UNIVERSITY LECTURERS AND OUTSTANDING PAY

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It is important that the issue of IPPIS is resolved urgently

The presidential directive that salaries of university lecturers be paid without any pre-condition is commendable. But it still does not obviate the tardy manner the issue had been handled by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning. The non-payment of the February 2020 salary to members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that had complied with the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) was a clear breach of faith. The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, had said only lecturers of federal universities who are not on the IPPIS would be denied their February salary. But they were not paid before the latest presidential directive.

We recall that ASUU had embarked on a two-week warning strike early last month and forced government to open discussion on the IPPIS and other issues, following a threat to withhold the February salary of those who failed to register on the platform. But with record showing majority of the lecturers had actually complied with the requirement, we see no further justification for this delay in the payment of their salaries. While there is no way we can develop our country until efforts are made to revitalise key sectors like education, it is unfortunate that most of the disputes are always occasioned by broken promises and unfulfilled agreements by the federal government.

Despite objections by ASUU that the introduction of IPPIS would stymie the systemic progress made so far in the running of the nation’s university system, government defiantly pressured all lecturers to register on the platform it evolved to rid the system of corruption. When the whole controversy started, we raised objections to the position of ASUU not to submit to IPPIS and backed the federal government. While we therefore acknowledge the efforts to clean up the IPPIS and ensure that many of the faceless workers that are still receiving salaries through the backdoor are removed from the payroll, the overall initiative should be to use biometrics to link up the IPPIS human resource management module with the payroll itself. There was no reason for denying those who have complied with IPPIS their legitimate entitlements.

Our understanding of the process is that the full implementation of the IPPIS will enable the automation of the lecturers’ salaries and move away from the old order. But available reports indicate that the universities could not pay the February salaries, apparently because the federal government did not cashback bursary department accounts for the month. Yet, creating unnecessary bottlenecks in the implementation of IPPIS and by extension the payment of the ASUU members’ salary is unacceptable. The Ministry of Finance should facilitate the prompt completion of the documentation process which we understand has been lodged with the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

It is indeed unfortunate that the federal government and ASUU have for several years now been locked in running battles over the implementation of agreements reached. The consequences have been lengthy industrial strikes by the lecturers, with the attendant debilitating effects on educational development in particular and academic pursuits in general. While we appeal to the lecturers to exercise patience, it is important for the authorities to do everything within their powers to find a lasting solution to what can again cripple tertiary education in our country. But much more important, the federal government must learn never to make commitment it has no capacity or willingness to implement.

While we commend President Muhammadu Buhari for his intervention to cushion the effects of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown period on lecturers and members of their family, the issue of IPPIS has to be resolved quickly so that we do not continue to have academic disruptions on our campuses.