Baring any sudden change of decision by the Federal Government on the October 31 deadline for stopping salaries of workers not enrolled on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), Federal universities in Nigeria would be plunged into crisis.
The leadership of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) already at dagger’s drawn with the Federal Government, has vowed to resist any attempt to force the lecturers on IPPIS.
President of ASUU, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, told newsmen that IPPIS was a violation of the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions Amendment Act 2003 which provided for the autonomy of the universities.
Both Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris and the Acting Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan, during the week reaffirmed the commitment of the Federal Government in keeping with the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to stop salaries of all Federal workers that were yet to enroll on IPPIS.
Idris had accused ASUU of endorsing corruption in the universities for refusing to get enrolled on the IPPIS after several meetings on the matter.
Ogunyemi, however, debunked claims that the union was endorsing corruption in the university, saying ASUU has not and would not support corruption but must resist any attempt to erode the universities autonomy as enshrined in the law.
He said, “Nothing is farther from the truth; ASUU has never and will never support corruption. What we are saying is that the IPPIS they are talking about violates universities autonomy”. He noted that in a presentation made by ASUU on 8th October, 2019 at the National Universities Commission (NUC) just about two weeks ago, the union asked for permission to develop an alternative to IPPIS”.
“We explained this in a presentation we made at a meeting on 8th October this year at the National Universities Commission about two weeks ago. We made our position clearly known to them that if they give us permission; we could develop an alternative to IPPIS. “IPPIS as they have it, means the erosion of universities powers to control and regulate their personnel and the payroll system. While drawing their attention to universities autonomy, we quoted copiously from the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions Amendment Act 2003.”
“The Act is available online, you can go there and confirm. There is a section in that act that says that the power of
The council shall be exercised as in the law and statues of each university. And to that extent, establishment circulars that are inconsistent with the laws and statues of the university shall not apply to the universities.”
“We made that clear to them and we even referred to other sections in that act that talks about Council controlling personnel cost, overhead cost, research and development, library development and of course, the balance in expenditure between academic achievements and academic activities.”
“When you have a law that says this; and they are also saying that because government releases the money, the government must control it from the centre. Nothing works that way because there is a law which tells you that you cannot regulate personnel of universities directly from the centre” he said.
The ASUU President argued that the Federal Government, in the eye of the law and as interpreted in many court rulings is not the employer of university lecturers but the Governing Councils who are vested with powers to hire and disengage university workers.
He said, “Let me tell you one thing, by law, the Federal Government is not the employer of universities academics. The employers are their respective Governing Councils. This is what the law says. This matter has been settled in law courts. What the law expects is that the government should release funds to universities and Governing Councils should manage resources of the universities”.
“The law also permits that where a Council is found to be incompetent or corrupt, that Council should be dissolved immediately and another Council should be reconstituted. To this extent, we believe that there are checks and balances within the system. So, if the Governing Councils have been doing what they were expected to do and we have been shouting and talking about this over time.”
“Imagine, Federal Universities have never had visitations in the last eight, nine years. The law says they should be visited at least once in five years. We have been telling them since the government came on board that our universities are due to be visited by visitation panels.”
“If you visit a university and find cases of corruption, by the time you punish those that are involved, those that would be coming on board would sit tight. What else do they want us to do? What we are doing is to protect the integrity of the Universities Miscellaneous Act and the individual laws of each university.”
“They are shouting that all MDAs must be on IPPIS, where is NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation), where is NCC (National Communications Commission), they know the agencies that they don’t touch because the agencies are cash cows.
“They take universities to be their beck and call. The corruption they say they are fighting in individual universities, they are just moving this corruption to the centre. “We can tell you from our experience that each time they go to clear anything from the Office of the Accountant-General because they are expecting Vice-Chancellors to go to the
Accountant-General’s office to take permission to recruit workers. Each time they do that, if they are requesting for five workers, they will add another five. What is that? That is not corruption?
“When lecturers have issues with their salaries, imagine somebody from Port Harcourt or Maiduguri, coming to Abuja to clear issues about their salaries. These are the issues that we are tackling and we have been telling them. “More importantly, we had agreement with the government and all our agreements emphasizes that universities autonomy should be respected. Which means universities should be governed according to their laws, and part of this governance is the issue of personnel management.”
“They came out with a release that we are saying the issue of sabbatical and so on, those ones are just ancillaries.
We are using those ones to explain the peculiarities of individual universities. Universities are peculiar. They can
need people in just a short time, are they going to come to Abuja to take permission before engaging them?
“We are going to hamstring the universities if IPPIS is forced down on our members. We don’t have personal issues with them but we are saying that we have our university laws to protect and to that extent we are ready to defend the integrity of the university laws” Ogunyemi said.
On what would happen after the October 31 deadline, he said members of ASUU would determine that “because I’m not to decide what will happen”.
However, an informed source in the ASUU has revealed that the Union was already strategising for an indefinite strike should the Federal Government go-ahead to stop the salaries of the lecturers.
The source said the lecturers would not be cowed to succumb to cheap blackmail of some government officials to back out on something that would have a deleterious effect on the university system.
“What I will tell you is that our members have been on red alert. If the government dares to stop the salaries of the lecturers, it should also be ready to welcome the unimaginable crisis in the system. ASUU should not be blamed for any reason.
Also addressing newsmen in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, Dr. Igbana Ajir of the Nsukka zone of ASUU, rejected the IPPIS saying it lacked constitutional backing and that it would never support it.
Professor Olufayo Olu-Olu of the Akure zone of ASUU, who also addressed newsmen at the Federal University of Technology (FUTA), Akure, said the anti-graft agencies in the country should investigate the alleged mismanagement of N273 billion saved from the IPPIS platform.