The Federal Government defended its Integrated Personnel and Information System on Thursday, insisting that the policy had come to stay.
This came as the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), met with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities and urged the lecturers to embrace IPPIS with a promise to increase university funding.
This, he said, would complement efforts being made to resolve the union’s face-off with the government over the IPPIS.
The government said at the meeting that up to 70 per cent of university lecturers had already enrolled in the system, arguing that it was an indication of its acceptance by the majority of the teachers.
A government team which had the Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu; Minister of Finance/Budget/National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige; and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, participated at the meeting where figures were presented before Buhari.
Findings indicated that Ahmed informed the session that up to 96,090 out of the 137,016 university lecturers in the federal universities across the country had already joined the scheme.
She was said to have stated that only 30 per cent of lecturers were still opposing the policy.
Ahmed, who had in October 2019, disclosed that the IPPIS already saved the government over N250bn hitherto paid to ghost workers, argued at the meeting that with the progress achieved so far, the policy had come to stay.
However, The PUNCH learnt that the ASUU’s team, led to the meeting by its President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, disputed the submission of the minister and expressed surprise that she could give such figures.
Ahmed had also claimed that officials sent to the universities to register the lecturers were harassed and turned away by the teachers.
One source at the meeting stated, “The Minister of Finance told ASUU that about 96,090 out of 137,016 members of the union have enrolled in the IPPIS. The ASUU president was surprised hearing this. The lecturers did not agree to this.”
The meeting reportedly did not resolve the dispute, though it was held on the request of ASUU to see Buhari over the challenges facing the university system.
After the meeting, neither the ASUU officials nor the ministers agreed to speak with State House correspondents.
Recall that ASUU had opposed the IPPIS policy on the grounds that it infringed on university autonomy.
ASUU had directed its members nationwide to shun it and threatened an industrial action to further drive home its opposition to the policy.
In place of the IPPIS, it proposed the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, as an alternative.
Amid the dispute, Buhari had directed the finance minister in October last year to begin full implementation of the IPPIS, adding that all MDAs and government’s institutions must enrol.
Salaries of workers who failed to join the system by October 31 were to be stopped, but university lecturers still got paid in December.
However, the Presidency, in a statement after the meeting, said Buhari promised increased funding of the university system to enable it to deliver on its mandate of providing quality education.
He asked the lecturers to support the IPPIS.
“The President urged members of ASUU to assist the Federal Government in realising the target of improved education and credible certificates by complying with ongoing verification and validation of human resources in the universities, which will guarantee optimum output,” the statement, which was signed by Buhari’s media aide, Mr Femi Adesina, stated.
The statement added that the finance minister advised ASUU at the session to encourage its remaining 40,926 members to comply with the IPPIS.
“The minister pointed out that many anomalies were discovered in the university structures that have contributed to the increased cost burden, which include staff working and earning pay in more than one university, contract staff on payroll of the government, tax reductions on PAYEE and multiple employments,” the statement added.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, also “urged ASUU to comply with the IPPIS in national interest as his office was already in the process of streamlining all issues of human resources in government.”
The Presidency’s statement confirmed that ASUU opposed the IPPIS at the meeting with Buhari, arguing that the government’s visitation policy to the universities was enough accountability process as against the IPPIS.
“On IPPIS and university operations, Prof. Ogunyemi said the Federal Government’s visitor initiative to the universities, at least once in five years, was the best guarantee for monitoring accountability processes that include internal and external audit processes.
“The ASUU president said the IPPIS would be a ‘disruptive intrusion’ that violates the laws of the federation, violates university statutes, and violates agreements between the Federal Government and ASUU.’
“The government should welcome ASUU’s ongoing innovation of a robust system of human resources management and compensation, called the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, which will address peculiarities of universities and end inappropriate recruitment,” the Presidency quoted ASUU as saying.