ASUU should do what is right by submitting to transparency

In the past couple of months, lecturers in the nation’s public universities under the aegis of Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) have been issuing threats of yet another strike. This time, it is over the move by the federal government towards ensuring that all its workers, including lecturers in federal universities, are enrolled under the unified salary scheme – Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS). But we consider it a shame that ASUU would continue to blackmail the federal government on an issue bordering on transparency and accountability.

The federal government had conceptualised IPPIS in 2006 to centralise the payment of salaries of workers with a view to detecting fraud. Since then, the university lecturers have refused to be enrolled in the programme. At various times, there were interventions by the leadership of the National Assembly prevailing on the lecturers to dialogue with the federal government on the issue. While there were indeed negotiations, the decision by ASUU to insist on not complying with IPPIS remains the sticking point. Except ASUU members have something to hide, they should be at the forefront of supporting the introduction of digital payrolls in the public service since it has helped to reduce the fraud of multiple payments to ghost workers. The union cannot be an advocate of transparency and accountability only when it concerns others in the public sector.

Indeed, as ASUU continues to oppose IPPIS, pertinent questions remain unanswered. What really is the basis of the fear of the lecturers? Is it because it will block the opportunity of lecturing in more than one university and drawing salaries from more than one university, as some commentators have suggested? These are the issues the leadership of the university academic union needs to ponder and remember the saying that he who goes to equity must go with clean hands. While nothing stops academics as experts in designated fields from offering their services to multiple universities, such services must not violate their contracts with their primary employers.

ASUU should also consider the fact that strike should not be its first resort on any matter. The hurried academic calendars, following the end of industrial actions, allow for very little attention to serious studies, or research. That is why our public universities have continued to go down the ladder of academic ranking, even among their peers in Africa. The leadership of the union should reflect on the pains Nigerian students have been going through in recent years. Those past strikes resulted in monumental loss to the nation’s university system as well as the economy.

The federal government has threatened to stop payment of salaries to lecturers who fail to comply with IPPIS by the end of this month. In response, ASUU has also resolved to activate indefinite strike the moment the ‘No IPPIS, no salary’ policy was enforced. The consequences of this sort of disagreement in the past had been lengthy industrial strikes by the lecturers, with the attendant debilitating effects on educational development in particular and academic pursuits in general. Students in our universities have suffered enough in recent years and this administration should work with ASUU so that our campuses are not again shut down.

The university lecturers should not add to the myriad of problems facing the country. Besides, it should worry the current leadership of ASUU that a once vibrant organisation that set agenda for national discourse in its heyday has degenerated into a strike-obsessed trade union that does not want to be accountable to the people. University lecturers are not above accountability. Their members must submit to IPPIS.