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The introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) to academics of Nigerian universities has been one of the controversial topics in the education sector.
The Federal government has on several occasions called on lecturers to be enrolled in the system and had threatened to withhold salaries of recalcitrant lecturers.
The IPPIS was initiated to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of payroll administration for its Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and curb corruption.
However, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has insisted that its members should not participate in the enrolment as it undermines the autonomy of the schools.
In this exclusive interview with Allnews' Alfred Olufemi, an officer of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Kazeem Olalekan, shared insights on ways corruption can be curtailed in tertiary institutions asides the enrolment of lecturers for IPPIS.
Mr Kazeem, who is the spokesperson of the South West Zone of the association and also a media officer to NANS President, Bamidele Akpan, spoke on other issues including the introduction of virtual learning and proscription of Students' Union organs by school authorities.
Read excerpts below
Allnews: This is really a perilous time for students across Nigeria with the closure of schools. Where is NANS in the midst of this?
Kazeem: Of course, there is no other place for NANS as an association to be than the side of the Nigerian students and their toiling parents who are struggling to survive the conditions of this unprecedented time.
Already, we have made several public releases on the Covid-19 pandemic and how it affects Nigerian students, while calling on the Nigerian government to immediately give palliatives to the citizens with special priority on the students, just as the government of Canada recently did.
Allnews: The minister for education has spoken several times on the need for online classes. What is your take on this?
Kazeem: Well, there is nothing bad in employing virtual learning for a time like this. In fact, it is a commendable initiative. But, the question to ask is if we have the facilities to aid the smooth-running of virtual learning like it is done in some other countries.
Do we have a constant power supply with adequate provision to almost all locations in the country? Do all school pupil and students have access to digital devices and internet supply like their foreign counterparts have. So, if the minister is really interested in introducing virtual learning at a time like this, those factors which we have actually demanded for in our press statements must be properly and critically looked into and considered.
Allnews: Considering all factors, do you think it is something Nigeria can achieve in the next five years?
Kazeem: Well, if those conditions are met and quickly developed, there is nothing stopping us from having it within the next five years.
Allnews: The enrolment of lecturers for IPPIS has caused controversies in recent times. What is the stance of NANS?
Kazeem: On the enrollment of lecturers in IPPIS. It is quite true that the level of corruption going on in our schools are of grand scale and something urgent needs to be done but the integrity of IPPIS might not also be too trustable because cases of compromise and fraud has been recorded from it already such as the cases of undue and unexplained deductions in the salary of those that have enrolled which was unveiled by the OAU ASUU Chairman.
The best way to end corruption in our Universities is to place the administration under a democratic control of an elected representative of academic and non-academic workers, also the students. This way, the affairs of the University can be properly monitored by everyone and easily fish out corrupt practices.
Allnews: Many students share the opinion that the lecturers are fighting for their pockets without the interest of students at heart, how right is that perception?
Kazeem: Well, to an extent, the ASUU struggle is always taking that character. While persons like me understand that there is a need for solidarity between Nigerian students and their lecturers to tackle certain anomalies in our Universities, but, I strongly doubt ASUU understand the need for this solidarity.
This is evident in the fact that ASUU rarely intervenes in issue of oppression and welfare that solely affects students but are always geared when it comes to issues revolving around their own needs; thus creating the impression that the fight is an all-inclusive one for students and staff when it is not often true in most cases than not.
We therefore implore ASUU to find the genuine platform of students in NANS and some other groups. Both students and workers need to work together to advance education.
Former ASUU leaderships like that of Attahiru Jega and Dipo Fasina worked with student groups and had very exemplary eras. So, we are imploring ASUU to engage the students in unity and actions.
Allnews: What are the measures NANS is employing to ensure that lecturers resume working once the coronavirus pandemic subsides?
Kazeem: Right before the COVID-19 lockdown started, NANS has been engaged in several consultations with the authorities and we are hopeful it will yield positive results very soon.
Allnews: The repression on students' voices has been on a large scale on different campuses, how did we get here?
Kazeem: The repression in the Nigerian student movement today is a reflection of several years of systematic oppression and victimisation of the students' movement by the University authorities and the government.
Notably, it all started during the anti-military struggle when the Students' movement played a very significant role in constantly mobilising and demonstrating against the military rule. Over the years, there have been several collaborative efforts by the government and University authorities to weaken the radical and ideological fervour of students, hence, the numerous attacks and victimisation on radical students' unions and activists over the years.
The result of those years of clampdown and victimisation is what we have today.
Allnews: What are successes NANS has recorded in the fight for students' rights?
Kazeem: NANS has recorded quite some successes since we came on board last December which includes but not limited to the demand for the reduction in the acceptance fee of newly-admitted Law students of Federal University, Oye-Ekiti which the management of the University acceded to amongst others.
Allnews: Your school, Obafemi Awolowo University, as well as some other top institutions in Nigeria, are without students' Union bodies. What is your take on that?
Kazeem: Well, the proscription of students' unions is not acceptable and is condemnable in all ramifications. The NANS charter of Demand does not recognise the proscription of Students' union because the right to independent unionism remains an inalienable fundamental human right.
Although, concerted efforts are ongoing to see that all affected Unions are restored most especially my institution, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife which the transitional process has been sealed and agreed upon with the management, but, it is being slowed down by this Covid-19 break.
Allnews: From the foregoing, is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
Kazeem: Yes, definitely.
I can assure you that with the template and sacrifice we are making now, better days are definitely ahead for Nigerian students.
Allnews: In conclusion, how do you think Nigerian students can maximise this period of staying at home?
Kazeem: Nigerian students can make use of this period in diverse productive ways. Thanks to the age of digital technology.
Students can definitely learn some extracurricular skills from several online platforms and also use the medium to hone and expand their knowledge on some academic courses through the instrument of the internet.