Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), A legal luminary and founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), has described as unconstitutional the mass closure of Nigerian universities the federal government due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
According to Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), such action would be counterproductive and disastrous to the education sector, especially private schools’ closing down without prior consultation.
Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) spoke yesterday in Ado Ekiti at a press conference, espousing his views about the federal government’s attempt to defer the resumption of universities earlier slated for January 18.
Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) was reacting to the statement credited to the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, that the federal government’s January 18 earlier set for school resumption would be reviewed.
Expressing opposition to mass closure of universities, the legal Icon said: “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 stated.
Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) disclosed that the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention had put all these into consideration when it officially recommended that universities should be accorded preferential treatment under ColOVID-19 in terms of operations.
“The USCDC said universities are different in terms of size, geographical location, structure and in their abilities to out 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.
“I at this moment strongly advise that the federal government should stop mass closure of schools. All schools, particularly the private universities with the required world-class health facilities and have complied with Presidential Task Force regulations, will enable them to implement low medium risk measures and 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.”
He said his eleven-year-old university has been having a smooth and uninterrupted academic calendar before abrupt disruption by COVID-19, thereby stalling operations and closure of the university despite the world-class facilities it parades to prevent the spread of the lethal disease.
Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) further added: “The FG should know that Ekiti schools are safer than that located in the heart of Lagos. We must consider the geographical location. Any worker here who goes to Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt goes for a special test and seven days of isolation. This underscores the level of our preparedness”.
Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) urged the federal government to emulate foreign countries by paying the salaries of lecturers in the private universities, which were shut down because of COVID- 19.
Babalola reminded the FG that the low-risk private universities remain shut down to wait for high-risk ones to make the ivory towers remain comatose for long.
On whether he will approach the court to challenge the closure of private universities, Babalola said: “I am not going to court because we have not exhausted the option of negotiation and local remedy. I am a friend of the FG, and I know that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) will look into it”.
On how his university has been affected adversely, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) explains that “We can’t even quantify our losses. We have been following international standards, which was September to July academic session before this global problem.
“We have done seven convocations in ten years. We used to pay salaries on the 24th of the 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 if they still want to continue with this closure. That was the method adopted in foreign countries”.
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