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The Academic Staff Union of Universities, on Monday, declared a total and indefinite strike over the failure of the Federal Government to keep to the 2019 Memorandum of Action and over the lingering crisis on the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System.
The union’s National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, announced the strike at a briefing in its National Secretariat, Abuja, noting that the strike was decided by its National Executive Council after an emergency meeting.
The union had begun a two-week warning strike on March 9 and the action elapsed on Monday, which had now led the university lecturers to a full-blown strike.
Ogunyemi said the union expected the Federal Government to address its issues during the warning strike but that did not happen.
The PUNCH reports that the five contentious issues in the 2019 MoA are; revitalisation fund for universities, outstanding earned academic allowances, renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, the proliferation of universities particularly by state governments and establishment of visitation panels to universities.
Also, the IPPIS crisis started around October 2019, after the union accused some Vice-Chancellors of forcing its members to enroll on the IPPIS platform.
The union also in November 2019 berated the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation for threatening to withhold the salaries of its members over IPPIS, adding that it would not be moved by such threats.
ASUU had also insisted that it had an alternative model to IPPIS, the University Transparency and Accountability Solution which it urged the Federal Government to adopt for the universities.
The union had in February 2020 met with the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on the IPPIS crisis and thereafter met with the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Despite the meetings, the Federal Government had insisted that the union had to enroll on the platform, prompting the union to hold another executive meeting on March 8 at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu State.
The union thereafter announced a two-week warning strike on March 9, on the lingering IPPIS crisis, and the 2019 MoA.
At the expiration of the strike on Monday, ASUU President, Ogunyemi, at a briefing in Abuja, said the union had commenced a “total, comprehensive and indefinite strike action” as a result of the failure of the government to address its issues.
Ogunyemi said, “The government has told ASUU that it now accepts the union’s proposal on UTAS with the given timelines for full development; one, software development, six months; two, alpha testing, three months; three, beta testing, six months; four, stable release, three months. However, the appeal of the government to encourage ASUU members enroll in IPPIS within the intervening period before the full development of UTAS was rejected as a booby trap.
“ASUU rejects the application of force on our members to join IPPIS irrespective of the patriotic evidence shown by the union to offer a more credible alternative to IPPIS.
“Our resolution – Comrades and compatriots, it was difficult for the National Executive Council to take some painful decisions in its last meeting. Our wish was that the government would satisfactorily address issues that gave rise to the warning strike which was billed to end today. However, we are not yet there as a country – a situation in which peaceful means, other than threats would be adopted to resolve the industrial harmony.
“So the resolution of this emergency NEC meeting is as follows; Based on the review of the reports from ASUU leadership’s engagements with the government, NEC concluded that the government had failed to satisfactorily address the outstanding issues raised in the FGN-ASUU 2019 MoA and ignored the objections of ASUU against IPPIS. Consequently, NEC resolved to embark on a total, comprehensive and indefinite strike action beginning from Monday, March 23, 2020, until the issues are satisfactorily resolved.”
Corona Virus Pandemic Rages
Meanwhile, all schools ranging from Nursery to Tertiary institutions have been closed during to prevailing COVID-19 pandemic. With the number of cases increasing each day, state governments took the step of shutting down schools to prevent the outbreak in schools. The Federal Government through the National University Commission directed all universities as at last Friday 20th of March to close down for one month effective from 23rd of March, 2020.
This is coming after the National Youth Service Corps abruptly closed all orientation camps in the country on the 18th of March. The camp was for the enlightenment of Batch A Stream 1 2020 corps members. They were immediately deployed to their place of primary assignment after barely staying a week in camp. The programme was initially meant to last for 3 weeks.