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The Academic Staff Union of Universities will this week decide whether or not to call upon its members to proceed on a nationwide strike following the decision of the Federal Government to stop salaries of lecturers who have not enrolled in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.
The PUNCH gathered that ASUU held its National Executive Council meeting at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu, on Saturday and Sunday, where issues such as the IPPIS and the Federal Government’s failure to honour the 2009 agreements were discussed.
It was learnt that the Federal Government would this week pay February salaries of its workers, including university lecturers, who had registered on the IPPIS.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zanaib Ahmed, in an interview at a management retreat in Kano on Thursday, had said lecturers who did not enroll for the IPPIS would not get their February salaries.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had in October last year directed all Federal Government workers to enroll in the IPPIS to ensure transparency.
But ASUU kicked against the directive on the grounds that it negated the principle of autonomy of universities.
The union directed its members to shun government officials sent to universities between October 25 and November 7, 2019, for the purpose of enrolling workers in the IPPIS.
On Thursday, the finance minister said 55 per cent of ASUU members had registered for the IPPIS, saying, “the ones that have not are not getting their February salary.”
A source at the Enugu meeting of ASUU said the lecturers had been asked to go on strike if their salaries were stopped.
The Chairman of ASUU at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Dr Christina Opata, in an interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, also said lecturers at the university were waiting for directives from the leadership of ASUU at the national level.
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She said, “They started on Saturday and by the end of today’s meeting (Sunday), the body will come up with a decision.”
The ASUU branch chairman said the integrated payroll system was defective and full of corruption.
She said, “The Federal Government has not told Nigerians the truth about what it wants to achieve through the IPPIS because the IPPIS is an embodiment of corruption itself. There is evidence to prove that many people are on the payroll under IPPIS yet they are not working anywhere. If they are sincere they should decentralise it.
“Each university should have desk officers so that anytime somebody has a complaint, it doesn’t require the person going to Abuja; you walk over to the desk officer in your university and put up your complaint. But as it is now, if you go to Abuja you will hire a hotel and you may spend three, four days without meeting the officer in charge.
These are the things that people have been pointing out but they don’t want to understand it that way.
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“They say they want a centralised system of payment as if those who are there are the saints of society. But whatever it is, our own concern, the concern of ASUU is that the IPPIS is not corrupt-free. You say you want software that can control everything about Nigeria, yet the software is not domiciled and controlled by Nigeria. It is controlled by a foreign country. The software that they are using is that of the Apple domiciled in the United States of America which means every information about Nigeria is to be managed by the US.”
Asked what ASUU would do if the Federal Government made good its threat not to pay the February salaries of defaulting lecturers, the Chairman of ASUU, University of Ibadan, Prof. Ayoola Akinwole, said the union would respond appropriately when February salaries were paid.
It was gathered that no worker of the University of Ibadan, both teaching and non-teaching, had been paid the February salary as of Friday.
In an earlier interview with The PUNCH, Akinwole said the step to be taken by the academic staff union depends on whether the FG would make good its threat or not.
Akinwole said the Federal Government had declared a technical war on ASUU by failing to heed its call for full payment of workers’ January salaries.
He said only net salary payment was done in January, saying, “No staff of the University of Ibadan, whether those that enrolled on the IPPIS or not, has been paid for the month of February. That was why I said earlier that the Accountant General of the Federation should resign.
“Another fact is that up till now, they have not paid our deductions (January). This means that they did not pay our salaries in full. What they did was part payment.
“If you are paying salaries without paying deductions, what you are saying is that you have not paid salaries. What was paid was the net. The situation applies to everybody across the board in UI; people have not been paid in full.
“Government has technically declared industrial dispute. When I work but you did not pay me. They have the right to do what they like; we also have the right to do what we want to do.”