Ngige, ASUU raise hope on varsities reopening

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Hope appears in the horizon for students of public universities to return to their classrooms after  143 days at home.

Yesterday, the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)  said progress was being made on the contentious issues that led to the strike.

Today, all relevant government agencies working on the issues in dispute are expected to meet in Abuja to harmonise their positions for presentation to the Ibrahim Gambari-led committee mandated by President Muhammadu Buhari to bring an end to the strike by all the industrial unions in the universities.

The committee comprises the Ministry of Education,  Ministry of Labour and Productivity. the  National Salaries and Wages Income Commission, the National University Commission, National Universities Commission (NUC)  and the striking unions.

ASUU began its strike on February 14 before the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions (NASU)  joined.

The common issues the unions want the government to address before they could return to work are salaries and entitlements.

ASUU insists on the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) it created for the payment of its members’ salaries. It alleged that its members were being shortchanged through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) introduced by the government.

SSANU and NASU  also demanded the implementation of their payment platform known as the Universities Peculiar Personnel Payroll System (UPPPS).

Minister of Labour and Productivity Chris Ngige, who denied that the government was not doing much to end the strikes,  told reports after the FEC meeting that efforts were being intensified to ensure that the universities reopened soon.

Asked to be specific on what  the  government was doing to have  the universities  re-open, he replied: “It will be resolved very soon.”

“We’re calling up a meeting tomorrow(today) so that everybody in the government side can report if he has a problem so that we can  address it.”

On the allegation that the government was planning a separate salary payment structure for the unions in tertiary institutions, he said, “It is work in progress. We have not given any preferential treatment to anybody.

“The remuneration is being looked at. If the government decides to raise, which government is ready to do, it will be holistically done for all university unions because they’re all in the same environment.

“And we know also that once you do it in universities, the Polytechnics will come. The Colleges of Education will come. They are all educational sector. And once you finish with the educational sector, we also know that the health sector will come.”

Ngige had told reporters that the government there was no plan by the government to introduce a different payment structure for members of the trade unions in tertiary institutions of learning.

Speaking with The Nation last night,   ASUU  President   Emmanuel Osodeke also confirmed that progress was being made by the parties.

Osodoke said: We are making progress with the Minister of Education(Adamu Adamu) who is our employer.

“Since we have been meeting with the Education minister you don’t hear public statements.  We are dealing with  him  quietly  and we  want to resolve this problem among ourselves and then go back to school.”

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