Nigerian human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, (SAN) has said that the Federal Government lacks the legitimate power to enrol university lecturers on the centralised payroll system, Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), saying such directives can only come from the university governing bodies which are the employers of the university workforce, academic staff inclusive.
Falana stated this while responding to a question from a participant during a virtual conference organised and coordinated by the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project (SERAP) in the early hours of Friday, May 15.
Falana maintained that the action of the government constitutes ultra vire as the university system has a direct employer of labour, which is often the governing council of individual universities. Hence, only the employer of labour can give such directives to its workforce.
He echoed the ASUU’s suspicion concerning the government’s sincerity with the system, saying it had been noted in many quarters that the request might not be directly from the government of the federation but as a proxy request by the World Bank.
Falana said being a counsel to ASUU in the matter, he was aware that the union has also come up with an alternative to the IPPIS but the Federal Government was unwilling to compare notes.
In an interview with the media, the ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, said the system “is not as waterproof as the government claimed,” saying the Union’s alternative to the government’s system is “in progress.”
In January, the Federal Government ordered a stoppage of salaries of lecturers and other workers who had not enrolled on the IPPIS. However, ASUU rejected the directive, saying such directives would affect the autonomy of universities.
Meanwhile, in April, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the immediate payment of withheld February and March salaries to the lecturers who have not been enrolled on the centralised payroll system.
The organised labour had, since March, embarked on indefinite industrial actions for reasons not unconnected to the request by the Federal Government to enrol its members on IPPIS and the agitation for implementation of the previously agreed memorandum of understandings, MoU.
Meanwhile, concluding his message to the participants, which were majorly students, Falana encouraged students to start taking action on things that are considered not to be right in the society starting from their campuses. He enjoined students to always “ensure your Vice-Chancellors and Governing Body comply with the law.” He then promised that he would support any student with any just claim.