A legal luminary and founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), has described as unconstitutional, the mass closure of Nigerian universities by the federal government due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Babalola said such action would turn out to be counterproductive and disastrous to the education sector, especially closing down of private schools without prior consultation.
Babalola spoke yesterday in Ado Ekiti at a press conference, espousing his views about attempt by the federal government to defer the resumption of universities earlier slated for January 18.
He was reacting to the statement credited to the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, that the January 18 earlier set by the federal government 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.
Babalola 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 undistrupted and on-campus learning for students.
“On the contrary, universities which do not possess these facilities are within high-risk category.
“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”.
He said his eleven years 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 in spite of the world-class facilities it parades to prevent the spread of the lethal disease.
The legal luminary added: “The FG should know that schools in Ekiti 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 special test and seven days isolation. This underscores the level of our preparedness”.
He 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 should the low-risk private universities remain shut down to wait for high-risk one will make the ivory towers remain in 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, Babalola explains that; “We can’t even quantify our losses. We have been following international standard, 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”.