Congratulations Sir! You have Successfully Drilled a Hole in the Nation’s Final Reservoir of Integrity.
When I joined the services of Bayero University, Kano in 2012, as someone who had a brief spell with the mainstream civil service at the Federal Character Commission, after being in the private sector for years, I met a workforce that was vibrant, enthusiastic and of high integrity. This was however, not a surprise because I was born and bred in the University, and have been privy to the dynamics of the University all my life. I must state that it gives me immense sense of pride and joy working for Bayero University and giving back a tiny fraction of its contribution towards making me and shaping what I have become over the years.
As a young administrator, I was privileged to have interacted, worked with, and learnt from, some of the crème of University Administration in the Nigerian University system. Everything I know or say about the University system in Nigeria is a direct reflection of what I have seen or learnt from these individuals I have interacted and work with from Bayero University and various other Universities within the country and outside, and also an interaction with various other individuals or groups that have viewed the University system from within or without, near or afar.
I call Nigerian Universities the nation’s final reservoir of integrity not because there are no bad eggs in the system, nay, there are bad eggs in the system but, many of the Universities including the one I can proudly talk for, do not take it lightly when such bad eggs are apprehended. By virtue of my line of training and resulting responsibility, I have been part of the disciplinary mechanism of the University and I can assure you that we do not spare the rod when it comes to discipline of members of staff found wanting.
Mr President, with the advent of your administration, I have no idea what you are being informed by those around you, but the University workforce has been suffering from the lack of motivation to carry out their duties with the sense of pride of yesteryears. This has been evidenced by the number of industrial actions embarked upon by the four unions of the Nigerian Universities during your time in office. For the record, there has never been an internal strike in Bayero University since mid-nineties, this greatly highlights firstly, the type of industrial harmony enjoyed between successive managements of the University and the workforce; and secondly, impeccable leadership qualities of the fine men who steered the University to greater heights.
For the record, I have been an ardent proponent of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) since its inception. I was privileged to be part of a selection of University Staff that were given a glimpse of the system’s working as far back as 2012 when the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) made a presentation to Union Representatives of all Federal University in the Northwestern geopolitical zone. At the presentation, the system was shown to have taken into cognisance, some of the peculiarities of a University payroll. Since then, I have been a voice of campaign for the system amongst my colleagues, often times convincing some of them that it is for the good of the University system that the University personnel be enrolled into it.
It was on record that the OAGF had persistently claimed that the system has been updated to take into cognisance, all peculiarities of a university payroll as recently as December 2019. That coincided with the enrolment of about sixty per cent of the Nigerian Universities workforce as claimed by the OAGF. The OAGF also represented that all agreements between Unions, Universities and governments at various levels will be honoured by it when enrolling members of University staff.
To the greatest dismay of even ardent proponents of IPPIS within the Universities setup, like yours truly, those statements by the OAGF turned out to be “sugar-coating” just to lure the University personnel into the system. My position on the IPPIS implementation and the resulting consequences on University system generally, is not entirely aligned with that of some of the Unions, that Universities should be taken out of the system entirely, my position is respectfully that the OAGF, and by extension the Federal Government under your watch should honour assurances given, and promises made in the build-up of the enrolment of Universities into the system.
The resulting salary deductions, delays and in some cases non-payment from IPPIS have invited, hardships to the University workforce that cannot be mitigated, and loss of integrity that can never be replenished. In a recent article, a University don, the likes of which have more integrity than your government and what it stands for, clearly expressed the frustrations of University personnel and the consequences of those frustrations on the entire tertiary education system of the country as the same frustration is found amongst staff of Polytechnics and Colleges of Education all over the country.
The result of this disenchantment will be seen in the attitude with which educators and administrators alike will resume their duties after, this lockdown, and the ongoing strike. I know a certain staff who was given an appointment within the system that has some privileges, and some people made advances to him of gifts in order to curry favour from him and he kept rejecting those advances. There are numerous others at least in my University who consistently wrestle their heart desires and are contented with their take-home that will soon not be contented with the new mysterious take-home – the one that has kept changing for the worse since February, 2020.
I assure you Sir, that with the new constant uncertainty as to even the exact amount to be received as monthly salary, a lot will change in the University setup. Nobody can guarantee that the reservoir of integrity will continue to serve that function in a nation where corruption has eaten up every sector save for some few Universities. Nigerian University system may never recover from this hole your government has drilled into the system.
Mr President it may interest you to know that as at today, 27 th May 2020, some University staff have not been paid, February salaries, some, March, and quite a considerable number have not received April salary. Sallah was on the 24th of May but you could not even pay the salary of May 2020. If this does not frustrate people I wonder what will.
The people of integrity are pleading with you to help them keep their integrity intact! Save them from the uncertainty you have dragged them into, to wit; downward spiral of monthly take-home since February 2020, delays in payment of salary, non-implementation of the new national minimum wage and payment of arrears, dishonouring agreements between Unions, Universities and Governments, etc.
Bashir Saleh Abdu, Esq