With schools reopening, announcing resumption dates and releasing academic calendars, the unanswered question of would school really reopen for academic activities amid the various strike actions? This question continues to linger in the minds of students in various tertiary institutions in Nigeria. But, how did we get here?
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) began its industrial strike action on 9th of March, 2020 over a disagreement with the Federal Government on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) topping the list of the issues the union has against the federal government. The strike action which started even before the full enforcement of the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is still here even though the coronavirus pandemic is gradually fading away.
Next in line is the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP). This union has threatened to embark on strike action over the same implementation of IPPIS at the forefront of its grievances. The union even suspended it’s already planned out strike action months back due to the coronavirus concerns but is yet to get on the same page with the federal government.
Similarly, the College of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) has equally threatened to embark on industrial action over the same complaint on the implementation of IPPIS, delayed salaries etc.
It does not stop here, other union bodies in tertiary institutions such as the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) embarked on a two weeks strike action on October 5th. The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP) has given the federal government a 21-day ultimatum still on payment issues.
The complaints of all these union bodies all centres on salary issues and the implementation of IPPIS.
What is IPPIS?
The Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) is a centralized payroll platform by the Federal Government that helps the government to plan and manage its payroll budget and ensuring there’s no loophole in the disbursement of pays.
It is worthy of note that Judges, MDAs, the military, even the president is paid from IPPIS. According to the Accountant-General of Nigeria (who oversees the IPPIS scheme) has revealed that the system has helped the government to save over two hundred billion Naira from managing costs and the discovery of ghost workers. But why would the above tertiary institution unions not want to be a part of the system?
Why Tertiary Institutions’ Unions Do Not Want IPPIS?
Tertiary institutions’ union, ASUU more specifically, said that the IPPIS scheme would not be able to cater for its peculiarities – sabbatical leaves, part-time programmes, visitation, staffing of new programmes etc., which is why they don’t want to be a part of the IPPIS scheme and hence hinder school reopening.
President Buhari, on Thursday, during the presentation of the national budget, reiterated that only staff on the IPPIS programme would be paid. But, ASUU still stands their ground and refuse to join the system. Even the other unions that embraced the IPPIS system are regretting it or complaining bitterly of salaries shortage or no salaries at all. Despite the fact that ASUU brought their own payment system known as the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), they are still yet to be on the same page with the Federal Government on either swapping IPPIS with UTAS or merge the two platforms together.
This is still why universities that announced resumption date such as the Lagos State University (LASU), Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (COOU) etc. are yet to resume academic activities. Even the ones that have fixed a resumption date are not so certain of resuming e.g. the Taraba State University (TASU).
Nigerian students are in a twist here, as they don’t know who to hold responsible for the pending strike action or the upcoming ones – the federal government or the lecturers? In conclusion, the fate of school reopening and Nigerian students resuming academic activities totally depends on the acceptance of IPPIS by the ASUU and the other related unions or the federal government accepting their plea and paying off pending salaries.