ASUU frowns at the re-opening of schools amid the coronavirus pandemic

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has raised alarm over reports that some states are reopening public universities amid coronavirus pandemic. According to The Nation, the union has also questioned non-remittance of check-off dues from members’ salaries under the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) for about four months. Addressing reporters at the mini- campus of the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) Ago – Iwoye, Ogun State, the Coordinator of the Lagos Zone of ASUU, Prof. Olusiji Sowande, warned it would be “suicidal” for universities to resume in an environment devoid of facilities to observe safe physical and social distancing amid the pandemic.

ASUU said no concrete steps had been taken by the governments in any of the nation’s public universities to safeguard the health of their members and students from the COVID – 19 pandemic should the universities resume as directed by NUC. Olusiji, who addressed reporters in the company of the branch chairmen, from the zone, including Dr. Joel Okewale (OOU), Dr. Adebayo Oni (Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta), Isaac Oyewumi(Lagos University, Ojo), Tunji Ettu (Tai Solarin University of Education, TASUED, Ijagun) and Dele Ashiru of the University of Lagos, noted that hostel accommodation was inadequate for students.

In his exact words:

“The response of the public universities to the call by the National Universities Commission for their readiness to reopen indicated that public universities are not ready.“Presently, hostel accommodations are inadequate, no facility on ground to carry out physical activities in large and crowded classes, water and electricity supply are not reliable etc.“Reopening tertiary institutions without taking concrete steps to address these issues would be suicidal. While government made arrangements for special bailout funds for airline operators and other private entities, no such arrangement was made for public universities.”

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Regarding IPPIS deductions, Olusiji accused the Office of the Accountant General for failing to remit deductions from salaries of members who were forcefully enrolled on the platform despite the union’s protests against it.

According to him:

“The numerous complaints and other observed gaps in payment through IPPIS only confirmed our suspicion that the platform is a mere business venture for some individuals, who are bent on milking the country dry.‘’Payment of salary is incomplete when third party deductions are not remitted to the parties concerned.

Check-offs and other third-party deductions by law should not be held beyond seven days before being remitted to the concerned parties. Deducting and failure to remit check-off since February 2020, to date by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) is not only illegal but also criminal.

‘’Withholding of deducted check-off raises a number of questions – Who is keeping the deductions? Where is the deducted check-off and other third-party funds being kept? Are there escrow accounts being kept by OAGF?‘’Will interest be paid on the withheld funds? On whose authority are these deductions being withheld? In whose interest is this act of criminality and extreme lawlessness being perpetrated? These and many more questions agitate our members and beg for answers.”

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