The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Thursday with President Muhammadu Buhari argue its case against the enrolment of its members under the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) scheme, which the Federal Government insists all its workers must be part of.
However the reasons adduced by the ASUU could not sway the president, who told the lecturers that federal government to shift ground on the matter,
appealing to ASUU to assist the federal government in realising the target of improved education and credible certificates by complying with ongoing verification and validation of human resources in the universities, which he said would guarantee optimum output.
He said, “he future of the country depends on quality education and our certificates must be credible to inspire confidence,’’ he was quoted to have said in a statement by his media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina.
Buhari told ASUU that the federal government would give more attention to improving personnel and infrastructure of universities with a view to producing quality graduates, assuring the union that education would, henceforth, be a top priority in development goals of the country.
According to him, effective and efficient operations of universities would go a long way in improving the economy, especially with focus on science and technology.
Buhari said constitutional provisions should be carefully studied and adhered to for more harmonious relationships and standards that would promote efficiency.
The president also directed the Ministry of Education to put in more efforts in ensuring that universities are properly funded as well as provided with adequate infrastructure and staffing.
At the meeting, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said out of the 137,016 academic and non-academic staff members of universities, 96,090 had so far been enrolled into IPPIS. She urged ASUU to encourage the remaining 40,926 of its members to comply with the process.
Ahmed said a desk had been opened in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation for registration of university staff, assuring the union that peculiarities of the tertiary institutions would be accommodated.
The minister added that many anomalies were discovered in the university structures, which had contributed to the increased cost burden, including the staff working and earning pay in more than one university, the contract staff on payroll of the government, tax reductions on PAYEE and multiple employments.
The minister told the meeting that some universities had rushed to recruit more staff before the IPPIS registration commenced, which she said was later detected.
“While it is clear that ASUU has peculiarities, it should be recognised and rightly accommodated, and the allowances will be made, and not leaving the university out of IPPIS because of the peculiarities,’’ she was quoted as saying.
On his part, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, urged ASUU to comply with IPPIS in national interest, explaining that his office is already in the process of streamlining all issues of human resources in government.
The statement also said ASUU described IPPIS as a “disruptive intrusion” into the tertiary education system.
ASUU Chairman, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, who led leaders of the group to the meeting, stated that IPPIS violated the laws, violated university statutes and violated agreements between the federal government and ASUU.
According to him, instead of forcing lecturers to enroll into the IPPIS, the government should encourage the university authorities to sustain their current innovative efforts to entrench transparency and accountability in the nation’s ivory tower.
“The government should welcome ASUU’s ongoing innovation of a robust system of human resource management and compensation, called the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, which will address peculiarities of universities and end inappropriate recruitments,” he added.
Ogunyemi advocated the need for the federal government attention in the educational sector, noting that implementation of agreements over the years would help in improving the quality of education in the universities.
He said the universities possessed the potentials that could transform the country if given the required support.
“Nigerian universities can make meaningful contributions to addressing the challenges of the country (economy, security and corruption) if given the opportunities. Appropriate funding level, competitive conditions of service, university autonomy and academic freedom are critical to creating such an atmosphere.
“With adequate and effective education, particularly university education, Nigerians will be less susceptible to manipulation; our economy will grow and problems of insecurity and corruption will be drastically reduced,” he said.
He said Nigeria could learn from countries like China, Malaysia and Singapore that encouraged universities to drive their educational development through tripartite linkages of government, industries and universities called Triple Helix Principle.
Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, and Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, also assured ASUU that the federal government was committed to improving the educational sector, promising to work closely with ASUU in accomplishing the target.
In another statement issued by Adesina yesterday, Buhari reaffirmed the commitment of his administration to the use of technology for enhanced public service delivery.
He made the remark while receiving the leadership of Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPCN) and Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) led by its president, Prof. Charles Uwadia.
Buhari said: “Technology in public service delivery is no longer a luxury, but a pressing necessity.’’
The president described Information Communication Technology (ICT) as the driving force for social and economic change and told his guests that his government, through its actions, had demonstrated its commitment to convert these potentials to reality.
‘‘The future belongs to IT. What was unimaginable 20 years ago is a reality today. Accordingly, we have introduced numerous policies and have made substantial investments to ensure the benefits of this technology-driven age are felt by 200 million Nigerians.
“Indeed, our strategy for inclusive economic growth can only be achieved by leveraging the technology tools available to us ,” Buhari was quoted as saying.