Against the efforts by the Federal Government to plug loopholes for financial misappropriation in the oil sector through Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), Nigerian oil workers have refused to be on the System.
In addition, they have disrupted the economic process through industrial action at the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, in protest demanding three months payment of their salaries.
According to Mr. Ahmed Idris, the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), IPPIS, one of the public finance reform initiatives, is an information communications technology project initiated by the government to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of payroll administration for its ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
President Buhari had directed during the presentation of his 2018 budget speech that all MDAs drawing their personnel cost from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) must enroll on IPPIS by October, 2019. Mr. President had in his 2020 budget speech again directed that all federal government workers must be enlisted on the scheme.
Subsequent to the foregoing, the salaries of workers in the petroleum industry were stopped in April 2020 for non-compliance with Mr. President’s directive and refusal to join the IPPIS, even after the government has been able to cover sensitive institutions like the military, the police, the universities (with resistance), among others.
Also, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources held a virtual meeting with these Agencies on 15th July 2020 and a resolution was reached with them to submit their nominal roll to the IPPIS office, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) latest 17th July 2020.
In a related development, the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) met twice with the Chief Executive of Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NNRA) and some union leaders in his office and directed immediate payment of their salaries on submission of their nominal roll. However, this was not done until Tuesday 11th August, 2020 when NNRA submitted, while Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) only submitted theirs on Friday 14th August, 2020, after their notification of the warning strike.
Meanwhile, in three years, the implementation of IPPIS has saved the country over N230billion, according to Mr. Idris. Idris had disclosed that Nigeria gained over N50billion, N100billion and N80billion in 2017, 2018 and 2019 respectively, which would have been lost to fictitious payment of salaries and pensions.
Most of the MDAs have enrolled including the tertiary institutions, though with some resistance. However, the Agencies under the Ministry that have refused to come on board are namely: Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR); Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA); Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) and Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NNRA). Efforts to get these agencies to enroll on the IPPIS Platform failed.
Members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN, the country’s second-biggest labour group in the industry, had stopped work at more than three state agencies under the Ministry, including the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the oil industry regulator, according to Mr. Fortune Obi, a spokesman for PENGASSAN.
In continuation of their three-day warning strike, PENGASSAN has written to the federal government, explaining its stance on why its members in agencies under the Ministry should be exempted from IPPIS, stating that the parameters of their payroll system would not fit into the IPPIS template.
The Association has highlighted the cause of its grouse as follows: Issue of ghost workers, closed pension scheme, running loans of staff to the societies and other banks, collective bargain agreement, yearly 12 payroll (calendar) runs, staff upfront and monetised benefits, tea and meal allowances, confectionary allowances, and gratuity payment.
For now, Nigeria, which gets about 90 percent of its foreign exchange from oil exports, is hard hit, like every other nation in the world, from the impact of the COVID-19 and a plunge in crude prices since March. While the market has since rebounded and stabilised, the pandemic and the oil price volatility have obviously caused government’s revenue to drastically dwindle.
In spite of the dwindling revenue, Mr. President in his magnanimity had directed that all workers be paid their March 2020 salaries in order to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Workers across board in the country owe it a responsibility to work with government to plug loopholes by adhering to all laws, rules and guidelines set by the government for such purposes of collective interest. The oil workers cannot pull in opposite direction , not at this time,” Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, has advised.