To buttress its refusal to be enrolled in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) met with the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and some senators on Monday.
Members of the union led by its national president, Biodun Ogunyemi, reminded lawmakers of their position on the IPPIS.
President Muhammadu Buhari recently issued a directive for the implementation of the IPPIS for the payment of salaries of all federal government workers.
The president said any worker not on the platform will not receive salary with effect from October 31.
The federal government and ASUU have disagreed over the new directive.
Nigerian federal university workers on Monday again said they would automatically go on strike in November if the government carries out its threat to withhold their October salary for refusing to enrol in the new payment system.
Mr Ogunyemi who addressed the Senate President described IPPIS as a scam and threat to national security.
He also said the payment system violates university autonomy.
He noted that contrary to the law expressly backing the Governing Councils of each Federal University to exercise full control over the finances of the universities, IPPIS "lacks constitutional backing; neither is it supported by any Act of the National Assembly."
"The IPPIS is not a home-grown initiative, rather it is a prescription of the World Bank, which ultimate consequence is to create anarchy and therefore, retard the growth and development of Nigeria," he said.
One of the many complaints of the union is that the IPPIS does not capture the peculiarities of the structure of the establishment of the university system, which is flexible and pragmatic.
"The system does not, for example, capture the remuneration of staff on sabbatical, external examiners, external assessors, and Earned Academic Allowances. It does not address the movement of staff as in the case of visiting, adjunct, part-time, consultancy service, which academics offer across universities in Nigeria," he said. He also said IPPIS as currently implemented requires staff to travel to Abuja for physical biometric data capture if by any chance such staff could not be available during the time the IPPIS personnel visited for the exercise.
"The implementation of IPPlS in Nigerian Universities will further localise their operations and perspectives, thus negatively impacting their ranking in the global academic community," he added.
The union leader said the IPPIS cannot address specific processes of promotion of academics.
"For example, the promotion exercise in the Professional Cadre, which is subject to external assessment that may last for several months; in such cases, when the outcome of the exercise is returned positive, the beneficiary is paid arrears from the beginning of the assessment process. But this cannot be captured by IPPIS.
"The IPPIS does not recognise the 70 years retirement age of academics in the professorial cadre, and 65 years for those in the non-professorial cadre, as against the 60 years in the civil service," Mr Ogunyemi stated.
He said should the IPPIS be forced on the universities, the result will be widespread dissatisfaction among scholars.
The ASUU president said one of the biggest challenges of IPPIS is that it poses great threat to 'national security.'
The system, he said, is not strategic for a sovereign nation in a world system where almost all countries are vulnerable to sabotage by international cybercriminals and states.
He said it will constitute an impediment in the way of the ability of the universities to provide staff for new programmes as well as replace staff.
He said this is because new staff members cannot be paid salaries until they are enrolled in the IPPIS database, which will take months to actualise.
"Technically speaking, IPPlS is a scam. It creates more problems than it resolves to buttress. The IPPIS system only recognises staff members that are on permanent and pensionable appointments.
"The IPPIS restricts the ability of universities to employ much-needed staff at short notice. Such staff, when recruited, may not be paid until cleared by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), thus creating avenues of corruption. The dynamism associated with staff recruitment will become cumbersome with the introduction of IPPIS," he noted.
The union leader also said the IPPIS is designed in such a way that outsourced services such as cleaning and security, casual workers, NYSC, etc. cannot be captured.
He said it does not allow for deductions from staff salaries arising from legally sanctioned union and cooperative society activities. "This will directly infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right of staff to association," he explained.
The union leader said if the federal government's reasons for IPPIS include the lack of accountability on the part of the universities, polytechnics and colleges, "then the solution is auditing, not a duplication of functions."
While calling for university autonomy, Mr Ogunyemi said the government must return to releasing funds on, at least, quarterly basis, if not annually to support the smooth running of institutions.
He said if the government wants to curb corrupt practices, through the payroll and personnel management, the best pathway is to make the Governing Councils work.
"The exercise of the power of the Visitor, in respect of the visitation exercise as explicitly stated in law which ASUU has continued to advocate, should be activated."
Meanwhile, Mr Lawan emphasised the need for tertiary institutions to remain open (transparent).
He, however, said the nation is having "funding challenges" with regards to budgetary allocations.
"The legislature is always prepared to take necessary steps to ensure that the tertiary institutions remain open and functional," he said. "I'm happy that you have made your point and I'm also happy that the federal ministry of finance is thinking of addressing the issues as well."
He also said he would like to know how they (ministry) intend to handle the issue.
"I'm meeting with the Minister of Finance to tell us what exactly is to be done because we do not want any strike," he added.
Mr Lawan also commented on funding of tertiary institutions.
"As for funding, the truth is we can only do our best at this stage. We have serious financial challenges in terms of budgetary allocations. This one should be known to everyone.
"But it is also our duty as the National Assembly to ensure that any revenue due to the federal government is captured and remitted properly. So that when we have sufficient revenues, we can fund our educational sector better."
He, however, said such funds must be accounted for.