Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said its members nationwide are willing to work with medical and paramedical workers as volunteers in carrying out public enlightenment and professional intervention initiatives against the COVID-19 spread in Nigeria.
The Union, which recently embarked on an indefinite industrial action over the disagreement with the federal government on the implementation of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPIS) and funding of universities, said its members are ready to wave aside the strike to join hands in stemming the tide of the dreaded coronavirus in Nigeria.
ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, who stated this during a presentation of COVID-19 intervention materials yesterday at the University of Ibadan, 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 to cope with a pandemic of the magnitude of the COVID-19.”
Ogunyemi, who was represented by the Zonal Coordinator, Ibadan Zone, Prof. Ade Adejumo, while addressing journalists at the University of Ibadan, said the Union has made her members available to help in checking the menace of COVID-19.
He said the decision of ASUU to support government’s efforts towards stemming the tide of the coronavirus was taken at its recent emergency meeting held at the University of 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. At the press conference that followed on March 23, 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 stated.
Ogunyemi said all branches of the Union have 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 country.
He said although ASUU believes that this is not the time for apportioning blames, the universities appears to have no place in the current efforts of the 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 country! 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 the government had enough opportunity to consider the union’s demands on the non-implementation of some key aspects of the February 7, 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 March 9, 2020, with the warning strike declared at the Enugu State University. We had thought that the two-week window would be used by the 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, the 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.