The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has accused the federal government of not consulting Nigerian research institutions and university-based scholars in the fight against COVID-19 and other national challenges.

The national president of ASUU, Biodun Ogunyemi, in a statement on Wednesday, said the same attitude of the government had “brought our universities to their knees and deprived them of capacity to respond to national challenges.”

The coronavirus pandemic has assailed the world since the beginning of this year with the global tally of confirmed cases exceeding 21 million.

Nigeria has so far recorded 49,895 infections with nearly a thousand deaths.

There is yet no globally approved COVID-19 cure or vaccine. Although clinical trials of vaccines are still ongoing in many countries, Nigeria is not involved in any at the moment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced his country’s approval of a COVID-19 vaccine named “Sputnik V”, but scientists around the world have expressed concerns over the lack of final-stage testing of the vaccine.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Ogunyemi said ASUU “finds it unacceptable that the Presidential Task Force would discuss issues relating to prevention control and possible cure of COVID-19 in Nigeria without reference to universities and university-based scholars.

“However, we view the Federal Government’s failure to acknowledge the intellectual and research community in the national discourse on COVID-19 as a continuation of the trajectories which brought our universities to their knees and deprive them of capacity to respond to national challenges,” the statement issued read.

Mr Ogunyemi, however, said despite its exclusion, the body of lecturers has been involved in government efforts to prevent and control the spread of coronavirus just like other frontline workers.

“It is no longer news that ASUU members across the country were actively involved in the production and distribution of hand sanitisers, radio/TV jingles, handbills and posters, hand washing buckets and other items supportive of government efforts to prevent and control the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Nigeria.

“At the same time, our medical and paramedical professional members were and are still involved in frontline activities as members of COVID-19 State Task Forces and volunteers in the isolation centres and clinics where their services were (are) critically required in critical moments.”

According to him, deploying ASUU members for medical and social emergencies at a time the Nigerian government was (is) withholding salaries of some of its colleagues in federal universities is a decision borne out of their sense of history.

“History teaches us that in a time of extraordinary adversity, extraordinary demands are made on the will of humankind, both in relation to our sheer courage and determination to survive, as well as in terms of the wisdom and ingenuity which we must bring to bear on the existential task of surmounting the adversity that we are confronted with.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is one such moment of supreme adversity in the career of humankind, and we as a union are proud of our heritage of demonstrating courage and resourcefulness in a moment like this.”

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