The Academic Staff Union of Universities has appeared set for a major showdown with the Federal Government following the decision to stop the salaries of the lecturers over refusal to enrol in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.
Vice-President of ASUU, Comrade Emmanuel Osodeke, who told TribuneOnline in Abuja that the Union was not aware of any decision to stop the salaries of lecturers not on IPPIS, however, warned against the consequences of such action by the government.
The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the meeting of President Muhammadu Buhari with the leadership of ASUU in Aso Rock, Abuja over the stalemate, after months of horse-trading between the Federal Government and ASUU on enrollment on IPPIS.
The adamant position of ASUU after the supposedly reconciliatory meeting made it clear to the government that some lecturers, especially from universities were not ready to enrol on the IPPIS platform.
The decision to consequently stop the payment of salaries of higher institutions’ lecturers yet to enrol in IPPIS was conveyed by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
A letter from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation dated January 23, 2020, and addressed to the Minister of Finance and National Planning requested the stoppage of the release of funds for the payment of salaries of the affected academic staff.
The letter titled ‘Request for Stoppage of Release of Funds for January Salaries to Federal Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education” read: “I am directed to inform you that preparation of January 2020 salary payroll and warrants of the federal tertiary institutions are ongoing and will be ready for submission on or before 29th of January, 2020.
“This is to give the effect of the directive of the Federal Government that all ministries, departments or agencies drawing personnel cost from the Consolidated Revenue Fund should be enrolled on the IPPIS.
“In order to actualise this directive, you are please requested not to release the funds for payment of salaries to tertiary institutions as their salaries will henceforth be paid on the IPPIS platform with effect from January 2020.”
Efforts to contact the ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi proved abortive as his mobile line was unreachable but the ASUU Vice-President, Osodeke, when contacted said the Union was not aware that the salaries of lecturers had been stopped.
He, however, said appropriate action would be taken when the Union is duly informed. “We know what to do when we get there. Until we get there, there is nothing I can say for now”.
In spite of the intervention of President Buhari, the leadership of ASUU had maintained its stand that the lecturers would not bend over backwards to enrol in IPPIS.
President of ASUU, Prof. Ogunyemi, who gave insight into the deliberations with President Buhari at the meeting at the Presidential Villa on 9th January 2020, said the Union briefed the President on strong reasons why the lecturers rejected enrollment on the IPPIS platform.
Ogunyemi in a statement he personally signed and made available to newsmen in Abuja, also clarified that the meeting with the President was beyond the raging issue of IPPIS, saying the meeting was conceived in the broad context of education and national development with the Triple Helix principles as established in China, Singapore, Malaysia, among other emerging economic powers.
He also noted that contrary to what was reported in the media, “at no point during the meeting did President Buhari put a closure to the ongoing discussion on ASUU’s preference for the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) or directed that the salaries of ASUU members be stopped for failure to enrol on IPPIS”.
He said ASUU has always argued that the IPPIS crisis could not be resolved without paying due attention to the foundational issues of autonomy and academic freedom, collective bargaining agreements and sustainable funding of education for the transformation of Nigeria.
Ogunyemi said ASUU made six clear prayers at the meeting with President Buhari, first, was the need for appropriate officers to obey universities’ laws and abide by collective bargaining agreements.
He said ASUU also expressed the need for the implementation of all outstanding provisions in the 7th February 2019 FGN/ASUU Memorandum of Action and the need to recommence and conclude the re-negotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement based on International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s collective bargaining principles within the six-week timeline originally set for it.
Other prayers included the need for President Buhari, as Visitor to the Federal Universities, to constitute and activate Visitation Panels to all universities and direct that the outcomes be fully implemented.
He said: “Government should welcome ASUU’s ongoing innovation of a more robust system of human resource management and compensation, called the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), will address the peculiarities of Universities and end inappropriate recruitments in the system.
“ASUU remains committed to its tradition of consultation and dialogue, which informed the engagement with President Buhari on Thursday, 9th January 2020, with the hope that all the prayers sought would receive the expected prompt attention.
“President Buhari agreed with ASUU that education, particularly university education, holds the key to the future of the country.
“The Union, on its part, noted with interest Mr President’s comment that the ‘Minister of Education has a lot of work to do’; after which he handed over the position paper of ASUU on the issues raised to the Minister for follow up,” he stated.