IPPIS: The Lawless Government and the Pain of Patriotism

The federal government’s directive to remove universities and other tertiary institutions from the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) payment platform generated huge congratulatory messages to ASUU members. If only the congratulatory messages could be monetised, the poor lecturers would be so rich. The government admitted that it was an error to have included tertiary institutions on IPPIS and the exemption is for the progress of the University. Sadly, no one is talking about the pain that the same federal government has subjected the Union members to in their patriotic protest to correct the wrong. This is not the first victory recorded after painful treatment.

Federal and state governments are happy to establish new universities for TETFund to fund their infrastructure. The government of Buhari, that saw ASUU as an enemy to crush, named the new TETFund universities he established as the only visible achievements in the education sector. How was TETFund established?

The 1992 ASUU strike that led to the proscription of the Union and the traumatisation of the members during the military regime led to the establishment of the Education Trust Fund (ETF). That 1992 strike was the first time that the weapon of hunger was deployed by the government through the stoppage of salaries in order to break the members.

The failure of such a brutal approach forced the government to negotiate with ASUU after 3 months. This led to the 1992 ASUU-FG Agreement that gave rise to a new package of the condition of service, university autonomy, and arrangement on funding through the education tax fund on 3rd September 1992. ASUU developed the framework of ETF. In January 1993, the Education Tax Act No7 of 1993 was promulgated alongside other education-related Decrees.

The funding issue continued as Obasanjo's government came to overstretch ETF and tertiary institutions were not getting the required intervention. ASUU, as usual, continued to draw the attention of the government to that. It was only during the 2009 ASUU strike that the mandate of ETF was refocused. In 2011, the Education Tax Act was repealed and replaced by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act.

The irony is that after realising that ETF was a brilliant idea, FG never apologised to ASUU for the ill-treatment of the Union. And for the struggle for TETFund to be what it is today, nobody bothers about the history to give credit to the initiator of the idea.

Then, the IPPIS was brought. When Jonathan's FG wanted to implement the use of IPPIS in Federal universities in 2013. ASUU saw the danger in the University system and informed the government that the policy was not suitable for the universities and presented all the reasons. The government was convinced it wouldn't work with university peculiarities, aside from the fact the circular is contrary to the law that established the universities and the University Autonomy Act.

In a letter dated 19th March 2014 and addressed to the ASUU president,  the Union was requested to nominate a representative for a committee to consider the development, implementation, and workability of a solution in the University system. The alternative solution was to accommodate the peculiarities of the university system and also achieve the objectives of IPPIS. The election year started immediately after that and Jonathan lost the election.

Buhari's FG came and abandoned Jonathan's FG plan in 2014 to develop an alternative platform for the University system. No continuity. As bad as the poverty of sincerity, no one can deny the existence of the University Autonomy Act and its content.

The Universities Autonomy Act No. 1, 2007 stated that: "The Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act 2003 (otherwise called the Universities Autonomy Act No. 1, 2007) enacted by the National Assembly and signed into law on 10th July 2003 and later gazetted by the Federal Republic of Nigerian Official Gazette No. 10, Volume 94 of 12th January 2007 as Act No. 1 of 2000, has vested the powers of MANAGING THE PERSONNEL AND PAYROLL SYSTEM issues in the hands of each university’s governing council."

Section 2AA of the Act states that: “The powers of the Council shall be exercised, as in the Law and Statutes of each university and to this, extant establishment circulars that are inconsistent with the laws and statutes of the university shall not apply to the universities.” Section 2AAA states: “The Governing Council of a university shall be free in the discharge of its functions and exercise of its responsibilities for the good management, growth, and development of the University.”

Fortunately for Buhari and unfortunately for the country and its University system, he had people around him who hated lecturers, thought they had scores to settle with lecturers, and had been looking for an opportunity to deal with them. All attempts to make them understand the position of the law on the forceful enrolment on IPPIS were ignored. They had no respect for the law. They were the law themselves and it was all about how they wanted it. The university Autonomy Act is in plain language but they refused to read it.

He had an Accountant General (aka "Account Clerk") of the Federation who wanted to show the lecturers the power of the man with the button. He also had a powerful minister, a mother, who was quoted to have allegedly said she would make sure ASUU members beg for food to eat. And he had a Labour Minister who took the ASUU-FG issue as a personal fight between him and ASUU president.

Indeed, leadership is not for everybody.

Tinubu's government like Jonathan's government seems willing to listen to the voice of reason. They have agreed that IPPIS in the University is against the law of the Autonomy of the universities and has actually affected the efficient management of the university system and other tertiary institutions. Kudos to Tinubu's Federal Executive Council which has the same Buhari's Festus Keyamo as a member. That is life.

The 4 years of the universities on IPPIS have caused some retrogression to the operation of the university system. Can the 4 years damage be remedied by this FEC decision? It will surely take some years for the universities to recover from the damage. What about the University lecturers who were punished through starvation for being too patriotic and daring to protest the strangulation of the public universities by an insensitive government? The reversal was an admission that "we are wrong and you are right". Will the lecturers get an apology and compensation for being punished for a patriotic fight for the system? When will the withheld salaries be paid unconditionally with an apology?

The public universities are our universities and not ASUU universities. The Academics can't keep draining their blood to keep them alive. It is become obvious that ASUU members are getting to a breaking point. It is our collective responsibility to reposition them and give them the desired global identity.

What the government has failed to realise is that public universities can also serve as a source of forex for the country as the universities in Malaysia are doing now. The political class just needs to wear the cap of sincerity and give the universities the needed support to make them among the world's best universities.

Dear President Tinubu, you have done well to have listened to the voice of reason and reversed the forceful enrollment of the public University workers on IPPIS. You should also have a look at the recommendations of the Nimi Briggs' Renegotiation Committee of 2022 and other pending issues in the interest of our university system and Nigeria.


Prof. Abdelghaffar Amoka Abdelmalik, PhD.
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Copyright © Amoka 2023

ASUU Vs Federal Government

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