The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has expressed shock over the strike action embarked upon by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) despite holding a "successful evaluation meeting" with the leadership of the union last week.
Ngige, who stated this while addressing newsmen shortly after a meeting with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), said the government was proactive enough to avert the action with some agreements reached during the meeting.
He also disclosed that the government and the ASUU evaluated the implementation of a Memorandum of Action (MOA) both parties entered into with a view to averting industrial dispute in the universities.
According to him, the meeting evaluated seven key issues "with both parties expressing satisfaction with the implementation stages of what he termed "work in progress", saying some of the items in the MOA were nearly done hundred percent within the timeline.
NITDA delaying ASUU's payment platform, UTAS
He explained that the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) was directed to expedite action on the integrity test on the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) which if successful, will eliminate the challenges posed by the peculiarities of the university system to the current payment platform.
The Minister further noted that the government has also paid the sum of N30bn as the University Revitalization Fund as contained in the MOA since January 2021.
The money, according to him, is however, still lodged with the Central Bank of Nigeria, pending the conclusion of the audit report of the Implementation Committee on the use of previous funds disbursement to universities by the Ministry of Education and the National University Commission.
"The report has been turned in, deliberated upon and both the Education Ministry and the NUC have promised to write to the Accountant General of the Federation next week for the release of the money to the NEEDS Special Account for onward disbursement to universities shortly," he said.
The minister added that the fund will be paid to successful universities based on the evaluation report of the committee while those with shortcomings will be made to make up before accessing the fund.
He further disclosed that apart from the N40bn Earned Allowance which the Federal Government has already paid, the Budget Office of the Federation showed evidence that N22bn Earned Allowances for year 2021 is already captured in the 2021 supplementary budget of the federation, and will soon be accessed.
"On the proliferation of State universities, a bill has been sent to the National Assembly by the NUC to strengthen its arms in terms of delisting universities where funding and other parameters are inadequate.
"This effort was commended as all the parties agreed that mushrooming and proliferation of state universities, some of which mock the ideals of an ivory tower, should stop.
"The inconsistencies in the IPPIS payment were also discussed. There was good interaction and documents were exchanged between IPPIS and ASUU. ASUU is to go back to its members so that we can have a proper update on the extent of the inconsistencies in payment.
"We expressed our displeasure that these things are happening - amputation of salaries, not-too-clear, foggy things happening over people's monthly emoluments. So, we have asked IPPIS and ASUU to work together over this," the minister said.
He added that evidence was presented that promotion arrears have been paid to some universities while the Budget Office of the federation and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation were asked to liaise with ASUU to sort out the rest, noting also that the standing committee on the matter has been expended to include National Income Salaries and Wages Commission.
"A situation where a university professor is paid N107, 000 out of mistake or over deduction is unacceptable," Ngige declared.
In his reaction, ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke promised to reach out to his members.