Account-general of the federation, Sylvia Okolieaboh, has appealed to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to accept the Integrated Payroll and Personnel information system (IPPIS) as payment platform.
Okolieaboh, however, said the federal government would accommodate the peculiarities of the union on the payment platform.
He made the plea at a meeting brokered by the leadership of the House of Representatives to resolve the ongoing strike by the union.
However, the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said the House leadership would meet President Muhammadu Buhari on the resolution of the ongoing face-off between the federal government and the ASUU with the outcome of its interactions with stakeholders in the dispute next week.
Okolieaboh said his office was ready to accommodate issues of concern to ASUU over salary payment if that would bring the crisis to an end.
He said adopting UTAS, which ASUU demands, might prompt unwholesome demands from other agencies to be paid with platforms of their own choice.
Okolieaboh said, “If there are peculiarities in the university salaries system, what we need to do is to sit down with ASUU and identify them and address them in IPPIS. We are willing to accept, if the answer is yes, then the whole of the issues will be resolved. What we need to do, in my own opinion, is to sit down with ASUU and know what the issues are and address them inside IPPIS.
“One of the risks in adopting UTAS is that everybody will come and say give us our own salary. As we speak, the military is on IPPIS, the police is on IPPIS. They have their own peculiarities.”
The head of service of the federation (HoSF), Yemi-Esan, who also urged the union to accept the IPPIS, reiterated that the peculiarities of the union would be accommodated on the platform.
Following complaints of the government’s attempt to strip the Universities’ Governing Councils of their administrative power through the deployment of the IPPIS, Yemi-Esan allayed the fears of the striking lecturers that the government would not take away the responsibilities of the Governing Council of Universities in the administration of the schools.
The director-general of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, advised that only one payment platform should be adopted.
He said having more than one platform was too expensive for the government, especially given the paucity of funds.
But the president of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said it was not the first time the government was making a promise of looking into the issues and yet failed.
He did not accept the proposal on IPPIS.
Osodeke insisted on the autonomy of the universities, which, according to him, was what the laws stipulated. He said Nigeria was the only country where salaries of lecturers were paid through the office of the accountant-general.
Osodeke also queried why NITDA had refused to make available the report of the last test on UTAS, insisting that the report must be available for them to study.
The minister of labour and employment, Dr Chris Ngige, said universities should fund themselves if they seek full autonomy.
Ngige said he had in the ongoing negotiations urged ASUU to accept the IPPIS, which can still accommodate their peculiarities, while discussions continue.
He lauded the House leadership for the initiative, encouraging ASUU to stick with IPPIS to address their grievances.
He regretted that ASUU went on strike when negotiations were still ongoing without his notice, stressing he would not accept the failed systems.
But Gbajabiamila said if the government is to accommodate ASUU’s issues in the IPPIS, seeing the UTAS report amounts to nothing.
He said what is important is that the universities resume as soon as possible so students can go back to school.
“We will give you the report. But we do not want delays. So, the issue of UTAS let us say we are waiting to study the report. What are we doing here? What is on ground now is that the government sits with you and asks ASUU what are the problems with IIPPIS, we would fix those problems. They did it with the military, and the health sector and others.”
According to him, the House leadership, in the next couple of days, would put up a report of its interactions with key stakeholders in the dispute and come up with recommendations that will enable the President to view the issues at stake from an informed second option.
Gbajabiamila said the information gathered from the extensive interactions would assist the leadership in arriving at fact-based recommendations for the resolution of the crisis.
Gbajabiamila assured the striking lecturers that the House would invite the ASUU following the outcome of the meeting with the president as soon as it was held.