ASUU strike: Why UTAS is not best option – Ministers, HOS, Acting AGF, others
Nigerian government ministers, Head of Service of the Federation, Acting Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) and other officials of government, have explained why the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU’s) insistence on the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) as an alternative payment system to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), is “not sustainable.”
Insiders within recent federal government’s negotiations with ASUU, according to reports by Newsdiaryonline, reveals that some officials were convinced with facts, that UTAS is not the best option.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu; the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; the Acting Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Sylva Okolieaboh; the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Folasade Yemi-Esan and the Director-General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze were reported to have prove, based on facts, that ASUU’s case for the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a payment platform fell far short of an effective solution compared with IPPIS.
It was further learnt that all the top government officials, who appeared before the leadership of the House Representatives on Thursday, September 29 2022 explained why the adoption of UTAS as a separate salary payment platform for universities is not in the public interest and appealed to the striking teachers to sheath their swords.
Adamu, represented in an earlier meeting, said: “We have all been very worried and therefore tackled this matter, met with ASUU, did all manner of thinking and consultations that we thought would have been able to resolve this matter but there is no solution so far.”
Also speaking during the session, the Acting Accountant-General of the Federation, Okolieaboh pleaded with the lecturers not to crucify the nation’s varsity system because of UTAS but to focus on a mutually agreed, sustainable solution.
He said in his career, he has been able to resolve difficult challenges and urged ASUU to consider the government’s position.
Okolieaboh said the government was ready to accept any solution that can help it to reduce wage bill.
He however said that as it is now, UTAS is only about the university system.
According to him, UTAS cannot be operated in isolation because the government has to build the salaries of other sectors into it.
“In the spirit of reconciliation, just to move together with ASUU, if ASUU knows any solution or any infrastructure or fibre that will reduce the cost of what we are currently doing, we are willing to accept it if that is also going to help to resolve the issue that we have.
“If we are going to adopt UTAS we are going to build the salaries of other sectors, indeed the entire Civil Service into UTAS. Going back to what Hon. Okechukwu said; even if we are going to take this (UTAS), there are still steps that need to be taken. It is not something that can happen today or tomorrow,” Okolieaboh said.
In response to ASUU’s suggestion that the use of IPPIS negates university autonomy, the acting Accountant-General clarified that IPPIS is just a platform provided by government that allows individual agencies to take full control of their internal operations.
“On payment of salaries and autonomy, the way IPPIS works is that we give you a platform. It is the responsibility of the universities to enter their salaries. We are not the ones that do it. They do it right from their own end. The same way that SAMSUNG gives you a phone and you make your phone calls.”
On her part, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan said the nation cannot afford two payment platforms.
“This country cannot afford two payments platforms that are running at the same time.
“If government wants to use IPPIS, let us flesh up IPPIS and use it. If it is UTAS let us work on UTAS and use it. But running two parallel platforms will be extremely expensive for government at this time.
“The second issue I want to address is the issue of the Office of the Head of Service hamstringing the universities and not allowing them to employ as and when they want to and the number of people they want to employ. It is on record that it is not the Office of the Head of Service that went to look for work,” she said.
Okolieaboh ended with a direct appeal to the embattled union not to cling to its hard-line position:.
“Lastly, I want to make an appeal to everybody. I want to appeal to our friends in ASUU, let us avoid a situation whereby we crucify the Nigerian university system on the cross of UTAS.”