The controversial Integrated Payroll Process System (IPPIS) introduced by the federal government is a distraction and not part of the reasons for the lingering strike by university lecturers, says Biodun Ogunyemi, the president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
University lecturers are yet to reach an agreement with the federal government to put an end to the seven-month-old industrial action.
As a result, universities across the country are yet to resume academic activities over a month since the government ordered the reopening of schools after the COVID-19 lockdown.
The three meetings held with the federal government since schools were reopened have so far ended in a stalemate.
Although the demands of the ‘striking’ lecturers border around the improvement of their welfare and revitalisation of universities, the IPPIS controversy remains one of the issues that both parties do not agree on.
While the federal government has insisted that the lecturers should be enrolled under IPPIS, even if they will migrate to University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), the alternative recommended by ASUU, the union has disagreed, stating that the IPPIS undermines the autonomy of the universities.
Speaking on Channels TV’s Politics Today, Mr Ogunyemi noted that the strike would have been called off save for the way the government has handled the negotiations.
“We started this strike in March as a result of the government’s inability to take the necessary steps. We had a NEC meeting that is the National Executive Council meeting at the negotiations last year, where we gave the government two weeks to address five outstanding issues.”
“The issue of the revitalisation of universities as agreed with us in 2019; the issue of renegotiation of our agreements that dates back to 2009; and the issue of reconstitution of the negotiating team so that we could quickly conclude our negotiation of that agreement; the issue of earned academic allowances to our members, which they promised to pay two tranches November, 2019 and July 2020; the issue of visitation panels to federal universities, which they agreed with us that will be done between April and May 2019.”
“And finally the issue of proliferation of universities, particularly by state governments and the issue of governors in our universities.”
Mr Ogunyemi said when the strike began earlier this year, the government was still “dribbling” the union.
“They come and give us some positions that are not acceptable to our members, they are now talking of the economic reality and that was before the COVID-19 crisis.”
On the issue of IPPIS, the group’s president said it was first introduced in 2013 and was repelled by his predecessor.
According to him, the union disagreed with the IPPIS because it was meant for the civil service.
“So we said, well, let’s constitute a joint team to think of alternatives or to work out an alternative and we were prepared. So we submitted the names of our members, our representatives and we’re expecting them to get back to us since 2014. It was just 2019 the government came back to see where it is.”
Speaking further, he said the UTAS has passed through necessary stages except for the credibility test to be conducted by the National Information Technology Development Agency.
Mr Ogunyemi added that some lecturers have been owed more than six months salaries because they have not been enrolled under the IPPIS.
“There are three scenarios playing out on our campuses of the federal universities. We have those who have not been paid anymore salaries since February till date. We have then the second scenario in which lecturers have been paid up to June 2020, then the third category is where lecturers have not been paid since July.”
He alleged that the federal government selectively paid some lecturers who are yet to be enrolled under the controversial system.
Addressing parents and students, the ASUU president said; “I believe our students and their parents will understand. If we have lecturers that are not being paid for eight to nine months, how can we have that person putting in his best in the system?”