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IPPIS may do more damage to university system, warns Oloyede

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Unless the Federal Government handles the current face-off with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over the Integrated Payment and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) with caution, the scheme might do more damage to the university system than good.

One of the new recipients of the National Productivity Order of Merit Award, Professor Is-haq Olanrewaju Oloyede, who is also Registrar/Chief Executive of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), in an exclusive interview with The Guardian, said rather than forcing IPPIS on university lecturers, the in-built mechanisms for addressing the issue of corruption in the university system should be activated.

The Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, on Wednesday warned that university lecturers not on the IPPIS would be sanctioned if they do not enroll on the scheme by yesterday “to enable us meet the deadline set by the Federal Government for the payroll of federal universities.”

Ahmed, in a statement, said some vice chancellors of federal universities were yet to enroll on the IPPIS one week after the commencement of the exercise.

Some members of ASUU in some universities across the country were reported to be enrolling on the scheme, which registration started in universities on November 25 and ended yesterday.

Oloyede, a former vice chancellor of the University of Ilorin, stated: “The government should be cautious, because IPPIS might do more damage to the university system than good.
My own position, not as JAMB Registrar, but as a professor from a university and as somebody who had managed the university and had also been president of Association of African Universities (AAU) and so has a fair view of what goes on in the university all over the world, is that we are swinging between one extreme to the other.

“Prior to 2005, no university got direct allocation from the government; we used to defend our budget with the National Universities Commission (NUC), which regulates, controls, supervises and monitors everything.

“Now, because our colleagues were saying that NUC was too overbearing, they decided to have direct interface with the National Assembly and the national purse. This is one of the consequences of such complaints about NUC being accused of being overbearing.”

According to Oloyede, the analysis of government expenditure on universities prior to 2005 and after 2005 indicated lawlessness in the management of resources allocated the institutions, adding: “Go and compare, there has been lawlessness since 2005, because what you get into the university is no longer a product of what you need, but a product of lobbying and so many dirty things that go along with lobbying.

“The process is no longer regulated. When NUC was regulating, we had parameters, size of the university, age of the university, science-arts parameter and the growth rate. Then, there was the University System Annual Review Meeting (USARM), where every vice chancellor accounted for every kobo given to it to the NUC, which would harvest this review to serve as basis for its recommendation for budget allocation for all the federal universities.

“Now, we have dismantled that structure and every university handles matters individually, independent of NUC, which is not even cost- effective. If you analyse how much every vice chancellor spends in coming to and from Abuja on the issue of contacting National Assembly or contacting IPPIS, they are not only spending money, they are also learning new tricks about corruption.

“This is because, yes, many people may say universities are corrupt, yet, no sane person will assert that the universities are more corrupt than the public service. Civil service is stinking about corruption and the universities are still sane. But by the time we allow the undue and unregulated intermingling, you are going to transfer this poisonous dose into the university system and they are going to be the worse for it, as they (universities) have the intellectual capacity to package the corruption. It is something that we need to look into.

“Many people raised the issue that some vice chancellors were prosecuted. What was the outcome of the prosecutions? I did not find any one of them that was not set free. The court said that by the rules of the university, they have not done anything wrong.

“All the noise in the media is when they are being tried, but when the court sets them free, nobody hears about it.”

Oloyede, in reference to the case of a serving President of the AAU, who was also vice chancellor of a university in Nigeria, said: “You know the impact of the trial of such a person on the nation. We were really shocked and after the man went through all the horror, only for the court to say nothing was found against him after the name of the country and the university was almost permanently damaged.

“So, what we are saying is that there are in-built mechanisms for addressing the issue of corruption in the university system. Let us activate those mechanisms; let us make sure that NUC is made to play both supervisory and regulatory roles on federal universities. They have regulatory roles over all universities, but they have both supervisory and regulatory roles on federal universities and that is what we are saying they should activate.”

On his part, a former executive secretary of the NUC, Prof. Peter Okebukola, clarified that the federal government is enrolling university teachers only in the federal university system who are its employees.

The former vice chancellor said: “I am Chairman of Council of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), a federal university, and our staff are enrolling. I am sure that ASUU and the federal government will work out an amicable solution in due course and we will have a win-win situation in our hands.”

In reaction to the deadline, ASUU leaders across the country dared government to carry out its sanction threat.

Officials of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, chapter said they had resolved to ignore the directive, insisting that government has no power to impose sanctions against them for non-compliance.

The Assistant Secretary, Dr. Abubakar Ibrahim Zaria, said despite the pressure, they had decided to ignore the directive and they will not comply.

He said: “You know our union has taken the decision of not participating in the IPPIS programme and we are in total support of this stance. And from our survey, there is total compliance in our University to this decision not to be part of the IPPIS.

“The compliance level is impressive. Our members are really complying. But there is this propaganda and rumour going on here and there. You know, as usual, particularly when you have a situation like this when you are struggling against certain entity, the other entity will want to make propaganda so that it will seem as if they are winning.

