The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) declared on Monday that it is not yet known at this point if the country’s public universities will reopen their doors for academic activities.
He also said that the union would continue the union action it had started at the national level in March and would only cancel it if the government responded to its demands.
The union coordinator for the Lagos area, Prof. Olusiji Sowande, a professor at the Abeokuta Federal University of Agriculture (FUNAAB), made his position known in a statement made available to journalists on Monday evening.
In his view, there is nothing more on the ground than before COVID-19 in the country’s public universities, and there are no tangible concrete measures to deal with the dire conditions most universities find themselves in.
He said that not only are student dormitories still inadequate, but there are simply no meaningful local facilities to enforce physical distance guidelines in large, crowded conference rooms.
Furthermore, the supply of water and electricity, among other things, remained unreliable, so reopening tertiary institutions without taking concrete steps to solve these problems would be suicidal for the moment.
He said it was even outrageous that the government could make provisions for special bailout funds for airlines and other private institutions without considering this for public universities.
He also regretted that some union members, particularly those from Maiduguri University (UNIMAID) and Michael Okpara Umudike Agricultural University (MOUAU), are withholding wages for five months and that deductions from members’ checks have not been generally transferred by the Office of the General Accountant of the Federation (OAGF) from February 2020 to date, as well as members who have one or two complaints about the payment of salaries due to what he called their forced registration in the System Integrated Personnel Payroll (IPPIS), said the government must address all these issues.
In his opinion, salary payments are incomplete if third-party deductions are not passed on to interested parties.
Professor Sowande explained that “by law, third-party checks and other deductions should not take more than seven days to transfer to stakeholders.
“Therefore, the deductions and the fact of not remitting our deductions from February 2020 to today through the Office of the General Accountant of the Federation (OAGF) are not only illegal but also criminal,” he stressed.
He said the withholding action raises a number of questions, including who is withholding the deductions and under whose instructions, and whether interest is paid on the funds, among other things.
He asked the OAGF to answer questions and noted that the union was not only willing to develop the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as an alternative to IPPIS but had already demonstrated the viability of the system to the Minister of Education in the presence of other senior officials of the Ministry and its agencies.
He said the government should convene a physical meeting with the ASUU leadership to resume its debate on controversial issues for possible solutions.