Barring any sudden change of decision by the Federal Government on the October 31 deadline for stopping salaries of workers not enrolled on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), Federal universities in Nigeria would be plunged into crisis.
The leadership of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) already at dagger’s drawn with the Federal Government has vowed to resist any attempt to force the lecturers on IPPIS.
President of ASUU, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, told Saturday Tribune in an interview that IPPIS was a violation of the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions Amendment Act 2003 which provided for the autonomy of the universities.
Both Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris and the Acting Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan during the week reaffirmed the commitment of the Federal Government in keeping with
the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to stop salaries of all federal workers that were yet to enrol on IPPIS.
Idris had accused ASUU of endorsing corruption in the universities for refusing to get enrolled in the IPPIS after several meetings on the matter.
Ogunyemi, however, debunked claims that the union was endorsing corruption in the university, saying ASUU has not and would not support corruption but must resist any attempt to erode the universities autonomy as enshrined in the law.
He said: «Nothing is farther from the truth; ASUU has never and will never support corruption. What we are saying is that the IPPIS they are talking about violates universities autonomy. He noted that in a presentation made by ASUU on the 8th October 2019 at the National Universities Commission (NUC) just about two weeks ago, the union asked for permission to develop an alternative to IPPIS. “We explained this in a presentation we made at a meeting on the 8th of October this year at the National Universities Commission about two weeks ago. We made our position clearly known to them that if they give us permission, we could develop an alternative to IPPIS. “IPPIS as they have it means the erosion of universities powers to control and regulate their personnel and the payroll system. While drawing their attention to universities autonomy, we quoted copiously from the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions Amendment Act 2003.
“The Act is available online, you can go there and confirm. There is a section in that act that says that the power of the council shall be exercised as in the law and statues of each university. And to that extent, establishment circulars that are inconsistent with the laws and statues of the university shall not apply to the universities.
“We made that clear to them and we even referred to other sections in that act that talks about Council controlling personnel cost, overhead cost, research and development, library development and of course, the balance in expenditure between academic achievements and academic activities.
“When you have a law that says this; and they are also saying that because government releases the money, the government must control it from the centre. Nothing works that way because there is a law which tells you that you cannot regulate personnel of universities directly from the centre,» he said.
The ASUU President argued that the Federal Government, in the eye of the law and as interpreted in many courts rulings is not the employer of university lecturers but the Governing Councils who are vested with powers to hire and disengage university workers.
He said: “Let me tell you one thing, by law, the Federal Government is not the employer of universities academics. The employers are their respective Governing Councils. This is what the law says. “This matter has been settled in law courts. What the law expects is that the government should release funds to universities and Governing Councils should manage resources of the universities.
“The law also permits that where a Council is found to be incompetent or corrupt, that Council should be dissolved immediately and another Council should be reconstituted. “To this extent, we believe that there are checks and balances within the system. So, if the Governing Councils have been doing what they were expected to do and we have been shouting and talking about this over time.