Public varsities still unsafe for reopening —ASUU

September 1, 2020
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THE Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on Monday said it was still unsafe for the nation’s public universities to reopen for academic activities. It also said even at that, the union is still on its industrial action which it commenced since March nationwide and will only call it off when demands are addressed by the government.

The Lagos Zone coordinator of the union, who is a lecturer at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, (FUNAAB), Professor Olusiji Sowande, gave this position in a statement made available to newsmen on Monday evening, that Public Universities unsafe for reopening.

According to him, there is nothing different on the ground from what used to be before COVID-19 in the nation’s public universities. He said students’ hostels are not only still inadequate, there are no significant facilities on the ground to carry out the physical distancing guidelines in large and crowded lecture rooms.

Besides that, he said water and electricity supply, among other needs, are also still unreliable and therefore reopening tertiary institutions now without taking concrete steps to address these issues would be suicidal. He said it was strange that the government could make arrangements for special bailout funds for airline operators and other private entities without considering the same for public universities.

He also decried the fact that some of the union members, particularly those at the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU) have had their salaries withheld for five months and members’ check-off deductions generally had not been remitted since February 2020 by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.

In addition, he said members have one complaint or another over salaries payment due to what he termed their forceful enrollment into Integrated and Personnel Payroll System (IPPIS), which he said the government would need to address.

According to him, the payment of salary is incomplete when third party deductions are not remitted to the parties concerned. 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 failing to remit our check-off since February 2020 to date by the Office of the Accountant- General of the Federation is not only illegal but criminal,” he stressed. 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), it developed as an alternative to IPPIS but had 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.

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