The Academic Staff Union of Universities [ASUU] and the Federal Government have been bickering in recent weeks over the implementation of a presidential directive which mandated all workers on FG’s payroll to enrol on a new salary payment platform called Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS.President Muhammadu Buhari had during the 2020 budget presentation to the National Assembly on October 8, 2019 ordered that salary should not be paid to federal workers who failed to enrol on IPPIS by the end of last month. Buhari said IPPIS is intended to save cost and fight corruption by blocking leakages in the federal government’s payroll.
ASUU has consistently argued that IPPIS, which was introduced to pay the salaries of employees serving in federal MDAs, violates existing laws and autonomy of universities. ASUU also claims that IPPIS does not make provisions for payment of arrears of promotion, study leave allowance and responsibility allowances. ASUU further said IPPIS is designed to phase out university lecturers above 60 years against the new policy where professors retire at 70 years. As a result, ASUU said its members would go on strike on November 1 if government carried out its threat to withhold their October salaries for refusing to join IPPIS.
In a 2-page advertorial publishedin Daily Trust on Tuesday, October 22, Accountant General of the Federation[AGF] Ahmed Idrisdebunkedwhat he called ASUU’s misinformation about IPPIS.He saidthe retirement age of professors and readers remains 70 while it is 65 years for other academic ranks.According to him, visiting lecturers are entitled to 50 percent of their salary in their visiting institutions. He also said whilelecturers are entitled to be paid 100 percent of their salary while on sabbatical leave by the institutions where they are serving,they are further entitled to be paid their full salary by their own institutionduring the 12 months’ sabbatical period. Onpayment of allowances through IPPIS, Idris said “other allowances as duly agreed through collective bargaining between their unions and government as approved and formalized by Salaries, Income and Wages Commission [SIWC] will be paid to the last kobo, inclusive of leave allowances.”He said IPPIS has saved government N273 billion in personnel costs between 2017 and 2018.
The AGF also said accommodation of university lecturers’ peculiarities by the IPPIS platform were fully demonstrated on payroll slide to university stakeholders and all the four unions including ASUU, adding that SSANU, NASU and NAAT all hailed the payroll system. It was only ASUU through its national leadership that, thereafter, questioned the legality of IPPIS in the face of university autonomy. Idris further said casual workers, NYSC and consultants are not full-time staffers and are therefore not a payroll matter, which he said “ASUU hinged its opposition on IPPIS upon.” Otherunions in the university system have since complied with the presidential directive, Idris said.
A week to the deadline, ASUU announced the suspension of its planned strike. ASUU President Biodun Ogunyemi said the proposed strike was shelved due to a plea by the Senate President, saying “Senate has intervened in the matter.”Given the popular ethical principles which ASUU is widely known to represent, Nigerians expect this highly respected body of intellectuals tobe the last to reject any scheme that seeks to promote accountability and tackle the age-old corruption in government payrolls. So much resources that should have been deployed to addressing critical challenges confronting various sectors of the economy have been lost to corruption in the payment of staff emoluments.
Employees conventionallyhave limits to how much they can dictate to their employer. ASUU’s claim of university autonomy isn’tvery tenable since ASUUdoes not generate revenue to pay its members’ salaries.If other university staff unions are convinced about IPPIS’ virtuesand technology as explained by the AGF, we encourage ASUU to also give IPPS a try. This dispute is not worth another round of crippling campus strikes.