Workers of the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday accused the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System of effecting illegal deductions on their February salaries.
The workers, in separate interviews and written complaints, called for the refund of the deductions and a thorough investigation into what they said was a scam.
They accused IPPIS, the body charged with paying the wages of federal workers, of colluding with perpetrators of the scam, and urged leaders of their unions to take up the matter with the concerned authorities.
Collins Yakubu-Hammer, the Acting Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalist, NAN Chapel, Abuja, described the deductions as “strange, illegal and unacceptable”.
Yakubu-Hammer said: “The members of staff are not happy with these deductions. The deductions are said to be union dues, but no one is telling them the name of the union into whose accounts the monies would be paid.
“NAN staff across the country are complaining of unlawful deduction from their salaries. They are bitter.
“From the complaints, the figures vary. While some workers noticed a deduction of N3,000, others had as much as N11,000 taken away.
“As a union, we see this as outrageous. This is corruption and should be investigated.”
Hamza Ibrahim, a staffer in Abuja, expressed shock over the deductions since he was not a member of any union.
Ibrahim said: ““I do not belong to any union in the Agency, but more than N2,000 was deducted from my February salary as ‘union dues’.
“The deduction was particularly strange because there was no indication as to which of the unions the money was remitted to.
“I cannot accept this.”
Cecilia Odey, a Senior Editor, alleged that some union leaders usually connive with IPPIS workers to effect illegal deductions on salaries of workers that were not their members.
She described that attitude as “criminal” and urged the Office of the Accountant-General to investigate such scams.
Odey said: “It is criminal to deduct monies and transfer to a union that one does not belong to.
“That is not right and certainly not acceptable.
“I call on EFCC, ICPC, DSS and the Inspector-General of Police to investigate IPPIS on this matter.
“No one should be allowed to steal people’s money in these difficult times.
“This impunity should not be allowed to continue.
“We complain of corruption in government ministries, but look at what is happening between the unions and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
“It is so shameful.
“I even heard that N11,000 was deducted from the February salary of a senior officer in the Department of Administration.
“We cannot keep quiet about this.”
Benson Ezugwu, a Senior Editor based in Calabar, also sent in his complaint.
Ezugwu said: “I just received my February salary and discovered a shortage of about N3,000.
“I want to know if anybody noticed such fraudulent union dues deduction.
“We are journalists and we pay our dues directly to the NUJ, so I don’t know any other union that is after my salary.”
Gami Tadanyigbe, NAN District Correspondent in Kuje, Federal Capital Territory, also complained that about N3,000 was deducted from his salary as union dues without specifying the union.
Tadanyigbe said: “I am a member of NUJ and our monthly deduction is not up to one thousand naira, but IPPIS just deducted over N3,000 from my salary.
“This is fraud and should be investigated.”
Sam Odita, a NAN Editor in Umuahia, said: “I discovered that N4,489.97 was chopped off as ‘CONPSS UNION DUES’ in my February salary.
“I was made to understand that the deduction was made by a certain union.
“I do not belong to this body, so NUJ, NAN Chapel, should please step in to recover my money.”
Sunday John, a Senior Correspondent in Lafia, Nasarawa State, also alleged that more than N2,000 was deducted from his February salary.
John said: “IPPIS should pay back my money so that it can be remitted to NUJ.
“If IPPIS refuses, the relevant authorities should intervene and investigate its activities.”
Constance Athekeme, an Assistant Chief Correspondent in Abuja, said N3,000 was deducted from her salary as union dues with no indication as to which union would receive the money.
Athekeme said: “I need my money back.
“How can they conspire and take my money without my consent?
“I cannot tolerate such criminal action.
“I am a member of NUJ and NAWOJ; IPPIS’ claim of ‘union dues’ without stating the name of the union is criminal.”
Paul Aliyu, a Senior Accountant in the Agency, alleged that the leadership of a particular union had consistently conspired with IPPIS to defraud workers through unauthorised deductions.
Aliyu said: “The said union has accumulated much money through such dubious means.
“Its officials keep flying to Dubai and other parts of the world on vacation and live lavish lifestyles.”
Harrison Arubu, the NAN Correspondent in United Nations, New York, also complained about the deductions.
Arubu said: “I am not a member of the union I am told ordered the deductions.
“They better refund my money.
“It is a crime to corner workers’ money in the guise of union dues.
“EFCC, ICPC, IG and even Financial Intelligent Unit need to hear about this fraud.
“This one will surely hook them in their throats.
“NUJ should also pressurise management to investigate this matter and expose those responsible.
“I am sure some union leaders are behind this fraud.”
Reacting to the development, the Director of IPPIS, Benjamin Nsikak, said the unit deals with a mass of data and may not know what caused the deductions.
Nsikak said: ““An official letter should be written to IPPIS on the matter.
“If we have such letter, we shall look into the said deductions so as to determine what happened.”
Similarly, the Assistant Secretary General of RATTAWU, Benjamin Gudaku, who spoke at the union’s Headquarters at Dutse-Alhaji in Abuja, said the union had no hand on the matter.
“We have no influence on IPPIS,” Gudaku said.
According to him, every employee in the media, arts and culture is an automatic member of RATTAWU.
He added: “However, it is not in the powers of RATTAWU to go about touching other unions’ membership dues. It is even against our rules.
“It is unfortunate that people are making such allegations against RATTAWU.
“These are unfounded and baseless allegations because IPPIS is a statutory office.
“I don’t think it can allow itself to be manipulated into shifting members of one union to another union.
“If workers belong to an association or union, the union is specific on their payslip.
“If the said deductions are specified in the pay slips to be in favour of RATTAWU, then the allegation may be considered as the truth, but if not, it may just be an opinion of people.
“RATTAWU cannot dictate to IPPIS on whose union dues should be deducted or not.”