FG tactically delaying 2020 renegotiated agreement, UTAS deployment – ASUU Owerri Zone alleges
By Gabriel Chy Alonta
Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Owerri Zone, has accused the federal government of deliberating delaying the signing and implementation of the 2020 renegotiated agreement, as well as the deployment of University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a payment platform.
Addressing newsmen at ASUU Secretariat of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, on Wednesday, the ASUU Owerri Zonal Coordinator, Comrade Uzo Onyebinama, noted that among the outstanding issues yet to be addressed in the 2020 Memorandum of Agreement is the acceptance and signing of the renegotiated 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement which embodies the conditions of service for academic staff in public universities.
The zonal coordinator decried that academic staff in public universities in Nigeria have been on the same salary structure since 2009 – a decade and three years, warning that the union would never suspend its ongoing strike unless the federal government meets the two demands – signing of the renegotiated FGN-ASUU Agreement and deployment of UTAS.
He said, “Another major outstanding issue is the reluctance of the Federal Government of Nigeria to deploy the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a payment platform for the salaries and other entitlements of academic staff in public Universities.
“UTAS is a brainchild of ASUU, borne out of the patriotic zeal to improve financial and programme accounting in public universities, after it became obvious that the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) had contributed to and compounded corruption in public universities”.
He lamented that despite the irregularities of the IPPIS, the federal government still chose it as a payment platform against all voice of reasoning. According to him, UTAS received a score of 99.3 per cent after remediation and conclusion of tests by the Nigerian Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
Comrade Onyebinama maintained that the deployment of UTAS as the payment platform for academic staff in public universities is a central issue in the resolution of the strike, calling on leadership of NITDA to urgently do the needful and stop deceiving the public.
While fingering the federal and state governments over unbridled proliferation of private universities, he called on the National Universities Commission (NUC) to review its laws to control the establishment of universities in the country, even as he faulted federal/state governments over poor financing of existing public universities. He also charged well-meaning Nigerians to speak up and challenge the government to rescue the education sector.
Earlier during the press conference, Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh, ASUU chairperson, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka branch, said the union would not relent in its effort to save the soul of public universities to ensure that an average Nigeria assesses quality university education at minimal costs.
Comrade Dennis Aribodor, a former ASUU-NAU chairperson, had, on the sideline of the press conference, called on Nigerians to rise up and challenge the government to avoid destroying public education starting from primary to tertiary institutions, even as he asked Nigerians to hold the government accountable.
Other ASUU branch chairpersons present at the press conference include Comrade Okey Aniebo of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University (COOU), Comrade Chinedu Ihejirika of Federal University of Science and Technology (FUTO), Comrade Odinakachukwu Ejiogu of Imo State University (IMSU), Comrade Chike Ugwuene of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU), as well as immediate past chairpersons Comrade Chinyere Echendu of MOUAU and Comrade Christopher Echerobia of FUTO.