By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

THE Non-Academic Staff of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, has said that it will rebuff any circular issued by any university authorities directing its members to resume duties amid escalating coronavirus pandemic.

NASU’s threat came on the heels of the circular issued by Registrar of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Dr. Bola Adekola, directing all the staff of the university to resume duties as from Monday, May 11, 2020.

Already, NASU, through its General Secretary, Comrade Peters Adeyemi, has sent a petition to the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, faulting the directive. Adeyemi in the letter argued that “The national secretariat of NASU is of the opinion that this directive of the authorities of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta conflicts with the Federal Government’s lockdown easing guidelines in respect of academic institutions and social engagement which state thus: ‘all schools to remain closed till further evaluation.’

“We, therefore, call on the Presidential Task Force to prevail on the authorities of FUNAAB to respect the content of the Federal Government’s lockdown easing guidelines and stop them from implementing the Registrar’s circular asking all staff to resume for duty on Monday, May 11, 2020 in the interest of the protection of the workers.” He said that the circular flouts the Federal Government’s lockdown easing guideline.

However, FUNAAB in its circular for resumption said the management was guided by instructions issued by both the Federal Government and Ogun State on the lockdown. According to the circular, “The University Management at its meeting of Monday, May 4, 2020 chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Felix Kolawole Salako, reviewed the above in line with the one-week extension of the lockdown period by the Ogun State government which still restricted movement till Sunday, May 10, 2020 as it affects the resumption of work in the University. Management has, therefore, directed the resumption of administrative activities and re-opening of offices of the University with effect from Monday, May 11, 2020. All staff of the University are hereby directed to resume duties from May 11, 2020.”

The institution stated that as part of the efforts to maintain hygiene and safety of staff generally, all buildings of the university were fumigated and de-contaminated during lockdown period. On his part, the vice chancellor of the university, Prof Felix Salako, explained that university environment has its own uniqueness, adding, “it should be clear that the Federal Government issued guidelines, not forgetting that various agencies under it have their peculiarities. During this lockdown, the university management attended to requests from TETFund, NUC, AGF, etc. Those requests were met with staff complementing each other in various units. “Some technologists in Biotechnology Centre made FUNAAB sanitizers at a point in time even when those in various departments were not needed because students were not around.”

He further highlighted that it will be untoward of any management not to take into consideration peculiarities of the university, just as others are doing. Justifying the May 11 resumption date, Prof Salako said that the date was sacrosanct for the effective functionality of the institution.

He said, “Yes all staff are expected to resume on May 11 because every staff is relevant in the system, not just levels 13 to 15. For instance, in payroll, we have only a Level 14 officer if we use government guideline strictly. Will he be the only one responding to incessant requests from Abuja? Thank God we could respond fast enough in the past few weeks. In farms or works, who will handle the works of technicians?

“Are levels 13 to 15 officers to run offices, making photocopies sorting and dispatching mails? In working from home, many requests were treated electronically but this does not foreclose documentation of hard copies. Is there an assumption by critics that under normal conditions these grades of staff are not needed? As part of measures to ensure maintenance of reasonable social distancing on Campus after resumption, all Heads of respective Departments and Units are hereby directed to make flexible work arrangements for their staff to come to offices on rotational basis but must ensure regular flow of official activities during the week in all offices in addition, the university shall only be opened for work between 9am and 2pm of every working day of the week until further notice.”

He also stated that not all staff are expected to come to work everyday of the week, explaining that head of departments have been empowered to schedule when staffers should come to work.

He said, “If Heads of Units have been asked to minimise number of staff, is Management really expecting all staff every day? For instance, what will a technologist that has no practical to supervise in the laboratory come to do every day during this period?

“What is ‘all staff’ in a Department with ‘holidaying’ students come to do everyday? Can “all staff” include those on strike? Why the agitation?
“The choice of words by the Registrar were deliberate, to cover peculiar needs without doubts from any staff about his or her relevance. The University must exist when staff return fully. That philosophy is for every staff to uphold.”

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