The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns in strong terms the expulsion of 4 student leaders of the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) over the January 15 mass protest against proposed fee hike. The expelled student leaders are Mr. Samuel Ani, final year student of the Department Information and Library Science, Mr. Kingsley Asogwa, third year student of the Department of Biochemistry, Mr. Maxwell Akwuroha, final student of the Department of Chemistry and Mr. Daniel Alagboso, a final year student of Pharmacy.
It will be recalled that Prof. Bartholomew Okolo-led UNN management had in January 2010 planned an astronomical hike in school fees. For example, fresh undergraduates were to pay N85,000 tuition, in addition to N10,000 shopping fee, N25,000 acceptance fees (increased from N6,000) and N5,000 post-Universities Matriculation Examination fee; while other students (second year to graduating students) were to be made to pay about N90,000 school fees (increased from N30,000). Hostel fee was equally increased from N9, 000 to N35, 000 while graduating students were to be made to pay convocation fee of N40, 000 from N4, 000 or N6, 000. Almost the same treatment was meted out to the University’s secondary school pupils wherein additional N60,000 levy for second and third term was imposed. How could students pay about N120, 000 in an ailing economy where minimum wage stands at N5500/N7500 coupled with high unemployment rate and growing poverty?
However, all attempts by the students’ leaders to dialogue with the Prof. Bartholomew were rebuffed. The astronomical increase and the dictatorial tendency of the school management were the cause of the protest; moreover the blame should be put squarely on the iniquitous actions of the school management and the underfunding and commercialization of education policy of the government.
Nigeria students have the right to protest any anti-students policy introduced by the school authorities and the government. Criminalizing students protest and victimizing student leaders and activists is not in any way different from dictatorial tendency of the military and colonial rule. Hence, section 39 and 40 gives Nigeria students the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association. Fee increment by school authorities and governments equally violates the right of Nigeria youths/students to education as enshrined in section 18 of the 1999 constitution.
We call on the UNN authorities and the federal government to immediately reinstate the 4 victimised students and tender a written apology to the UNN students’ union body; we appeal to all pro-people organizations, ASUU and the NLC to join in the campaign and struggle to reinstate the victimized students. ERC also calls for a probe panel made up of EFCC officials, elected representatives of students, staff and parents to probe the finances of Prof Bartholomew-led management with the aim to know how funds (fees) paid by the students and subvention from the federal government had been used. We hereby reiterate our demand for the local, state and the federal governments to be committed to adequate funding of the educational sector such that at least 26% budget should be allocated annually to education and for democratic control and management of such resources by the workers and students as a means to forestall arbitrariness and corruption that have become the norm on campuses and in education sector.
Education Rights Campaign (ERC)