“The fact is that it is only the non-academics that are rushing to do this thing. Our members are not participating. There are those that would not like to play by the rule. It is not surprising that very few members are defying the stance of the union, because they are afraid
that if they don’t participate, their salaries would be stopped.

“These people are very negligible, compared to the massive adherence to the decision of majority of our members, who have adhered to neglect the call by the federal government to comply with it decision.”

Lagos Zonal Coordinator of ASUU, Prof. Olusiji Sowande, insisted: “We are not shifting ground. Our position is the NEC decision and it cannot be changed by an individual. We have made our position known that IPPIS will disrupt the university system, apart from the fact that it is against university laws and autonomy.

“So, we are not shifting our ground. It is just a pity that the AGF is threatening to sanction vice chancellors and academic staff who do not register. The worst they can do is to keep the salary and I don’t think that one is sanction.

“You know some of the things we are saying is what is just rearing its head now. Somebody will sit in Abuja and decide the fate of millions of academics and university staff. You can see what is happening now, if an accountant general, I don’t even know his level of education, could threaten the vice chancellors, you know the implication. It is like he is commanding the people under his ministry. The implication is that by the time everybody joins IPPIS, that is the way he is going to be behaving and any other person that comes after him.

“The VCs will be going cap in hand begging for their allocation to be released and for their staff to be paid. It is already rearing his head.”

While maintaining that the AGF’s directive is a violation of university rules and regulations, Sowande stressed that his conduct is similar to activities of the military dictators, adding:
“Normally, it is the NUC that should communicate the vice chancellors, not the office of the AGF. Even the Federal Ministry of Education will not communicate things to the VCs.

“If there is any communication to the VCs, they will give their directive to NUC and NUC will communicate to the VCs, because the regulatory agency for university is NUC. You can see the ugly incident that is likely to happen if this thing is eventually.”

Corroborating Sowande’s view, Chairman of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, chapter of the union, Dr. Adeola Egbedokun, added: “ASUU is not shifting any ground. Our decision is the same and it will remain the same.

“For ASUU OAU, we have aligned with the directive of our national body that no member should register or enroll on IPPIS. We are standing on that up till today. If it is the duty of the AGF to sanction academics, let him go ahead and do that.”

In Abia State, members of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU) chapter, vowed not to enroll on the scheme. Its Chairman, Mrs. Chinyere Echendu, told The Guardian: “Our stand is that we are not enrolling. We stand by the resolution of our union not to enroll. This is where we are,” she said.

At the Federal University, Oye Ekiti (FUOYE), in Ekiti State, the lecturers are divided among the three unions there- ASUU, Progressive ASUU and Congress of University Academics (CONUA).

A number of CONUA members have already enrolled on IPPIS, while a few others, who preferred to remain in the mainstream ASUU, refused to participate.

The IPPIS team was at the university on Thursday to do the data capturing of willing academic staff.

Speaking on the development, Coordinator of the FUOYE’s chapter of CONUA, Ayodeji Ebenezer Ige, justified his members’ participation in the IPPIS capturing, in defiance of ASUU position, noting: “As far as we are concerned, we do not have problems with federal government policy on IPPIS. We have come to understand that the policy is good and capable of curbing corruption in the system.

“I have just been captured by the IPPIS team and scores of my members, who can read between the lines, have followed my good example. My concern is that those on the other side who are against it might be doing so at their own risk, because government is the employer and reserves right to regulate.”

But Vice Chairman of the institution’s ASUU, Dr. Habibatu Adubiaro, insisted that her members would not participate, adding: “We are not involved in this exercise, we are not participating, because that is the directive from our national secretariat, which we are bound to obey.”

Professor Sola Omotola of Progressive ASUU, stated: “We have not met to take a position, but we are trying to look at both sides of the coin. Since we are under the employment of the federal government, we cannot say we will outrightly disregard the directive. What I think ASUU should do is to continue to engage and negotiate with federal government.

“My position is that the federal government should see how it can extend the time. The time they gave is not even enough for the non- teaching staff. If you extend the time, there may be some academic staff who do not tow the line of ASUU.

“My group has no affiliate chapter. We believe in what ASUU represents, but we felt the ASUU could have handled the case better, instead of this current approach.”

The University of Ilorin chapter distanced itself from any plan by any person, group of persons or government to force their enrollment on the IPPIS.

Its Chairman, Professor Musa Saliu Ajao, said whether to enroll or not would be the exclusive decision of ASUU National Executive Council.

But Ajao queried the introduction of IPPIS to the academic community, saying as a democratic country, the proposition should have been mooted at the National Assembly and not through any fiat or order.

He urged government to embrace dialogue rather than any coercive means on the issue, as threat of sack of any ASUU member over such an issue had been taken care of in a judicial decision by the Supreme Court.

“How many of the children of the proponents of the IPPIS for our members attend Nigerian universities? Even where they do, how many of them attend public universities?

‘”Having destroyed the country’s primary and post-primary institutions, government again is planning a destruction of the university education.

“Ask them the reason behind indiscriminate granting of operational licences to private owners of universities. We will not fold our hands and allow charlatans to destroy our universities and the future of our children.”


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