Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Following the expiration of its two-week warning strike, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has declared an indefinite strike with effect from yesterday.
The National President of the union, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, at a press conference in Abuja, said: “The union has decided to embark on total and indefinite strike from Monday, 23, 2020.”
He said the union rejected the use of force to make its members enroll on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
The National Universities Commission (NUC) had directed the universities across the country to close for a month, beginning from March 23, due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
But before the NUC’s directive, ASUU had commenced its warning strike on March 9, 2020.
ASUU had embarked on the strike over the non-payment of salaries of their members who refused to enroll in the federal government’s IPPIS, payroll software mandated for all public officials.
ASUU had rejected the federal government’s IPPIS, leading to the suspension of the payment of their salaries by the federal government.
THISDAY had reported that the warning strike might escalate as the federal government had rejected the union’s demand for more time to develop its alternative payment application, the University Transparency and Accountability System (UTAS), as its preferred mode for the payment of salaries of academic staff.
ASUU officials and the federal government’s delegation led by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, had met twice since the beginning of the warning strike but could not resolve the dispute.
THISDAY gathered that when the federal government’s negotiating team asked ASUU team to present the union’s alternative payment platform, which the union had claimed it developed at a cost of N2 million, the union requested for 18 months to develop the UTAS platform.
Ogunyemi was quoted by a member of the government’s negotiating team at the closed-door talks as having told the meeting that the software for UTAS was yet to be fully developed and that if given 18 months, it would be able to develop and perfect the payment platform.
The federal government has since rejected ASUU’s demand for more time, saying it would amount to locking down government’s business.
THISDAY gathered that although the government was shocked by the revelation that ASUU was not yet ready with UTAS despite its claim of having developed a home-grown and better alternative to IPPIS, the team agreed that ASUU should go and put up a position paper that would respond to all the issues in dispute.