The Acting Accountant General of the Federation, Silvia Okoliaboh, has given a timeline of three months within which the government would sit down with a committee set up by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and resolve all issues in the expected merger of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and the University Transparency Accountability System (UTAS).
Okoliaboh, who spoke at a meeting with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, disclosed that a formal letter to that effect would be sent out today.
The Accountant General allayed the fears of ASUU in the case of making updates on IPPIS, saying it was a credible payment platform that has worked for years.
He said, “There is really nothing complicated about it. I believe ASUU has ICT experts and they know that you can virtually do anything. It’s a matter of can you do what you want?
“And I have made this commitment and I repeat it that we in the Accountant General office are going to accommodate all the legitimate peculiarities of ASUU and the university community. That’s just the way to go. The challenge is if you allow ASUU to have their own, you are going have the Colleges of Education, universities of educational, polytechnic, unity schools, everybody is going to come with their own and Mr. Speaker, I think we just have to agree that it is a way to go,” he said.
“We will sit down together, look at all the issues we have, we list them, as we are addressing them, we are ticking them. We are not going to ask you to accept until you are sure we have addressed them.
“On this note, I am going to call on colleagues in ASUU to allow this matter to be rested so that our universities will know peace.
“Whatever level of complications it may be, I believe that in three months, we should be able to clear this. We will continue to pay ASUU because they need their money.”
On his part, President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said the union called off the eight-month old strike action on trust and the acceptance of the IPPIS as opposed to their demand of UTAS.
Osodeke said; “What we agreed on the issue of UTAS and IPPIS is a temporary measure because for a country like Nigeria, if we are really patriotic and we love this country; if there is a problem in payment, you challenge your university to develop a program for you.
“We have agreed on that (IPPIS) as an interim measure, hopefully, subsequently, we will look for how to solve this problem once and for all. IPPIS has not solved problem. It has created more problems if you want to challenge us, check the wage bill before IPPIS was introduced and check the wage bill now. We are willing and have set up our team.”
Reacting, the Speaker Gbajabiamila faulted the claims of ASUU president, saying an agreement reached was not on temporary basis while he also dismissed claims in some quarters that the series of meetings held did not achieve any useful results.
“If you recollect, on that issue, we did agree that we will marry both whilst, IPPIS will remain the platform, that government will bring in the aspect and the areas under UTAS that are specific to the Universities and assimilate those areas into IPPIS.
“I believe that was what was agreed by both sides when we had last two meetings. So, we want to make sure that that box is ticked and is not just an agreement on paper or said for the purposes of moving towards the cancellation of the strike.
“The accountant general who is going to midwife that merger is here. So, I think the best way to move forward is for the accountant general to tell us and ASUU will also respond on how to go about the merger.”