The rift between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) deepened yesterday as the federal government dismissed the union’s concern about putting lecturers on the centralised IPPIS salary payment platform.
Reacting to the union’s objection to President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive that federal government workers not on the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) would not be paid salaries, the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Ahmed Idris, fired back, saying that the union is not in a position to dictate to the federal government on how its members should be paid their salaries.
ASUU had summoned an emergency National Executive Council meeting, where it was agreed that the leadership of the union at chapter level should begin mobilisation of members for an action against the government over the implementation of IPPIS.
The academic community had all along expressed their reservations on joining the scheme, citing the autonomy enjoyed by universities as well as the peculiarities associated with the academic environment.
But the federal government had directed that any worker not on the IPPIS would no longer receive salary with effect from October. ASUU had insisted that it was not against accountability but would resist the attempt by the government to violate existing laws and autonomy of the university. The union also claimed to have offered to help the federal government design the appropriate template that would factor in the peculiarities of university lecturers in the IPPIS, a suggestion the government has not accepted.
ASUU alleged that the government’s template would enslave intellectuals as it did not make provisions for payment of arrears of promotion, study leave allowance, responsibility allowance, among others.
ASUU also threatened to commence legal action against the federal government over the latter’s move to compel the enrollment of its members on the IPPIS platform.
However, the AGF yesterday accused the union of trying to denigrate the IPPIS, which according to him, has been widely celebrated.
He said: “That notwithstanding, there is nowhere employees dictate to their employers as to how he or she should be paid as being dictated by ASUU.” Idris said the policy had enabled the government to save over ₦273 billion from personnel cost between 2017 and 2018.
In a statement by the AGF, and made available to newsmen, he blamed ASUU for the “misinformation being circulated by the union to justify their opposition to enrolling on IPPIS, a policy of government for which the president directed that all MDAs drawing their salary from Consolidated Revenue Funds (CRF) should join by the end of October 2019.”
He wondered why ASUU would jettison a policy aimed at saving cost and wastages in the personnel cost of government. He noted that before now, several meetings had been held with the leadership of universities comprising vice-chancellors, registrars, bursars, National University Commission (NUC) and the four unions, including NASU, NAAT, SSANU, and ASUU, where the workings of IPPIS system had been explained and demonstrated as to accommodate all government-approved peculiarities of tertiary institutions such as retirement age, sabbatical, visiting and other peculiarities.
Idris said during the engagements with the unions, the federal government had pegged the retirement age of professors and readers at 70 years while others in the universities had 65 years.
He said: “For polytechnics and colleges of education retirement age is 65 years as is the case in all research institutions.
“Visiting lecturers are entitled to 50 percent of their salary in the visiting institutions but only limited to one institution as approved by NUC, NBTE and NCCE their regulatory body.
“For sabbatical, 100 percent of their salary in the institution where the sabbatical is taking place in addition to the full salary being paid in their host institution.” According to him, “Sabbatical leave salary is for a maximum period of one year only but applicable every seventh year and as it is the standard practice but subject to approval.
“Other allowances as duly agreed through collective bargaining between their unions and government as approved and formalised by Salary, Income and Wages Commission (SIWC) will be paid to the last kobo, inclusive of leave allowances.
“The accommodation of their peculiarities was fully demonstrated on our payroll slide to confirm how they will be treated accordingly in the presence of the university stakeholders and all their four unions.”
Notwithstanding, Idris expressed disappointment that “after the practical demonstration, it was only ASUU through their national leadership which questioned the legality of IPPIS and federal government to pay salary directly to their members in the face of their autonomy.”
He said despite the practical demonstration, ASUU had continued to mislead its members and the public for any other reason best known to them alone.
“The university community, based on their level of knowledge, experience, academic and research, one would have expected them to be in the forefront of championing any policy that is geared towards accountability and transparency in government expenditure,” he said.
He described ASUU’s alleged opposition to IPPIS as an open endorsement of corruption in the university system, as the IPPIS platform will not allow employment of workers at will without compliance with due process on employment.
“To meet the deadline of government, the process of enrolment is ongoing; we, therefore, urge all university staff to ensure they enroll on the IPPIS platform.
“It is pertinent to note that other unions in the universities have complied and the campaign of calumny against Office of the Accountant General of the Federation by ASUU is uncalled for and should be ignored,” he said.