Prince Peters Adeyemi is the General Secretary, Non-Academic Staff Union of Nigeria (NASU) and the Vice President, Public Services International (PSI) globally, he spoke with REGINA OTOKPA on major issues that confronted the union in 2021 such as government’s insincerity in honouring agreements, backlog of salaries, non-payment of minimum wage, and discrepancies in the IPPIS among others. Excerpts …
How would you rate the out gone year, 2021and would you say your expectations as a union were met?
2021 was extremely challenging generally for Nigerian workers. The members of NASU started the year with great hopes but unfortunately it seems their hopes were dashed; things didn’t work out the way we have wanted.
At least it is heartwarming the federal government has been able to pay salaries up to this moment but some of the MDAs and institutions are still struggling to pay even November salary.
Some states are currently battling to pay even in percentages; Ondo and Benue have a backlog of about five months, some of the state governments are refusing to pay the national minimum wage while those which started like Gombe and Ekiti states stopped paying.
It is clearly affecting the welfare and well being of our members negatively because naturally when you are employed, you expect to be paid. Unfortunately, salary is no longer a right.
The Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, was one of the major issues raised by NASU in the out-gone year, has the issues been resolved?
According to the federal government they wanted to use it to check corruption and reduce ghost workers in the system. Government functionaries deceived us to say, our members, were not going to lose anything if we key into that system.
As public servants we are expected to have some level of trust in our government and so we decided to key into that process to ensure accountability and transparency and ensure sanity in the system.
It should be seen that even trade union leaders are patriotic citizens of this +country that wants a forward movement as against a situation where a few elements at the helms of affairs in our tertiary institutions use their exalted offices to hide under the personnel payment of salaries to siphon government money.
Unfortunately, it didn’t happen the way we wanted it. IPPIS became a massive disaster and at a point it vindicated ASUU; it is like ASUU saw it can never work for them,
When they started implementation in February 2020, we had avalanche of problems; some of our members were not paid at all, some were paid lower than what they are expected to be paid, some strange deductions started happening and our legitimate allowances before the advent of IPPIS were all removed which
we complained. Everything we have done to get them to normalise the IPPIS situation failed not only our union, but for all the unions within the sector.
We later observed that IPPIS was illequipped; they were not sufficiently staffed and lacked the necessary wherewithal and expertise to deal with the situation. Rather than take all of those sectors at the same time, they should have done them one after the other but they didn’t, so it overwhelmed them and collapsed.
But government noted some successes were recorded. How do we reconcile that?
Some of those victories the federal government claimed they won by introducing IPPIS was not clearly earned on merit because you can’t tell me that because of IPPIS you have saved some billions when in actual fact, while you are doing the implementation you are shortchanging the workers.
Our experience has shown clearly that those advertised achievements were fake. You are sitting down on our allowances, and then you say you are making savings?
We have suffered in the hands of this government; the more you support them, the more they deal negatively with you.
We have been accused severally that we disrupt educational calendars, we don’t allow things to work well but this one we embraced and what we ought to get from government is not that this type of treatment so at the end of the day, you find out that ASUU has been vindicated.
Unfortunately and at our last NEC meeting, we had to pass a vote of no confidence on IPPIS.
That is one major issue that honestly we are pained in this union that didn’t work out well. For us, it’s like jumping from frying pan into fire.
Has the issues around the Earned Allowances between the academic and non academic unions been resolved?
For us, it’s like the more you look, the less you see for the non – teaching staff unions. The earned allowance is not supposed to be a bonanza or an item designed to pacify, it’s supposed to be something that is owed and what is owed is known; from the releases that government had made between 2019 and now, how much has been collected from what is owed, and what is remaining to be paid?
The first tranche was released and properly distributed, but the second tranche started generating problem because it was not done in line with the way it was first done.
Payments are supposed to be dealt with by the bursary departments of the various institutions because they know the number of teaching and non – teaching personnel.
They have records of who is owed what but when they released the second tranche the distribution in percentages was done at the Federal Ministry of Education. About 11% to the non – teaching staff and about 89% to the teaching staff, it doesn’t make sense or for equality, fairness, and justice.
When you look at the numbers of the workers in those three unions compared with the workers in the academic, all of these theories don’t work. I listen to one funny one by the Minister of State for Education a couple of weeks back to say that it is because there are professors in academics and their money is big.
It is lacking in logic because even for the non – teaching staff, there are also highly paid workers in the system