James Emejo in Abuja
Strong indications have emerged that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) is currently awaiting the approval of the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, to finally suspend the release of the funds for the payment of salaries of workers of tertiary institutions who have not enrolled on the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS).
The Director of IPPIS at the OAGF, Mr. Olusegun Olufehinti, had in a recent correspondence to the minister, requested an approval to halt further release of funds for January salaries of the federal universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
However, the university lecturers received their January salaries.
But a source at the OAGF informed THISDAY that approval was still being awaited from Ahmed before the stoppage could be implemented.
The source noted that the letter with reference number: OAGF/IPPIS/19/11/54 and entitled: “Request for Stoppage of Release of Funds for January Salaries to Federal Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education,” has been sent to the minister, adding that she has “the right to say go ahead or don’t go ahead.”
“We take the final directive from the ministry,” he added.
The recent implementation of IPPIS, which the government said will plug revenue leakages by addressing the issues of ghost workers and corruption in public institutions, had put both the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the former at loggerheads as the lecturers have argued that it would obstruct the smooth running of the university system.
They disputed the government’s claim of fighting corruption through IPPIS, citing the government’s refusal to include the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporations, among others in the centralised payroll system.
The government had earlier insisted that all federal public staff not captured on IPPIS will not receive their December salaries but ended up paying all the workers.
The letter from IPPIS National Coordinator to the minister read: “I am directed to inform you that the preparation of January 2020 salary payroll and warrants of the federal tertiary institutions are ongoing and will be ready for submission on or before January 29, 2020. This is to give effect to the directive of the federal government that all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) drawing personal cost from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) should be enrolled on the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS).
“In order to actualise this directive, you are please requested not to release funds for payments of the tertiary institutions as their salaries will henceforth be paid on the IPPIS Platform with effect from January 2020.”
At a recent meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, the president had urged the university lecturers to enroll in the scheme and support his efforts to fight corruption.
The federal government also stated at the meeting that up to 70 per cent of university lecturers had enrolled in the system, an indication of its acceptance by the majority of the teachers.
A government team, which had the Minister of Education, Mr. Adamu Adamu; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Ahmed; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, participated at the meeting.
But in their response on the outcome of the meeting, ASUU had said Buhari did not put a closure to the ongoing discussion on the union’s preference for the University Transparency and Accountability System (UTAS), it conceived, against the government-backed IPPIS.
National President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, had said in a statement that Buhari did not also direct that the salaries of ASUU members be stopped for failure to enroll in IPPIS.
Ogunyemi had added that Buhari agreed with ASUU that the university education holds the key to the future of the country, adding that the president noted with interest that the Minister of Education had a lot of work to do and handed over the union’s position paper to the minister.
Ogunyemi denied reports that the meeting was all about IPPIS, adding that the meeting was conceived on the broad context of education and national development with the Triple Helix principles as established in China, Singapore, Malaysia and other emerging economic powers.
However, there had been further indications that despite receiving their January salary without enrolling into IPPIS, the lecturers 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.