A student of the University of Benin, Obinna Ezechukwu, has criticised the Vice-Chancellor of the school, Prof. Lilian Salami for allegedly running the administration of the institution like President Muhammdu Buhari runs Nigeria.

Ezechukwu said this in his reaction to the suspension of the Students’ Union of the university by the Senate on Tuesday.

UNIBEN main gate.

The Senate on Tuesday rose from its meeting to suspend the executives of the students’ union body, saying it was to forestall the breakdown of law and order.

See Also Education UNIBEN Senate Suspends Students' Union Executives

It said the leaders of the body were planning a protest against the adjusted academic calendar of the school.

But Ezechukwu told SaharaReporters that the management of the school wanted to use the hostel accommodations of the school to host athletes coming that will be in the state for the National Sports Festival to hold in Benin City, the state capital.

He showed SaharaReporters a copy of the open letter written to the University of Benin Senate to disagree with the intended move of the school.

In the letter which was also sent to the University of Benin Management, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian University (SSANU), University of Benin Students' Union and the press, Ezechukwu mentioned that the bone of contention was that the management of the school wanted to lord it over the students.

“University of Benin students are currently under attack by the management for exercising their fundamental rights. We are under a Buhari-like vice-chancellor,” Ezechukwu told SaharaReporters on Tuesday.

In the letter, he wrote prior to the suspension, he said, “I will start this by introducing myself as Obinna Ezechukwu, a student of Political science, Faculty of Social sciences, University of Benin. I introduced myself as part of my advocacy to ensuring that the university environment is one built on democratic and civil engagement without fear, and not a system permeated on zombieism.

“On the 20th January, 2021, the university released a circular stating at the end that the management recognises the eagerness of students to return to their academic activities while assuring that the interest of the student will be paramount. As a student who cares so much about education. Such an update brought me great joy, that we will finally go back to our academics after wasting almost a year to sport festival break, ASUU strike and the COVID-19.

“Upon resumption, over 70% of students had to pay thousands (of naira) to renew their rents since the university hall of residence cannot contain students in an orderly and healthy manner. In fact, these students still have to pay an increased rent.

“In the midst of an examination, the university did not deem it fit to allow students whose date were extended to the first and second week of April to take their exams as all their exams were backdated and choked together, thereby subjecting students to undue pressure and possible failure or great reduction is CGPA.

“Now, students are reading all over the media on how the University of Benin wants to host athletes for the National Sport Festivalx which means further stress on students who resumed the semester with the earlier approved academic calendar by the University Senate.

“University of Benin students came together to discuss this issue and came to a conclusion that they didn't want their academic calendar to be encroached by the sport festival.

“I use this opportunity to remind the management of their words before resumption that students’ interest will be paramount. The students have made a resolution that they want to run a smooth academic session without disturbance or encroachment. To this end, I expect the university management to stand by their word to uphold integrity very high while ensuring that the student interest in running a smooth academic calendar is held in priority.

“The claims of sport festival encroaching on academic activities is really gory to the imagination, that we can have a subject matter on why academics should or should not bend for sport festival. What kind of society are we creating further if we continue to build a phenomenon telling the world and the generation to come that academics in the university is not a priority.

“As the University Senate will be meeting on Tuesday, 30th March, 2021, to deliberate on the issue before it as regarding the academic calendar. I beseech every member of the Senate to stand in defence of the education system and its purpose of creation. We all have a role to play in determining the future of education and the orientation of education that would be enculturated into the contemporary generation and those to come. Let's not betray the education system."

 Speaking further, he said, “As regards the claim that the pressure to bench academic activities in the university came from the federal government. I would also use this medium to bring to the notice of the University Senate that we the students are not unaware of the principle of university autonomy. This is the same principle upon which the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have premised their struggle in resisting the abuse and encroachment of the Federal government on the power of the university to determine how it would run every area of its affairs in line with the University Regulatory Act.

“Hence, Federal government or Edo state government cannot compel or force the university to bench academic activities for sport festival. The university has a respectable history of resting the power that be to ensure that normative provisions are adhered to. And this tradition of normativism must never be allowed to die.

“Whatever the decision that the University Senate comes up with tomorrow, we the students will continue to stand high on the noble pedestal that academics must be of utmost priority in the university environment.

“I will not be going beyond rational proposition that Sport Festival, if it must hold in the University of Benin, should come up after the session. The academic calendar for 2020/2021 session is yet to be approved hence, the gap between this session and next session can be used to conduct the sport festival. That would be a win-win (situation) for education and sport festival.

“Our demands and advocacy are legitimate and honourable. In a time when many Nigerians have given up on the education system, I refuse to give up. I have met hundreds of students who refuse to give up, and on that noble claim we will continue to act and advocate that education must be revived in the University of Benin and in Nigeria at large.

“In this struggle, Education must not be allowed to stand behind in the university scale of preference. And we will not sleep or lay fallow while education is benched. Student interest remains the priority.”

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