The prolonged faceoff between the federal government and members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, yesterday claimed an important casualty: Former ASUU president Professor Festus Iyayi was killed when a police convoy belonging to Kogi State governor Idris Wada rammed into the ASUU bus in which he was travelling. He was said to have died on the spot.
With the death of Iyayi, it is likely that today’s ASUU meeting in Kano over the ongoing strike will be put on hold and the strike may linger.
The former ASUU president was on his way to Kano to attend the ASUU NEC meeting in the company of three other lecturers of the UNIBEN chapter of ASUU when the vehicle they were travelling in was hit by a police escort vehicle in the convoy of the Kogi State governor in Banda, about 9 kilometers to Lokoja, the state capital.
According to eyewitnesses, the governor’s convoy had, while trying to avoid potholes, rammed into the bus conveying Iyayi . Following the impact, the vehicle was forced out of the road and somersaulted several times, killing the professor of Business Administration instantly.
The state commander of FRSC, Mr Olakunle Motajo, also stated that the accident, which occurred at about 11:45am, involved a Toyota Hilux in the motorcade of Gov. Idris Wada and a Toyota Hiace bus belonging to the UNIBEN ASUU chapter.
“Iyayi was in the union’s bus with two others, including a woman (who was revealed to be national welfare officer, Dr Ngozi Iloh), who sustained a fracture in her left arm, while the other had bruises. But the other escaped unhurt,” Motajo said.
The corpse of Iyayi has since been deposited at Kogi State Specialist Hospital in Lokoja where other injured victims are being treated.
The FRSC sector commander told journalists that a preliminary report on the accident revealed wrongful overtaking on the part of the government vehicle.
The governor, who was returning from Abuja, later visited the emergency ward of the hospital to commiserate with the victims. He thereafter set up a panel to look into the circumstances leading to the incident.
He was also at the hospital mortuary to see the remains of the late Iyayi and directed the management of the hospital to give the victims the best of care.
Some members ASUU who were seen standing in groups refused to speak with the press; they were only lamenting that the governor’s convoy killed Prof. Festus Iyayi and shouting unprintable invectives.
According to the special adviser to the governor on media and strategy, Mr Jacob Edih, the escort vehicle was on the convoy of the governor. “The convoy was on a speed of 80 kilometres per hour when a bus collided with the escort van,” he said, adding that “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”.
Iyayi’s death has thrown ASUU, the University of Benin community and indeed the entire academic community into shock.
Reacting to the news, Prof. Friday Okonofua of the University of Benin accused Kogi State governor Capt. Idris Wada of being responsible for Iyayi’s death. “It is the governor of Kogi that killed him. He was killed by a reckless convoy. He killed one of our most distinguished academics who has won laurels all over the world. We would hold the governor of Kogi responsible for his death,” he said.
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