A lot of things have been said concerning the stand of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) against enrolling federal university lecturers into the Integrated Personnel and Payment Information System (IPPIS) database. I was actually surprised when I noticed that people were rejoicing and commending the federal government for recently moving to stop the salaries of lecturers not captured by IPPIS. It shows that the complaints and requests of ASUU are not well understood by the masses and the government.
I know IPPIS is there to discourage ghost workers and that it’s possible some universities are mismanaging funds, but I think ASUU has some valid arguments that FG needs to address before carrying out its threat. Promising to sort out the issues raised by ASUU isn’t enough; they should sort it out now so that there will be an amicable settlement between the two warring elephants.
To start with, I am not a university lecturer, so I am not an ASUU member. And yes, I am already in the IPPIS payroll and for sure I am “hearing it small” now. Even the school I work with is “hearing it big”. So what I will explain here is not just from what ASUU executive officers said, but also from my personal experiences and from what I’m witnessing in the institution I work with.
I’ll also want to state that this article isn’t to “fight” FG and IPPIS but to let them understand that they need to listen to ASUU and do all the needful as soon as possible, so our education system doesn’t crumble beyond repair.
ASUU’s Claim against IPPIS
All the ASUU executive officers interviewed by different Nigerian media houses pointed out the same set of problems. And like my people say, when a child cries and points at a particular place, check that place he’s pointing at because if his mother isn’t there, his father is. In other words, if all these excos are mentioning the same set of problems, I don’t see why the FG shouldn’t work on them first. Everything shouldn’t be done through “fight for supremacy”; dialogues and deliberations are also very effective.
Below are the problems ASUU is foreseeing:
1. Loss of Autonomy: Every Nigerian federal university is an independent community of its own, with its own instituted governing council and senate. It has independent control over its affairs and programme. It answers to itself alone, even if it is funded by the government. This is an act, ASUU didn’t create it. It will, therefore, be odd if an independent community that runs its things loses control over its affairs because the piper started dictating the tune.
As an autonomous community, a university has the right to hire and to fire. In fact, that time ASUU was vying for this autonomy (in the early 2000’s, I think), many university staff were uncomfortable because they knew that once FG grants ASUU its demand, Abuja will no longer protect their (the staff’s) jobs. This is to say that in Nigerian universities today, once you misbehave, you will be sanctioned immediately. This is why it is easy to disengage university lecturers, unlike what you witness in federal ministries and parastatals.
But then, FG has not addressed the issues of universities losing their autonomies completely if they enrol their staff under IPPIS.
2. Difficulty with Recruitment: MDAs under the IPPIS cannot recruit staff members at will. This means that when the school is in need of a lecturer, they have to apply to Abuja and then sit down to wait for the bottlenecks and time waste that come with bureaucracy. They may have to wait for months or even years before they get a response. And then, it is possible that the response will come in the negative because “the government doesn’t have money”. Trust me, this can frustrate learning to the core.
A lot of people may say that part-time lecturers should be recruited to fill up vacant positions. Yes, this is a very, very good idea. In fact it is practiced in almost all higher schools of learning across the nation. That is part of why lecturers work in other schools, on part-time basis of course. But with the IPPIS thing, no part-time lecturer can be recruited because only federal government-employed permanent staff are captured by IPPIS. And with the REMITA stuff, there is no way a university can easily raise funds to pay its part-time lecturers. In other words, very soon, there will be a lot of courses without lecturers.
Another issue raised by ASUU excos here is that of politicians meddling in university recruitment processes. Well, this one pass me. But it will be difficult for university governing councils that depend on politicians for their daily garri to say “no” to employing misfits sent to them by politicians.
3. Disastrous Staff Sanctioning: One of the ways universities keep their lecturers in check is through suspension with half pay. Something like this may not be possible in IPPIS. For starters, IPPIS reconciles salaries by using salary structures and grade levels. The system will be confused when the pay voucher indicates lower salary for someone of higher level. This may lead to the system paying the affected person the punitive salary even when he’s off the sanction. Alternatively, the system may remove the person’s name altogether. And when IPPIS drops your name, it will take months to rectify it and you must go to their HQ to sort it out (remember the Naija factors). I think these issues need to be addressed too.
4. Payments of Allowances: The thing here is that IPPIS only pays a pay package to its enrollees. No two federal establishments can pay into your account through IPPIS and there’s no way your office can pay you more than a package through IPPIS, except on very few peculiar cases (such as promotion arrears). This means that payment of salaries and allowances may not be possible; it has to be one or none. Consequently, lecturers cannot engage in part-time lecturing in other Federal Universities or federal higher schools of learning; allowances and grants for researches, sabbaticals, assessing colleagues for promotions and so on, may not be paid any longer. To be honest, IPPIS isn’t cut out for higher schools of learning, at least with the way it operates now.
5. Stifling Learning and Research: The only person that will understand this is someone in the academic world. Some researches and projects can’t wait for the bottlenecks that are involved with getting permissions from Abuja before they’re embarked on. Apart from that, if that project or research finally receives approval, the possibility of the university obtaining the required amount is very slim. It is possible that if the university applied for #10, FG will approve and release #4 and then only #2 will finally find its way to the university – don’t ask me how the magic happened, please. The problem I’m foreseeing here includes a lot of abandoned projects and researches, substandard projects, dilapidated buildings and facilities, decrease in the number of researches and so on. I hope I will be proved wrong, anyway.
So when you think lecturers are corrupt and greedy because they stood against IPPIS, maybe you should understand their stand before judging them. From all I can see right now, they have solid reasons for holding back. It will be unfair on our education system if FG succeeds in pulling ASUU into IPPIS without giving universities the chance to manage their funds. But from what I can see, that’s not going to happen.