The Education Reforms Council (ERC) has described as despotic the decision of the Senate of the University of Lagos to dissolve the executive and legislative arms of the University of Lagos Students’ Union (ULSU) for leading students to protest poor welfare conditions and high cost of goods and services on campus. It also demanded immediate restoration of Students' Union and an end to further abridgement of the rights of students.
This was contained in a statement jointly signed by Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Michael Ogundele, ERC National Coordinator and Secretary respectively.
According to the statement, the action of the university's senate amounts to an assault on the democratic rights of students to freely associate. "That the University of Lagos is dissolving ULSU less than two years after it was restored, following over one decade of proscription, is a sign that intolerance has continued to rule the hearts and minds of members of the university management," the statement said.
The ERC also frowned at the decision of the university authorities to compel all students and their parents sign undertaking and indemnity forms, the immediate reversal of which it demanded. This, it said, are meant to intimidate students from standing up for their rights. "On the undertaking form, there is what is called a “re-absorption oath,” which students must sign and get notarized as preconditions for admittance into halls of residence and examination venues. Through the parents' indemnity form, parents and guardians are to be held liable for whatever supposed misdemeanour is committed by their students," the statement added.
The ERC noted that the measures taken by the university management is an indication of how lawless it has become. It argued that the word “re-absorption” is alien to the laws of the university. "A student resumes into a university after an holiday or a break. If a student was expelled or rusticated, after careful consideration of his/her appeals by the Senate, he or she could be reinstated. Nor is there anything called a “re-absorption oath” in the University system. All undergraduate and postgraduate students of Universities and other tertiary institutions are required to swear upon admission is a matriculation oath. After this, there is no other oath that students are required to swear in the course of their academic programmes," observed the ERC.
The council accused the university management of simply inventing quasi-legal measures to stop students from defending themselves against policies that would impoverish them, saying such action as indicative of a despotic temperament. The ERC also called on staff unions in the institution to rise against such. If they do not, it warned, the university authorities will descend on staff unions when they have finished with muzzling the students. It similarly urged the university's alumni and the general public to support the student's fight against despotism.
Rather than intimidate students, the ERC said, the university should address their grievances.
"Instead of clamping down on students, we call on the university to address the legitimate demands of the students.
"Lest we forget, these issues which caused the students’ protest of the 6th and 7th April 2016 were the extremely difficult conditions of learning to which students were subjected as a result of poor electricity and water supply, academic injustice ranging and high cost of goods and services, which has earned UNILAG the toga of the most expensive campus in terms of cost of living.
"Indeed these are issues for which members of the Prof. Rahamon Bello-led management of the University of Lagos should be investigated for dereliction of duty and incompetence," ERC stated.
It described the University of Lagos is an institution that has no respect for its students and due process, preferring impunity, exploitation and oppression, which a few months ago, manifested in the arbitrary denial of over 100 pre-medical students the opportunity of proceeding to the College of Medicine.