- Says no recanting of position on IPPIS
- Cites govt’s failure to honour previous pacts for looming industrial crisis
Despite receiving their January salary without enrolling into the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS), university lecturers under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have begun mobilising for a nationwide strike.
THISDAY gathered at the weekend that the union was mobilising for a strike, citing not only the federal government’s threat over IPPIS but the delay in honouring the agreement reached with the union in February 2019.
The federal government had earlier directed that no funds should be released for the payment of salaries of workers of tertiary institutions who had not enrolled into IPPIS as their salaries were supposed to be paid on the IPPIS platform with effect from January.
But ASUU had also threatened to implement “No Salary, No Work” decision it had reached at its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Minna, Niger State.
THISDAY had reported exclusively that the Director of IPPIS at the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), Mr. Olusegun Olufehinti, had requested the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, to order the stoppage of release of funds for January salaries of federal universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
However, in an apparent move to avert the strike, the federal government at the weekend paid the lecturers their January salary.
The payment of the salary was an indication that the federal government might have extended the period of grace for ASUU members to enroll into IPPIS.
When contacted by THISDAY to confirm or deny the extension, Olufehinti did not respond to calls or text messages sent to him over the issue.
But the union said it would not back down on the mobilisation of its members for industrial action, adding that its members would not enroll into the central payroll system.
ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, told THISDAY that the union was looking forward to reopening talks with the federal government on the 2009 agreement on funding of the tertiary institutions.
“We are still discussing with government and we are holding a meeting very soon and it is after that meeting that we can comment on issues about it. It (2009 agreement) is one of our demands, like we said, we are not just talking about IPPIS, we are talking about all issues that are outstanding in our 2009 Memorandum of Action and there are five issues which we are renegotiating before the IPPIS came in as a distraction.
“Renegotiation is one of them; visitation to universities is one of them, funds for recapitalisation is one of them; the issue of payment of arrears of Earned Allowances for lecturers as well as funding of state universities are all part of the outstanding demands that will be tabled for discussion at the meeting,” he stated.
According to the union president, the union has always seen the IPPIS as a distraction because there are more serious issues pending to be addressed by the federal government.
Speaking further on IPPIS, Ogunyemi said that ASUU was insisting on an opportunity to discuss its alternative payment platform, adding that it is left for government to do the needful and call for dialogue.
“If federal government is ready to discuss, we are also ready but we are not to decide for them. Our position remains the same if they choose to stop the salaries of our members tomorrow, we will also respond appropriately,” he added.
ASUU Chairman at the University of Jos, Dr. Lazarus Maigoro, told THISDAY in Jos that zonal mobilisation meetings of the union were ongoing nationwide in preparations for the strike.
He added that the Bauchi zone, where UNIJOS belongs, held its mobilisation meeting at the University of Jos last Thursday.
“The mobilisation is not just for the IPPIS; you know we signed a Memorandum of Action (MoA) that led to the suspension of the last strike in February 2019 with timeline on when government will do certain things; but up till now, since that suspension nothing has happened. That is really the essence of the mobilisation. IPPIS is a later development.
“To be honest with you, they have paid January salaries. I can assure you that if they had stopped our salaries we would have stopped work from today, being 1st of February. But as it stands, there won’t be an immediate strike,” he stated.
He said ASUU wrote to government in December 2019 informing it that it had violated the MoA signed with the union that led to the suspension of the last strike.
“I don’t think we have to notify them again of the strike. But whether or not we will notify them will be when the date of the commencement of the strike has been decided,” he said.
Also, the branch Chairman of ASUU at the Modibbo Adama University of Technology (MAUTECH), in Yola , Adamawa State, Dr. Sadiq Umar, acknowledged that the federal government did not withhold the salaries of the lecturers as threatened but that government’s backing down on its earlier decision on salary payment would not stop the ongoing nationwide mobilisation for strike as payment of salaries was not the main issue the union was fighting for.
“I got my alert yesterday and other members who did not key into the IPPIS enrollment programme got theirs likewise. Salaries are statutory; let salaries not distract the key issues we are fighting for. There are key issues that the union is asking federal government to address and their failure have made the union to start mobilising for strike action,” he said
Umar said they had gone to Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe states and will be going to Maiduguri, Borno State to mobilise ASUU members for support to force the federal government to address the key issues the union is fighting to achieve before the IPPIS enrollment exercise.
