Afe Babalola (SAN), founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), has urged the Federal Government to consider paying salaries of lecturers of private universities.
The legal luminary said this while speaking with newsmen at his university on Wednesday.
“We can’t even quantify our losses. We have been following international standard, which was September to July academic session before this global problem,” he said.
“We have done seven convocations in ten years. We pay salaries on the 25th of every month and nobody has been sacked despite this suspension of work. But this has affected our purse. How can we be paying for services not rendered? This is unfair.
“That is why we are calling on the federal government to pay the salaries of workers in private universities which were shut down because of COVID-19. That was the method adopted in foreign countries.”
Babalola also said the shutting of universities is unconstitutional and counterproductive, saying the Presidential Task Force (PTF) must avoid issuing blanket orders without consulting proprietors of private universities.
He was reacting to news that the January 18 resumption date set by the government may be reviewed.
“I am of the firm view that mass closure of schools is unconstitutional, disastrous and counterproductive.
“It is certainly unjust to the parents, teachers, students and Proprietors of schools and also violates the rule of natural justice,” he said.
“Today, there are many private universities that have these facilities and therefore safer than most offices and even personal homes.”
Babalola said in the United States, universities are accorded preferential treatment under COVID-19 in terms of operations. He said the institutions, due to their geographical location, structure and abilities to put in place measure to guarantee minimum risk to students and lecturers, are classified as low-risk while others who cannot provide such facilities are high-risk.
“The USCDC said universities are different in terms of size, geographical location, structure and in their abilities to put in place measure that will guarantee minimum risk to students and teachers in their schools, which in turn will ensure undisrupted and on-campus learning for students.
“On the contrary, universities which do not possess these facilities are within the high-risk category,” he said.
“I hereby strongly advise that the federal government should stop mass closure of schools. All schools, particularly the private universities that have the required world class health facilities and have complied with Presidential Task Force regulations which will enable them to implement low medium risk measures ought not and should not be shut down.
“To shut them down with those which don’t have such facilities is unjust and violates the times of natural justice and therefore unconstitutional.”
Babalola also said the Federal Government must consider schools in low-risk areas like Ekiti. He said such universities should be allowed to resume while the high-risk ones suspended.
“The FG should know that schools in Ekiti are safer than that located in the heart of Lagos or Abuja. We must consider the geographical location. Any worker here who goes to Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt goes for special test and seven days isolation. This underscored the level of our preparedness.
“If the private universities which fall within the category of minimum risk have to wait for their public counterparts to resume, then no university will resume until the virus is completely eliminated which is not feasible in the next one year,” he said.