The vehement refusal of university workers under the auspices of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to comply with the federal government’s directive on the enrolment of all its employees on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) makes the acclaimed integrity of the union and its members questionable.
This is so especially, against the backdrop of revelations of payroll scam in the nation’s ivory towers by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
Bolaji Owasanoye, at a public fora attended by President Muhammadu Buhari made startling revelations about discoveries in some universities who together with some of their teaching hospitals had padded their budgets in excess of N7 billion.
In December 2019, the Chairman of ICPC, Prof.
“Part of our preliminary findings, the summary of which are included in a visual narrative in your folders, revealed gross abuse of personnel budget and inflation or padding of the nominal roll…” he had told the president and others.
While non-academic staff unions in the universities have already keyed into IPPIS, which has been implemented in all federal government agencies that get funds for personnel costs from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, ASUU has curiously frustrated all efforts to make it see reason and embrace the system, through which, according to reports, over N206 billion has been saved from payroll cleansing in 2017 and 2018.
In it’s defence ASUU, says the universities already operate the University Transparency and Accountability System, which it claims is enough to address the concerns raised by the government. ASUU in explaining its stiff opposition insists that IPPIS as a platform discountenances the peculiarities of the university system” in replacement, recruitment of academics, mobility of academic staff for visiting, adjunct, part-time and sabbatical offers was rehashed.
This is precisely where and how the payroll fraud is perpetrated.
It is instructive to note that several meetings have been held to explain the directive but ASUU has remained adamant. One of such meetings with President Buhari in January ended in a stalemate. Even a circular from the Director of IPPIS at the Office of the Accountant-General for the Federation, Olusegun Olufehinti, requesting the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, to direct the stoppage of release of funds for the pay of federal universities and other tertiary institutions yet to comply with the directive was not enough to perturb ASUU, which rather threatened an industrial action, with a directive to its members to enforce “no pay, no work” rule.
The government it was that had to soft pedal and pay the salaries to avert the strike. In all of this, the question is, what exactly is ASUU afraid of?
What is it hiding? Could it be enrolment on IPPIS would burst the racketeering that goes on in the institutions, which the ICPC has revealed in its preliminary reportThe penchant for ASUU to use arm twisting tactics, resort to blackmail and issue threats of industrial action when it is clearly being unreasonable in its demands can no longer be tolerated and must not be condoned by the federal government. What ASUU is doing, and the government’s tendency to always bend over backwards to meet their demands is setting a bad example.
Nigeria is a country of laws and ASUU and its members are not and must not be made to be seen to be above the law in the way issues affecting the union are handled.President Buhari has said there is no going back on the directive and that those behind it are tilting towards economic sabotage.
We agree with him. As of January 2020, no fewer than 96,090 academic and non-academic staff have, according to reports, enrolled in the IPPIS out of the expected 137,016 staff. This is a good sign.
We urge the Federal Government to remain firm and resolute in the enforcement of the directive.