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Buhari: ASUU’s battle over payroll unnecessary

Striking varsity teachers, under the auspices of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), heard on Thursday that fighting against the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS) will amount to an exercise in futility.

Members of the union were told by President Muhammadu Buhari to stop their fight. The President, who was represented by the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof Abubakar Rasheed, spoke at the 14th Convocation of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Awka, Anambra State.

The union began a two-day warning strike to protest among other things the Federal Government directive that its members register on the IPPIS platform.

The government said the salaries on any lecturer whose names have not been captured on the platform would not be paid beginning from last month.

Buhari said on Thursday: “I will not end this address without touching on IPPIS, which has been in contention and a needless one at that.

“I assure you all that IPPIS is not intended to trample upon university autonomy nor is it designed to subsume the university into the civil service.

“The primary intention of IPPIS is to enhance greater efficiency, transparency and better management of universities finances.”

According to the President, what the IPPIS sought to achieve should be an important moral pillar of all universities, where students were graduated based on character and learning.

Besides, he said that all varsities must be committed to these cherished values if they were to serve as moral compasses to the society.

The president renewed his administration’s commitment to working with patriotic elements to significantly improve Nigeria’s fortune and negotiate a brighter future for all, especially the youths.

But speaking during a meeting with the leadership of the House of Representatives, the union was adamant on Thursday as its leaders, maintained opposition to the payroll policy.

They alleged that the government was implementing the IPPIS with a $140 million loan. The source of the laon was not discussed.

The ministry of Finance disagreed the IPPIS was being implemented with a loan as alleged by the union.

Spokesman to the Minister of Finance, Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi, told The Nation that “no one knows where ASUU got that from.”

Abdullahi said tated “the burden of proof is however on them (ASUU).”

He also challenged the media to investigate ASUU’s allegation in order to get to the bottom of the issue.

Attempts to get officials of the Office of the Accountant General (OAGF) to either confirm or deny the allegation was unsuccessful as the IPPIS director Mr. Olufehinti Olusegun did not answer phone calls or reply messages sent to him.

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The union insisted that it will be in the interest of Nigerians not to allow the Ministry of Finance to impose the IPPIS platform on varsities as it will localise them and further reduce their global rating.

House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila reminded the union leaders of the importance of informing their employers anytime they want to embark on strike accordance with the law of the land.

Gbajabiamila, who said “a strike is a strike”, appealed to them to call off their strike action in the interest of students to pave the way for negotiations, adding that a strike action for just one day has consequences.

Minister of State for Labour and Productivity Festus Keyamo, who was at the meeting, told the Speaker that ASUU did not give the two-week notice required by the Trade Dispute Act before it called out its members on strike.

ASUU National President Prof Biodun Ogunyemi told his audience the union told the government in 2013 when the IPPIS was first introduced that it was not workable.

He said the IPPIS will further cause a crash of Nigerian universities in world ranking, adding that members of the union has what it takes to develop an acceptable platform that will help address the issue of corruption.

Ogunyemi dismissed claims that the union did not inform the government before embarking on the strike as stipulated by Labour Laws, saying they were not embarking on a fresh strike, but resuming from where they stopped.

He said: “We are not starting a fresh strike, but continuing from where we stopped. In February 2019, we signed a memorandum of action.”

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