THE Federal Ministry of Education has said it will not enter into agreements with the Academic Staff Union of Universities under duress.
The ministry called on ASUU to call off its strike “so that we will not have gunpoint negotiations and make promises that we will not be able to fulfil.”
The ministry’s spokesman, Ben Goong, made this known in an interview with The PUNCH on Sunday.
Our correspondent also gathered that the National Executive Council of the union, which is currently meeting at the University of Abuja, would announce the final decision on whether to proceed with an indefinite strike or suspend the current industrial action today (Monday).
The National President, ASUU, Emmanuel Osodeke, confirmed that the NEC was indeed meeting, but refused to make further comments.
“The NEC is meeting and details will be communicated,” the ASUU president simply said.
However, a high ranking source in the NEC told our correspondent that the union would have no choice but to go on full blown strike as the government had failed to do anything tangible to meet its demands.
“The government has not done any tangible thing since the announcement of the warning strike. As much as we are not happy about going on strike, I am afraid to say that we have no choice this time. However, the final decision lies with the NEC,” the source said.
However, Goong stated, “The government has done something tangible. Even The PUNCH has been reporting some of the things that the government did to avert this strike. If I were ASUU, I would call off the strike and that is what we are telling ASUU to do. Call off the strike so that nobody will be negotiating out of duress. If you continue the strike, we will have agreements at gunpoint with you.
“If they stay on the strike, in a desperate attempt to make sure that the universities are re-opened, we will make agreements under duress. We are not in a state of war that you must be on strike before you negotiate. You say it is a warning strike and the government has begun the implementation of agreements, it is only normal that you call off your strike, but it is as if they have that mindset of a strike.”
Meanwhile, fresh crises have risen following the declaration by the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency, Kashifu Inuwa, that the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, created by ASUU in lieu of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System for the payment of university lecturers, has failed an integrity test.
ASUU, in a statement on Sunday, accused Inuwa of deliberately misinforming the public and invited the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, as well as the NITDA boss to a public debate over the integrity of UTAS.
The statement by Osodeke, read in part, “The one-month roll-over strike by our union on February 14, 2022, has entered its fourth week. During this period, we have been having engagements with the government over the contending issues that necessitated the action. One of the contending issues is the deployment of the UTAS, which is a robust software created by the ASUU technical group to manage personnel and payroll in the university system.
“The Federal Government had referred UTAS to NITDA to conduct user acceptance test and vulnerability test assessment and penetration test prior to the final deployment. The process, which commenced on Thursday, March 3, is still ongoing.
“This press statement is necessitated by the need for ASUU to put the records straight on the grounds already covered in our patriotic struggle to get the government to deploy UTAS as a suitable solution for salary payment.
“Of special concern is the statement credited to both the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and the Director-General of NITDA to the effect that UTAS had failed the integrity test. Let us put it on record that an integrity test was carried out by NITDA on August 10, 2021, in the NUC, where relevant government agencies and all the end-users in the university system were present.”
“At the end of the exercise, all without exception expressed satisfaction with UTAS. This was attested to the effect that UTAS scored 85 per cent in the User Acceptance Test.”