ASUU continues strike despite FG’s directive to pay lecturers’ withheld salaries

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*Buhari, Ogunyemi

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the immediate payment of the February and March 2020 withheld salaries of members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in federal universities who had not registered in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) platform.

However, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has vowed to continue with the current strike.

Recall that the federal government had previously withheld the lecturers’ salaries over their refusal to key to the IPPIS.

The union, among other issues, embarked on an indefinite strike, arguing that the implementation of the IPPIS was against the FG-ASUU 2009 agreement.

But the minister of labour and employment, Dr Chris Ngige, said in a press statement on Tuesday that the president had directed the payment to be made immediately to help cushion the impact of the economic difficulties on the lecturers and their families occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown

He added that all the vice-chancellors were asked to revalidate the affected lecturers’ Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) and forward to the accountant general of the federation for the payments.

“President Muhammadu Buhari has today approved the immediate payment of the withheld salaries of February and March 2020 of the university lecturers who had not registered on the IPPIS platform.

“He has also directed that the minister of finance, budget and planning, and the accountant general of the federation to effect the payments urgently by all means to cushion the deleterious effects of the COVID-19 period on the lecturers and members of their family.

“All vice-chancellors are to revalidate affected lecturers’ BVN and forward same to AGF Office for the payments,” the statement read.

Reacting to the federal government’s gesture, ASUU said its ongoing strike would continue despite the order for payment of February and March 2020 withheld salaries of lecturers

Reacting to the payment of withheld salaries, the national president of ASUU, Prof. Abiodun Ogunyemi, insisted that the lecturers would not resume work because the strike was not only about IPPIS.

However, he said the payment would pave the way for a meaningful dialogue with the government.

“Now, we can discuss without an atmosphere of intimidation. This will lead to a meaningful dialogue. The ongoing industrial strike action by the union is still on. Our strike is not just about the IPPIS,” he added.

He also queried the federal government’s motive of asking vice-chancellors to pay lecturers with their BVN.

“If they had not paid at this time, with what everyone is going through, it would have meant a declaration of war. The discussion will start when they pay. They have even attached a condition to the payment.

“Our members weren’t paid with BVN in the past. Why the sudden change? They should go back to the old system which they have always used to pay,” said Ogunyemi in an interview with The Punch

He said paying the lecturers was not a favour, adding that “Members worked in February and we were still working in March before this coronavirus pandemic broke. It is expected that a labourer is paid his wages. Even as we are talking, people are supposed to be prepared to get their April salary.”

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