28 Apr Ngige says ASUU’s “uncooperative, anti-labour attitude” frustrating negotiation
Nigeria’s minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige, has blamed the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for the prolonged industrial action by the union, which has kept public universities under lock and key for almost three months.
Mr Ngige, who spoke on Monday in an interview with Silverbird Television, described ASUU leadership’s attitude to the conciliation efforts as “uncooperative and anti-labour.”
A statement issued by the head of press and public relations in Mr Ngige’s ministry, Patience Onuobia, said the minister denied being responsible for the continued logjam and commended himself for the efforts made so far towards addressing the crisis.
The statement read in part: “The Minister said he has successfully conciliated 1,683 industrial disputes since assumption of office in 2015 and has been taking extra measures beyond his statutory responsibilities, to forestall strike and ensure action is promptly suspended when workers unions make it inevitable.
“Ngige also said the untiring efforts of his office towards a peaceful national industrial milieu, sleepless nights as a parent whose children are also in the public universities and who equally bear the brunt of ASUU strike, are being undermined by an erroneous impression by some Nigerians over his role as a conciliator, and by the uncooperative, anti-labour attitude of ASUU leadership.”
The minister listed two major areas of disagreement as to the reasons for the unending industrial crisis between the union and the government.
According to Mr Ngige, the refusal of the union to join the newly constituted Nimi Briggs-led agreement renegotiation committee for the review of the defunct Jubril Munzali-led committee’s recommendations, and its alleged refusal to consider the suggestions by the National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA) on the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) in order to secure approval for use, as the major issues of discord.
Aggrieved by what it termed imposition of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) on the universities for the payment of staff salaries, ASUU developed UTAS as an alternative. It said the peculiarities of the university system are not captured by IPPIS.
But NITDA, the government agency in charge of approving relevant technology before deployment, has refused to approve UTAS.
The agency in its earlier reports said UTAS only passed the user acceptability criteria but failed vulnerability and integrity tests.
He said: “Negotiation now is being made impossible by ASUU. For example, ASUU insists that NITDA should take UTAS that it developed and deploy it for payment in the universities whether it is good or bad, whether it failed the integrity and vulnerability test or not.
“And ASUU members know that fraud committed on payment platforms can run into billions. If a hacker adds zeros to hundreds, it becomes billions. NITDA brought out the report of its test on UTAS – that it passed the user acceptability but failed vulnerability and integrity tests- the two critical tests that prevent fraud.”
The minister said he went further to speak to ASUU and NITDA to continue the test and see whether “they can make up the lapses and arrive at 100 per cent success because that is what NITDA insists on.”
The minister noted that NITDA said it cannot even approve UTAS at 99.9 per cent of vulnerability and integrity. “That it can’t take that risk on a payment system, that it can be hacked into.”
But ASUU has consistently accused NITDA of deliberately frustrating its efforts. It said the government agency was being vindictive over the union’s refusal to accept the professorial award for the minister of communications and digital economy, Ibrahim Pantami.
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