My attention was recently drawn to an untenable statement entitled 'NOUN Denies Corruption, Irregular Tuition Allegations', published on the website of Daily Independent on the 5th of August, 2015. It was issued in response to an article I had published on Sahara Reporters on the 31st of July, 2015 under the title: The Endemic Corruption at the National Open University of Nigeria. Please find it here: http://saharareporters.com/2015/07/31/endemic-corruption-national-open-university-nigeria-elias-ozikpu
To begin, I should like to state clearly that I had written that article with the aim of correcting the several irregularities that have become an ossified tradition at the University, a system that has left a myriad of students dispirited. This writer is an epitome of that category of students, whose enthusiasm has been terribly perforated to acquire the looks of a fisherman’s net. I had thought that upon the publication of that article, the University would commence efforts to ensure that these anomalies are rectified in order to create an ideal ambience for students. But I am scandalised to learn that the University, through its Director of Media and Information, has issued a statement denying the issues raised in my article, preferring to label it: 'unfounded and spurious'. My lips taste of disappointment as I pen these words, for I had expected a pacifying statement with strong assurances of putting things in the right direction.
I have grown up to understand that a people can only solve their problems by admitting that such problems do exist, before taking concerted efforts to ensure that the problems are adequately tackled. This is the exactitude of what I had expected the University to do. But with the University's public denial of the issues delineated in my article, it appears the dark cloud hovering ominously over the institution and its students might remain there for a long time if the relevant authorities fail to salvage students from this grave peril. I must say, this precarious atmosphere leaves me with a pounding heart.
Since the University labelled my article as: 'spurious and unfounded', I have thought it necessary to add verisimilitude to this new article by attaching relevant documents. Also, the University debunked facts that it catapulted the Industrial Training (IT) fee from N3,000 to N10,000 (please do note that it becomes N11,000 under the new schedule after paying a compulsory N1,000 to IBTC Bank). According to the statement, it claimed that this fee is just N1,000 (Please see attachment one for verification). In the event that the fees do not align with the N1,000 contained in the statement issued, the University may then be required to refund its students the sum of N10,000 out of the N11000 it receives, since the displayed figures in the portal may be a 'typographical error'. After this refund, explanation for the receipt of the N1,000 may now ensue.
I think it is a curious thing that the statement did not provide reasons for its unconstitutional decision to disapprove of a Student Union. The University also kept sealed lips on the issue of course materials for which it does not supply to students in accordance with the payment that it receives every semester.
The University did admit that it charges N1,000 for examination registration per course, N2,000 or N2,500 to register a single course (depending on the credit unit of the course), N13,000 or N23,000 compulsory fee, and 15,000 for project registration. The University stated that the latter is for 'project supervision'. But the puzzling question is: must students pay the University for project supervision? Isn't this the University's responsibility?
With the University's admission of the existence of some of the fees mentioned in my first article, it would be proper to carry out a mathematical analysis of the payable fees per semester at the University. In doing this, I will maintain the illustration in my first article for a student offering ten courses.
For course registration, the minimum amount payable is N20,000 using the above illustration.
Examination registration: N10,000.
Compulsory fee (for a first semester student) N23,000 and an additional N10,000 for a student whose course requires Industrial Training (usually at 300 level).
The total sum for the above illustration would then be: N63,000 for a single semester! And do note that this does not include the additional sums that students spend on course materials that they obtain from other sources after failing to get them from the University.
Quite obviously, this is extremely exorbitant for a federal institution in a country where poverty is so pervasive! The University cannot, with this analysis, claim that the institution is affordable. That would be antithetical.
The University also avoided raising the issue of result verification in the statement it issued. And since the University labelled my article 'spurious and unfounded', it may be that this was one of the reasons for which the quoted words were employed (Please see attachment two to ascertain whether or not a fee for ‘Result Verification’ exists).
I must now crave the indulgence of my esteemed readers to permit me to quote a few words from the University's statement issued on the 5th of August, 2015 as this will seriously provide a strong link to the matters that I will now raise:
'...the report written by one Elias Ozikpu identified as a student of the university over his result had been looked into by a committee set up by the management of the institution.' This claim is seriously armed with mendacity. I will return to this crucial address shortly even though I had no intention of raising personal matters in public at this time; I now must, since the University has made that necessary.
