The ASUU Strike and the Crapious Revolution 4
The First Target
The continuing romance of the Government of Nigeria (GON) with globalisation is ever demanding of the immiseration of the country. Globalisation has done nothing good for Nigeria and Nigerians, other than in strange abstract terms. One-size-fits-all globalisation policies always end up favouring the few and failing everyone else. The Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) is a one-size-fits-all policy instrument and does not fit with university systems. Rather, it targets university staff.
We must agree, universities are peculiar establishments. First, they are high/advanced skills establishments. Acquiring and keeping personnel for those skills in pedagogy and research may seem straightforward in the long term, but it is not. These skills frequently need internal and external collaborations to be useful in both the long term and short term, hence universities require many other staff. Moreover, it takes eight to ten years to train a university lecturer and between thirteen and twenty years to become a professor.
A broad church of visiting fellows, visiting professors, research associates, graduate assistants, teaching assistants, external examiners, adjuncts and invited lecturers make universities work. That considered, universities must pay such personnel for their services, which may make up to a third of a university’s academic budget. In addition, permanent staff can go on sabbaticals, for conferences, and on leave for non-academic jobs. How does a one-track system account for these peculiarities?
Second, academics are competent at managing their own accounts and creating their own information management systems. To verify this assertion, some academic staff complained about irregularities in their salary payment and the release of research funds. Our information is, ASUU responded by delegating a team of their staff to develop a failsafe accounting software, UTAS (University Transparency and Accountability Software). It is noteworthy, UTAS was first rejected by the GON for only scoring 77% on the Stress Test (measuring acceptability, penetration, and user friendliness). ASUU disputed the scores. Furthermore, an open test including government officials of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the designers of UTAS revealed Stress Test results of 99.99%. The GON has ever since ignored the unquestionable efficacy of UTAS in favour of IPPIS.
In comparison, IPPIS has a woeful track record in performance. Non-payment and underpayments of salaries are ubiquitous. Unexplained deductions are the most notable observation of IPPIS. The Vice-Chancellor of Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, received the pay of N5,000 for two consecutive months. His regular monthly salary is N1.8 million. How can a university Vice-Chancellor lose protection for his salary or that of his colleagues, and without the knowledge of his bursar? That is a university’s autonomy gone. No one really knows how their salaries are determined by IPPIS. IPPIS is virtually displacing university bursars that are expert and competent in managing the financial peculiarities of universities.
We gathered, any clarification or query required by an academic concerning his or her salary must go to the IPPIS headquarters in Abuja, where IPPIS staff shamelessly demand bribes of between N100,000 and N200,000 to release salaries. Those who unwittingly or stubbornly do not offer bribes would have to make many return trips, till they pay up. A trip to the university bursar’s office has become a trip to Abuja by force. Moreover, some academics have not received salaries since 2019. Yet, some say the reform is a pillar of accountability and transparency.
Since 2020, ASUU has lost 358 staff members, many of them professors. Notwithstanding, if the military lost 358 officers above the rank of captain in two years, it would be a national tragedy. The University of Maiduguri had lost seven lecturers and professors in a single week in 2020! Since February 2022, a yet unknown number of academics are moving or returning to the diaspora worsening Nigeria’s pernicious brain drain. Nigeria’s constant brain drain is a monumental loss to the country. Now, the GON is forcing out those who returned to or stay in Nigeria.
Shockingly, universities have neither the autonomy nor independence to recruit replacements for losses or exoduses. This is the same for non-academic staff. The GON insists it must approve or reject any such appointments in Abuja on their own terms, which can take up to a year. It is no surprise the workloads of academic and non-academic staff is wearisome and universities are understaffed.
It is certain, the GON is priming state-owned universities to fail. ASUU are determined to stay on strike and fight the good fight to ensure public universities will not fail. Nevertheless, The times are on the side of ASUU and not globalisation policies or a subservient GON. We wait.
To be continued in The ASUU STrike and The Crapious Revolution 5.