The integrated payroll and personnel information system (IPPIS) being introduced by the Federal Government has become the new source of friction between it and the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, while presenting the 2020 budget to the National Assembly declared thus, ‘I have directed the stoppage of the salary of any Federal Government Staff (SIC) that is not captured on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) Platform by the end of October 2019’.
This development implies that affected staff would not get their pay. The Academic Staff Union of Universities had kicked against the system before the president’s directive.
The union has said it will put down its tools of work, and the implication of such action is not lost on the Nigerians society. Students in government owned universities will get the short end of the stick on this matter.
The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, had said that ‘it is a pity if ASUU carries out this strike because what ASUU is saying now is that they should be treated differently from others staff of government of Nigeria who are also on IPPIS.
We will be engaging ASUU, we will be discussing with them. But at the end of the day, as far as I am concerned, my instruction is from the president.’ An official of the implementation ministry who spoke to a newspaper on condition of annoyingly hit at the head of the pervasive ignorance on this matter when he condemned the penchant of ASUU members to receive several salaries from different institutions, which according to him, is one of the reasons for initiating the new pay system.
Before I address the ignorance blatantly displayed in the foregoing, it is important to state that the IPPIS is a good move claimed at sanitising the federal pay system, in checking ghost workers, and those who manipulate the system. By this system, no worker would be paid twice except proven cases, recorded in the system, where people bear same names.
The blatant ignorance as displayed by the official who said that ASUU staff have a penchant of claiming salaries from different institution is at the roof of squabbles with the union. The erroneous impression is that ASUU members tacitly endorse corruption by insisting that the pay system would hardly function in universities.
The current ASUU President Professor Biodun Ogunyemi and his team has met with the leaders of the National Assembly, and met their challenge of coming up with an alternative to the current situation, as it affects universities.
We need to be in sync with ASUU on this, because their job sometimes demand that they operate in two Universities. Academic staff go on sabbatical from their Universities, after same time of constant service, depending on the decision of the governing council.
The implication of the new pay system, which captures the names once for the purposes of payment, is that an ASUU member on sabbatical in another university, would lose his pay from his root university or where he is domiciled for sabbatical. He can only be paid once.
Some lecturers are adjunct staff in other universities, which means they do part-time teaching in those places. Such development become necessary when a university needs help in some requisite programmes where they lack staff. Such adjunct teachers would also lose their pay in the event that an ingrate pay system applies to them. The list could go on and on. The tendency is that the proposed pay regime factually requires a rejig as it concerns universities.
The union, accounting to a newspaper report, has set up its group to produce an alternative. The alternative would be in sync with the varied scenarios I have described above. I would seek that civil servants, who may not understand the workings of the University system, should refrain insinuations bordering on ignorance regarding the union‘s insistence that it that it be exempted from the new pay system.
It is heartening that the union has not adopted the armchair critic approach to the system. It has taken the challenge to evolve an appropriate mechanism to partake in the new system lest its comment resistance is couched in the toga of a move to condone corruption and ancillary ills pervading the pay system in Nigeria; a situation that has seen every administration discovering ghost workers.
The Union has been dressed in borrowed robes, one of which is the penchant to be treated differently. That blanket robe does not fit this time. Universities have peculiarities that may require deeper appreciation beyond the surface reactions bordering on ignorance.
ASUU has helped rescue the education sector in several ways. In seeking solution to funding the education sector it originated the idea of Education Tax which has helped to plough back money from corporate bodies to the sector. The impression that the union is anti-government or anti-people need to be taken with a pinch of salt.
On this new pay system, the government ought to hear them, and examine the alternative solution they have proffered. Education is too vital a tool of development to be subject of constant rancor for which the polity diminishes.