A legal luminary and founder, Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Chief Afe Babalola, (SAN), has advised the Federal Government against repeated or indefinite closure of Nigeria schools as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Babalola, told a news conference in Ado Ekiti that waiting indefinitely for COVID-19 to go was dangerous as the pandemic might last for another one year globally, the way things were happening by the day.
He said mass closure of schools, especially universities, without consideration for schools known to be outstanding in the possession of best of facilities capable of putting the virus at bay was not good for intellectual growth and human capital development of the country.
He described such scenario as not only at variance with what obtained in the development world but also unconstitutional and disastrous.
Babalola said such action could turn out to be counter-productive to the education sector, especially at the private schools level.
He said that government should not contemplate deferring resumption of schools any further after the earlier scheduled Jan. 18, because of its grave consequences on the wellbeing of the nation.
He also urged that government should emulate other foreign countries by paying the salaries of lecturers in private universities shut down because of COVID-19.
According to him, these category of institutions are monthly incurring huge bills on their workers for jobs not done while their expensive equipment keep wasting away.
“I am of the firm view that mass closure of schools is both unconstitutional, disastrous and counter productive.
“It is certainly unjust to the parents, teachers, students and proprietors of schools and also violates the rule of natural justice.
“All universities, particularly private ones that have the required world class health facilities like in our case and had complied with every of PTF regulations which will enable them to implement low-medium risk measures ought not and should not be shut down
“If the private universities which fall within the category of minimum risk have to wait for their counterparts in the public universities to resume, then no university will resume until the virus is completely eliminated, which is not feasible in the next one year,” he said.
Babalola disclosed that the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention supported this when it officially recommended that universities should be accorded preferential treatment under COVID-19 in terms of operations.
He reminded government that should the low risk private Universities remain shut down to wait for high risk public universities, it would make the ivory towers remain comatose for long.
On whether his declaration that the schools’ closure was illegal meant that he would drag government to court, Babalola said he was not contemplating such a stand.
“I am not going to court, because we have not exhausted the option of negotiation and local remedy.
“I am a friend of the Federal Government and I know that the Attorney-General of the Federation will look into it.”