IMPLEMENTATION OF IPPIS, WITHOUT DEMOCRATIC CONTROL AND MANAGEMENT OF SCHOOLS, WILL NOT CURB CORRUPTION IN PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) views the controversy generated around the implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) in the public Universities as unnecessary and diversionary especially considering the enormous challenges of underfunding, skyrocketing tuition fees and clampdown on democratic rights facing the education sector.
No doubt, mindboggling corruption has become the hallmark of many public tertiary institutions in Nigeria. In fact if a serious and diligent investigation is carried out into the activities of Universities and other educational institutions, many Vice Chancellors, Rectors and Provosts, alongside with other principal officers and account officers and members of the Governing Councils, would become permanent inmates of high security prisons.
However, we do not believe that the IPPIS on its own is capable of curbing corruption and ensuring sanity, transparency and accountability not just in the public education system but also the MDAs where it has been introduced. The ERC believes that only the democratic management of public schools by elected representatives of workers, students, parents and communities can begin to curb corruption in the educational system and ensure that every kobo voted actually reflects in progress of the sector. This means the Governing Councils of universities and boards of other educational institutions have to be reconstituted to ensure workers and students have a say and they are the ones who decide how money is spent etc. In the same vein, VCs, Rectors and Provosts, as well as other Principal officers, have to be elected from the academic community, not appointed by the Visitor. This will ensure that the both the financial and the political power of the university community is democratized and resides with the members of that community, making them directly responsible for their own welfare, therefore curbing corruption.
The IPPIS is simply a technological platform domiciled in the office of the Accountant General of the Federation that allows the centralization of the payment system through collation of data of workers on the payroll. In the hands of a capitalist government whose officials are themselves corrupt, the IPPIS will not automatically achieve the expected outcome of curbing corruption. Rather it will only shift the centre of corruption and manipulation of the payroll system from the Governing Councils of the respective Universities to the offices of the Accountant General of the Federation, Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Suffice to note that for the five years of its existence, several officials of the Buhari government have been exposed in different corruption scandals. For instance, the Attorney General of the Federation, Justice Abubakar Malami, is currently enmeshed in a scandal concerning attempt to pay a whopping $2.15 billion (N774 billion) as commission/professional fees to a private company, Trobell International (Nig) Ltd to help recover the sum of $62.1 billion from oil companies. This is aside other scandals which have further exposed the fact that despite its anti-corruption mantra, the Buhari government is swirling in an ocean of corruption. President Buhari himself has been Minister of Petroleum for the 5th year running yet the NNPC continues to bleed out enormous amount of money through opaque transactions with oil majors, under payment of oil receipts to the treasury, corrupt subsidy scheme etc. An IPPIS domiciled with any official of a government with this kind of record will not necessarily lead to any stoppage of corruption and corrupt practices.
Secondly, this is not the first time that any capitalist government in Nigeria has claimed to want to fight for corruption. Actually some of the most corrupt regimes in Nigeria have always claimed to fight corruption. Indeed the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) were created by the President Olusegun Obasanjo regime in the years 2000 and 2003 respectively. Yet this did not prevent the same regime and its officials from perpetrating different mindboggling corruption that Obasanjo himself is now generally seen as the “grandfather of corruption of Nigeria. As with successive regimes, the messianic attitude of President Buhari to the fight against graft has turned out to be a ruse for mind-blowing corruption by officials of the regime including members of his inner circle.
Against this background, no genuine effort can be expected from the regime to seriously fight corruption. But even if any serious attempt is made to fight corruption, the fundamental contradictions within the capitalist system – a system that permits a few to become rich by robbing the majority – itself will undermine such effort and ensure its failure.
Therefore for us in the ERC, only the democratic management of schools by workers and students can begin to resolve the problem of accountability. An IPPIS deployed in this condition would only serve as a technological reinforcement for workers, students and other stake holders in their effort to fight corruption.
On the basis of the foregoing, we demand that the Federal government should not throw the educational system into a needless crisis by going ahead to stop the salary of lecturers who are opposed to the IPPIS. Such a step will provoke a strike which would lead to another shutdown of the University system.
We also urge ASUU to deepen its argument beyond just the question of defending University autonomy or the so-called uniqueness of the University environment to boldly demand democratic control and management of schools as the only effective way to ensure that any measure aimed at curbing corruption in the University system works. Most importantly, we want to point out that there can be no trust in the Governing Councils, as presently constituted with a majority of the members being political appointees, to fight corruption in the University system. Even visitation panels have been known to be compromised to bring out recommendations in support of corrupt administrations in the Universities.
Therefore, ASUU has to demand as a first step, re-constitution of all Governing Councils through an open and democratic process wherein elected representatives of workers and students can have a voice in the administration of the Universities. Only this kind of measure alongside active campaigns involving strikes and demonstrations to expose corrupt VCs and University officials can begin to have an effect in curbing corruption in the University system.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto
E-mail: [email protected]