The University, on two separate occasions, awarded me controversial grades that I instantly disowned. And since the University charges for 'result verification', my head had been buzzing with thoughts that a single letter of complaint would resolve my predicament within the shortest possible delay. The very idea that I was embarking on an onerous journey seemed alien to me at the time. So I proceeded to call for the provision of all my marked scripts in a letter dated 18th September, 2014. I had done so believing that the University would be willing to be transparent knowing that students cough out certain amount for the verification of their results. But, to this day, I have only a pile of acknowledgements in my study, bearing stamps of the top offices of the University where my full-blown frustration had been channelled without success. In fact, whilst dispatching these letters, one had to swallow some revolting behaviours as some staff would vehemently decline signing a letter after stamping. Apparently signing was too tough a task to be executed, even when the stamps conspicuously provided a place for a signature! Copies of such letters are also available in my study.
From the 18th of September, 2014 to the time of this publication, the University was yet to provide the requested scripts. It even took the involvement of my representatives before the University could issue mere responses. But the provision of my scripts for verification remains a dream in distant lands.
I must now return to my unfinished address where the institution stated that a committee it set up has 'looked into' the report of my result. Be reminded that the University issued this statement in the morning of 5th August, 2015, yet as at 00:04am in the early morning of 7th August, 2015 no adjustment had reflected on the results I had long ago rejected (See attachment three) nor did the University provide the requested scripts for verification. The university had made a similar claim in a letter dated 4th May, 2015 which was sent to my representatives, writing in part, '...the students involved had also been communicated', clearly purporting that it had contacted me as regards my results. I firmly refuted the claim in a response dated 19th May, 2015 and requested that the institution provides evidence to support claims of its communication. Though this letter was received and duly acknowledged, the evidence of communication I had requested were yet to be received at the time of writing – over two months later! (May-August, 2015).
Also, for certain indefinable reasons, the University failed to award me grades in three courses despite sitting for the examination (evidences are available and will be produced in the event of any dispute). Some staff members did mention that those were 'missing results.' I am unable to decipher why the term should exist. What I do know is that when one sits for any examination, the result ought to be produced, and at the appropriate time. It is unclear to me why students should bear the brunt of such laxity.
But more ludicrous, more exasperating, even lamentable is the fact that some of these staff have recommended that I re-sit examination for the courses with 'missing results'! I must state here with utmost emphasis that I will not re-sit for the so-called 'missing result(s)' and that the University must provide the scripts indicated in the several letters I have sent to the relevant offices of the University. The University must also provide scripts for courses whose results have inexplicably been declared 'missing'. These scripts must not have been tampered with at the time of presenting them, or I shall reject them outright! Until these scripts are provided and satisfactorily verified, I shall maintain a safe distance from those results.
Having been writing the University on this issue since September of 2014, I had thought all along that the University would readily co-operate in resolving these anomalies. But the University's unwillingness to properly discharge its responsibilities was indeed a confirmation that it prefers that the matter be brought to public attention. In fact, the University turned a blind eye to the cost of printing the several letters it received from me.
Whilst the University is most likely to misconstrue the main objective of this article like it did the first one, it is paramount to point out that this article is aimed at clarifying allegations that my first article was 'spurious and unfounded', without which I would have ignored the statement it issued. This second article is also aimed at charging the University to be efficient, responsive, amicable, readily available to help its students at all times and to give students the liberty to exercise their fundamental human rights as indelibly enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Anything other than this will be totally unacceptable!
Rather than admitting these defects in order to expedite the quality of service delivery, I am not ignorant of the fact that the University may now resort to a plethora of vengeful devices (academically and physically), for I have always known that the cobra, unable to reach the fowl's eggs in broad daylight, is often disposed to pay nocturnal visits. Consequently, I must, before time, alert relevant authorities, the academic community, the federal government, concerned individuals, the media, general members of the public and the various agencies across the country to take note of these looming schemes. Please keep in mind that alarms will be raised the moment these devices begin to manifest.
That said, as a primary stakeholder of the institution, my resolve to ensure that the National Open University of Nigeria epitomises excellence in knowledge dissemination remains sacrosanct! But, it must be said, excellence can only be achieved by a change in attitude.
Author, activist, student