ASUU Optimistic on Amicable Resolution of Dispute with FG

National President of ASUU, Prof Abiodun Ogunyemi

Won’t shift ground on rejection of IPPIS

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, James Sowole in Akure, Wole Ayodele in Jalingo, Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano, Onuminya Innocent in Sokoto and Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has expressed optimism that it will amicably resolve its disputes with the federal government over the implementation of the 2009 agreement and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

The union, however, stuck to its position on IPPIS, a centralised payroll system introduced by the federal government, saying it is irreversible.

THISDAY had exclusively reported the reopening of negotiations between ASUU and the federal government team, led by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu.
There were, however, fears that the meeting may have been stalled over disagreement on the implementation of IPPIS in federal universities.

But the Chairman of ASUU at the Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, Dr. Sabo Yabo, told THISDAY that the union and the federal government were still negotiating to thrash out some contentious areas in the 2009 agreement and IPPIS.

Yabo explained that parts of the negotiation is on the adoption of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) proposed by the union to replace IPPIS because it meets the universities’ peculiarities and also does not conflict with the universities Autonomy Act.

According to him, the other issues being addressed include: staff welfare and the ratio of academic staff to non-academic staff.

He said the ratio should be 1 to 4, that is, one non-academic staff to four academic staff but lamented that the reverse is the case.

Citing the case of the Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, Yabo said the school has 3,000 non- academic staff and only 1,000 academic staff.

He also said part of the negotiation is the proper funding of universities by the federal government, adding that if the federal government is sincere, the issues would be resolved amicably.

The branch Chairman of ASUU at the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), Dr. Olayinka Awopetu, also confirmed to THISDAY that the federal government and the union were still talking on the 2009 agreement.

“So as we speak now, the Minister of Education was talking with the union. I think they will start the process of renegotiation soon,” Awopetu said.
On IPPIS, he stated that the union has not changed its position on the matter.

“Our stance is still the same; the president of the country said they should go and look at how they can harmonise it because IPPIS as it is now, ASUU will not go back. ASUU will not register,” he added.

He said the UTAS system was designed by ASUU to take care of all the faults in IPPIS.

“The major thing is that IPPIS is illegal in the form that it is now, and that is what we have been saying.
“If they remove the illegality there, of course, we are ready to support anything that will curb corruption; that is why we went to develop our own free-of-charge for the government,” Awopetu said.

Awopetu expressed optimism that the two parties will resolve the dispute amicably in the interest of university education in Nigeria.
ASUU president, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, told THISDAY that the leadership of the union was continuing talks with the federal Ministry of Education.
When asked if the talks were deadlocked, Ogunyemi said:” No, it is not. The meeting is still going on “.

On the progress of the negotiation, Ogunyemi said it was too early for him to measure the progress but expressed optimism that the matter will be resolved.
He also said no target date had been set to end the current engagement with the federal government.

On his part, the Chairman of ASUU at the Federal University of Wukari in Taraba State, Professor Kidzu Oweh, told THISDAY that “we reliably gathered that the government is positively disposed to implementing UTAS proposed by ASUU but some merchants who have interest in IPPIS don’t want it to sail through.
“But ASUU and the federal government would continue negotiations next week to review the Memorandum of Action (MoA) on the implementation of the 2009 agreement signed by both parties.”

The Chairman of ASUU at the Bayero University, Kano (BUK), Professor Haruna Musa, also said IPPIS would not address the peculiarities of Nigerian academics.
“Ideally, IPPIS has encroached on university autonomy. That autonomy is threatened when someone will just sit in Abuja and determine your salary while the university governing council is our lawful employer; therefore, the IPPIS is against the principles of university autonomy.

“But the system we proposed is more flexible and can accommodate all the peculiarities of the Nigerian academics.
“Also, audit reports have shown that there are a lot of corrections in the IPPIS,” he added.
According to him, the two parties will resolve the issues to avoid plunging the university system in
to another crisis.

The ASUU at the Federal University, Oye Ekiti (FUOYE), however, insisted that its members would not enroll into the IPPIS.
The Vice Chairman of ASUU, FUOYE, Dr. Habibat Adubiaro, said the adoption of IPPIS would short-change many members and do a lot of disservice to the university education.

“The issues surrounding the IPPIS and UTAS as well as 2009 agreement are being handled together by our national body with the federal government and the directive given had been that we must resist IPPIS, by not registering for it.

“The level we are in FUOYE is that ASUU members say no to IPPIS and on UTAS proposal we stand,” she said.

She discountenanced the widespread impression that a large number of ASUU members in FUOYE had registered for IPPIS as directed by the federal government.
“That impression was wrong. Less than eight per cent of our members registered for it. Recently, the national body of ASUU came to FUOYE and a very large number of our people attended the meeting convened.

“Those who registered for IPPIS were majorly staff who just got converted from non-teaching to teaching,” she stated.

Adubiaro added that ASUU has not foreclosed negotiations with the federal government, saying the ongoing talks with the federal Ministry of Education will resolve the issues.

THISDAY had reported that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) was 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 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 had informed THISDAY that approval was still being awaited from Ahmed before the stoppage could be implemented.