He said the union would take necessary actions after mobilising members nationwide, adding that the union may go into further negotiations with the federal government.
Umar said after the mobilisation, the union will declare its stand on the strike and whether to notify the government or not.
The ASUU Chairman at the University of Maiduguri, Dr. Dani Mamman, also confirmed the mobilisation, saying it has begun across the ASUU branches and would end on February 6.
“The mandate given by National Executive Council (NEC) at Minna was that if government stops our salaries, we will invoke “No pay no work” immediately. The negotiation is ongoing with the Minister of Education, whom the president gave the assignment to handle,” he added.
Chairman of ASUU at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Dr. Christian Opata, told THISDAY that about 15 universities had so far received their salaries for January, including those who did not enroll into the IPPIS.
He said that the union was mobilising itself to educate the public and other union members- who are not aware- on the grievances of the union.
According to him, the federal government is only using the IPPIS to divert attention because it knows that there are many problems left unsolved, like the 2009 agreement with the union, which is yet to be negotiated and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of 2017, 2018 and 2019, which are still pending.
“The public does not even know what we are fighting for. The federal government has always painted a different picture and they don’t want to tell people the truth about what is happening in the country,” he said.
He explained that the IPPIS is not even a home-grown programme but one that was copied from World Bank, adding that the software used to drive it is not housed in Nigeria but owned by Oracle, which is an American company.
“What happens if all the database about the Nigerian workforce is under the custody of another country? If anything happens when the website is hacked, that is going to cause a serious problem.
“As it stands now, private universities are planning to join ASUU in the struggle because they have seen what we are fighting for. Some state universities are also planning to join us. That shows how big a problem is,” he said.
The Ibadan Zonal Chairman of ASUU, Dr. Ade Adejumo, also told THISDAY that ASUU members in federal universities started receiving alerts as at Friday.
He added that with the federal government backing down on the threat to stop salary of its members for not enrolling into IPPIS, the union has also shelved its ‘no pay, no work’ counter measure.
He, however, stated that the negotiation the union was having with the federal government was not only on IPPIS as there were other issues that might lead to strike.
He identified the issues to include conclusion of the re-negotiation of the 2009 agreement, payment of the mobilisation fund agreed upon and full implementation of the MoU signed with the union in February 2019.
The Chairman of ASUU, Bayero University Kano chapter, Dr. Ibrahim Barde, simply told THISDAY that “I can only tell you that we are awaiting for directives of next like of action”.
The ASUU Chairman, Federal University Dutsinma, Katsina State, Mr. Yahaya Muhammed, also told THISDAY that all lecturers in the institution have received their January salaries despite not enrolling into the controversial IPPIS.
He, however, stressed that despite the settlement of their January salaries, the union was prepared to tackle the federal government.
“But any moment the federal government refuses to pay our salaries and some of our demands, we will go on strike to press home some of the demands,” he said.
The North-west Zonal Chairman of the union, Dr. Shehu Jamilu, also confirmed that all their members received January salaries but that would not make ASUU to recant its position on IPPIS.
The Chairman of ASUU at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife chapter, Dr. Adeola Egbedokun, confirmed that the lecturers have been paid, adding that the union is monitoring the situation with the government.
“We are still talking with government on the matter but hope that the situation would be normalised,” he added.
The Chairman of ASUU, University of Ilorin branch, Professor Moyosore Ajao, also told THISDAY that members of the union had received their January salaries.
He added that the union would not enroll into IPPIS, saying that “the federal government knows too that the purported policy of IPPIS being introduced into the public universities is illegal and unconstitutional.
“We are in a democracy now and not in military and no one can just introduce any policy that will be inimical to the growth of education, especially in the university system because it will have serious adverse effect on the educational development of the country.”
Ajao urged the federal government to make use of University Transparency Audit System (UTAS), developed by ASUU, instead of IPPIS to resolve the crisis.
The Chairman of ASUU at the Federal University, Oye Ekiti (FUOYE), Dr. Habibat Adubiaro, also told THISDAY that the union would not give any notice before embarking on strike.
“We are always following the directive of the national body before taking actions and they’ve told us to start the strike immediately they stop our salary. We don’t need to give any notice regarding this. Our members were already aware of that. We thought the federal government will not pay our January salary because we refused to join IPPIS, but our salary has been paid,” she added.