Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin and Gyang Bere, Jos
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Benin zone, yesterday, restated its rejection of the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS). Rather, it opted for the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), saying it would curb corruption in the system.
Zonal coordinator, Prof. Fred I. Esumeh, also said the union has resolved to continue with ongoing strike if government failed to address the issues of revitalisation fund for public universities, arrears of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), visitation to universities, proliferation of state varsities and issues of governance and the conclusion of the re-negotiation of the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement.
He said the union rejected IPPIS as a payment platform because it was not designed to accommodate the peculiarities of academic institutions.
Prof. Esumeh stated that to develop the UTAS and subject it to integrity evaluation tests, ASUU has proposed a time frame of 18 months to the Federal Government.
Meanwhile, the Bauchi and Kano zones of the union have faulted plan to reopen public universities.
Prof. Lawan Abubakar, Bauchi zonal coordinator and Prof. Abdulkadir Mohammed, acting zonal coordinator in charge of Kano, in separate press briefings in Jos and Kano, respectively, said the move could be perilous.’
Abubakar said reopening of universities would pose grave danger to students and would be inimical to the fight against the spread of coronavirus in the country.
He claimed most public universities lacked the infrastructure that would enable students comply with putting safety protocols in place, thereby, making them prone to contracting the dreaded virus.
“ASUU is not in support of government’s plan to reopen universities. Our position is that universities should remain close until the right thing is done to enable students comply with the COVID-19 safety protocols.
“If students resume now, is it the grossly inadequate lecture halls, workshops, hostels or laboratories that will give them the opportunity to observe social distancing and other protocols?” Abubakar asked.
He said the outbreak of COVID-19 had further affirmed ASUU demands for a well-funded university system as contained in the 2013 and other Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was reached.
He said with the manner government was poorly funding universities, it would take more than 10 years to put the necessary facilities on ground that would enable students comply with safety protocol.
“Had it been government implemented the 2013 MoU and subsequent ones, we wouldn’t have been caught off-guard by COVID-19; we would have been contemplating reopening universities now that the numbers of cases are declining. So, it is now clear to everyone that neither the struggle of ASUU nor the COVID-19 protocols agree with the reopening of universities. We must avert this disaster while we can,” he said
Speaking in Kano, Mohammed called on the Federal Government to provide necessary facilities to encourage compliance with COVID-19 prevention guidelines ahead of the school reopenning.
He said provision of the COVID-19 safety guidelines were critical to the protection of students and staff as well as stem further spread.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in the country laid bare the infrastructural deficit, not only in the universities but other sector of education.
“This is as a result of the continuous refusal of government to heed to calls for proper funding of the institutions to make them globally competitive since 1992.
“Our previous agreements with the government in 1992; 2001, 2009 and 2017 NEEDs Assessment reports have all made adequate provisions for the infrastructural needs of our Universities to make them cope with the COVID-19 protocols.
“With lack of running water and electricity, overcrowded classrooms, poorly spaced hostels, libraries, laboratories and offices, non of the Universities will satisfy the requirements of social distancing.
“Presently; Nigerian Universities are poorly equipped to cope with the COVID-19 protocols for school resumption as outlined by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).”