Deadlock! No agreement! – those are the headlines as Nigerian university students cling to the social media on a daily basis hoping for a positive news.
Umbrella body for university lecturers in Nigeria, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike for almost 9 months. University undergraduates have been at home for the same period of time.
While the COVID-19 pandemic stalled talks between the government and the lecturers, discussions resumed when the curve receded.
Various students have done a lot of things ever since, with majority taking on new trades and businesses. For those who haven’t done any of these, they have leaned on hope and expectations of a solid agreement.
Industrial actions are not a new thing from Nigerian university lecturers. Several breach of agreements by the government have often led to their refusal to work, and usually, this lasts for months.
Almost every generation of Nigerian students have dealt with university strike actions and to many who now see it as an incorrigible systemic default, it’s a bad tradition, caused by stifled innovation.
Nigeria has some of the brightest students in the world, however, they are not exposed to modern teaching aids and conducive learning environments. University lecturers have often called for better investment in education, and have gone on industrial actions on occasions.
The 2020 strike action has seen the leadership of the staff union of University lecturers meet the Nigerian government many times. Most talks have ended in deadlocks and egotistical disagreements, mainly based on inability to reach a truce on a payment system.
The Nigerian government has been using the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) for the remuneration of civil servants and lecturers have rejected this system. Their reason is that it shortchanges them and doesn’t give the full reward for their service. Some lecturers have complained of receiving as low as N5,000 naira ($13) as monthly salary on occasions. Many have also reported receiving lower.
The striking lecturers have since proposed an alternative to the government’s payment system through the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS). They said their self-developed payment system is capable of nipping corruption in the bud than the IPPIS.
After a round of talks that ended in multiple deadlocks, the Nigerian government looks to have accepted to pay lecturers through another system as a temporary measure.
“I think it is better because a lot of people are quoting us out of context, saying that we abandoned the IPPIS and that we said they should not be on IPPIS. It is not true,” Nigeria’s Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige revealed.
“What we said in the meeting and what we agreed was that in the interim for the transition period that UTAS is being tested by NITDA and the Office of National Security Adviser for cybersecurity.
“For that transition period, ASUU members that are not yet on IPPIS will be paid through the platform with which they were paid the President’s compassionate COVID-19 payment done to them between the months of February and June.
“That platform is a hybrid platform between IPPIS and GIFMIS (Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System) platform for the transition period. That was what was used; it’s a hybrid.”
“So, there is a handshake between IPPIS and GIFMIS platform and that was what was used in paying them for that period and so we are going to continue with that until UTAS undergoes all the integrity and cybersecurity tests and it is confirmed for use.”
Nigerian university undergraduates, disillusioned, are also disinterested in the details of the agreement. However, they are very expectant of an agreement between both parties soon so they can return to the classroom and keep their graduation dates closer.
Nigerian students have often been subjected to a lot of hardship and are always willing to leave the university in good time. With striking lecturers and an unwilling government stalling their desires, they can only keep waiting, except those who are rich enough to study in Europe or in America.
The meetings between the Nigerian government and university lecturers don’t look to be over as students keep hoping something works in their favour, for once. For many, it’s the least they deserve from a country that deprives them of a lot of things.
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