A crisis is in the offing at the Obafemi Awolowo Unversity, Ile-Ife, Osun State. At the centre of the looming crisis is the planned Nigeria Universities Games.
The event scheduled to hold at the institution between February 12 and 22 has witnessed two postponements due to inadequate facilities, improper logistics and the five-month strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, among other factors .
Our correspondent, however, gathered on Monday that the bone of contention is the provision of accommodation for the participants in the competition.
The OAU management, it was gathered, has reportedly directed students to vacate their hostels on or before February 7 to enable the NUGA participants to use the facility.
But the directive appears not to have gone down well with the students who have condemned the decision.
Some of the students, who spoke to our correspondent, said the directive would disrupt the peace of the university.
A student, who simply gave his name as Aiyekooto, said, “In the first instance, NUGA is meant for university students, not for only athletes or university management. So, where is the sense in alienating the host students who are expected to add glamour to this event?”
Also, students, who reside in the Angola Hall of the university, swore not to vacate the hostel because of the games. They said their tenancy in the hostel would end after their second semester examinations between April and May.
Part of their communiqué after the meeting read, “The gathering condemned in strong terms the plan by the school management to force students out of the halls of residence. Students paid for a session-long accommodation. So, it is irrational for a landlord to temporarily evacuate his tenants because he is expecting some guests.
“The University of Ilorin and Federal University of Technology hosted the West Afica University Games and NUGA at different times, without sending their students away. The university authorities made alternative arrangement for the visiting athletes who came from across West Africa. Why must OAU be different?
“The militarisation of the campus is greeted with rebuke from the students. Records have it that we have been responsible. Even during the struggle (for restoration of student union), unlike other institutions, we did not burn buildings or harass others. So there is no reason for the management to militarise our campus. This is unconstitutional and unacceptable.”
Also, a group, known as the Education Right Campaign, in a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Bamitale Omole, and other top management officials, has called for caution on the issue.
The ERC said, “We condemn the idea that students will be forced out of residential halls during NUGA. For us, NUGA is a sporting event meant for students. But the preparation of the university to turn host students out during this game is portraying an opposing point of view.
“We also wish to call your attention to the risks involved in unprepared travels, especially if the deadly state of our roads is considered. The ERC opines that the decision to force students out of residential halls was considered out of the interest of the students and undemocratically reached.”
When contacted, the Chief Security Officer of the university, Mr. Paul Ogidi, said the management was not planning to ‘militarise’ the institution.
He said, “We have been meeting all stakeholders as we are expecting over 7, 000 athletes. As you know, it will attract national attention. It will also attract national security apparatuses, including the riot policemen, members of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Man ‘O War, Red Cross and students’ volunteers.
“We are going to have a large turn-out of participants and you know that the country is faced with insurgencies from militant groups. We cannot afford to allow any security breach. Terrorist groups may want to use the opportunity to strike because a large number of people will gather here for the sporting event.”
Meanwhile, the university authority has said the games will still hold in the institution as scheduled.
According to its Public Relations Officer, Mr. Abiodun Olarewaju, so far an Olympic-sized swimming pool, eight-lane modern tartan track, sports halls, drainage systems, among other facilities, are ready for the event.
He said, “When we decided to build a new track for the school, we looked beyond the NUGA because we want something that would serve the school and the country long after the games. We are happy that we have this swimming pool and the modern tracks, which those who know have confirmed as the best you can get anywhere in the world.”