Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Strike: Ex-ASUU leader, Iyayi, killed in gov’s convoy crash (Updates)
Iyayi and other members of ASUU, University of Benin branch, were on their way to Kano for a meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the union scheduled to hold today. The meeting is to enable the NEC receive reports of the congresses that held “simultaneously” in the universities across the country.
The accident occurred about noon at Banda village near Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, when an escort car in the convoy of the governor had a head-on collision with the bus in which Prof. Iyayi and the other members of ASUU were travelling. Eyewitnesses told National Mirror that the ASUU team was travelling to Kano in a Toyota bus with registration number ED 357 ASL.
The remains of the late professor were said to have been deposited at the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, in Lokoja, while other injured victims, including the driver of the convoy’s Hilux pick-up van, were taken to the same hospital for medical attention.
Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, Olakunle Motajo, who confirmed the accident, said preliminary investigation revealed that there was wrongful overtaking on the part of the governor’s vehicle. Wada later visited the emergency unit of the hospital to commiserate with the victims and also at the mortuary to see the remains of Iyayi.
The governor, who was shocked over the incident, however, told the management of the hospital to give the injured the best treatment. In a statement later, the state government confirmed that an escort vehicle in the convoy of the governor was involved in a fatal accident at Banda Village, while the governor was returning from an official engagement in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The statement, signed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Strategy, Mr. Jacob Edi, stated that the convoy was on a speed of 80 kilometres per hour when a bus collided with the escort van. “Sadly, in the storm, it was discovered that a renowned academic and respected human rights advocate, Prof. Festus Iyayi, who was in the other vehicle died in the accident.
There were other victims with varying degree of injuries from both sides,” the statement said. Born in 1947 in Ugbegun, Ishan in Edo, late Iyayi obtained a Masters Degree in Industrial Economics from the Kiev Institute of Economics in the former U.S.S.R.
He became a lecturer in 1980 at the Department of Business Administration, University of Benin. Iyayi, who was the ASUU president in 1986, was also a known author with four books to his credit. The late unionist won the Commonwealth Prize for Literature for one of his books “Heroes” in 1988.
The title of other books to his credit are: “Violence”, “The Contract” and “Awaiting Court Martial.”
Meanwhile, reactions have been pouring in on the death of Iyayi. President Goodluck Jonathan expressed sadness over the death of the former ASUU president.
A statement issued yesterday by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, commiserated with the leadership and members of ASUU on the tragic death. Jonathan also expressed condolences to Iyayi’s family, his colleagues, friends and associates.
Senate President David Mark also lamented the death of the frontline academic. Mark noted the giant strides of the university scholar, which had brought international fame and value to the nation.
He regretted that Iyayi was one of the leaders of ASUU dialoguing with the Federal Government on how to resolve the lingering strike by university teachers. Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan also expressed deep shock at the sudden death of Iyayi and called on players in the education sector, including the Federal Government and striking lecturers, to rededicate themselves to the pursuit of excellence at the tertiary level in honour of the deceased.
The governor in a statement by his Press Secretary, Felix Ofou, said the highest honour that the late Iyayi deserved was the return to the pursuit of academic excellence in our universities and other higher institutions. ASUU also mourned the death of its former President.
The President of ASUU, Dr. Nasir Fagge, said: “The sad news was broken to the union in the morning of November 12. I cannot say anything right now. We have just lost one of our own, Festus Iyayi, who was very dear to us.
I am mourning.” The immediate past President of the union, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, said the news came to him as a rude shock and was still in doubt if it was true. Awuzie, now the Vice- Chancellor, Imo State University, said: “I know the NEC executives of the union should be on their way to Kano, but I am still expecting the details of the death.
“Until I get full details on the circumstances of his death, I might not be able to say much,” Awuzie said. Prof. Ahunna Okerengwo, the Chairman, University of Port- Harcourt chapter of ASUU, says the death of Iyayi on Tuesday was shocking. Prof. Damian Opata, the Head, Department of English, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said Iyayi’s death was unfortunate. “It is very sad coming at this time,” he said.
The Kano meeting is to deliberate on whether to call off the strike as the NEC receives reports of the congresses that held “simultaneously” in all the universities across the country. Local chapters of ASUU had held their congresses on Monday to vote on the suspension or otherwise.
The said agreement, which necessitated the subsisting July 1 action, required that the Federal Government will, within a period of five years, release more than N1trn, to bridge the noticeable infrastructural deficits in the nation’s ivory towers. Also, the Federal Government would have released N92bn, for what the union christened, “earned allowance.”
However, ASUU seems to have a moral burden now as the Federal Government said it had released over N30bn as part of the contentious earned allowance. Last week’s meeting of the Fagge-led ASUU with President Jonathan at the Presidential Villa, prompted positive steps by ASUU towards ending the strike.
At the meeting, President Jonathan was said to have pledged government’s readiness to release N220bn in next year’s budget and in subsequent appropriations.
Already, chairmen of local chapters of ASUU are converging on Kano, preparatory to the meeting, from where a positive resolution is being expected. Chairman of one of the federal universities in the South-South, who did not want his name mentioned, said the strike “may be suspended on Saturday.”
“Many of the chapters are disposed to ending this strike, which has cost us all a full semester. “As I speak with you, we (chairmen) are on our way to Kano for NEC meeting tomorrow (today).” Asked if the strike would be suspended, he said: “I think so, judging by reports from the Monday congresses we held simultaneously. We may suspend the strike on Saturday or Sunday.”
He, however, admonished government to ensure that it honoured its promise so as not to return the university system to this “sorry past”. This, of course, formed the basis for the Monday congresses and today’s “decider” NEC meeting.
Meanwhile, the University of Jos, UNIJOS, chapter of the union explained its support for the continuation of the ongoing strike. After considering the outcome of the meeting which the union’s national body had with President Jonathan, members of the branch had last Monday voted in favour of the continuation of the fourmonth- old strike.