ASUU and FG: Ngige speaks on payment platform proposed by varsity body

Honorable minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige on Tuesday stated that the payment platform proposed by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) does not have hardware backing.

Recall that ASUU embarked on an indefinite strike in March 2020 following the non-implementation of agreements and resolutions reached in 2009, and subsequent memoranda of understanding signed in 2013 and 2017.

ASUU also opposed the adoption of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) but presented its University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as an alternative.

Since then, the federal government and ASUU have held several discussions on the issues around the strike, but no agreement has been reached.

Ngige while addressing state house correspondents on Monday after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja said for the software (UTAS) to function, it must have a hardware to back it.

Ngige said ASUU does not have the finance to procure the hardware, neither has the federal government made any budgetary provision for the hardware.

He noted that UTAS is still undergoing integrity test and preliminary report suggests that it may take six to eight weeks for it to be ready.

“The UTAS, that is the University Transparency and Accountability Solution which they brought, is not yet ready. It is not fully ready. It is undergoing integrity test for the software. I am not a computer scientist, but you must also know that you must test the hardware in the integrity test for the software,” Ngige said.

“As we speak, ASUU has no hardware and UTAS does not have hardware backing.

“I am waiting for the NITDA full report, but in the preliminary report they gave me, the software integrity test will take them about six to eight weeks and thereafter, we go to the hardware. But the big issue is, ‘who will provide the hardware?’

“ASUU doesn’t have the finances to do so. Has government budgeted for it now as we speak? So, that one is a major problem.

“But we don’t have to dissuade anybody. We don’t have to tell anybody not to carry on. We like local content development. We need our things to be home grown. So, we are really encouraging them.

“By the time we finish with this other software test to look at its capacity, its ability to withstand shock and hacking, etc. — the hardware test is on hacking and security — we will decide on what to do.

“But do not also forget that we need to have something for us to make payment to them as we speak. For those that have got into the system, they have pointed out some of the deficiencies and they are being corrected. It is work in progress.”

On resolving the lingering strike, the minister said there are still pending issues that need to be settled, adding that a meeting would be scheduled to engage the union during the week.

“As you know, ASUU is on strike which they started since March 9, 2020 to be precise. We have held negotiation meetings; they opted out of the negotiation meetings during the COVID-19 period, because they said they don’t want virtual meetings. So, we have just resumed our meeting,” Ngige said.

“We have some grey areas to clear and we will meet sometime this week. I’m waiting for one or two reports before I communicate a date to them.

“The major report is the report from the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) as per the system developed by ASUU, which the government sent to them for integrity test.”

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