Ostensibly to stave off the looming strike by universities teachers, under the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), if it failed to pay January salaries of members who refuse to enroll onto the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS), the Federal Government may have extended the deadline for them to key into the scheme, as it has paid their January salaries.
The government had earlier threatened to stop payment of the salaries by the end of last month. In response, ASUU, at the last National Executive Congress (NEC) held early January in Minna, Niger State, resolved to activate indefinite strike as soon as government enforces its no IPPIS, no salary policy.
The payment of the salaries has put paid to any industrial action by the union, at least for now. Zonal Coordinator of ASUU, Lagos Zone, Prof. Olusiji Sowande, confirmed to The Guardian that ASUU members received their salaries at the early hours of yesterday.
According to him: “The tension will be high for as long as the government does not see the university as different from civil service and also continue in failing to implement our MOA after the February 2019 suspended strike.
“However, January salary has been paid early this (yesterday) morning.”Chairman of Bayero University, Kano branch of the union, Prof. Ibrahim Barde, who confirmed receipt of salaries for the month of January, said that action has averted the planned strike.
Barde, who earlier told The Guardian that ASUU was merely waiting for the action of the government regarding the January salary and the threat to launch no-IPPIS, no salary, stressed that the industrial action was no longer necessary.
The ASUU chairman, however, stressed that despite the settlement of their January salary, the union was not leaving anything to chance and would launch immediate response to government’s next line of action.“ASUU has made several submissions to the President on IPPIS during our last meeting with him. Apart from that, we also made submission on university funding, renegotiation on 2009 ASUU agreement, sources of funds for universities to augment the federal government subvention, we have made submission on visitation panel to universities, which is the real way of checking corruption in the university system and others.
“But we were surprised that despite the President’s directive to the Minister of Education to commence work on all our submissions, the next information we heard was that the federal government was suspending our salaries, which we considered as clear indication that it was working in uncoordinated manners,” Barde explained.
Government’s threats, which is often greeted with ASUU’s insistence and yet another threat to shut down the university system, always heats up the polity, thereby creating panic among undergraduates and their parents.
Just recently, there was news of yet another circular from the Director of IPPIS in the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Joshua Olufehinti, with reference number OAGF/IPPIS/19/11/54.
The memo was reported to have been sent to the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, requesting the stoppage of the release of funds for January salaries to federal universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, particularly to workers yet to be registered on the scheme.
ASUU, as usual, fired back by announcing that they won’t hesitate to activate their no pay, no work policy should the directive of the memo be implemented.Stakeholders, students and parents have always appealed to the warring parties not to do anything that could jeopardise the future of the youth.
ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, had in a recent interview with The Guardian, said government should be held responsible for any breakdown, saying the union was fighting a just cause that would benefit the students and the entire society on the long run. He stated: “Nigerians should hold government responsible for whatever consequences that follow the stoppage of our members’ salaries and failure to address our earlier demands. These other demands are captured in the FGN/ASUU Memorandum of Action of 7th February 2019.
“Our members have taken their resolution on what they would do and there is no going back. The only way to diffuse tension is for government to go back to where our discussion stopped during the union’s visit to the Presidency on January 9, 2020.”
Meanwhile, a faction of ASUU, known as CONUA, has restated its unwavering support to the federal government towards achieving IPPIS in all tertiary institutions.
National Coordinator of the group, Niyi Sunmonu, told The Guardian recently that its members were in full support of every policy and effort of government to reform the Nigerian public financial system with a view to combating corruption and sanitising the country’s educational system.