National president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, in an exclusive interview with MOSES JOHN, speaks on the lingering issue of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
Over 8000 lecturers enrolled on IPPIS
In the first place, the claimed that a substantial number of our members have registered on IPPIS platform is not correct the last time we checked. A total of 8146 or there about they claimed to have enrolled were those they captured among academic staff. And I ask the question, how many academic staff do we have in federal universities across Nigeria? It’s about 50,000. So if you take 8000 and find the ratio to 50,000, I think the conclusion can be drawn by you.
That aside, we have seen the antics, we have seen the methodology they used in luring people into registering on IPPIS. I will give you examples; they have been telling those who are close to retirement that unless they are on IPPIS, their pension would not be guaranteed.
Blackmailing and bringing outsiders
For those who have put 30 to 40 years into the service of this country, I think that is a disservice to them. Lie is something that should not be allowed to stand. There are those they are bringing in through the backdoor because those who are capturing data on IPPIS across the nation have been approaching universities with list of staff that they would like to capture. And what they do to vice chancellors is to tell them, “Well, bring 100 names, we also give you 100 names and we will capture them under IPPIS”. This is something that can be investigated.
Just last week or there about, there was a release or a presentation made by a former Auditor-General of the Federation, who said, “IPPIS has become a platform for perfecting corruption.” And this is what we have been saying all along. A platform designed to fight corruption has suddenly been corrupted by those who are implementing it. If you probe deeply among even those 8000 plus they said they had captured, you would find that the substantial numbers are people they had brought through the backdoor in order to boost their list.
IPPIS as a curse to varsity operation
Well, we have been saying that IPPIS is an anathema to the operations of the university system because every university thrives in dynamism. Every university thrives in flexibility of the payroll system in the sense that as u are introducing new programmes, you can bring in people from outside the country. Those are people that will not be on pension, and IPPIS office has always said it loud and clear that “unless you are on pension, you cannot be captured”. That is different from saying we have captured sabbatical, we have captured adjunct, we have captured part-time. It’s a different matter, it’s a different ball game. There are what is called scarce areas on our system that we would need assistance from our colleagues in Diaspora; our colleagues in federal universities that we would need to call and work with us for short time or for fairly long time, ranging from maybe three months to about six months or two or three years. Those are people that would not be on pension. And if IPPIS is saying unless you are on pension you cannot be captured, it means shutting the door against our colleagues from other parts of the world whose services we need to improve the quality of university education in Nigeria. So ASUU cannot close its eyes to all these objectionable practices that IPPIS is trying to bring into our system.
UTAS as a way out of vested interest
Well, at our last engagement we had with the presidency, it was agree that we should go and marry IPPIS with our propose university transparency and accountability solution (UTAS). We are waiting for that and we are ready to engage the government on that, but we suspect very strongly that there are some vested interests who believe that unless IPPIS and IPPIS alone is implemented, they cannot maximise their gains.
We talk of gains because why do you need foreign loan to implement a programme designed for civil service? IPPIS is being implemented with a loan of $140m. ASUU is developing an alternative which is costing the union its own fund to bring it about. We are telling the government, “Let’s work together.” In other climes, when there are problems, they throw the challenge to university scholars. We are saying we have taken up this challenge upon ourselves. Test us for the first time and let’s see how it goes. So we believe that reason will prevail along the line, but for as long as government insists, or elements in government insist that it is IPPIS or no salaries, our members will respond as appropriate.
Using TETFund grants for personal gain
It’s an allegation, and anybody is free to make allegation. But the onus to prove it is on them. And if at all this thing happened, in what magnitude? Because our experience is that in Nigeria you see one out of 100 cases and then you blow it to high heavens. We are not saying that all scholars are perfect, but we believe that if you have such cases and you bring them out clearly and people are sanctioned, that will serve as a deterrent to others. This thing is coming to us as a strange statement because we have never been taken into confidence on this. And if you have allegation against our members, then you need to show us the proof. We would still engage TETFund on this because we want to know more about it. We want to know more because those you see as our partners just go into public space to make wild allegations. What is the magnitude? If you have 100 scholars and you saw one or two that possibly diverted the money, does that provide a basis for generalisation? So it is that basis that we are interrogating and we will continue to do that. So we believe that allegation is not a correct reflection of what academics do in Nigeria.
January salary, increment on tuition
Our members were paid, but were not paid fully, and that is where the problem is starting from. It appears government or elements in government have decided to attack.
We don’t have the full information on that increment of what the students paid, but we will look into it and at the appropriate time, we will make a statement. But let us say this for now, that ASUU condemns any act that will increase the burden of our students and their parents. We are saying this also because it is relating to IPPIS. When the IPPIS office is telling us that well, you can bring in lecturers from anywhere but use your IGR to pay them, what does that mean? What IGR do we have in the universities? Is it to be selling pure water, or to become cow dealers? So we are saying that all this substitution moves to pass burden to our students and their parents, or to increase their burden. ASUU will stand by the students in rejecting and condemning them.
It is difficult to rate the quality of education because the ingredients of quality promotion are not available. Visit our schools, what do you see? Dilapidated structures. We don’t have aids for teaching and learning; we don’t have conducive environment, even the teachers are not given regular training that would enhance their capacity and capabilities. So we need to work on the quality ingredients, funding, teaching personnel, human and material resources and other elements that would provide the input into the system in order to assure quality. So why are we not achieving? We need to look at what is happening in our state. You see, the simplest one is what the state governors are doing in terms of access to UBEC funds. So, whether they took loan or not, there were some funds set aside, and you are to provide counterpart fund. Nothing should stop them from accessing this to rehabilitate our schools and attract the best quality of teachers and support the system. So we need to work on the ingredients for quality education in the system in order to ensure quality that we desire.