Research workers begin indefinite strike tomorrow, allege misuse of COVID-19 funds

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Workers in 63 research institutes nationwide are to begin indefinite strike tomorrow.

This came as the bodies in the research institutes – Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI) and the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions (ASURI) – accused the Federal Government of “deliberately frustrating local production COVID-19 vaccine through inadequate funding of research institutes across the federation.”

Specifically, the unions indicted government of “frittering away money that was mobilised to combat COVID-19 by the organised private sector and business community.”

Operating under the aegis of Joint Research and Allied Institutions Sector Unions (JORAISU), the three unions said they were proceeding on strike over Federal Government’s refusal to honour the agreement they struck10 years ago.

JORAISU Chairman, Peters Adeyemi, who spoke on behalf of the group in Abuja yesterday, said the unions would embark on the industrial action from midnight.

His words: “Without doubt that our continued efforts to promote industrial peace in the research and allied institutions are not being appreciated by government, however, if by the expiration of this additional 15-day ultimatum, government fails to do the needful, the leadership of JORAISU would not be held liable for the strike action that will commence from the midnight of Tuesday, October 12, 2021.”

The group alleged misuse of the COVID-19 fund, part of which was meant to fund research on locally made vaccine.

Secretary General, ASURI, Theophilus Ndubuaku said: “When COVID-19 started, organisations pooled resources in excess of N1 billion. The research institutes went to government to ask of the whereabouts of the money so that part of it could be used to fund research efforts, but up to now, nothing has been heard of that money.”

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He stated that Nigeria ought to be epicentre of research on coronavirus in Africa.

“We have written the World Health Organisation (WHO) to ask them (government) why was COVID-19 research not done in Nigeria where the rate of penetration is low?” he queried.

On his part, President of SSAUTHRIAI, Benjamin Akintola, flayed the current administration for reportedly paying lip service to research.

He explained that the condition of service in research institutes was dismal to further retain the calibre of persons needed.

Akintola argued that exclusion of research institutes from TETFund was hampering their functionality.

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