Dr Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment has said the integrity test being conducted on the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAs) software being proposed by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, would last between six and eight months.
ASUU has been on strike in protest against the Federal Government’s preferred Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and wants UTAs instead.
Speaking with State House correspondents on Tuesday after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Ngige revealed that the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) was conducting an integrity test on the software.
According to the Minister, even if the software passed the integrity test, the university teachers don’t have the money to procure the necessary hardware for its implementation.
Ngige explained that the Federal Government did not make provision for the procurement of the UTAS hardware in the budget.
“I am waiting for the NITDA’s full report. The preliminary report they gave me shows the software integrity test will take them about six to eight weeks and after that, we go to the hardware.
“But the big issue is, who will provide the hardware?
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“ASUU does not have the finances to do so. Has the 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,” Ngige said.
Meanwhile The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, blamed the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, over the prolonged strike, accusing him of showing what it called “disdain for Nigerian academics.”
The union said it was obvious that Ngige, through his recent utterances, had clearly shown his disdain for the lecturers and had failed to play the role of an unbiased umpire in moderating the imbroglio.
“He has now become the spokesperson to the Accountant General of the Federation and the Ministry of Finance, instead of finding a solution for lecturers to get back to work,” ASUU said in a press conference at the University of Abuja on Tuesday, adding that the minister was turning the wheel of progress backwards.
ASUU, in the text of the press conference read by its Abuja zonal coordinator, Theophilus Lagi, accused Ngige of setting the union on a collision course with other pressure groups in the university, and is currently on a warpath with the lecturers.
“In one of his comedies of error, Ngige told the nation that the striking lecturers had been paid salaries up to date when he knew university lecturers were being owed salaries for between Nine to Six months for no just cause. In another fit of treachery, the Minister during a recent Budget defense at the National Assembly, while upholding the existence of University Autonomy Law, attempted in vain to redefine its provisions,” the union said.
“Dr Ngige is, by now, a figure well known for a poignant penchant for speaking from both sides of his mouth.
“This is demonstrated by his irregular postures in the ongoing negotiation between the federal government and our union which, to say the least, betray his insincerity and irresponsibility as an appointee of the federal government.”
ASUU said that Ngige has been saying one thing during meetings with the union and another thing altogether during media interviews.
The union said the minister’s attitude in the face of the ongoing strike should be a source of concern for students and parents.
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According to ASUU, with the former Anambra State Governor in charge of the negotiations between the union and the Federal Government, there is no sign of hope in sight, adding that the Minister is undermining the reopening of public universities in the country.