The Vice Chancellor of the Lagos State University, western Nigeria, Prof. John Obafunwa, on Friday told members of the state House of Assembly that he was only saved from protesting students of the institution by the grace of God.
The students had embarked on a violent protest on Thursday in which they vandalised school property as well as some cars belonging the Vice Chancellor and other top staff of the institution. They were aggrieved that they were not allowed to write the second semester examination with their colleagues for not completing their registration.
“If certain things had worked out, we would certainly have been talking about obituary by now because they said so many things that I would not want to repeat here.”
But the President of the Students’ Union Government of the institution, Mojirade Hassan, told the lawmakers, during her presentation, that the SUG had alerted the VC of an impending protest that could turn violent.
She said the VC told her team that he was fully prepared for any of the students’ protests.
The House had summoned the management of the institution, the Governing Council led by Bode Augusto, the state Commissioner for Education, Olayinka Oladunjoye, and members of the institution’s SUG over the protest.
Mr. Augusto and other members of management told the House how the management beat its rules to open the portal for registration but that the students stubbornly refused to register.
A female management staff also said they were “in the valley of the shadows of death” while the protest lasted adding that some of the protesters were masked as they carried out the destruction. “They were masked and planned to kill,” she said.
She said it became impossible to re-open the portal as the date of the examination approached since everything was digitalised and the lecturers needed to know how many students they should plan for.
Miss Mojirade Hassan told the lawmakers that it was a peaceful protest when the action of the aggrieved students began, but that it was hijacked by outsiders who used the opportunity to steal people’s belongings.
She said days before the protest, the aggrieved students complained about their inability to register. Some said they had paid their tuition but that the portal failed as they tried to register.
She blamed the institution’s management for allowing students to continue paying their tuition when the same management had shut the portal, as according to her, this was a primary reason for the protest.
Miss Hassan said she made concerted efforts to make the VC change his decision to no avail. “If the VC had listened to me and taken my word and even my appeal.
She said at a town hall meeting to iron out the issue, “the students were surprised to hear Mr. Bode Augusto telling them of the financial problems being encountered by the school and how the school generates its revenue.
“I told the VC that we want to meet with him and he told me that if it is about the re-opening of the portal, he would disappoint me.
“I begged the VC to re-open the portal for at least just two hours and I informed him that the affected students had threatened to protest if the portal is not re-opened but he said ‘they should go ahead, they will meet there’.”
She said on Wednesday, the students had waited patiently with placards at the front of the senate building after learning that the VC was meeting with other management staff.
She said she was called and that, from a distance, she saw the VC and the other management staff coming out of the senate building and that when the students saw him, they knelt down and were begging that the portal be opened for even two hours, but that he called their bluff and walked away.
She was however able to pacify the angry students after informing them that the VC had promised to open it the next day.
But on Thursday, the students had thronged the institution only to discover they were deceived.
She said as the tension rose, she called the VC who said he was on top of the situation. “The VC later came, spoke with the Dean of Student Affairs and left, and this was what provoked the students. They had expected the VC to address them but he didn’t.
“The students then took to the streets and I still called the VC to let him know that the issue had gone out of hand but he told me to pacify the students. I told him it has gone beyond what I can handle. It was then he told me that he had invited the State Security Service, SSS. If the VC had addressed the students, the issue wouldn’t have degenerated to violence,” she said.
While some of the lawmakers berated the students, others blamed the management team for refusing to act on the SUG president’s advice.
They also blamed the management for allowing the students to pay their fees when management had decided to close the portal.
The Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, who said leaders of the All Progressives Congress and the state were watching to see how the issue was resolved, later adjourned for about one hour.
The Speaker, on resumption, said the House had agreed that the management of the institution carry out immediate assessment and repairs of the damaged school property for the students to resume.
He also said the SUG must write a letter of apology on behalf of the students who protested.
Apart from these, the House said each of the affected students must sign an undertaking to be of good behaviour.
He pleaded on behalf of the House that the portal be re-opened for two days while the lawmakers would pay an on-the-spot visit to the institution.
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