The federal government has blamed its inability to negotiate with university lecturers on insistence by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that they must be paid salaries for the six months they had been on strike.
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, disclosed this to State House correspondents yesterday during the weekly ministerial briefing organised by the presidential communications team at the presidential villa.
According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari rejected the demand outrightly when he presented the report to him.
“All contentious issues between the government and ASUU had been settled except the quest for members’ salaries for the period of strike, a demand that Buhari has flatly rejected,” he said.
The minister said the president’s position had been communicated to the lecturers who are expected to call off the strike.
He stated that the rejection was to curb the excesses of trade unions that want to be paid for work not done.
Adamu said the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) payment system proposed by ASUU has outscored the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) already in use by the government, which the lecturers are kicking against.
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He also said IPPIS has been updated to now accommodate payment of those on sabbatical.
“Just one thing that I was reminded of is that even the current IPPIS has been made to accommodate sabbatical. I didn’t know this. Somebody just told me,” Adamu noted.
The lecturers had accused the federal government of not taking into consideration the peculiarities of tertiary institutions in the IPPIS.
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But Adamu also debunked the report that UTAS had not been approved by government as the payment platform for university lecturers.
He said the government has proposed a new salary to the unions which he said the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian University (SSANU), the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Allied Institutions (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), have accepted in principle and are now consulting with their members with a view to calling off the strike in the next one month.
He, however, commended the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) for calling off its own strike.
He said the federal government has invested over N2.5 trillion in tertiary education in the last ten years, exceeding the sum of N1.2 trillion ASUU is demanding.
The minister also said it is the responsibility of ASUU to compensate students for the time wasted by the six-month strike, not the federal government.
Adamu suggested that the affected students should “take ASUU to court” to claim for damages incurred over strike period.
He said the federal government bears no liability to compensate millions of students grounded for six months over lost time, saying if the students are determined to get compensated, they should take ASUU to court.
The minister said it is important for the public to be aware that “the federal government is paying the salaries of every staff in its tertiary institutions, academic and non-academic staff, while these institutions are also in full control of their internally generated revenue (IGR).
“We are doing everything humanly possible to conclude the negotiations. It is our hope that the outcome of the renegotiations will bring lasting industrial peace to our campuses. In the meantime, I am sure that the current efforts would yield the desired results and return our children back to school.”
Adamu also called for crackdown on perpetrators of examination malpractice, which he said had been uncovered as a cartel.
He called on the examiners to work closely with law enforcement agencies to “crackdown on examination malpractice”.
According to him, despite efforts to raise the integrity of the examination system in schools nationwide, the ministry still grapples with malpractice perpetrated both at the exams councils and school levels.
The minister also said the Buhari administration has spent a total of N6,003,947,848,237 in capital and recurrent expenditure in the education sector in the last seven years.
He said this was in addition to interventions from TETFund and UBEC, amounting to N2.5 trillion and N553,134,967,498 respectively in capital investment.
He noted: “We must also note and appreciate the huge investments from States and the private sector at all levels of our educational system. We will continue to improve on the implementation of the Ministerial Strategic Plan (MSP) all through to 2023 for the overall development of the education sector and the Nigerian nation.
“We will continue to create the necessary enabling environment to attract more and more private sector investment. We shall hand over a better education sector than we met.”
Adamu said the number of out of school children has dropped from an estimated 13 million to 6.9 million, with an impressive enrollment from online states of Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Gombe, Bauchi, Adamawa, Taraba, Rivers and Ebonyi.
He linked the increased enrollment to activities of the Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA)