The Academic Staff Union of Universities(ASUU) in the South East has insisted that enrollment of its members into the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) will erode the autonomy of universities.
The ASUU leaders, who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in separate interviews, said they were in total support of the position of the national leadership of the union.
Dr Egwu Ogugua, ASUU chairman of Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike, Ikwo (AE-FUNAI), Ebonyi pointed out that members of the union were committed to the collective struggle.
“We have recorded 100 per cent compliance to ASUU National Executive Council (NEC) and the ASUU AE-FUNAI Congress resolution to reject the forceful migration to IPPIS.
“We are committed to the struggle and no member of the branch has shown up to be enrolled.
“The university is an autonomous entity and enrolling lecturers into the IPPIS will erode and violate this autonomy with attendant ugly effect on the standard of university education in Nigeria.
“It violates existing laws and autonomy of the universities and also IPPIS does not make provisions for payment of arrears of promotion, study leave allowance and responsibility allowance among others,” Ogugua said.
Dr Gilbert Ekuma, a university lecturer and human rights activist urged the Federal Government to toe the path of dialogue with ASUU to avert disruption of academic activities in the nation’s federal universities.
“We have had enough of strikes which continue to lower standard of university education and make products from our ivory towers look inferior before their foreign counterparts.
“Incessant strikes have led to brain drain as most of the nation’s best brains are leaving for European, America and even other African countries to look for greener pasture.
“The federal government has threatened to stop salaries of the university teachers for refusing to enrol into IPPIS while lecturers have responded by threatening a nationwide showdown with the government.
“Any nationwide strike by ASUU will further worsen the situation in our universities and this will not be in the best interest of the nation and our students in particular,” Ekuma said.
The union said that in place of the IPPIS, it had offered to be given the opportunity to develop an alternative to IPPIS.
The Zonal Coordinator of ASUU in Owerri Zone, Comrade Uzo Onyebinama also maintained that IPPIS violated university autonomy and FGN/ASUU agreement and did not address the peculiarity inherent in the nature and structure of universities.
“Specifically, IPPIS violates and erodes university autonomy inherent in the extent provisions of section 2AA of the Universities Miscellaneous Provision (Amendment) Act 2003,” he said.
The ASUU zonal coordinator noted that academic activities (teaching, research and community service) in universities had specific milestones with timeliness.
“Universities are structured to be independent and free from civil service bureaucracy. As a result, university establishment is not only flexible and dynamic but also pragmatic with the primary objectives of rapid response to critical exigencies.
“IPPIS negates this. The union views the claim by the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF) that ASUU’s position against IPPIS as an endorsement of corruption as cheap blackmail.
“ASUU cannot be blackmailed into shirking her sacred responsibility of defending the autonomy of the universities.
“ASUU’s zero tolerance for corruption (individual and institutional) is widely acclaimed. The union has offered to be given the opportunity to develop an alternative to IPPIS,” he said.
Onyebinama explained that the union had been clamouring for the constitution of statutory visitation panels to federal universities that was long overdue adding that visitation panels provided the platform for the inquiry into the conduct of the affairs of universities.
He said that the failure of the Federal Government to inquire into the conduct of the affairs of universities through the instrument of visitation panels was the real endorsement of corruption.
On the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement, he said that the attempt at the renegotiation which ought to have been done in 2012 had failed due to what he called the high handedness of a team formed by the government.
He alleged that the team acted out of a script deliberately designed to frustrate the renegotiation exercise.
“For 10 years, the salaries and allowance of staff members have remained constant, double-digit inflation and the devaluation of the naira notwithstanding.
“We are, therefore, using this opportunity and the medium of the press to call on well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the FG to rescind the forceful and compulsory enrollment of universities into IPPIS.
“It should also ensure that the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement is concluded without further delay. A stitch in time clearly saves nine.
“Our universities surely need a break from an incessant industrial crisis caused by government insensitivity,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Enugu State, Mrs Jacinta Ani, IPPIS Coordinator in the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), said over 400 academic staff had so far been captured in the ongoing enrollment for public universities in the country.
“The exercise is going on smoothly, our problem is managing of a crowd as both non-academic and academic staff are struggling to be registered.
“From my record, no fewer than 400 academics staff have enrolled in IPPIS, since the exercise started,” she said.
Ani said that due to the crowd, the exercise had been extended till December 12.
“Initially the deadline for the enrollment is Dec 7 but it has been extended to 12 to enable the IPPIS team to capture every staff,” she said.
Efforts to get a comment from Dr Christian Opata, the Chairman of ASUU-UNN proved abortive as he was said to be on his way to Minna the capital of Niger State for ASUU National Executive Council meeting.
However, the immediate past Chairman of ASUU in UNN, Dr Ifeanyichukwu Abada, said he had not enrolled in IPPIS and would not unless ASUU National body approved it.
Adada described the number of lecturers said to have registered by UNN -IPPIS coordinator as `propaganda and unrealistic’.
“One or two lecturers who are not ASUU members may have enrolled but the coordinator is exaggerating to say that no fewer than 400 lecturers have enrolled,” he said.
A lecturer, who pleaded anonymity, told NAN that he decided to register because some of his friends told him that they have registered because they did not want the Federal Government to sack them.
“I have five children, two are in tertiary institutions so if I am sacked from UNN where will I get money to take care of my family as well as pay school fees of my children,” he said.
Mr Paul Aruah, Chairman UNN Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) said he had enrolled in IPPIS, describing IPPIS as one of the best things that had happened in Nigeria public universities in recent time.
“With IPPIS, the salary of staff in public universities will be harmonised, so that the salary of every grade level will be the same.
“This scheme makes it possible for all public university staff to receive their monthly salary on the same date.
“Those that are afraid of IPPIS, to me, have a skeleton in their cupboard, “he said.
Speaking, Mr Peter Eze, a former official, Non-academic Staff Unions (NASU) commended President Muhammadu Buhari for introducing IPPIS scheme which he said would fight corruption and ‘ghost worker’ syndrome in public universities.
“IPPIS will fight corruption and eradicate ghost workers in Nigeria public universities.
“I am happy the exercise has been extended to Dec 12 so that every staff will be captured in IPPIS,” he said.
When contacted, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Administration in UNN, Prof Pat Okpoko, said the exercise had been going smoothly and would also end smoothly in UNN.
“It is a Federal Government directive to all public universities and UNN has put adequate measures in place to ensure the exercise is successful,” he said.
In Abia, ASUU branch of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU) said that its members were not involved in the ongoing registration into the IPPIS.
Prof. Chinyere Echendu, the Chairperson of the Echendu, told NAN that the members would not enrol because they were not cored, civil servants.
She said,” We are not enrolling into IPPIS because we are not civil servants.
“Again, the IPPIS enrollment will erode the university autonomy.”
On ASUU members who were allegedly enrolling, she said, “We heard that some people said that they belonged to the Congress of University Academics (CONUA), but they denied any involvement.
“So I can tell you that nobody among us has come up to say he or she participated or is participating in the exercise.”
Meanwhile, a reliable source, who is a member of staff of the university told NAN that many ASUU members, especially the younger ones, had already enrolled in the IPPIS.
The source queried why some ASUU members would claim that they were not part of the exercise but would allow their wives who were equally staff of the university to participate in it.
“I can tell you reliably that over 70 per cent of ASUU members of this university have enrolled since the commencement of this exercise,” the source said.
Also, Mr Tochukwu Ekwomadu, the Secretary, Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and other related institutions (NASU), MOUAU chapter said that NASU was among the unions that supported the Federal Government for the initiative.
Ekwomadu, who disclosed that there were over 2,000 non-academic staff of the university, said that over 50 per cent of the university staff had been captured so far.
He commended the five personnel from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation for the manner they were conducting the exercise on campus.
He, however, expressed concern over the delay in the biometric capturing, which he attributed to bad network.
Meanwhile, the Anyim Pius Anyim Auditorium of the university, the venue of the registration was busy as many staff whose turn it was to register according to the university timetable, were seen either filling the IPPIS form or waiting to be captured.
A memo by the Registrar, Mrs Jacinta Ogwo, informing the staff about the exercise, dated Nov. 22, was posted on different notice boards in the school.