The National President of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, speaks with our correspondent on the raging IPPIS crisis and other issues. Excerpts:
Daily Trust: The issue of Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS) has been on the front burner for some time now, what’s the position of things now?
Professor Biodun Ogunyemi: The situation on ground is that ASUU has not changed its position and we are getting the expected level of cooperation from our members because it is actually their own decision, so what we think will happen or should happen is that government should listen to our proposal . They should take our proposal and see whether our proposal will address the fears expressed in the IPPIS. Government has been saying that IPPIS will address our fears, it is not true and that is the reason why our members are not keeping to it. For as long as the government is not willing to take our proposal, our members will continue to remain on their stand.
DT: The federal government has threatened to stop payment of salaries of those that refuse to comply with IPPIS directives, how do you react to that?
Prof. Ogunyemi: It is not about the stoppage of salaries. This is not the first time we have been threatened with that, that your salaries will be stopped if you don’t comply with the directive, its about the correctness of the directive, so we are saying that this directive is not correct, the directive cannot stand and should be withdrawn. If government goes ahead, I think our union will review the situation and take the appropriate decision.
DT: Are there fears among your members that IPPIS will check lecturers who take appointment in more than one university?
Prof. Ogunyemi: It is not about people working in more than one university . Those who work in more than one university, what have we found out is how they got to where they are. You cannot work in another university without the consent of that university. In some cases, some vice chancellors have to approach the older university to seek help and when that happens our members would be consulted and our universities would know where they work. So they are not doing anything criminal. This idea of we are against IPPIS because it will reduce our income is cheap blackmail. We are not going to succumb to that because it is cheap blackmail. There are also people who because of their specialized areas are given recognition in other places and their services are sought after. You cannot say that such persons in the scarce areas cannot seek appointment in other universities to train people in specialized areas. This is going on here and it is a global practice, it is not peculiar to Nigeria.
DT: ASUU says members are not interested in the IPPIS, another faction, the Congress of University Academics (CONUA) says its members are interested and went ahead to direct them to enroll in IPPIS, how do you view this?
Prof. Ogunyemi: There is no breakaway faction in ASUU, I have always said that. There are a few people that we disciplined and they decided to rebel against the union. There are other campuses where we have issues with their vice chancellors and they decided to sponsor crisis within the union. Those who are being sponsored to rebel against the union and those that we said, well they have violated our constitution, they have been suspended and given other punitive measures, they are the people ganging up against the union, it is not a new thing and we believe that we can handle it, so we are not worried about that.
DT: You are dialoguing with the federal government on IPPIS and if at the end of the day you fail to reach an agreement, what will be your last resort?
Prof. Ogunyemi: I cannot tell you the last resort. I can only tell you that at every point along the way our union will always meet to review the situation and we will take the appropriate decision deemed necessary.
DT: Is a strike in view?
Prof. Ogunyemi: I don’t know about strike, I don’t know of any strike, but it depends on what our members resolve to do.
DT: There was an incident at the University of Port Harcourt on Wednesday where students invaded the secretariat of ASUU, chased away the staff, union members and locked up the place, what does this kind of action portend?
Prof. Ogunyemi: Well, incidentally, I am on ground in Port Harcourt, so everything that happened that day I have been briefed. There are two, three factors-one, those that came to UNIPORT are no longer students, they were harvested from outside the campus. You could see that they came in buses so they were sponsored and they claimed to be members of NANS . We don’t know NANS that will be populated by those who have left the university, those who are working as foot soldiers for invisible hands and those that manage the university and we have been seeing that trend all over. Then number two, in the University of Port Harcourt, there have been issues about some disciplinary measures that our branch there challenged and it’s like the administration is trying to take it back on our union, so, it’s like a matter of playing the spoiler, and we are not surprised that is coming up. Then the third one is really a bad precedence, it is a condemnable action if our colleagues can be encouraging students to rebel against their teachers. We believe that ordinarily would not have happened if the picture in that university was correctly placed on the table. Students for instance have no say in staff disciplinary matters on the basis of which the branch in Port Harcourt is having issues with the administration. We are looking at all of those things but our massage to the students is, they should know that most of those things we do are in their interest because we want a university system that will be comparable with any other university system in any other part of the world. If we don’t do what we are doing, in a few years our universities will be reduced to local enclaves and this is an age of internationalization everybody is proud to say that our universities are part of the global network of universities, that is what our students should be aiming at. They should not support policies that are not enforced or introduced in any other university in any part of the world. This is what we have been saying, why should our own be different, when they fight corruption there are other ways of fighting corruption, if you are not following those parts then you are after the academics. I think it will further destroy our system and affect our global ranking.
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