In the heat of arguments for and against the implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) for staffers of federal government owned universities, the Senate intervened but ASUU kicked against such implementation. Taiye Odewale reports.
FG insists IPPIS applicable to universities
In its arguments for compulsory capturing of monthly salary payments of Staffers of federal universities in the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), the federal government through the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said doing so, was a must in curbing the excesses of the universities’ teachers in particular, as regards monthly multiple incomes at the detriment of their primary assignment.
The finance minister, who stated this penultimate Thursday, before the Senate Committee on Finance, during budget defence session, said the resistance being mounted against implementation of the policy by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), was misplaced. She then vowed to get all of them on the integrated pay system in line with transparency and anti – corruption policy of the government.
Her words: “There is no agency of government that must resist it and it must be treated with utmost importance. As far as I am concerned, the resistance to the IPPIS is misplaced and everything possible would be done in ensuring compliance by all agencies.
“The military, the police and most agencies of government except for a few tertiary institutions are still resisting but we have been engaging them and we are in the process of uploading them into the system.
“The IPPIS is the integrated payroll system of the government. So far, we have been able to put most federal government agencies on the platform. It helps us to control practices in the past because we used to have those that were not supposed to be on the payroll”.
The minister, however, alluded to the fact that some universities and medical institutions have some peculiarities. “For instance, a consultant can consult in different hospitals but he should still have one primary point of employment. A lecturer, based on the approval given by the minister, is also allowed to lecture in more than one university.
“That, however, does not mean that he should feature in all the institutions as a staff member. At best, there would be special allowances that would be due to them for those extra works. The allowances should, however, not be included in the payroll.
“We have been discussing with them and we are arranging peculiar allowances for them too. This is to make sure that the extra work they do, according to the limits that are allowed, is provided for in the payroll. They have understood now that their concerns would be addressed and they have started working with us”, she explained.
The federal government she added, has been able to save N250 billion through the paying system, saying “It is a record of staff and when a staff retired from the service, the system will automatically log him out”.
Apparently impressed by the arguments put up by the federal government on the need to include ASUU, the military, the police and other public agencies yet to be captured, in the integrated paying system, the Senate at the leadership level, decided to engage officials of ASUU on the need for a change of mind.
Specifically, the Senate led by its president, Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, met with ASUU last week Monday, October 28, 2019, in a closed door session where the universities’ teachers vehemently kicked against the policy, which according to them, is fraudulent and completely against the autonomous status of universities.
ASUU gives reasons
The union insisted that contrary to the law expressly backing the governing councils of each federal university to exercise full control over the finances of the universities, IPPIS neither has constitutional backing nor is it supported by any Act of the National Assembly.
Briefing journalists on the outcome of the meeting, the President of the Union, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, declared that IPPIS contradicts the principle of the superiority of the governing council in the control and management of university funds, and employment and promotion of staff.
According to him, universities all over the world have a tradition of independence and complete separation from the structure of the civil service.
“The attempt to bring Nigerian universities under a general practice that is meant for the civil service will not only undermine university autonomy; it will also infringe on academic freedom, and consequently retard the efforts of our country to develop the much sought-after knowledge-based economy”, he said.
He drew the attention of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) to the principle of university autonomy as enshrined in section 2A of the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Act 2003.
The Act, he explained, states thus: “powers of the council shall be exercised, as in the law and statutes of each university and to that extent, establishment circulars that are inconsistent with the laws and statutes of the university shall not apply to the universities.”
He also cited section 2AA of the same act that states that the Governing Council of a University shall be free in the discharge of its functions and exercise of its responsibilities for the common management development and growth of the university.
He argued further that the act also provides that the council of a university in the discharge of its functions shall ensure that disbursement of funds of the university complies with the approved budgetary ratio for: (a) Personnel costs; overhead costs; research and development; library development; and the balance in expenditure between academic vis-à-vis non-academic activities.
He cited the example, of the 1992 Act of the University of Abuja that expressly states in Section 6 the functions of the council and its finance and general purposes committee which states thus:
“Subject to the provisions of this act relating to the Visitor, the council shall be the governing body of each university and shall be charged with the general control and superintendence of the policy, finance and property of the university including its public relations.
“There shall be a committee of the council to be known as the Finance and General Purposes Committee, which shall, subject to the directions of the council, exercise control over the property and expenditure of the university and perform such other functions of the council as the council may, from time to time, delegate to it”.
Therefore according to him, it is clear from the provision that the circular from the OAGF directing the implementation of IPPIS violates the provisions of the Establishment Act of this university (and all other federal universities).
He warned that the proposed forceful enrollment of staff of universities in the IPPIS will amount to subjecting the universities to the direction and control of OAGF. Such control, he dded, would be in relation to the payment of staff remunerations salaries and wages, allowances.
“The OAGF has no constitutional or legal backing to so direct the affairs of universities, the latter being creations of statutes via the acts establishing the universities.
“It should be recalled that the powers of the Auditor General for the Federation to direct Audit of Public Accounts as provided under Section 85 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not extend to Statutory Corporations, Commissions, Authorities, Agencies and Bodies established by an Act of the National Assembly.
“It is because of this provision that the Auditor General does not directly audit the accounts of federal universities. This is also the case with the OAGF, with payments made to the staff of the Federal Universities through IPPIS.
“Neither the constitution nor any Act of the National Assembly confers such powers on the OAGF.
“The OAGF has been very clear about the status of IPPIS that it is a policy of government, backed by a presidential directive. This statement reinforces the position of ASUU on IPPIS that IPPIS is not backed by law and cannot therefore, be used in whatever guise or circumstance to override laws and Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Allowing the Implementation of IPPIS in the University system would be tantamount to the OAGF committing a grave illegality, which would lead to anarchy within the system”, he stressed.
Senate fears ASUU strike
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, overwhelmed by the ASSU president’s submission in his closing remarks said: “I am happy that you have made your points. I’m also happy that the federal ministry of finance is thinking of addressing the issues as well.
“I will like to know how they intend to do it. I’m meeting with the minister of finance to tell us what exactly is to be done because we do not want any strike.”
How the deadlock between the federal government and ASUU on IPPIS implementation will be addressed without leading to labour unrest in the Ivory Towers , is certainly in the womb of time.