Union holds meeting with Accountant-General
Labour Minister, HoS, Budget Office DG, NITDA warn against using multiple, failed payment systems
•It’s only in Nigeria that university lecturers ‘re paid through AGF’s office —ASUU
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Abuja—The leadership of House of Representatives yesterday brokered a meeting between the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.
The meeting came after three weeks of deliberations with the union and all the relevant government agencies to resolve the teething issues that necessitated the seven months old strike of the lecturers.
Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila who led the principal officers to the meeting, had enquired from the Accountant-General and the NITDA if the universities payment systems could be reevaluated.
While the Direct-General of National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa, said all three payment systems, including the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, UTAS; Integration Personnel and Information System, IPPIS and U3PS, failed integrity test and as such could not be relied upon, the Accountant general, Sylvia Okolieaboh, called for a meeting with ASUU to resolve the issues.
Okolieaboh said: “If there are peculiarities in the university salaries system, what we need to do is to sit down with ASUU and identify and address them in IPPIS.
”What we need to do, in my own opinion is to sit down with ASUU and know what the issues are and address them inside IPPS.
“One of the risks I’m adopting UTAS is that every body will come and say give us our own salary. As we speak, the military is on IPPIS, the police is on IPPIS. They have their own peculiarities. What we need to do is sit down. IPPIS is not a perfect system”.
Also speaking, the NITDA DG said they were waiting for further directive from the government to continue with the testing of the solutions.
“Our interactions with ASUU started in 2020. We keep identifying issues. We are always willing to continue with these engagements. We ended the last test in June 2022. We are waiting for directive to continue.
”The last engagement was on the directive of the Chief of Staff to the President. We have three solutions – UTAS, U3PS and IPPIS. Based on professional advice, these solutions have failed. There are vulnerabilities in them as we identified. As far as university payment system is concerned, these three solutions have failed,” he said.
On his part, the Director General of Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, informed the lawmakers that they were opposed to adopting multiple solutions, stressing that they would be expensive to fund.
Similarly, the Head of Service, Yemi Esan, said: “At this particular time, the country may not afford two payment platform at this time. Running two platforms will be extremely expensive at this time. If we are using UTAS or IPPIS, let’s flush it and use it.”
On his part, the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, lauded the House leadership for the initiative, encouraging ASUU to stick with IPPIS to address their grievances.
He, however, regretted that ASUU hurriedly went on strike when negotiations were still ongoing without his notice, stressing he would not accept the failed systems.
But the president of ASUU, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, said it was not the first time the government was making a promise of looking into the issues and failed.
Quoting the University Miscellaneous Act, the union insisted on the autonomy of the university system, saying Nigeria was the only country where salaries of lecturers were paid through office of the accountant-general.
On UTAS, he said: “We have two options. Use the one we have developed. Is there any other country in the world where the salaries of universities are paid by the office of accountant general. No country in the world will harvest the data of their university lecturers and give to a foreign company.
“The Nigerian people have a law that says that the Universities are autonomous. What we want is real accountability. Allow the Universities to operate on the basis of the laws of the country.”