IPPIS Implementation: Why The Senate Should Mediate Between FG And ASUU



In 2007, the Federal Government introduced the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), and a platform for checkmating corruption and alarming spate of ghost workers in the public service. Several Ministries, Department s and Agencies (MDAs) of Government had since keyed into the payroll system for over a decade now, why some for specific reasons have been excused from compulsorily enrolling for the IPPIS payment platform.
While presenting the 2020 budget to the National Assembly on the 8th of October, President Buhari had ordered that all public sector workers must register for the IPPIS before the end of October, as this was part of steps taken by his administration to weed out corruption in the salary payment structure of the service. The policy seems not welcomed by the Academic Staff of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria, as majority of its members are of the opinion that Universities should be allowed to continue running on an autonomy basis.
The position of the Federal Government was confirmed by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who during defence of the 2020 budget of Ministry, reiterated that the President Buhari led administration is grossly committed towards sealing loopholes in the public service, hinting that there is no going back on the Policy.
The Minister however advised that no agency of Government (ASUU inclusive) should resist usage of the payment system. Her position was corroborated by the Accountant General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, who in a separate event further labeled ASUU’s resolve as ‘an open endorsement of corruption’.
Over the weekend, the leadership of the Union met with leadership of the National Assembly in a bid to resolve the issue amicably, alerting the Legislature that the IPPIS system negates the law of University Autonomy.
President of the Union, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, had in a separate forum stated that the Union will vehemently resist any attempt by the Federal Government to coerce them to accepting what in clear terms will be detrimental to the growth of higher institutions in the country. A position welcomed by some quarters with dissenting views.
While some argue that the policy will checkmate corruption at the top echelon of Universities, expose corrupt officials and save cost, others are of the opinion that the policy has a potential of grounding Universities in the country, as it is believe to be rigid.
Recall in 2003, the Federal Government having observed the impact of not allowing Universities runs autonomously, decided with relevant stakeholders to sign into law the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Act, which provided for Universities, to be separated from MDAs and other public concerns.
ASUU clearly believes the IPPIS payment system, will limit the autonomous power of Universities in the country, as most of its accruals after salaries, and are used for unavoidable personnel cost, which mostly are real time. The Union leadership also are of the opinion that the process of introduction of the system to Universities is not backed by law.
One of the concerns on the front burner is the issue of adjunct and visiting staff spread across Universities in the country. As of today, there is hardly a public University in the country, which at least 10 to 20% of its entire academic staff strength are not visiting scholars.
It is strongly believed that the IPPIS system will not provide for payment of visiting scholars, hence Universities will be constrained with shortage of manpower, which will directly hinder academic activities and progress of students, especially in specialized fields. According to the IPPIS structure, earned academic allowance and remunerations due for Lecturers who retire before the age of 65 will likely not be captured, except there is considerable adjustments in the system.
Another critical aspect of the IPPIS payment system, which ASUU members are concerned mostly with, is in the area of age of retirement, which is characterized by disparities. While the IPPIS system benches the retirement age of workers at 60 years, University Lecturers, who have risen to the rank of Professors have a retirement benchmark of 70 years, while others are pecked at 65. The gap is one position the Union feels may hamper the wellbeing of its members.
In 2012, three years after what is still the longest strike action in Nigeria in recent times, the Senate passed into law a bill pegging the age of retirement of Professors and others to 70 and 65 years respectively. The integration of Universities into the IPPIS payment system could mean the end to this law, except clearly reconfigured.
It is also widely believed that what is obtainable for civil servants who retire at the age of 60, may be the bane of University Lecturers, because once they turn 60, the IPPIS system automatically knocks name of such persons off its platform, even when they are still active in service. Such individuals are usually subjected to rigorous process of traveling to Abuja on a regular to rectify the problem.
While the issue lingers, students seems to be at the receiving ends, as the strike action reportedly planned for by ASUU, may once again cripple the University system, disrupt the Calendar and create room for breeding of criminals in the society, borne out of the frustration most students would be exposed to.
The strike if not averted will prevent students who are writing or are on the verge of writing their final examinations, from graduating as at when due, while some Universities who were hoping to catch up with the October to August academic calendar by the year 2020, may not be able to meet their aspirations.
In a separate twist, some Vice Chancellors, one of such being that of the University of Ilorin, Professor Sulyman Abdulkareem, has berated ASUU for rejecting the IPPIS system, supporting the position of the Government on implementation of the policy to the University system. It also appears the leadership of the Union in the University of Benin and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife are also in terms with the position of the Government.
Rising from a meeting with the Leadership of the Union, President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, pleaded with ASUU not to embark on the strike action, as the upper chamber will do its best to close in on the debacle. He however expressed worry that the absence of Lecturers from the University community, could lead to non functionality of Institutions, and should consider the interest of the Nation and students at large.
ASUU on their part have also promised to sheath the sword if the Federal Government calls off the move, or adopt a more unique approach, that will capture the interest of all parties. In my opinion, I feel the Federal Government should meet with ASUU to sort out grey area of concerns expressed by the scholars, to enable both parties be on the same page.
The capacity of academics in the University system should be enhanced, as this will increase manpower and promote efficient service delivery. This can be achieved through regular training and retraining, as well as employment of more personnel, to limit dependency on adjunct and visiting scholars, which is huge concern for management of several Universities across the nation.
The IPPIS system can be exclusively repackaged for Universities, to take care of the concerns expressed by ASUU. The leadership of the Senate should serve as a negotiating mechanism between the Federal Government and the Union, by crosschecking various sections of laws related to the issue at hand, to speed up the process, and avert possible strike action by Lecturers, which the replica effect may be unbearable on the part of students.
The Senate Committee on Tertiary Education and Tetfund, Finance, Public Account, Rules and Business, and other relevant committees should actively be engaged in resolving the looming crisis, by calling on relevant agencies of Government and ASUU to meet with them, to proffer sustainable solutions that probably will be backed by law.
The Government should also caution leaders in position of authority to desist from making provocative statements, which may further trigger anger and frustration on the part of ASUU. This may technically work against achieving success, as the situation may turn tensed.
It is pertinent to note that, why the FG is doing its best to resolve the issue with ASUU, salaries of University Staff members should be paid as at when due, pending the modeling of a system that will optimize the IPPIS payment system for use by Universities, in a manner that all parties will be satisfied with.

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