Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, says the insistence of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on the immediate adoption of the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) is delaying negotiations.
According to NAN, Ngige said this on Tuesday in a statement issued by Patience Onuobia, the ministry’s acting head of press and public relations.
One of the issues raised by ASUU on its current strike is the adoption of UTAS as a payment platform for university lecturers.
The adoption of the payment platform has caused some friction between ASUU and the National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA) over the integrity test conducted on UTAS.
Speaking on the development, Ngige said NITDA has made it clear that ASUU needs to address the issues raised on UTAS, but the union has insisted on using it.
“ASUU insists that National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA) should take the payment platform, University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) that it developed; that they should deploy it for payment in the university whether it is good or bad, whether it failed integrity and vulnerability test or not,” he said.
“ASUU members know that fraud committed on payment platforms can run into billions. If a hacker adds zeros to hundreds, it becomes billions.
As a conciliator, I spoke to ASUU and NITDA to continue the test and see whether they could make up the lapses and arrive at 100 percent because that is what NITDA insists on.”
He added that he is only a “conciliator” between both parties and is not responsible for the prolonged strike action.
“These are the issues. So if you hear someone saying Ngige is responsible, it is wrong. I’m not the one that implements. I’m the conciliator. I conciliate, so that there will be no more warfare and even in conciliation, once I apprehend, the parties go back to status quo ante, which means, you call off the strike,” he said.
“ASUU should have by now called off the strike because that’s what the law says. However, when conciliation fails, the Minister is under obligation by section 9 and 14 of Trade Disputes Act, Cap T8 , Laws of the Federation of Nigeria to transmit the results of the negotiation to the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) or to National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN).
“In the ongoing ASUU imbroglio, I’m the conciliator. I bring them to negotiate with their employers — that is the ministry of education and the National University Commission as well as IPPIS, the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, all under the Ministry of Finance.
“At the end of every negotiation, we put down what everybody has agreed on in writing and add timelines for implementation.”