The vice-chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Eyitope Ogunbodede, has lent his voice to the raging controversy surrounding the introduction of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) to the university system by the Nigerian government.
Mr Ogunbodede, a professor of dentistry, said the introduction of the IPPIS by the government was undermining the autonomy of the nation’s university system.
The vice-chancellor, who spoke at the 9th memorial lecture in honour of the 10th substantive vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, Babatunde Sofoluwe, also accused various agencies of government and the legislature of overbearing influences on the institutions’ managers.
He spoke on the theme: “Education Administration and the New Normal: A Forecast of the Nigerian Educational System in a Post Pandemic Era.”
He said the university system is unique and requires a special payment system that should factor the peculiarity of the university structure and responsibilities into the payment technique.
The VC said he was not against the IPPIS as a system but that its implementation hampers progress in the universities, saying he wouldn’t be a proud vice-chancellor when his staff couldn’t access their entitlements for months.
He said; “The IPPIS is domiciled in the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF). The IPPIS project, which commenced in 2007, centralises the payment of salaries and wages directly to the bank accounts of all the federal government employees in Nigeria. It is one of the major issues that led to the 9-month strike by the ASUU in 2020, and the follow-up industrial actions by SSANU and NASU early in 2021. The challenges are enormous for all stakeholders and especially for the universities. Due to the peculiarities of the universities, it appears the disadvantages of IPPIS far outweigh any advantages. The scheme has become an albatross bedeviling the tertiary education system in the country, and further undermining the autonomy earlier enjoyed by the universities.”
ASUU versus IPPIS
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has consistently kicked against the use of the IPPIS for the payment of its members salaries, saying it does not factor the peculiarities of the university system into its configuration.
The union also developed its payment platform, which it tagged, “University Transparency and Accountability System,” which is currently a subject of study by the government for possible adoption.
Other workers’ unions in the nation’s university system, that earlier endorsed the IPPIS, have also spoken out against the payment platform, saying its use has caused irregularities in payment of salaries such as non-payment of deductions, irregular deduction in salaries, among others.
The guest speaker, who commended the successive federal government administrations for the endorsement of the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions Amendment Act 2003, however, expressed regret that all the gains earlier recorded by the university system as a result of the the bill, are now being eroded by undue interference from various agencies of government.
He said; “…Unfortunately, this gain is now being rapidly reversed, and very negative policies, undermining the university autonomy, are now creeping into the university system.
“The barrage of visitors to the universities from all sorts of agencies of government on “inspection,” “oversight,” “review,” “assessment,” “appraisal,” and similar terminologies have made a complete mess of any autonomy. Of recent, some non-governmental organisations have also joined the overbearing train, moving around Nigerian universities, particularly under the Freedom of Information Law.”
Mr Ogunbodede said as a result of the interferences from these agencies, the university managers can no longer independently attract quality staff.
He said the idea of “quota system” and “ethnic balancing” in the recruitment of staff enrollment of students should be regarded as an aberration in the universities.
“It is unfortunate that the vice-chancellors that used to recruit the best of staff for their universities can no longer recruit the most junior staff without authorisation from several agencies of government. Over the four years of my tenure, external incursions into university administration increased by the day, a dismal signal of the possibility of total annihilation of the so called “autonomy” of the universities.
“I see ominous signs and administrative bottlenecks that not only dampen the morale of the vice-chancellors (and the principal officers) but grossly diminish the enormous developmental and innovative possibilities in these institutions..,” Mr Ogunbodede said.
The lecturer, however, commended the leadership of the National Universities Commission (NUC) for what he described as its efforts at repositioning Nigeria’s university education system for national development and global relevance.
Earlier in his welcome remark, the immediate past vice-chancellor of UNILAG and close associate of the late Sofoluwe, Ramon Bello, said the theme of the lecture was significant and that the deceased, “as a forward-looking administrator” would have easily endorsed it if he were to be alive.
READ ALSO: INTERVIEW: Why centralised payroll system, IPPIS, can’t work in Nigerian universities – ASUU President
He described Mr Sofoluwe as a humble gentleman with a unique administrative skill, whom he said, served the university with all he had.
Also speaking, the incumbent vice-chancellor of the university, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, said the university would continue to miss the late scholar for his intellectual and administrative investment in the university throughout his productive life.
“I never thought I could come out of the shock. It was a painful thing to experience; maybe because it was sudden,” Mr Ogundipe said.
The President of the university’s alumni association and chairman of Channels Television, John Momoh, commended the leadership of the lagos chapter of the association for sustaining the memorial lecture in honour of a former member and the third alumnus to be appointed the institution’s vice-chancellor.
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