…N30bn to be paid 3-weeks
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
The Federal Government has promised to pay N40 billion, being the pending Earned Academic Allowance, EAA, of University teachers.
This is as the ongoing dialogue between the government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, will continue on Wednesday, 21st October to enable the leadership to consult their organs on the conclusions reached at this last meeting.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, disclosed this while presenting the outcome of the meeting between the government and the university teachers.
According to a statement issued by Mr Charles Akpan, Deputy Director/Head Press, the Minister stated that out of the N40 billion pending Earned Academic Allowance, N30 billion would be paid on or before 6th November, while the remaining N10 billion would be spread equally over two tranches to be paid on May 2021 and February 2022.
He said that the government’s commitment to pay was in response to “the demand by ASUU for the payment of two tranches of EAA which accumulate to N40 billion that has become overdue since November 2019.”
Though the Federal Government agreed to fulfill its financial obligations to ASUU members, particularly outstanding salaries and earned allowances, the parties could not agree on the mode of payment.
The government side appealed to ASUU to enroll on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform in the meantime, and migrate back to the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) after its efficacy had been proven through the necessary integrity tests. The Union refused, insisting on being exempted from IPPIS.
He said, “The meeting also agreed that if UTAS passes all the different stages of the integrity test, which would involve the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), and after ascertaining its efficacy, it would be adopted for the payment of the University staff.”
“Government also offered to pay, by the end of January 2021, the sum of N20 billion as funding for the revitalization of public universities, as well as seek for sources of alternative and additional funding of the university system, among other conclusions.”
Earlier, the Minister had expressed belief that the series of recent meetings, including the one convened on Tuesday by the Senate President, and activities such as the integrity test on UTAS done on Wednesday, would all culminate in the resolution of the crisis.
“At the meeting with the Senate President, we agreed on a work plan to achieve full conciliation so that students would go back to school.
“With the work done so far, both at the meeting with the Senate President and at the test run of the UTAS done at the Accountant-General’s office on Wednesday, we believe we will be able to break the ice.”
He explained that UTAS was designed strictly for the University system and could only be applied there, emphasising that Government never said it would use it to replace IPPIS.
“The situation is that the University system developed and configured UTAS to accommodate the peculiarities of that system as it affects the academic and even the non-academic staff.”
The Minister also explained that the Government’s condition for considering UTAS as a suitable payment system for the University has always been that it would necessarily undergo three stages of the integrity test.
Ngige disclosed that the first leg of the test had been done on Wednesday, while the two remaining stages would be done subsequently.
Also speaking, the president of ASUU, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, appealed to Government to treat the matter as a national emergency, as the Education sector needed urgent intervention.
“Education is in serious crisis; university education in particular needs urgent intervention. Unless it gets that, it would be difficult to achieve the desired stability in the system.”
He commended the government’s efforts towards a speedy resolution of the crisis and hoped that the process, which parties to the dispute had embarked on, would ultimately lead to a satisfactory solution.
Present at the meeting were the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN; Executive Chairman, National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta; Permanent Secretary, Labour and Employment, Dr Yerima Peter Tarfa, among others.