Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU president

The industrial action commenced on March 23, 2020, in protest to federal government’s decision to include ASUU members in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), a payment platform meant for civil servants. ASUU in reaction against the new arrangement argued that the inclusion of its members on that payment platform was a direct contravention of the autonomy of the university system; and that the IPPIS would rubbish the peculiarities associated with university personnel system.

In reaction to ASUU’s refusal to allow its members to be captured on the IPPIS platform, the federal government had withheld the salaries of members of the union from the month of March 2020 and invoked the policy of no-work-no-pay against the union.

The trade dispute had plunged the Nigerian university system into a quagmire of uncertainty for over 10 months since March 2020. Although a dialogue was initiated between the federal government and the university lecturers, it was not easy to strike a balance and come to a point of compromise between the two parties especially as ASUU, in addition to their grievances against the government in attempting to force its members into the IPPIS system, also dug up the failed promises of the federal government to implement an agreement the two parties had struck in 2009 and 2013.

The agreement bordered on the government’s promise to release N220 Billion yearly for the revitalization of the public universities in the country, and issues bordering on Earned Academic Allowance and other things. The industrial action had remained protracted majorly because of government’s inability to abide by its promise, with an excuse that it had become impossible to fulfill such promise in the face of prevalent economic realities.

ASUU, led by its president, Biodun Ogunyemi, a professor of Education at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, had initially refused to shift ground, insisting that the government was duty bound to fulfill the promise it voluntarily entered into with the union. After much horse trading, however, the lecturers’ union shifted ground and urged the government to pay 50% of the N220B, accept the University Transparency and Accountability System (UTAS) developed by the union itself for payment of lecturers’ salaries, and that the N30B which government promised to release for Earned Academic Allowance (EAA) must be for its members alone and that the withheld salaries of its members must be paid in full.

The stance of the lecturers was still not acceptable to the Senator Chris Ngige-led government team, who came up with N40B for Earned Allowances, which must be shared between the teaching and non-teaching staff of universities, N35B for revitalization of universities, while a committee would also be set up to brainstorm on alternative means of funding Nigerian public universities, and acceptance of UTAS as the payment platform for lecturers after the software had undergone integrity tests with government agencies. The government also accepted to pay the lecturers their withheld salaries.

On Tuesday, December 22, the National Executive Committee of ASUU, after a meeting with its chapters across the country, announced a conditional suspension of the 10 month old industrial action to the wild jubilation of the teeming population of Nigerian students and their parents.

Although Ogunyemi has announced the readiness of the lecturers to go back to classroom, on condition that government does not renege on its promises, it is apparent that students may not return to campus immediately as the federal government has ordered that no school should reopen after the yuletide holiday earlier than January 18, 2021 because of the second wave of the Corona Virus pandemic spreading across the globe.

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