Striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are to be paid their February and March salaries, it was learnt on Tuesday.

The directive by President Muhammadu Buhari was on compassionate grounds to mitigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Labour and Employment Minister Dr. Chris Ngige, who announced the President’s order, said in a message to The Nation that the lecturers will be paid once vice-chancellors update their varsities’ Bank Verification Numbers (BVN).

The February and March salaries were being withheld for failing to enroll for the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

They began an indefinite strike on March 23 to protest the imposition of the IPPIS on the varsity system and the failure of the Federal Government to keep faith with others pacts with the union.

Ngige said: “Mr. 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 Honourable Minister of Finance Budget and Planning, the Accountant-General of the Federation effect the payments urgently by all means to cushion the deleterious effects of the Corvid-19 period on the lecturers and members of their family.  All Vice-Chancellors are to revalidate affected Lecturers BVN and forward to Accountant-General of the Federation for the payments.”

Of all unions in the tertiary education sector, ASUU was the only one that refused to enrol for the IPPIS.  Defending the strike at a time of national emergency, ASUU President Prof Biodun Ogunyemi said the issues the union wanted to be sorted out had been in place long before COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria.

He said the union would not be deterred by non-payment of their salaries to protest the IPPIS, which it claimed was fraught with issues that would erode on university autonomy, and concentrate corruption at the centre.

Ogunyemi said ASUU had come up with its own version of IPPIS – University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) – but would not accept government’s bait to enrol on IPPIS while UTAS is tested.

He said: “The government has told ASUU that it now accepts the union’s proposal on UTAS with the given timelines for full development; one, software development, six months; two, alpha testing, three months; three, beta testing, six months; four, stable release, three months.

“However, the appeal of the government to encourage ASUU members to enroll on IPPIS within the intervening period before the full development of UTAS was rejected as a booby trap.”

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