The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has given a condition for its members to support any school reopening move by the government.
The academic body on Wednesday noted that even if the government decides to reopen universities immediately, its members will not return to the classes except the government addresses issues that made them declare a strike action earlier in March before the COVID-19 lockdown of schools.
The union’s Coordinator, Ibadan zone, Prof Ade Adejumomade revealed this position on Wednesday while speaking with newsmen in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
In his words, “Even if universities are opened today, our strike which was predicated on government’s readiness to honour its memorandum of agreement (MOA) with us continues.
“It is our responsibility to call the government’s attention to its duties to the nation and its citizens, this we have done and there is no going back.
Naija News understands that the Ibadan zone of ASUU comprises the University of Ibadan (UI), University of Ilorin (Unilorin), Osun State University (UniOsun), Kwara State University (KWASU), and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH).
Apart from the ASUU demand, Adejumomade explained that it remains unwise to declare schools open amidst the prevailing coronavirus pandemic as it may lead to increased infection which will put the lives of students and workers at risk.
He said that “throwing schools open in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic is an open invitation to a tragic explosion of the scourge on a scale never witnessed anywhere since its outbreak!”
“Has the Nigerian government met the NCDC criteria on COVID- 19 protocol in our institutions? Must we endanger the lives of our children for pecuniary gains? Should the primary issue on life and death be used on profit matter? COVID-19 is still very much with us. It is in recognition of this fact that the government itself has rolled out certain conditions to be met before schools are re-opened.
“How many of our public institutions can confidently vouch for the safety of our children given the available facilities such as: provision of running water for handwashing; social distancing among students; the use of recommended face masks and shields, which are key components of NCDC protocols? A situation where a room meant for four now houses 20 students cannot be said to be social-distancing compliant. Our position, as a responsible Union on all these is that; throwing schools open in the midst of all these, is an open invitation to the tragic explosion of the COVID-19 scourge on a scale never witnessed anywhere since its outbreak! When this happens, Nigerians will not say that they were never warned.”
The ASUU coordinator added that the government rather than use the opportunity of the lockdown to engage the union on its demands, attempted to blackmail ASUU for declaring a strike action.
He alleged the government was pushing the IPPIS platform issue to appear as if the University lecturers were not interested in resolving issues surrounding the payment platform.
“In spite of the government’s attempt to blackmail ASUU for going on strike while coronavirus ravages the nation, it is instructive to put it on record that, the strike at that point in time was the most patriotic and pragmatic action for the Union to embark on. One would have thought that the government would use the opportunity of the lockdown to address the issues in contention with ASUU. Surprisingly, the government was carrying on as if the problems no longer exist. As we speak, the government has not called ASUU for discussion.
“Nigerians should note that IPPIS, though not part of our initial charter of demands, has been elevated to the status of the main issue by the government. Even at that, the Union has met the Government’s challenge for ASUU to develop an alternative platform that will take care of the peculiarities of the University system. To this end, we have developed and presented UTAS well ahead of the 18 months period that we promised while still addressing the problem of corruption as being touted by the government.
“This platform which is more comprehensive and robust than IPPIS was developed by our team of experts completely using our resources. This is another indication that speaks to the ability of Nigerian academics to further solve societal problems if given the requisite funding and enabling environment,” He said.