The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on Friday disclosed that no fewer than 30 of its members lost their lives to COVID-19-related complications.
President of the body, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, made the disclosure 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 deliberate starvation of their salaries by 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, 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 on our avoidable losses from the COVID-19 crisis to bring about the much-needed turnaround in our health and education sectors.
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, saying it remained the intellectual arm of working class struggle in Nigeria.
He stressed that access to quality education remained the only solution to breaking the gap between the rich and the poor, just as he berated the governors’ forum for their decision on the fuel pump price hike.
He enjoined the citizenry to agonize less but organise more, assuring them that his union would remain on the streets in its struggle for a better society, just as he called for ASUU support.
The Executive Secretary, TETfund praised ASUU over its wisdom being demonstrated in strengthening partnership, describing it as the goose that laid the golden egg.
He commended the ASUU boss for taking the union to greater heights, noting that members would not forget him in a hurry.
“Two things define a leader’s tenure, inaugural and validatory speeches. ASUU won’t forget you in a hurry. Your support for me has kept me going. I don’t do anything without consulting ASUU, it’s the goose that laid the golden TETfund,” he added.
Earlier, 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.
On his part, ASUU Chairperson, UNIZIK chapter, Comrade Steve Ufoaro expressed appreciation to the management for donating the land for the construction of the building, just as he thanked his members for the support in making the dream a reality.
He said the completed Secretariat, comprising the auditorium, library, gym and conference hall, was the first phase of the project, adding that the second phase would be the business section while the third phase would be the guest house.