*ASUP says all members in federal polytechnics complied in enrollment

*Accuses FG of deviating from terms agreed upon

*Calls on Abia, Ondo governments to urgently reinstate members sacked

 Polytechnic lecturers, ASUP reasons for enrolment in IPPIS
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By Johnbosco Agbakwuru and Joseph Erunke – Abuja

Polytechnic lecturers in the country have attributed their inability to kick against enrollment in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, like their university counterparts to the existing law which they explained, didn’t grant them autonomy like the universities.

The explanation came as the polytechnic lecturers under the auspices of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, said they have fully enrolled in the controversial payment scheme introduced by the federal government.

But the union which explained that the lack of autonomy in the Polytechnics Amendment Act, did not grant polytechnics autonomy unlike universities, accused the federal government of deviating from the terms specified in the IPPIS modules they were made to enrol.

Addressing the media at the weekend in Abuja, ASUP executive, led by its president, Anderson Ezeibe, explained that the lack of autonomy tied their hands, as they lacked the power in determining how their employers should pay them.

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“In federal polytechnics, we had directed all our members to enrol and from our record, there is no polytechnic that has not enrolled. In November last year, after we accepted the sector’s specific template that was presented to us, we directed our members from all federal polytechnics to present themselves for enrollment and we are aware that they have all complied.

“Apart from those who are probably foreign scholars, that is scholars outside the country or those who had medical issues of which we age asked for mop-up exercises to enable them to get on board. So we can confidently tell you that all federal polytechnics are on the platform,” he said.

But the union which called on the government to organise mop-up exercises to capture those who missed out in the enrollment, warned the government against tagging those class of people as ghost workers, as according to him, while some were on funded scholarship studies abroad, some missed out on health grounds.

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Explaining why he directed members to participate in the IPPIS scheme without hesitation, Ezeibe said: “The truth of the matter is that every union has its own modus operandi. I can also tell you that the law establishing the universities is very different from the law establishing the polytechnics.”

He spoke further: “Apart from the issue of peculiarities, you can also look at the issue of legality which we understand our colleagues in the universities are talking about through the issue of university autonomy. We don’t have that measure in the polytechnics.

“We also feel that from our own standpoint as workers, we can only protect our emolument but we can actually not go the distance of determining for our employers how our salaries should be paid.”

“They said whichever way they want to pay our salaries, they will make sure that our peculiarities, our emoluments are secured and that was why they brought what they called the Sector-Specific Template which they demonstrated to us to capture our retirement age which is very different from what is obtained in the civil service.

“They also saw that they captured the mobility in the sector, for instance, sabbatical appointments, capture our earned allowances and such other peculiarities.

“When we viewed it, we felt that we can give it a trial and see how it goes but of course, with a caveat that if there is any deviation from what has been demonstrated to us and submitted to us both in hand and soft copy, that our members will not hesitate to react to it appropriately.”

Ezeibe, who said some members missed out either on foreign studies or health issues, warned against classifying them as ghost workers, saying to avoid the tag, his organisation had requested for a mop-up exercises in polytechnics affected:

Hear him: “They have not told us anything about ghost workers. And what we are trying to avoid by requesting for a mop-up activity is a situation where the money that are claimed to have been recovered are yet money legitimately belonging to people.

” We are requesting for the mop-up exercises so that you can’t classify those who miss out in the enrollment as ghost workers. If somebody is on foreign scholarship, he is not a ghost worker, he is on a funded scholarship or someone who has a medical issue, you can’t just arbitrarily classify that person as a ghost worker. So we are asking for a mop-up exercise in the institutions where we have such cases,” he said.

But he accused government not living to the terms of enrollment.

“We directed our members who were not ready to join to present themselves for enrollment since the month of November 2019.

“We had expected that the other stages of enrollment should have taken place by now which of course include training of dedicated staff who will handle challenges at the council level as release of IPPIS contacts to our staff and for us to also review the enrollment of the exercise to make sure that every single member of our union is captured in the payment module.

“Unfortunately for us, we have not been able to conclude these stages and we were actually bothered from the lead information that payment using the IPPS module to our staff commences in January 2020,” he said.

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He said the development necessitated a meeting with the director of IPPIS last week.

Ezeibe said: “We just came out from a meeting with the director of IPPIS alongside other critical stakeholders of the sector, that is the delegation of bursars, delegation of rectors and also a representation of our regulatory agencies, the National Board for Technical Education, where these concerns were presented to the director of IPPIS.

“Well, we have also received reassurances that the template as developed and as presented to us, the sector-specific template as developed and as presented to us is still going to be used while the training of staff that will handle payment in our campuses will still be done subsequently and that a mop-up exercises be arranged on institutions basis to capture those who were not able to be captured as at that time.

“We got all these assurances from the director of IPPIS but we want to restate the age-long position of our union since the commencement of this particular programme or this particular project that we do not believe that the intention of the IPPIS as a payment module is to erode the legitimate earnings or emoluments of members of our union and indeed Nigerian workers. Rather, it is aimed at entrenching transparency and accountability in the payment process.

“And so, for us, we want to see a situation where at the point of payment, at the point of implementation, that these legitimate earnings which of course is made up of our members’ salaries and our negotiated allowances would not be eroded ,and so our union will continue to be very vigilant about this, will continue to engage the IPPIS office and other stakeholders in our sector to make sure that our earnings are protected from any form of erosion in its value.”

The union also accused the federal government of reneging on an agreement it signed with it in 2010 over salary renegotiation.

