The battle between Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the federal government over payment of lecturers’ salaries with the Integrated Payment and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) has continued to generate intense heat as the lecturers’ earnings have dropped significantly.
The ASUU president, Biodun Ogunyemi, in an interview with The Punch, accused the federal government of “amputating” lecturers’ salaries IPPIS, adding that the federal government paid lecturers who were not registered on the IPPIS without capturing their biometrics and other information.
In March, the federal government ordered stoppage of salaries of lecturers and all workers in tertiary institutions who are not enrolled in the IPPIS.
Some lecturers, who were not on IPPIS, threatened to embark on strike if they did not receive their salaries, but they were later paid.
ASUU rejected the federal government’s directive for workers to enroll in the centralised payroll system, saying it would affect the autonomy of universities.
In April, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the immediate payment of the withheld salaries of February and March for lecturers in federal universities who have not registered on the IPPIS.
But the ASUU president said the payment process was not straightforward.
“The first comment is that we wondered how they could have used the IPPIS platform when our members didn’t submit BVN or sign into IPPIS. The impression we were given before is that before the government could use IPPIS, people must submit themselves for data capture, biometrics capture and so forth. But that did not happen in this instance,” Ogunyemi said.
“So if the government could go ahead and use the IPPIS to pay salaries, it means our suspicion is being confirmed which means they can manipulate that platform as they want. This is because if people who did not register on IPPIS are being paid through IPPIS, it means that anybody can be imported into that system and that has been our suspicion all along. We have said that the IPPIS is not waterproof as claimed.
“Secondly, by using IPPIS to pay our members (because in the alert, it was clearly stated there; the IPPIS was mentioned in the alert) we have also seen the inadequacies of that platform. When the government called us for a meeting in July 2019, it said all the fears had been addressed. How come, this time around, by using the IPPIS, you distorted people’s salaries?
“Our members are saying the government amputated their salaries. They removed from some people’s salaries. The pay slips are nowhere and the cooperative deductions, union dues and all the third party deductions are nowhere to be found. You now start to wonder whether this is the system we need.
“As we have been saying, the alternative we have been working on is in progress and we will soon unveil it to Nigerians.”
The new salary for lecturers shows tremendous deductions which significantly reduced the total package they received every month. A professor N342,000 monthly as against about N420,000 which used to be the total package. The new package shows about N80,000 total deduction was made from a professor’s monthly earnings. The table below shows deductions made in the salaries of lecturers in other levels.
Government explains deductions
The federal government has explained reasons behind the deductions. Accountant-General of the federation, Ahmed Idris, said the federal government decided to set the records straight because of the extent which ASUU had gone to cast it in bad light, reports The Cable.
“It is pertinent that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) puts the records straight for the interest of the general public and majority of staff of tertiary institutions that have displayed unparalleled understanding and cooperated with IPPIS till date. We hereby state as follows,” he said.
“The Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Tax is a statutory tax deductions paid by all salary earners. IPPIS applied the correct rate in compliance with Section 34 of the 6th schedule on personal income tax (Amendment) Act of 2011. Prior to migration to IPPIS, the rate of tax being applied by tertiary institutions was not correct, leading to underpayment of PAYE Tax.
“It is important to note that all states governments of the federation made claims on the federal government to pay the differential arising from underpayment of tax by these institutions. The federal government has paid several billions on behalf of these institutions because of their underpayment of PAYE Tax. The request by the tertiary institution unions to formalize tax evasion through IPPIS is not only untenable, but unpatriotic request to violate extant laws on tax.”
Idris also explained that part of the deductions being made from the lecturers salaries would enable them access loans to own their personal houses after retirement.
“NHF Deductions: The National Housing Fund (NHF) is 2.5% of basic salary. This is another statutory contribution backed by the Act of National Assembly,” the statement read.
“This is a savings contribution by all federal employees to enable them have access to short life loans to own their personal houses. These savings contribution are refundable with interest either at retirement or exit from being an employee of the federal government.
“The ASUU is bringing claims that those laws should not be applicable to them and thereby should be exempted or be made optional for them. The request for breach of Act of Parliament is not within the ambit of the IPPIS or the (OAGF). They have been advised to approach the National Assembly for amendment of the Act.
“Another issue raised by the unions is the Employees’ Pension Contribution deductions. Employees’ Pension Contribution 7.5%. The ASUU claim that the Employee Contributory Pension should be based on basic salary and not on consolidated salary and it has increased their employee deductions thereby reducing their take home.
“This is a penny wise argument not expected from Ivory Tower. The Consolidated salary is what is applicable to determine employee’s contribution of all Federal employees’ as Salaries Income and Wages Commission (SIWC) have consolidated salary without the composition. The actual amount contributed by the employee determines what the Government contributes as well. Deduction is in line with the Pension Contributory Act.
“Any other salaries and allowances approved by any other agency in Nigeria which are not formalized by these two agencies will amount to illegal payment. Therefore, ASUU and other unions are expected to understand this. The fact that they arm-twisted their institutions to pay them these allowances does not translate to legality.”