By Vincent Ujumadu, Awka
THE Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, said yesterday that it lost 30 members to the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that many of them would have been saved if they were receiving their salaries to take care of their health.
Speaking during the opening ceremony of the 21st ASUU national delegates conference at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, the outgoing president of the union, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi said some of the victims included branch officers of the union.
In an emotion-laden speech, Ogunyemi observed that shortly after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Coronavirus disease a pandemic and introduced a number of preventive and control measures across the globe, the implementation of the non-pharmaceutical measures, including lockdowns, compounded the resolution of the ASUU strike and extended the nationwide action till 23rd December 2020 with the attendant adverse effects on members.
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 because their salaries and emoluments, as well as the union’s checkoff deductions, were withheld by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation over the rejection of the discredited Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (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.
“Professor Femi Odekunle, who until COVID-19 snuffed out his life, was a good friend of the union and a member of the Federal Government team on the Renegotiation Committee of the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement, was among the victims.
“As we have 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; the two are Siamese twins separated only for convenience.”
He, however, said that in spite of daunting challenges, ASUU has continued to wax stronger, adding that the doggedness, persistence, and perseverance of members were beginning to yield some results.
He added: “As we cautiously celebrate victories on a number of campuses, we must also admit that it’s not yet Uhuru. “The court case over Governor Yahaya Bello’s purported ban of ASUU and dismissal of over one hundred members of the Union at the Kogi State University, Anyingba, has continued to linger for close to three years.
“We have a similar experience at the Lagos State University where some impostors, not known to NEC, continue to parade themselves as ASUU leaders. “The Ebonyi State Governor cleverly retracts on his attempt to outlaw the ASUU at a law court.
In this circumstance, our Ebonyi State University (EBSU) chapter is left in limbo; with an avalanche of unresolved welfare issues placed before the governor and Visitor to the University. All efforts to have a meaningful dialogue with the EBSU Visitor were rebuffed”.