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The Federal Government and the Lagos State Government on Tuesday engaged in a war of words over the tuition fee hike at the Lagos State University, Ojo.
While the Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, accused the state government of oppressing the protesting students of the university, the state said the federal officer was merely “spreading lies.”
Obanikoro, who particularly frowned on the action of the state government, alleged that it used the police to “repress” the students kicking against the hike in fees at the Governor’s Office on Tuesday.
Obanikoro, while criticising the manner the police in Lagos fired teargas canisters and gun shots to disperse the protesting students, appealed to Governor Babatunde Fashola to “take it easy” with the youngsters.
“News reaching me alleged a forceful repression of LASU undergraduates protesting hike in tuition by the Lagos State Government. Once again, I want to passionately appeal to my brother, Babtunde Fashola, to take it easy with the protesting students of LASU.
“We can enable peaceful dialogue with LASUites without having to shoot at or tear-gas them as alleged by the students,” Obanikoro stated in a tweet to Fashola on Tuesday evening.”
Reacting to Obanikoro’s comment, the state government denied ordering the students’ repression. It rather noted that the Federal Government was merely “spreading lies.”
Besides, the state government has accused the Federal Government of planning to “destabilise” Lagos.
“The students have the right to protest, and we have never, not once, stopped them. This line of information is false. Mr. Minister (Obanikoro), perhaps if you concentrate more energy on the safe rescue of our Chibok girls, you will have less time to spread lies.
“We are aware of the illegal use of the SURE-P (Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme) fund to mobilise innocent children to the streets when the Task Force (Lagos State Taskforce on Environmental and Special Offences Enforcement Unit) foiled the mission to destabilise Lagos,” the Lagos State Government replied in a message on its official Twitter page.
But as the state government make this accusation, Obanikoro noted that as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as a Lagos indigene, he should not have been singled out for verbal attacks by the state.
“I simply made a passionate appeal to Tunde Fashola over the plight of LASU students. And the next thing, the Lagos State Government launches attack on me. This is incredible!” Obanikoro lamented.
While the embattled minister laid low after the alleged verbal attacks, his Special Assistant on Media and Strategy, Ohimai Godwin-Amaize, took to Twitter to defend the Federal Government.
Godwin-Amaize accused the state government of playing “dirty politics” with the future of the LASU students.
According to the minister’s aide, diverting attention from the “use of force in repressing LASU protesters with the allegations that the Federal Government was planning to destabilise Lagos was unfortunate.”
He said a gesture from the Jonathan administration pointing to the fact that the government at the centre had no such plans to destabilise the state was its “approval” of a N40bn loan facility from the International Development Association for the state government.
He further argued that there were records to prove that the Federal Government “obtained and guaranteed” the loan meant for the Second Lagos State Development Policy Operation.
“The Lagos State Government should note that just last week, the same Federal Government you accused of trying to destabilise Lagos approved a loan of N40bn to your government. We have the facts,” Godwin-Amaize tweeted.
But the state government would not let go without a fight, insisting that its response to the minister’s comment was not in any way “rude or confrontational.”
It added that the kind of “civility” Obanikoro was seeking was undeserved, especially as he was busy spewing “lies” on social media, noting that it was surprising that the Federal Government would brag about a loan facility it guaranteed when it was its duty to do so for all state governments.
The state government contested that it obtained the loan facility based on the healthy state of its economy and strong approval ratings of the World Bank.
“That the Federal Government obtained the loan for the state is the most absurd ‘truth’. We got the loan based on the good performance rating of our government by the World Bank. This is especially so when leading rating agencies increased LASG ratings, and downgraded that of the Federal Government,” the Lagos State Government added. (Punch)