Last week, Nigerian Baptist Convention-owned Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State made history as the second private university in Nigeria to be abruptly shut down due to students’ protest. The first incidence happened at the Anglican Communion of Nigeia-owned Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, Oyo State. KEHINDE ADIO spoke to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Matthews Ojo on the crisis and the way out. Excerpt:
What led to the recent crisis in your university?
The immediate cause of the crisis was power outage in a section of one of the male hostels in the institution on the evening of Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at about eight p.m. While students were watching a European championship league, a section of the hall experienced a power outage from our feeder line from the generating set.
Immediately it occurred, our electricians went there to repair it. During the process, the light in the affected hall had to be put off while the work was going on. In the course of this, the students in that hall who were watching the football that night felt agitated that they were being denied the opportunity of watching the match, and that was how they went on the rampage that night, destroying many things that they could lay their hands on. It was too bad.
Although, another remote issue that might have aggravated the strike was a controversial seniority tussle between 100Level and 200Level students on the campus. We have different halls for different levels. There had been that kind of tussle of recent on the campus.
What about the alleged water problem in the hostel?
Water should not have been a problem in the university because we keep increasing the numbers of boreholes in all the halls on the campus. Recently, we just added five more boreholes to complement the existing ones.
Of recent, the major cause of irregular supply of water in the hall was the problem of electricity supply to the campus. For instance, in the last 11 days in Iwo town, there had been irregular electricity supply to the city. This situation also affected us such that all our generating sets had been over worked, as we were generating electricity 13 hours every day.
However, on the issue of water problem, we have six halls of residence on the campus. In two of the hostels, the new male and female hostels, water runs there 24 hours. Also, in three of the other halls, water runs there for about 18 hours daily.
Recently, in the old male and female halls, we had some little difficulties. This happens occasionally, and we always find solutions to them immediately.
How much damages were recorded in the course of the crisis?
Not less than 16 vehicles were badly damaged, including the new cars we had just bought. Our two luxurious buses were smashed, the halls of residence were vandalised, and some buildings on the campus were also affected. The independent traders shopping centres were looted and vandalised. Computer sets, staff motorcycles and many other electronics appliances were destroyed.
How much would you quantify the damage to be?
The damages will worth nothing less than N3o million by our estimate.
How do you want to deal with culprits?
There is a procedure for dealing with such a situation in Bowen University, and we are following the due process. There will be an investigation, as all the suspected students in the crisis will face the disciplinary committee. We are going to give them opportunities to defend themselves. We will not impose anything on anybody unjustly. We are following due process. We are going to follow the committee’s report and their recommendations. Only the affected groups of students will suffer for it.
There are also allegations that new rules were being imposed on the students?
No. There was no new rule made by this administration. There is freedom of movement on the campus from morning till 9 to 10 pm. During our worshipping hours; Wednesday and Sunday, we do not expect anybody to be in the hostel. This is a Christian-based institution of learning and every student must abide with that rule, the issue of meal time is already in our book. There is a time when breakfast, lunch and dinner ought to be served, these rules were just being reemphasised. This is not a new rule.
What is the situation now on campus?
Peace is back on campus, administrative staff have resumed duties, and the students will resume on April 1, 2014. The light and water problems have been resolved. (Tribune)
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