The ongoing university lecturers’ strike in Nigeria may still be a long way from being over as the federal government has identified another potential hurdle.
The University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as proposed by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) does not have the relevant hardware backing, said the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.
During a chat with State House correspondents in Abuja, he said that even if government accepted the payment mode for lecturers who have rejected being placed on Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS), ASUU has no money to procure the necessary hardware for its implementation.
Also, the federal government did not make any budgetary provision for the procurement of the UTAS hardware, he noted.
Ngige, however, said government has already forwarded the UTAS software to the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) for integrity test, saying that government will not want to discourage any Nigerian from providing homegrown solutions to issues.
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 computer scientist, but you must also know that you must test the hardware in the integrity test for the software.
He said: “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.”
Ngige noted that since ASUU opted out of physical meetings with government because the outbreak of Covid-19, the sessions are just about to resume.
He added: “As you know ASUU is on strike which they started since March 9, 2020 to be precise. We have held negotiations meetings, they opted out for the negotiation meetings during the COVID-19 period because they said they don’t want virtual meetings. So, we have just resumed our meeting.
“We have some grey areas to clear and we will meet sometime this week. I’m waiting for one or two reports before I communicate a date to them.
“The major report is the report from the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) as per the system developed by ASUU which the government sent to them for integrity test.”