The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has accused the minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige, of misinforming Nigerians, especially on issues surrounding the union's ongoing six-month-old industrial action.
The Lagos Zone of the union, in a statement issued on Wednesday and signed by the zonal coordinator, Olusiji Sowande, debunked the minister's claim that a meeting had been scheduled between the teachers' body and government representatives to assess the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) developed by the union as an alternative to the government's controversial Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
The union also denied the minister's claim that the IPPIS is the only reason for the union's strike, and claimed that, "Dr. Chris Ngige was also economical with the truth by misinforming the public that the government has been paying the salaries of members of our union to date."
The minister made the claims on Tuesday while appearing on Channels Television's Politics Today, where he noted that the ministries of finance, education, labour and employment, and the office of the accountant general of the federation will meet with ASUU to resolve the disagreement on IPPIS.
He said, "The issue of ASUU will soon come to an end for two reasons - ASUU has called the federal government, to be represented by finance and the office of the accountant-general and the education ministry to come for the test.
"We are ready to do that. After the Independence Day celebration, the four ministries and agencies involved will gather together with ASUU. We will look at the UTAS. If there are shortcomings with IPPIS as complained which UTAS has corrected. What's wrong about it? It is software, we will look at it.
"Secondly, ASUU members have been collecting their money since COVID-19 came and I wrote a memo to Mr President that ASUU members are still Nigerians. Even the members have families that they care for. By upper week, we are going to arrange for this demonstration."
But in its response, ASUU said one month after the UTAS was produced and a letter addressed to Mr. Ngige's ministry informing it of the development, it is yet to be acknowledged not to even talk of inviting the union to any meeting.
The statement reads in part; "The minister also misinformed the public by narrowing down the issues in contention to our rejection of IPPIS which UTAS seeks to replace. Other issues in contention for which our union is currently on total, comprehensive and indefinite strike include failure of government to fully implement the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement and February 2019 Memorandum of Action with timelines for release of funds for the revitalisation of dilapidated infrastructure in public universities, payment of outstanding earned academic allowances, conclusion of the renegotiation of 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement, setting up of visitation panels to federal universities and proliferation of state universities."
ASUU added that as against the minister's claim on its members' salary payments, "the government only paid our salaries up to June 2020. As of today, our members are being owed three (3) months salaries while in some universities our members have not received salary for six (6) months."
The union also alleged that the office of the accountant general of the federation has "criminally-withheld" five months check-off deducted from members' salaries.
"We are therefore surprised that the minister could go on air to present information which he has not verified as truth to the unsuspecting public. The ongoing total, comprehensive and indefinite strike action by our union will continue if this propaganda and lies against ASUU persists," ASUU added, even as it urged well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the government to address the matter fairly and quickly.
On the same date the federal government shutdown academic institutions as part of efforts towards addressing the coronavirus disease pandemic, ASUU on March 23 commenced industrial action over alleged shortcomings of IPPIS and the failure of the federal government to honour its 2019 agreement, among other matters.
ASUU also condemned the unending renegotiation of its 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement, which had commenced in 2017 with the former chairman of the governing council of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Wale Babalakin, as chairman.
However, Mr. Babalakin recently resigned his membership of the renegotiation committee. This was contained in a recent letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari through the education minister, Adamu Adamu, announcing his resignation from both the governing council of the university and the renegotiation committee.