By James Ogunnaike
ABEOKUTA—THE Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, yesterday, berated the National Information Technology and Development Agency, NITDA, over what it described as ‘deliberate misinformation and disinformation of the public on the integrity test conducted on the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, UTAS, by the agency.
The Lagos Zonal Coordinator of the Union, Mr Adelaja Odukoya, who spoke at a press conference held at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, FUNAAB, said the utterances of the NITDA spokespersons are capable of elongating the ongoing strike.
Odukoya said its members would not return to the class until the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, UTAS, is adopted and all their allowances paid.
His words: “We, however, wish to draw the attention of all concerned to the deliberate misinformation and disinformation of the public by the National Information Technology and Development Agency, NITDA, on the state of the Integrity Test and the adoption of UTAS by Federal Government.
“NITDA was directed to conduct Integrity Test on the UTAS platform before deployment by government. However, in a report of the first test sent to the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami on December 3, 2021, NITDA indicated that the UTAS platform failed some fundamental test cases, despite a summary score of 97.4% and therefore, declined issuance of Certificate of Compliance. ASUU however, disagreed with the NITDA report and wondered how 97.4% could have amounted to failure.
“Consequent upon this disagreement, it was agreed at a meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment that joint re-assessment tests between the technical teams of ASUU and NITDA be conducted and these were done on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. Expectedly, the assessment of all the 698 tests conducted was successful with an overall score of 99.3%. The few exceptions are five cases requiring modifications.
“However, while the re-assessment tests were ongoing, the DG, NITDA released misleading information to the public from the discredited report of the first test that UTAS failed again, leaving out the result of the jointly conducted second test of 99.3%. Our Union then wonders how and where a 99.3% test score would be adjudged as a fail.
“We are aware that the position of the NITDA DG, Inuwa Abdullahi, is not consistent with the enthusiasm of the Technical Team from the agency he superintends over and the DG is unduly politicizing the entire process to the country, possibly in the interest of the Minister for Communication and Digital Economy.
“Their dispositions amount to passing a vote of no confidence on the Nigerian intelligentsia and our union would not allow this to fly. Good enough, we are convinced that the Technical Team from NITDA, are quite abreast of the process and the responsibilities around their certified qualifications”.
“If the government allows itself to be misinformed and misdirected through the managerial incompetence of the NITDA officers, our union considers it the peak of insensitivity to the plight of the Universities, including staff, students and indeed the country.”
ASUU argued that the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, IPPIS, was imposed on universities, despite its demonstrated shortcomings.
He said: “The Federal Government’s forceful migration of our members unto the platform, even when our union has demonstrated that the system does not accommodate the peculiarities of the university system should not just worry Nigerians but should equally raise the curiosity of lovers of Nigerians on the main reasons for imposing IPPIS.
“ASUU has consistently pointed out the apparent deficiencies inherent in IPPIS and the glaring superiority of our indigenously developed and home-grown UTAS as confirmed by all Government Agencies and stakeholders in the University System.”
Why we oppose IPPIS
“Our union has continually drawn the attention of Nigerians to the widely reported fraud being perpetrated by the operators of IPPIS within and outside the Accountant-General of the Federation’s Office. This monumental fraud in IPPIS was confirmed by the report of the Auditor-General of the Federation and was equally acknowledged by the National Assembly when the AGF appeared before its Public Accounts Committee.
“IPPIS is a bastion of fraud that permits the enrolment of ghost workers and constitutes a financial drain on the scarce resource of the Nigerian State.
“This development was also recently reinforced by the confession of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs Folashade Yemi-Esan, who alarmed that over 500 names of fake workers have infiltrated the IPPIS platform.
“IPPIS, as a payment platform is yet to be subjected to any Integrity Test by the government. Our union challenged the government to similarly subject IPPIS to Integrity Test as done to UTAS by independent technical teams”.
“ASUU, therefore, wants the Nigerian public to call the DG, NITDA to order on the point of integrity not to play politics and vendetta with the future of Nigeria and that of our public Universities as National treasures and collective patrimony of all Nigerian citizens.
NITDA did a hatchet job
“We are convinced that the DG of NITDA is only out to carry out the hatchet job of a Minister whose Professorial fraud was challenged by our Union.
“After the second re-assessment tests that ended on March 18, 2022, ASUU and NITDA technical teams agreed to reconvene on Monday, March 28, 2022, to conclude on the outstanding five test cases, demonstrate the payment gateway and implementation of other recommendations on the UTAS Platform. Surprisingly, NITDA on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022 unilaterally cancelled the scheduled meeting of Monday, March 28th 2022 which was intended to conclude the report for onward submission to the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment.
“It has become very clear to our Union that the unilateral cancellation of the meeting of Monday, March 28th was a proof that NITDA has come to the final stop and admitted failure in all the orchestrated unpatriotic attempts to sabotage and discredit UTAS which an otherwise forward-looking government would be finding ways of deploying beyond the Nigerian public universities for which it was designed. It can, therefore, not be over-emphasized that government has run out of reasons and lies not to accept, approve and adopt UTAS.”
The Union noted that the strike would not be suspended until the government addresses the adoption of UTAS, implement the renegotiated agreement, pay all outstanding allowances and fulfil all other issues contained in the Memorandum of Action signed with our union.