UTAS: ASUU’s Resort to Needless Blackmail, Infantile Threats
By Hashim Suleiman
I remember vividly how I was recruited into Setraco Construction Company at Igobiri-Toru-Ebeni project in Bayelsa State as a young and fresh graduate of Geology. I had this notion that being a graduate, every other person who was not one was meant to bow and take orders from me. It didn’t take me long time before I figured out that my school degree was merely an advantage but that the world of experience was an entirely different one that required me to be humble in order to learn.
Consequently, I saw the need to defer to one Mr Samuel who was a secondary school certificate holder but who had put in over 20 years of hard work in the firm’s laboratory.
The practical analysis and laboratory skills he had on construction materials were enough to humble me into accepting my rightful place as a Laboratory Technician.
I dropped my ego and learnt a lot from him and other experts perhaps at a faster rate than someone who is not a university graduate would require. The rest is now history.
I brought the above narrative to explain why I think the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) went overboard by threatening to withdraw the certificates of the Director-General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa, over the performance of his statutory responsibility. ASUU is made up of all cadres of lecturers ranging from Professors to Graduate Assistants but in all honesty that is not enough to guarantee that they possess enough practical experience to insist on the efficacy of their own ICT Application which is meant to be used in paying their salaries.
NITDA as an agency that is statutorily mandated to aid the government in developing the ICT sector. And after repeated integrity tests, the agency has found University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) to be unreliable. ASUU’s insistence on having their way is understandable and consistent with the systemic rot they are used to. Nigeria to them is a country of impunity, a nation of anything goes and this they believe should not change. But the NITDA has indicated that he is on a mission to build and not to destroy.
By a dint of hard work, diligence and integrity, Inuwa has earned the respect of his boss, Professor Isa Ali Pantami, and that of President Muhammadu Buhari, and the federal government trusts his judgement on this issue. There is therefore nothing ASUU can do about this except to improve the system, return for further tests or accept IPPIS being the federal government standard payment platform.
The issue around UTAS is purely a technical one that may not necessarily be understood when looked at from the perspective of academic competence. NITDA boasts of staff members that have years of experience, home and abroad, on such technical matters. They understand practical challenges that could result from the handling of big data, they understand the resources constraint that could result from a long term point of view. Was ASUU expecting NITDA to simply approve a solution that has truly not ticked all the boxes just to please the lecturers’ union?
Rather than continue to gloat, grandstand and blackmail, ASUU leaders should patiently ask NITDA to itemise its criteria and make known its minimum standards. ASUU can also borrow some technical expertise and personnel from NITDA which will enable them to come up with a more acceptable and reliable payment platform.