By Ehi Ekhator
The Management of the University of Benin has rusticated some members of the student union government who organized the protest against the hike in fees.
The SUG took to protest on 24th November 2017 after the management increased the fees with no prior notice and proper explanations.
The Senate of the University of Benin at the Emergency meeting held on 1st February 2018 implemented the recommendation of the Student Disciplinary Committee on the roles played by the student union executives in the protest that took place last year which led to the shutdown of the institution.
The management in the report alleged that the move was to disrupt the 47th Founder’s day and 43rd convocation ceremonies of the University, therefore recommended that the top members of the Union should be rusticated for a period of one to two academic sessions.
Below are the students affected:
Mr. Ehis Osamudiamen Ogbidi (ART 1401044), Mr. Justus Aidenagbon (ART: 1300172), Mr. Innocent Ehizua Momodu (ART: 1401587), Mr. Goodnews Ehiabhi (SSC: 1407273), Restricted for one (1) Academic session (2 semesters) i.e 2017/2018. To return to school in 2018/2019 Session.
Mr. Benjamin Majekodurumi Patrick ( (EDU: 1402634), Rusticated for two (2 Academic Session (4 semesters) ie 2017/2018, 2018/2019. To return to school in 2019/2020 Academic Sessions
Mr. Goodluck Aregbor (MGS: 1405253), Miss Gory Charles (EDU1402538), Mr. Eriamiatoe Austin Odia (EDU1492538), Mr. Sylvester Asebofuh (SSC 1406543), Mr. Prince Imonitie (ENG 1203294) and Mr. Edward Evbuomwan Eguavoen (LAW 1507823) were exonerated.
The five rusticated students are also banned from ever holding office or participating in students Union activities in the school.
The management directed the Vice President Miss Frances Ifeoma Okogwa to act as the Acting President of the Student Union pending when a proper election is conducted.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) to the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Edo State, Mr. Michael Osasuyi on Saturday, confirmed the development to NAIJA CENTER NEWS, adding that those who broke the law are expected to face the consequences.
He stressed that the students rusticated behaved in violation of the school rules and regulations. When asked to mention the law broken so far by the students’ protest, the PRO said “You have to write to the school management to get that info, but any student who breaks the law definitely expected the outcome”
Early last month, the school management rescind on the fees/charges paid by all returning students for the 2017/2018 academic session.
Reacting to his rustication, the Student Union President, Mr. Ehis Osamudiamen Ogidi who is also one of the rusticated students, assured NAIJA CENTER NEWS that he would fight back.
When asked how he intended to hatch his plans, he added: “leave that to us, we will update you as things unfold”.
Genesis of the Outburst according to the Students’ Union President’s letter to The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU),
On November 3rd 2017, the Registrar and Secretary to the 150th Regular Council meeting of the University of Benin issued to the Bursar a memorandum containing council’s decision that introduces a new regime of fees and charges for implementation.
The increment rose up to 300%, especially for fresh students, while it rose up to 12% for old, returning students. The 300% increment meant that every fresh student would pay up to one hundred and thirty three thousand, four hundred naira (N133,400), for education at UNIBEN in the 2017/2018 academic session excluding departmental dues, faculty dues and charges for hostel accommodation and excluding, of course study materials, food, clothing, transportation and many other untold expenses that students incur in the course of study at a university in Nigeria.
While hostel accommodation fees were also hiked, for instance, hall 1 to hall 4 was hiked from eight thousand naira (N8,000) to twenty thousand naira (N20,000) and now reduced to seventeen thousand naira (N17,000); hall 5 was hiked from twelve thousand five hundred naira (N12,500) to twenty five thousand naira (N25,000); Erastus Akingbola Hostel was hiked from thirty one thousand naira (N31,000) to sixty-two thousand naira (N62,000), etc. (a document of explicit enumeration of the hiked fees is attached to this letter).
Expectedly, this hike generated agitations from the mass of students, while some aggrieved students individually led themselves to disrupt hostel registration activities at the faculty of engineering, some led themselves to disrupt the process at the Faculty of Education. Obviously, chaos and anarchy were about to be let loosed on the soil of UNIBEN.
To avert the looming violent that the scattered and uncoordinated agitation might likely create, and “in order to encourage the development of community participation…” on decision making, as contained in the preamble of the Students Union Government Constitution, the leadership of the student union called for a general assembly of students, on the 21st of November, 2017, with a mandate to deliberate on the introduced hike and adopt a collective position on it.
The general assembly which had a massive turnout of students identified the following:
That the failure of the University management to duly carry students along in its arrival of the 150th council meeting resolution is inconsistent with section 14(i) of the 1999 Constitution which clearly establishes the democratic basis of Nigeria.
That management undemocratic conduct as expressed in (i) above is also inconsistent with the central theme of the NANS charter which is anchored on the democratization of University system.
That hike in fees contradicts the current battered economic realities of the Nigerian masses.
That the hike will only further aggravate the already impoverished condition of the Nigerian masses who unfortunately are victims of greedy and parasitic rulership.
That if the hike is not resisted, children of the poor will be denied access to university education.
That if (v) happens, a big line of dichotomy is drawn between the children of the rich and the poor in terms of educational opportunities, such line, however, is a dangerous violation of Section 18(i) of the 1999 Constitution which mandates equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels.
That the funding of education remains the sole responsibility of government and such responsibilities should not be transferred to the poor parents.
That government must fund education to at least, 26% as recommended by UNESCO.
That the Vice Chancellor who claims the hike is at a result of the University’s “brokness” should first give a comprehensive account of what he has done with all the funds generated so far since his emergence as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin.
That rather than adding a kobo to fees, assuming the University is “broke”, the management along side its chancellor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (Emir of Kano), should facilitate a bail-out fund via his royal influence from the federal government.
the protest which had thousands of students on the barricade was absolutely peaceful; not even a pin can be produced to have been destroyed. It will interest you to note that hours of students barricading of the school’s maingate was not serious enough to attract the attention of a responsive university management, until when the barricade became extended to the Benin-Lagos Federal Road, the Vice-Chancellor was then forced to address the aggrieved protesting students.
Meanwhile, let us state that under a democratic system, peaceful protest remains an invaluable instrument employed by a person to influence an unfavourable policy and as such, the response of any policy maker to peaceful protesters must be based on a critical review of the policy.