“The other item has to do with the renegotiation of our agreement with the government. This is not new, we signed an agreement with government in 2010 and by the law and by even the content of that agreement, we are supposed to renegotiate that agreement after five years. That means that it was due for renegotiation in 2015,” Ezeibe said.

He spoke further: “In 2017, the Minister of Labour inaugurated a renegotiation committee to renegotiate that agreement but as we speak, for more than one year now, that committee has not met.

“And so we are worried, we are worried because we do not in any form of sincerity. And if this level of insincerity is being demonstrated at the point of renegotiation, then it means that the content of the renegotiation in itself any time it is completed, there will be no guarantee that we are going to have it implemented.

“We are calling on the federal government to improve the trust and the confidence level if our union by reconvening that renegotiation committee and by staying through to the tenets of this kind of process and seeing the process consistently to the end so that we have conditions of engagement of our people, the legal framework for operation in the sector will be in line with global standard. That is all we are asking for.

“And we want to appeal to responsible agencies of government, from the Federal Ministry of Education to our regulatory agencies to Salaries, Income and Wages Commission to the Budget Office of the Federation and indeed to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, to as a matter of urgency, reconvene the renegotiation committee to enable us conclude this process that we started more than two years ago.”

ASUP also tasked the government to reconstitute the Presidential Visitation Panel to assess the state of the nation’s polytechnics.

“We are also very far with respect to reconstitution or constitution of Presidential Visitation Panel to federal polytechnics. As you know, periodically, the government sends visitation panel to go and see how these institutions are fairing but as we speak, we have lost count of the last time visitation panel visited federal polytechnics.

“We are informed that the committees have already been constituted, that was since last year and that all that was remaining was for the committees to move into the field. Now, we don’t have any visitation panel and the governing council in place and the ones to come do not have any reports that they are going to implement.

“If you set up a governing council or if you inaugurate a governing council, they are going to implement what has come out from visitation panel, that has been sent to institutions. They are going there to correct abnormalities and they are going there to implement new policies that will make those institutions meet their mandate.

“So, we are also calling on the government to release these visitation panels so that they can go and visit these polytechnics,do their investigations and submit their reports. Let the white paper be turned out and let the governing councils have materials to work with anytime they are going to be reconstituted because we know that the time of the current councils will soon run out. In fact, even the legitimacy of the current councils in office is even being challenged by our union by way of the new Polytechnics Amendment Act,2019,” it said.

The union which flayed the governments of Abia, Ondo, Kogi, Edo among others for arbitrarily sacking its members allegedly involved I’m trade union activities, called for their re-engagement.

ASUP particularly picked a hole in the action of Abia which it alleged, owed its members over 17 months’ salaries.

“We have about 237 disengaged staff is in Abia State Polytechnic. We know that you cannot disengage people that you are owing 16 to 17 months salaries. You cannot suddenly sack them just like that. We do not think that that is the best practice anywhere and we are calling on the Government of Abia State and the Management and Council of Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, to look into the matter and recall the affected staff.”

He spoke further: “In several states as we speak, we still have people owed salaries, not one month, not two months but several months. In Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, they are being owed 17 months and we have them like that in different places. We have our people Benue owed for five months, we have our people in Osun on half salaries for several months now.

“We have put in place a mechanism to make sure that these states fulfil obligations to these workers. That is by using the instrument of regulation which of course, is national. And it is sad to report that some of these states are not concerned.

“In the Abia State Polytechnics, in particular, our workers are being owed for 17 months and to make matters worse, we had over 230 workers recently disengaged in that same institution. We are calling on these states, the affected states, that is Abia, Osun, Ogun, Benue, Kogi, Edo states among others involved to fulfil their obligations to these workers so that the students who are studying in these places will have the benefit of studying in conditions where their workers or lecturers are happy teaching them. As said, we are calling on the governments of the states mentioned to play by the rule.”

He queried: ” You expect workers to put in their best and you are not paying them and these workers have families.”

“It is unfortunate that you cannot sponsor your own children to the same school you are teaching! So,we feel that some of these issues including the issue of our people who are sacked in Enugu State, that is Institute of Management Technology, IMT where we have five of our people sacked for their activities in trade union and Ondo State,in Rufus Giwa Polytechnic,Owo, where two of our officers, the chairman and secretary of our union. We are calling on the management of these institutions to recall these persons to work, we don’t have despots in our higher institutions,” he said.

According to him, “Our higher institutions should be standard for democracy, for freedom of expression, dissenting views should be accommodated and for the system to flourish and not to militarize the place where anybody who doesn’t agree with you have his life endangered.”

“The issues are really disturbing us as we speak as a trade union among others. But these particular issues are really disturbing us. We call on the relevant authorities to kindly address these issues to avoid a breakdown of industrial harmony in the sector,” he stressed.

Ezeibe said the current composition of the governing councils in polytechnics was irregular because, according to him,” it is not in line with the law. ”

“The issue of governing councils in federal polytechnics, we know that by virtue of the Federal Polytechnics Amendment Act,2019, that the composition of the governing boards was altered.

“What it means is that from our own perspective, the current composition of the governing councils is irregular because it is not in line with the law. You and I know that from the day that the president assents to law or signs a bill into law, that particular bill becomes law.

“And so the current composition which is in line with the 2004 amendment act is no longer in tune with the 2019 act and so we have asked the federal government to adjust the composition of the governing councils to suit the current act in order to avoid needles litigations in the sector,” he said.

Vanguard News Nigeria.

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