FG vs ASUU: UTAS isn’t a solution yet – Ngige

By Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja

The federal government has hinted that the preferred payment solution put forward by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) may be inadequate resolve to the lingering impasse between them.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, disclosed this while speaking to State House Correspondents about the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), proposed by ASUU, in place of the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS) floated by government.

According to the Minister, ASUU, which members had been on a nationwide strike for months over the disagreement with government on the implementation of the IPPIS, said even if government decides to buy the lecturers’ proposal of UTAS, the platform is yet to be fitted with the required hardware for its implementation, a component he said the union does not have the money to purchase for now.

He said though the government had forwarded the UTAS software to the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) for integrity test, it did not make any budgetary provision for the procurement of the UTAS hardware.

Asked if government had shifted grounds on its negotiations with ASUU, the minister stated: “No, the UTAS that is the University Transparent System, 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.

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

“I am waiting for the NITDA full report but 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 in, hacking and security. So, by the time we finish it, 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 deficiency and they are being corrected. It’s work in progress,” he said.