.ASUU dares FG, rejects IPPIS, splits varsities
•Non Academic staff: Opponents are beneficiaries of compromised system on campuses
By Adesina Wahab
The Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, IPPIS, is not a new concept.It was introduced by the Yar ‘Adua/Jonathan administration in 2007 to centralise payroll at the Federal Government level.
Almost all federal workers have been enrolled in the system except few ones including those in federal universities, a section of which have been opposed to the exercise for a number of reasons.
Recently the Federeal Government raised the issue again when President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2020 budget proposal to the National Assembly and he dropped the hint that all federal workers must be enrolled, and whoever failed would no longer receive salary.
To enforce the President’s directive, the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris, issued a notice that all affected workers must be enrolled between November 25 and December 7.
It is in the AGF’s office that the IPPIS is domiciled.
The statement rekindled the opposition of some university workers to the IPPIS. However, this time around, workers in the university system are no longer speaking with one voice; they are rather speaking in cacophony of voices.
The worker unions in the university are the Non Academic Staff Union, NASU, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the newly created Congress of University Academics, CONUA.
The non-academic staff members, who are members of SSANU and NASU, are in support of the policy.
The two unions set up a Joint Action Committee, JAC, headed by the National President of SSANU, Samson Ugwoke.
Ugwoke, who said non-teaching staff are in support of IPPIS, said it would check corruption and cleanse the system.
“We are in support of the enrolment of our members into the system. It will check corruption and cleanse the system. Those concerns being raised regarding Sabbatical, Earned Allowances, Check off Dues, Cooperative Dues etc are being taken care of”, he said.
“Those opposed to the system are the ones benefitting from the corruption in the system. Now, most of the federal universities are hiring hundreds of workers to cover up the loopholes that the IPPIS will expose. Those talking about Sabbatical, is it every year they go on it?”
The National Steering Committee, NSC, of CONUA, last week, held a meeting where it passed some resolutions on the IPPIS issue. The resolutions were endorsed by the National Coordinator, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, and National Publicity Coordinator, Dr Ernest Nwoke.
The resolutions included, “That CONUA members are in full support of every policy and effort of government to reform the Nigerian Public Financial System with a view to combating corruption and thereby sanitizing our educational system.
“That the IPPIS being one of such efforts is welcome by CONUA in the light of government’s assurance on accommodating the peculiarities of the academia.
“That CONUA notes the Federal Government’s promise to address any other issue that may arise through the desk offices to be placed in the Bursary Unit of each university.
“That, in view of the foregoing, CONUA implores members to enrol on the IPPIS platform with a strong belief that government would reciprocate our good faith.”
The opposition of ASUU to the policy, according to the National President of the union, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, is not without reasons. He faulted the fact that the circular to enrol members originated from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, saying university workers should not be treated as civil servants.
His opinion is that university workers are employees of the Governing Council of each university as provided by law.
“Each university has the law setting it up. By the law, the Governing Council is in charge of each university and that is what the autonomy of the universities means. Universities are not government agencies. Funds should be released to the Governing Councils and there are ways of checking what goes on in the system and with the funds”, he said.
“We have internal audit checks, external auditing too and there is provision for the setting up of Visitation Panels to the universities.
“Those saying we are not supporting the fight against corruption have forgotten that based on the petitions written by ASUU, at least three Vice Chancellors have been probed, indicted and relieved of their positions.
“We must not be brought back to the core civil service again. Do you know what the new system they are proposing will lead to?
“Now, before a VC could employ even a cleaner, he would have to clear from the Head of Service and go cap in hand to the Accountant General for funds.
“We won’t support anything that will erode the autonomy of the universities and eventually kill universities”.
What is the alternative?
Ogunyemi said his union has proposed an alternative to IPPIS to government. He said the alternative would be situated in each university.
The ASUU’s alternative, according to the Chairman of the Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile Ife chapter, Adeola Egbedokun, is called the Nigerian Universities Transparency and Accountability System’, NUTAS.
He said a committee had been put in place to work on the alternative, saying it is at 33 percent completion.
He said the committee would soon conclude work on the system.
According to him, the union has resolved that none of its members would cooperate with any person from the office of the Accountant-General on enrolment into IPPIS
Why non-teaching staff not toeing ASUU’s line?
Up until this year, academic and non-academic staff appeared to be on the same page on the matter.
However, they parted ways following the brouhaha that followed the disbursement and sharing of the N100 billion Earned Allowances.
Going by the allegations levelled by the JAC of SSANU and NASU, ASUU short-changed other unions in the system by taking N80 billion out of the money.
The development led to a threat of industrial action by the non-teaching staff who accused ASUU of treating them like second class citizens in universities.
The matter is yet to be resolved.
Also, the non-teaching staff feel centralising the payment at the federal level would bridge the salary gap between them and their academic counterparts.
An accountant, Sunday Morakinyo, agreed that the peculiarities of the university system must be taken care of.
He, however, opined that whether IPPIS would work or not depends on the ‘Nigerian factor’.
“If the payment system is located at each university, there is a limit to how it could be manipulated”, Morakinyo said.
“For instance, the University of Ibadan, which may probably be among those with the largest workforce, may have 4,000 workers. There is a limit to how the VC or anybody could inflate the figures, that is, inject ghost workers.
“I don’t think it would be possible to add another 400 to such a figure without detection.
“Now, if you have all the universities, with hundreds of thousands of workers, being paid from the AGF office, apart from other federal agencies and ministries, will the people there not be overwhelmed?
“I know for sure that the Federal Ministries of Information and Health with NTA, Radio Nigeria, NAN, teaching hospitals, federal medical centres, among others, have hundreds of thousands of workers, imagine a dubious worker in the AGF office deducting just N1, 000 from their salaries, and how much that will amount to?
“What those already enrolled are experiencing with regards to the payment of some allowances cannot encourage others to want to join it. “If we say some university administrators are thieves and are abusing the system, the issue eventually could be that you send away a cat from watching over a piece of meat and now ask a lion to replace the cat”.
One thing is clear, no matter how the vexed issue of IPPIS is resolved, unionism on Nigerian campuses can never be the same again, especially between academic and non-academic staff.