By Frank Ikpefan, Abuja; Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt and Augustine Okezie, Katsina
An end to the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) may be in sight.
The Federal Government on Thursday promised to “bend backwards” to meet ASUU’s demands “half-way”.
Both parties will meet today as talks to end the strike which began on March 23 continues.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, faulted comments by ASUU zonal coordinators, saying they should not be speaking for the union.
To him, the zonal coordinators were becoming a “nuisance”.
Ngige said: “We are meeting with their national leadership tomorrow (today) and those in the zones are advised that it is serious indiscipline to be talking on behalf of their national body.
“The zonal branches are becoming a nuisance with all their comments on matters that are being conciliated.
“All those zonal coordinators are attention seekers; we have no business with them. They are not the ones we are negotiating with. By organisation structure, they are not supposed to be talking.
“At our meeting tomorrow (today), the Federal Government will do everything possible to meet ASUU half-way.
“The government will bend backwards to see how we can accommodate their demands in areas that have almost been completed.”
The Congress of University Academics (CONUA) said incessant strikes have done the university system more harm than good.
Its National Coordinator, Niyi Sunmonu stated this in a meeting Dr Ngige.
Sunmonu said there was a need to ensure an uninterrupted academic calendar.
According to him, CONUA members are not part of ASUU, adding that the striking union no longer represents the interests and aspirations of his colleagues.
Ngige directed a ministerial committee to review CONUA’s registration application within four weeks.
The Port Harcourt Zone of ASUU criticised the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), saying it cannot curb corruption in the university’s system.
Its Coordinator, Uzo Onyebinama, who read a statement signed by the union’s leaders in Port Harcourt zone, said the government’s payment system breached university autonomy.
The leaders are Chairperson, Federal University Otuoke (FUO) Emmanuel Akpan; Chairperson, Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Endurance Joseph; Chairperson, Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Tonbara Kingdom, and Chairperson, University of Port Harcourt Austen Sado.
Onyebinama said: “IPPIS is not the legal instrument for solving the problem of monumental fraud perpetrated by some administrators of the universities.
“IPPIS taxes rent subsidy, allowances for journals, conferences, hazards among others. For instance, an associate professor pays a tax of about N672,000 per annum.”