Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, in this interview with FRANK IKPEFAN, explains why the body is against the integrated personal and payroll information system (IPPIS).

Universities as learning centres

The universities are learning and research environment where scholars come from different parts of the world to work. IPPIS doesn’t recognise that peculiarity and it is that peculiarity that separates universities from core civil service. IPPIS is meant for civil servants. University lecturers are not civil servants. They are international scholars, international workers. People can come from other parts of the world to work in the universities and such people cannot be subjected to IPPIS that will require them to be coming to Abuja from different locations in the country and where people come for short stay in the universities, IPPIS doesn’t accommodate that because IPPIS takes a long time to regularise payment for workers. Those who are enrolled on IPPIS – even in the core civil service, in the teaching hospitals, they have protested, they have been shortchanged. If you do that to workers from other parts of the world working in the universities, they will not come back to the universities.

Role of Governing Council

Strictly speaking, Governing Councils are the employers of lecturers. Those who work in the universities are strictly employed by the governing councils. Even Vice-Chancellors are appointed by the governing councils. We cannot turn them to core civil servants whereby vice-chancellors will have to be queuing in the office of Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to get clearance for appointments into the universities. It is never done in any part of the world. If the Nigerian government insists on IPPIS, it means that we don’t want to be reckoned with globally and it is that international diversity that makes universities universal cities of knowledge creation and innovation.

We are saying that the Nigerian government shouldn’t localise our universities at a time universities all over the world are internationalising. We should be internationalising our universities so that we can occupy enviable positions in the global ranking of universities.

Global ranking

If the Nigerian government insists on IPPIS, it means that they want to reverse our gains. The gains that Nigerian universities have made in the last couple of years. You recall that in the last five years we have been hitting up in global ranking but now, to insist on IPPIS means that we have to forget the little gains that we have made and will further bring our universities down in global ranking.

People have talked about lecturers working in more than one universities. It is allowed internationally that when you are in a university you can move to another university to assist them while you are still retaining your job. That is what sabbatical is meant for and in areas of scarcity, a university can appeal to another university that please, give us staff that will come and help us. That is what you see in many of the new universities that the Nigerian government has created. They don’t have a high calibre of staff. The ideal thing is, if they think some are doing this thing illegally, let us put checks in place and we have proposed alternatives to them. We have said that we have experts who can develop an alternative that is university-based and that will help us to check corruptive practice or act of corruption that they said they have seen in the universities and that is why there are three layers of control if they are made to work. There is an internal audit in the university and there is also an external audit. External audit in the university is supposed to be instituted by the governing councils and under the third level, the government has the power of visitation. That is the third level of monitoring what is going on in the universities.

Alternative platform

What we are saying is that let us put an alternative platform in place. IPPIS is an imposition by the World Bank and we say it is not in the interest of national security to release our data to external agents. All the data they are generating they are not based in Nigeria. When we do this kind of thing for universities we are further endangering our universities in terms of security, the security of data-we talk of cybercrime. We don’t do that in the universities because the university is a sensitive environment. If you look at universities in the western world that is where innovations and intellectual properties are incubated, that is where incubation of innovation and creative inventions take place. If we don’t encourage universities to operate according to their laws, according to their tradition and culture then Nigerian universities will not have a good place of reckoning among the comity of universities. We are not raising scholars in Nigeria that cannot stand shoulder to shoulder with their peers in other parts of the world. We go to other places to assist them. We should also allow others to come and assist us in Nigeria. That is what we are saying.

Anti-graft war

ASUU is fully in support of the war against corruption and if you look at our records, we have always raised alarm each time we saw any unethical practices in the system. That is what informed our call for visitation. We have been calling for visitation now for many years and the government has not done it. The other two levels of accountability and transparency will be fostered within the system if we allowed the governing councils to do their work. The law is clear – governing councils are to manage the universities and where they are found to be incompetent, the government has the power to dissolve them and reconstitute them immediately. ASUU is not against the war on corruption. Rather, ASUU is fully in support and ASUU has always played the role of a watchdog in the system. We are still determined to play that role.”

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