COVID-19: ASUU Members Can Serve as Medical, Paramedical Volunteers, Says Union

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By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has okayed its members nationwide willing to work with medical and paramedical workers as volunteers in carrying out public enlightenment and professional intervention initiatives against the Covid-19 spread.

The union which recently embarked on an indefinite industrial action over disagreement with the federal government on the implementation of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPIS) and funding of nation’s universities, said its members were ready to put aside the ongoing strike to join hands in stemming the tide of the dreaded coronavirus in Nigeria.

ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, who spoke during a presentation of COVID-19 Intervention Materials on Tuesday at the University of Ibadan, in Oyo state said if there had been qualitative and accessible university education, the universities in the country would have acted as, “a storehouse of knowledge in scientists, doctors, nurses, laboratory technologists and other medical and paramedical personnel for coping with a global pandemic of the magnitude of the COVID-19”.

Ogunyemi said the decision of ASUU to support government’s efforts towards stemming the tide of the dreaded coronavirus was taken at its recent emergency meeting held at the University of Abuja, Abuja.

“At that meeting, NEC resolved that the Union should participate actively in the ongoing efforts to prevent and control the spread of the coronavirus, otherwise called COVID-19. In the Press Conference that followed on 23rd March, 2020, we had declared:

“To demonstrate our concerns for the welfare and well-being of the Nigerian people, ASUU members nationwide shall be willing to work with medical and paramedical workers as volunteers in their public enlightenment and professional intervention initiatives,” he said.

Ogunyemi said that all branches of the union had been directed to explore areas of strategic collaboration with federal, state and local governments to provide support in terms of information and expert skills drawn from our membership across the nation.

He said that although ASUU believes that this is not the time for apportioning blames, the universities appears to have no place in the current efforts of government to tackle Coronavirus outbreak.

“See, for instance, how naked and empty our teaching hospitals turned out to be when threatened by the early wave of COVID-19. Yet, these are laboratories established to produce medical and paramedical personnel for our dear nation! Our aspiration for improved quality of life for Nigeria’s teeming population will remain a mirage for as long as the ruling class cannot see the ineluctable consequences of the neglect of university education for qualitative health services,” he said.

Speaking on the appropriateness or otherwise of the ongoing strike by the union, Ogunyemi said government had enough opportunity to consider the union’s demands on the non-implementation of some key aspects of the 7th February 2019 FGN-ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA) and imposition of IPPIS but that the authorities went ahead to order stoppage of lecturers’ February salary.

“The current action commenced way back on 9th March 2020 with the warning strike declared at the Enugu State University. We had thought the two-week window would be used by Government to respond satisfactorily to our demands on the non-implementation of some key aspects of the February 7, 2019 FGN-ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA) and imposition of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) on Nigerian academics. Instead, Government stuck to its gun on IPPIS, withheld payment of salaries and allowances of ASUU members and seized the check-off dues, cooperative society contributions and other third-party deductions made on behalf of the union and its members,” he said.

ASUU president said the union had no regrets for rejecting IPPIS, adding that apart from its erosion of University autonomy, the fears that the platform lead to possible distortion, manipulation and amputation of salaries and allowances fully came to light with the forceful application of IPPIS to the payroll system in the universities in February 2020.

“If anyone is still in doubt, a chat with the victims, many of who have regrettably confessed to being deceived into enrolling in IPPIS, would certainly convince you, ” he said.