #EndStrike, #EndSWAT campaign.
“As much as possible, we will try to see how we can meet ourselves halfway, so that we can resolve this crisis to the benefits of all and the country at large,” he said.
The minister said that the government has begun testing the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) platform created by ASUU as an alternative to the IPPIS being used to pay federal government workers.
He said ASUU members have claimed that the platform will accommodate the peculiarities of the university system and that the platform will involve three stages of test to be concluded within the time frame the union gave the government.
“We have the preliminary report and the test run on the UTAS and we believe that with that, we will be able to get it right.
“Let me make it clear to members of the press, we never said UTAS will replace Integrated Personnel Personnel Information System (IPPIS) as some of you are reporting.
“No! The UTAS developed by them is for the university system and they feel that it captures the peculiarities that are configured to accommodate all the university systems, especially as it affects the professors and other teaching staff and even the non-academic staff.
“We, as government, feel we are going to put it up for tests – three stages of test. We have done the first stage of the test which is within the timeline of six months that ASUU promised.
“We are going to do other integrity tests, Alpha test, Beta test and the one they call roll-over and other whatever test. It is the technologists that know all those tests. But this is the round we are going on now,” he said.
The ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, commended the Senate President and the Minister of Labour and Employment and Accountant-General of the Federation, among others, for making discussion possible between the concerned parties.
Mr Ogunyemi said his team was open-minded, adding that its members out there expect much from this meeting.
“Our members are ready and willing to go back to class because it is a matter of national interest. Just like every other person’s child is at home, our children are also at home,” he said.
“We are conscious of our place in history. If an academic does not defend academia, who defends the academics.”
He, however, appealed to all to look at the issues affecting the university system as a national emergency in the country.
At the conclusion of the meeting, both parties resolved to meet again next Wednesday while the strike continues.