COVID-19: ASUU Reacts to Resumption of Schools, Says it Suicidal

It is no news that state governments has begun plans to resume academic activities in all state owned institutions as well as primary and secondary schools.

On the contrary, the federal government seems quiet on the resumption of federal institutions across the country.

However, in the view of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, who happens to be the most concerned parties in the system, it is suicidal to open government owned institutions for academic activities.

Speaking on Monday, Prof. Olusiji Sowande, who happens to be the Chairman of ASUU of the Lagos Zone, also recalled that the union is still on industrial action which began in March, adding that the union is not ready to go back on it unless the government give in on their demands.

The Lagos Zone ASUU co-ordinator stated that their’s nothing of note on ground as a preparation for the resumption of academic activities after the COVID-19 induced closure except what has been there.

Showing great concern on the welfare of the students and the possibilities of maintaining physical distancing, he noted the terrible conditions most universiy hostels are and how physical distancing will be unrealistic even in lecture halls as it is always crowded.

Besides that, he said, water and electricity supply, among other needs, are also still unreliable and that is why reopening of tertiary institutions for now without taking concrete steps to address these issues would be suicidal.

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He said it was even unheard of that government could make arrangements for special bailout funds for airline operators and other private entities without considering the same for public universities.

While also decrying that some of the union members, particularly those at the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU) have their salaries withheld for five months and members’ check-off deductions generally had not been remitted since February 2020 to date by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF), as well as members having one complaint or the another over salaries payment due to what he termed their forceful enrollment into Integrated and Personnel Payroll System (IPPIS), he said the government would need to address all these issues.

According to him, the payment of salary is incomplete when third party deductions are not remitted to the parties concerned.

Prof Sowande explained that “Check-offs and other third-party deductions by law should not be held beyond seven days before being remitted to the concerned parties.

“So, deducting and failure to remit our check-off since February 2020 to date by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF) is not only illegal but criminal,” he stressed.

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He said the withholding action raises a number of questions such as who is keeping the deductions and on whose directive, as well as would the interest be paid on the funds, among others.

He called on OAGF to provide answers to the inquiries, noting that the union was not only ready with the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) is developed as an alternative to IPPIS but already demonstrated the workability of the system to the minister of education with other top government officials in the ministry and its agencies in attendance.

He said the government would need to call for a physical meeting with ASUU leadership so as to resume their discussion on contentious issues for possible resolutions.

Meanwhile, Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos State, has devised a plan of “resumption in batches” for the students of the university after the state government announced resumption of schools in the state.

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