By Adesina Wahab
The industrial harmony in the nation’s university system, especially in universities owned by the Federal Government, FG, is being threatened by the resolve of the FG to enroll university workers in its Integrated Payment and Personnel Information System, IPPIS. It is a centralised system of payment of all FG’s workers from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. Although most federal workers have been on the payment system, university workers are the ones yet to be put on board.
While the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has been the most vociferous against the action, the Non-Academic Staff Union, NASU and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, cannot be said to be in support of IPPIS too.
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Even, a breakaway academic staff union, the Congress of University Academics, CONUA, going by reports from the universities it has branches, is also tacitly opposed to the implementation of IPPIS.
Grouse of university workers against IPPIS
The main grouse of university workers against the implementation of the policy is that it would erode the autonomy the universities are enjoying. Though they agree that it could help reduce corruption in the system, their feeling is that it would make the universities subservient to a government agency.
The National President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, during a recent visit to the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said, “The introduction of IPPIS is not backed by law. The union’s position is that there are extant legal provisions and negotiated agreements arising from the nature and peculiarities of Nigerian universities, which make IPPIS unnecessary and inapplicable to the universities.’’.
Ogunyemi opined that “the proposed forceful enrollment of staff of universities in the IPPIS would amount to subjecting the universities to the direction and control of Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation ( OAGF) with respect to the payment of staff remuneration, salaries and wages.
“It should be noted that IPPIS is not a home-grown initiative; rather it is a prescription of the World Bank.
“Its ultimate consequence is to create anarchy and therefore, retard the growth and development of Nigeria’’.
He submitted that if the government wanted to curb corrupt practices through the payroll and personnel management, the best pathway was to make the Governing Councils work.
“The exercise of the power of the Visitor, in respect of the visitation exercise as explicitly stated in law which ASUU has continued to advocate, should be activated.
“Nigerian universities have capacity to develop their own platform in place of IPPIS with different levels of control which can be accessed periodically to assess compliance with the regulations on transparency and accountability by each university’’, he said.
Members of CONUA at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife in Osun State, recently held their congress where the IPPIS was among the issues discussed. It should be noted that OAU is where the National Coordinator of CONUA, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, teaches.
Some of the resolutions arrived at during the meeting included matters relating to IPPIS.
“Congress of University Academics (CONUA) OAU Branch supports government’s efforts at waging war against corruption. However, the peculiarities of the university system should have been carefully considered and thoroughly addressed in the IPPIS by government before foisting it on the universities.
“Since neither strike nor stoppage of salary can resolve the impasse generated by IPPIS and since government has promised to address the peculiarities of Academia in IPPIS, government should continue to engage in extensive dialogue and negotiations with stakeholders in the university system (including CONUA) until an agreeable solution is reached and signed.
“Congress observed that IPPIS will further centralize many things, hence, it resolved to support the little and imperfect but hard earned university autonomy rather than for it to be curtailed; and strive to accomplish more in line with what obtains globally.”
Are Nigerian universities really autonomous?
From the positions of ASUU and CONUA, it is clear that both think they are working to protect the autonomy of the universities, no matter how fragile it seems now. But are the universities really autonomous?
Each university has a law setting it up, and the workers (whether teaching or non-teaching) are supposed to be employees of the universities under the Governing Council of each university, but even before the IPPIS trouble, the workers are paid by the government.
Subventions are given the universities by the government. The Governing Council members are appointed by the government and it is also the government that approves who is selected as the Vice Chancellor. Then, where is the autonomy?
The only way university workers can fight issues such as the implementation of the IPPIS is when each university is financially independent to run its own affairs. He who pays the Piper, calls the tunes.