Student leaders at the Obafemi Awolowo University have accused the institution’s management of being ‘high-handed’ in the manner with which it increased their tuition by over 350%.
The students faulted the hike, during their press conference in Lagos on Sunday, with proof that the management lacked the ground for the decision. They also dismissed as total falsehood, claims by the University management that the students acted violently in their recent demonstrations.
Anchored by their President, Comrade Ibikunle Isaac, the union leaders said they have now fled their campus to hang about, due to threats of deadly attack on them by cult members suspected to be sponsored by the University management.
They also condemned the threats as management’s resorted tactic, which they said has become its forte in silencing outspoken student leaders against oppressive policies. Buttressing this, a former leader of the Students’ Union of OAU, Ola-Diamond, who was also present at the conference, cited one instance where union members were ‘attacked’ on account of the management’s order during the reign of the former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Wale Omole.
The current Vice Chancellor, Prof. Bamitale Omole is now also being accused of towing the same path.
Faulting claims by the management further, the students said they had been peaceful in their protests, but the management has rather decided to ‘frame them up,’ claiming violence on the part of the students.
They accused the management of planning to proscribe their union on account of their protests. They exposed that the management has shut down their union secretariat on campus in preparation for the proscription.
In a statement released by the students today, they highlighted several means by which the university has access to fund capable of taking care of “the entire nation’s need”, but whereas, the management has decided to further extort students.
In solidarity, a prominent female activist, Dr. Joe Odumakin, who joined the conference called on the Federal Government to intervene, and reverse the rate hikes. Speaking to journalists after the conference, she said the tuition hike is a contradiction of the “free education” claims by the Federal Government.
The students’ press statement, which is reproduced below, states that they are open for negotiations with the management, but first, they requested that the status quo must return as regards to the initial fees.
GREAT IFE STUDENTS’ UNION PRESS STATEMENT:
CLOSURE OF SCHOOL: A BULLET AT OUR STRUGGLE
Honorable Nigerian citizens, gentlemen of the press and Great Nigerian Students On Wednesday, 18th June 2014, our university management decided to shut down the university community on account of violent protests by peaceful Great IFE students. Members of the public should not be deceived by this propaganda which is built on blatant lies and distortion of obvious truth. The closure remains an anarchistic and militaristic relic which is against our right to stage peaceful co-ordinated protests, occupation and sit-in as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2011 as amended).We believe the closure is a stubborn stance of the University to ensure that our call for transparency and accountability does not see the light of time. Doubtless, this our demand remain the hallmark of management which our Vice-Chancellor has refused to align with us on as we are reasonable individuals that also share in the vision of achieving a 21st century University. As contemporary Unionists and students who reason within the ambit of law, we consulted all stakeholders in the University such as ASUU, NASU, SSANU and NAAT to know their position on the matter. They do not form just part of the affected parents but also an integral part of the University system and they posited a TOTAL REVERSAL of the fees. Our peaceful gestures extended to the Governing Council, through the Pro-chancellor made the Council posit that we engage the management in further discussions to resolve the matter. Premised on the afore-stated, our union condemns this vicious closure of the University and demand its immediate re-opening.
Having expended a good deal of intellectual resources to carry out a critical appraisal of the increment policy in its totality we also agree with the agitation of the University management that the federal government underfund education. Yet, our poor parents should not be unduely exploited and be made to pay for the failure of a government that has always been for the rich few.
The OAU situation itself is that which does not support any form of increment as the University has not justified the former fees paid by students. In 2011, the varsity management increased Acceptance fee paid by Fresh Students from #2000 to a whooping #20,000, the struggle against which led to the closure of school, proscription of our students union and suspension of student leaders. Since this time there has not been any commensurate academic and or welfare infrastructure development in the University. The University has been generating funds that run into multi millions yearly through various channels that if properly managed can be used to run the varsity effectively. Some of these is the yearly Post-UTME exams where each of the always more than 30,000 applicants pay not less than #6000 into the University purse; the Pre-degree program fees increase yearly with the over 4000 admitted students paying not less than #160,000 as of now. This is not unconnected with the fees of the Diploma students and other Distance Learning programs from which the University generates millions constantly. It is even reported that some officers of the University see these non-degree awarding programmes as money refineries. We definitely cannot afford to see these injustices thriving against the future of children of the general down trodden in Nigeria. Our management has said that the amount being paid by students does not appeal to average human rationality and this therefore necessitate the increment without even considering that it has some funds inevitably coming to the University. OAU is entitled to about N7bn of the yearly N220bn earmarked for schools during the FG/ASUU face-off of 2013. Millions of dollars have been given to the University by World Bank for being one of Nigeria’s best institution, over N140 million has been granted to the varsity by the Federal government for said ongoing projects like First year laboratory,etc which are not visibly ongoing as of now. Rather the university reportedly went ahead to squander millions of university fund on controversial projects for the NUGA Games, when the water supply system of the university has become a typhoid and skin-diseases haven for students and a total deviation from the generally accepted description of water as well as electricity availability being romanced by degradation per minute. Until recently when the University management refused to open up for discussion we have advocated at various discussions the alternative sources of income the university can maximize in order to avoid being catalysts of oppression and tenders of societal inequality. The University has an Investment company which it can maximize the production of goods being made from these businesses.
