Insists no end to ongoing strike until govt meets demands
UTAS far more than alternative to IPPIS, it declares
Rejects removal of Ogundipe as UNILAG VC
Asks Buhari to constitute Special Visitation Panel to probe removal
By Joseph Erunke – Abuja
The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Tuesday, said its University Transparency and Accountability Solution, UTAS which it developed as an alternative to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, was read for integrity tests.
The university lecturers’ body which said it had fulfilled the requirement of the government in successfully developing the payment system, disclosed that the government had accepted the controversial payroll system.
ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, addressing the media in the company of the union’s executive members, insisted that UTAS remained a far more alternative to IPPIS which he noted, “does not respect the nature, structure, and character of the Nigerian University System.”
According to him, “We had always promised that ASUU would produce a robust software solution that would be sensitive to the uniqueness of the university system in addressing personnel information and payroll system, among other things.”
Hear him: “Following our engagements with the Federal Government over the issues that eventually led to the declaration of the ongoing strike action on 17th March 2020, the government declared that it “accepts in principle the
University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), which is being developed by ASUU and its researchers for the financial administration of the University’s FG’s staff monthly payroll and accounting processes”.
“In addition, the Federal Government pledged that “When fully developed UTAS will be subjected to various integrity tests in order to verify its efficacy to see whether this final product will pass the necessary technical attribute test as specified by NITDA.”
“On our part, ASUU had given a timeframe of eighteen (18) months to the government to develop, test, and deploy UTAS.
“In keeping with this promise, ASUU is pleased to announce that UTAS is now ready for the “integrity tests” required of it by the government. Indeed, the software was unveiled by way of demonstration to the Minister and Senior Management Staff of the Ministry of Education, including the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), yesterday, 17th August 2020.
“We must however emphasise that UTAS is far more than just an alternative to IPPIS which does not respect the nature, structure, and character of the Nigerian University System.
“It was ill-advised, ab initio, to have deployed IPPIS in the universities. All the
distortions and disruptions being reported within the university payrolls of federal universities in the last six months or so, even by those who initially welcomed IPPIS with open arms, were predicted by ASUU. Unlike IPPIS, however, the UTAS is a web-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application deployed for the overall management of university resources in an efficient, transparent, and accountable manner. It is developed to run on the concept of Software as a Service (SaaS), in which universities maintain sub-domains as tenants.
“Users are fully identified and authenticated for the purpose of gaining access to any of the aspects of the platforms such a User is appropriately authorised.”
He stressed that among other things, “UTAS recognises all agreements entered into between the Government and university-based trade unions; ensures simultaneous payment of employees’ salaries and third-party deductions (e.g. Tax, Pension, Union dues, Cooperatives, Bank loans) seamlessly; allows for centralized monitoring of staff and staff emolument across universities by the National Universities Commission (NUC); allows the university to adapt to the fluidity in nature, type and period of recruitment of staff; and facilitates storage and automated retrieval of personnel records for effective monitoring.”
“UTAS is beneficial to the university system and Nigeria because it is a locally developed software in line with the local content policy of the Federal Government; it guarantees
automation of Staff and Salary Administration; it allows tracking of staff career progression; it exhibits ease of auditing processes; it permits data mining for intelligent analysis, and it guarantees national security and sovereignty,” he explained.
According to him,”Development of UTAS is a concrete attestation to the capacity of Nigerian scholars and researchers to respond to our developmental challenges when tasked to provide solutions. It is our sincere hope that the government would not renege on its promise because the benefits of UTAS to the university system (both public and private) cannot be found in any other software in Nigeria today.”
“Now that the Union is close to meeting the government’s demand on an alternative to IPPIS, it is our sincere hope that the substantive issues in the ongoing strike action would be given the desired attention,” he said.
Meanwhile, the union maintained that it will not suspend its ongoing strike until the federal government honours its 2019 agreements with the union.
Ogunyemi also lamented that five months’ salaries of their members at the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture (MOUAU) are still withheld by the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) on account of non-registration on IPPIS.
“Thousands of other academics across the universities are suffering the same fate. So, while we counsel that government at both the federal and state levels must meet the Taskforce specified guidelines for reopening of educational institutions, we insist that all the arrears of the withheld salaries of our members in federal and state universities must be paid immediately to pave for further discussion on the outstanding issues in the Memorandum of Action of 7th February 2019,” he said.
On the purported removal of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos by the Governing Council of the institution, led by Chairman Dr Wale Babalakin, the Union, according to him,” expressed shock and absolute disappointment.”
“Babalakin’s spirited efforts to defends the indefensible is a clear indication that there is more to the story coming from the senior member of the bar as other senior advocates like him, including professors from the Faculty of Law telling him that he goofed because the due process as required by the universities Miscellaneous Provisions Amendment Act, 2004 was not followed,” he said.
He added: “ASUU fully supports the UNILAG Senate’s rejection of Dr Wake Babalakin-led Governing Council’s ill-informed decision to remove the Vice-Chancellor. We call on Mr President, as Visitor to University of Lagos, to immediately constitute a Special Visitation Panel to look into the immediate and remote causes of the events that led to the purported removal of Professor Oluwatoyin T Ogundipe as VC of UNILAG with a view to bringing all found culpable to book.”
Ogunyemi lamented the attitude of some vice-chancellors, who he said,”are deceiving and defrauding unsuspecting students and parents by pretending to keep the session running during the nation-wide lockdown” occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the nation’s universities were bereft of the required ICT infrastructure.