The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday disclosed that no fewer than 30 of its members lost their lives to COVID-19-related complications.
The President of the body, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, made the disclosure in his valedictory speech at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, during the 21st ASUU National Delegates Conference themed, “State Terrorism and Nigeria’s Development.”
He regretted that many of the victims had battled the attack with resources from colleagues and other people of goodwill following the deliberate starvation of their salaries from concerned authorities.
He said, “We must place on record that COVID-19 did not spare our campuses. Many of our infected members had had to combat the COVID attack with resources from colleagues and other people of goodwill.
“This is because their salaries and emoluments, as well as the union’s check off deductions, were either withheld by the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation over the rejection of the discredited Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information Systems (IPPIS).
“Our other comrades suffered the same fate in the hands of overzealous State University Vice Chancellors and visitors. As a matter of fact, we lost at least 30 comrades, including past branch officers, to COVID-related complications in the process.”
While praying for the repose of the soul of the deceased, who he said could have been saved with access to better healthcare facilities, Ogunyemi regretted that the body was yet to come out of the woods.
“As we’ve consistently demanded, state and federal governments in Nigeria must learn from our avoidable losses from the COVID-19 crisis to bring about the much-needed turnaround in our health and education sectors,” he added.
The ASUU boss further appreciated Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, the Nigeria Labour Congress and others who he had cause to work with during his reign, adding, “in the last three years, ASUU has enjoyed tremendous goodwill from quarters too numerous to mention.
His words, “Despite being a government official, the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund has never denied his training in ASUU and the role played by the union in midwifing the intervention agency.
“The Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission is also another rare breed who projects his clear understanding of ASUU’s mission at every meeting with the government. May their race multiply!
“We equally appreciate the intervention efforts of the Hon. Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, as well as his Labour and Employment counterpart, Sen (Dr) Chris Ngige when it mattered.”
Also speaking, President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, commended ASUU leadership for remaining consistent in ensuring ideologies of its founding fathers were not lost, describing the union as the intellectual arm of the working class struggle in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Charles Esimone, described ASUU as the soul and conscience of the Nigerian university system.
“It has fought and continues to fight many battles, sometimes getting bruised in the process, not merely to better members’ welfare, but more importantly, for a more congenial university ambiance where teaching, learning and research can be more meaningful,” he said.