The investment coy produces bread, sachet and table water, has shuttle buses and large hectares of land called OAU Farms among other ventures. There is a ready over 50000 population on campus to consume the bread and water and to board the shuttle buses. There is a free man-power used on the farm i.e the Part IV Agricultural science students. The farm alone if properly managed can produce enough to feed the nation. The coy can even be avenue for a profitable work-study program for indigent students. Why can our management not look inward into these things other than taking the last hope of the poor Nigerian Child away from him- education Despite faulting the logic of this increment, elected officers of the union reached out to the university management for critical appraisal of the fee regime. While at a point, our congress conceded for a 5% increase, the university management stubbornly maintained its “no review” stance and threatened frantically to close down the university if students resist the fee regime. Our congress considering the federal character of the policy decided to stage peaceful mass actions on Ife-Ibadan-Abuja express roads and Ife environs and also embarked on mass political sensitization between 20th May and 22nd May, 2014. The Students’ Union afterwards sought progressive response from the University management but all to no avail. The harsh and unyielding stance of the University management instructed our Congress, on 15th June, 2014, in deciding that the Vice-Chancellor and his cabinet should be invited to address the Congress of students over the continual rejection of our demands as well as to find an historical solution to this imbroglio.
As a Union, we had decided to embark on constitutionally warranted actions on campus to press home our demands. And all of these actions, such as mass protests and road occupation, have been carried out peacefully. In fact, staff unions on campus had not only declared support for our actions, they have also joined our protests in spirit of solidarity to help confront this monstrous policy. For instance, the NASU Chairman of OAU, Com. Oluwole, joined us in ushering his members and other workers in the University Secretariat down, when we occupied the premises of this building. Aside the fact that this occupation was peaceful and supported massively by staff and students, our students also showed a high level of maturity as they resisted provocation by security operatives of the university community.
Our demonstration on Wednesday 18th June was as peaceful and smooth as usual. However, it was just six hours into the protest that the University Senate decided that the school has been shut down indefinitely upon allegations of violent and disruptive protests by coordinated Great IFE students that were rather playing, singing and dancing at various points in the university campus. The management declared our maiden resumption congress as illegal when the idea of legality of our right to gathering cannot be determined by it. It claimed that the university senate was burnt by the vice-president with a gas filled cylinder when she actually prepared puffpuff for obviously hungry students with a gas powered stove at motion ground. The management further claimed that the University Senate gate was welded by students and they attempted a stampede of the V.C’s office when the Security men at the building readily chained the gates and locked it with their own padlocks. They falsely declared that the ICT Centre and Computer building were burnt with a view to shutting down e-portal when students actually met the place locked without their workers around. Our parent unions such as ASUU, NASU, NAAT even disclaimed the propaganda of our actions being violent by giving statements to that effect immediately the closure declaration was made. Rendering matters on the temple of exigency we like to state our displeasure with the parade of misinformation our management has embarked on this issue. A criminal offense for that matter! In its recent information to the public the Registrar distorted the original fees being paid by students by telling the public that since the past ten years all students pay an amount which already has #1600 TISHIP fund deducted from it and the amount is not even applicable to fresh students. The Registrar further misled the University Senate and public that the student leaders were called to a meeting on Tuesday, 17th June and refused to attend. It is important to note that the Union Parliament on 9th June, the day elected officers of the union were sworn in, directed a re-opening of discussion with the University which was done immediately by the Executive Council only for the varsity management to decline replying our letter until we protested on Monday 16th. The notice of the meeting came late after our congress that day, the letter itself had no agenda and venue as we knew that this could be an avenue to arrest our union leaders. We demand a total reversal of these fees as rate of stealing has sky-rocketed on campus, finalists are being made to pay under duress for fear of being dismissed and rusticated. Our security report files are increasing daily and the management said that 97% of poor Nigerian parents have paid the money when only 22% privileged few and those that can strive tooth and nail, blood and water, in pains and agony have paid in reality.
A congress of Students held in the wee hours of Wednesday after the occupation and declaration of closure of the varsity decided that students continue to peacefully occupy the campus having agreed not to leave. As at Thursday morning; Soldiers and policemen had been deployed to the University Gate to assault students SSS officers had been recruited and planted amidst students to effect quiet and orchestrated arrest of Union leaders and other student activists. Plans had been put up to proscribe the Students’ Union by further levying of allegations against Union leaders.
Also, the University has followed this wickedness up by instructing workers in sensitive departments of the university such as power house, water dam, health centre, butteries and market to shut down so as to frustrate students who reside on campus. It has also fraudulently opened the e-portal for students to continue to pay when the school had been shut down. Our Union condemns this onslaught and we remain undaunted in our struggle against oppression of the poor.
Following various congresses held by Great IFE Students, an harmonization of our resolutions goes thus: That the University be re-opened immediately That on total reversal of these hiked fees we stand. That there should be an upward funding of education by the federal government. That Great IFE students remain open to discussion based on mutual respect on this matter That all charges against indicted student activists be withdrawn. That a non-victimization policy be entrenched by the management. That the struggle continues with externalized national actions despite the closure ALUTA CONTINUA… VICTORIA ASCERTA
Bamidele Oludare J. – President Shittu I.Olatayo P.R.O -Secretary-General Ibikunle Isaac M.
Source: SaharaReporters, New York
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