UI in the trenches

VC: Students warned against protest
Students: Ban of union laughable

CRISIS: For protesting against lack of students’ identity cards a year after payment, and the policy outlawing cooking in the halls of residence with electrical appliances, students of the University of Ibadan (UI) are to stay at home for two months

This is not the best of times for the students of the nation’s premier university, the University of Ibadan (UI), following the dispute between them and the university authorities, which led to the closure of the institution.

The students, last week, embarked on a protest to challenge the authority over what they described as its “high insensitivity” to their welfare on the campus.

At the centre of the face-off is the fee for identification cards (ID Card) paid by the students.

They accused the university of collecting N2,000 from fresh students for the 2016/2017 academic session and N1,350 from the returning students, who they said had earlier paid N650 for the 2015//2016 session for the same ID card which the management had failed to produce.

The protesting students also accused the authority of not allowing them to use hot plate for their cooking in their hostels, describing the policy as anti-students. But, the students are divided among themselves over the protest, which was led by the university’s students’ union. A section of the students described it as illtimed and ill-advised, given the fact that the semester examinations were only few days away.

To this category of students, the protest was not only an avenue to waste precious time, but would stop them from completing their courses of study in record time, saying the protest was not the best option to resolve the issues at hand.

But, piqued by the development, the university Senate through the Vice-Chancellor did not only suspend the forthcoming semester examination, and closed the institution for the next two months, but also ordered the students to vacate the campus immediately.

Following the proscription of the students’ union and its activities on campus by the management, the leadership of the union, led by its President, Ojo Aderemi, described the action of the university authority as counter-productive.

They claimed the directive would not be recognised by the student leadership, more so that no official communication had taken place between the management and the Students Representative Council of the union to that respect.

Blaming the management for its role in the face-off, the union said: “We have paid for our ID cards for two sessions now and we are yet to get it as the management only double charged the students without producing the ID card.

Students have been harassed several times by the police. Many of us have lost credible scholarship and grants opportunities due to the non-issuance of the ID cards for identification.

“If the university management had collected N2,000 from each of the hundreds of fresh students for the 2016/2017 and N1,350 from returning students, who had earlier paid N650 for the 2015//2016 session for the production of identification cards, and yet nothing has been issued till date, then as students we have right to make demand for it.”

On the policy that they students should no longer use electrical cooking appliances such as hot plate in the hostels, due to high cost of electricity bills, as espoused by the management, the students described it as unbearable.

“We brought food stuffs from home, but we were prevented from using hot plates to cook in the halls of residence by the management, citing the high cost of electricity bills accruing from use of the electrical cooking appliances as its major reason,” Aderemi argued.

According to the union, the university authority, however, promised to look into this, but there has been no word of commitment or action on the part of management to assuage the plight of the students, which the union saw as highly deceptive.

According to the students’ union President, other welfare demands have also not been attended to, thus depriving the entire student population of their deserved academic rights. Meanwhile, he said that the union was not too happy with the deplorable state of infrastructure and facilities in the hostels among other essential utilities, including lack of internet facilities.

However, sequel to the students’ union congress held on Saturday, May 27, 2017 the students’ body resolved to disrupt the World Press Conference planned to be addressed by the Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi to commemorate his six years in office, as part of their planned agitation to pursue their demands.

Conscious of this students’ latest move, the university management was said to have pleaded with the leadership of the union to sheathe their sword, with a promise to produce the smart identity cards that will have chips with multiple functions by the middle of June.

The Vice-Chancellor had said that every student would be allowed into the examination halls with their registration forms instead of the ID cards. The examinations were supposed to commence in a couple of days before the students embarked on the protest.

The students, true to their threat, trooped to the street in a wild protest blocking the major roads outside the university campus, obstructing vehicular movements as well as disrupting the peace of the ancient city. The development was widely condemned by some students, who argued that that the protest should have been restricted to the campus, stressing that it had become customary for some students to foment trouble whenever examination timetables were out in order to cover their ill-preparedness.

A 500-Level Law undergraduate, who craved anonymity, said the action of the student leaders is condemnable as it was a share waste of time, saying: “The timing was not only preposterous to say the least; the infrastructural facilities the union is now demanding were not new to the entire student population as past union leaders had also agitated for same, and the management had promised to find a lasting solution to them.

“The vice-chancellor had even said that no student would be disallowed from sitting for the examinations by the reason of lack of ID cards.

So, why the disruption when examinations were about to commence? Why not before now when lectures were still on-going?

As things stand now, we would not complete this session until February next year. So, what is the use of the protest now?” the student who did not want his names in print, lamented.

Responding to the crisis, especially on the ban of the use of hot plates to cook in the hostels, the vice-chancellor said the management had told the student representatives that the ban had been on for the past six years and that it was so legislated to cut down on electricity consumption which had increased the bills of the institution.

Also, reacting to the issue of the students’ welfare and other needs, Olayinka said the authority had promised that the meeting of Students’ Welfare Board, which is a statutory committee of Senate, would be convened soon to discuss such needs with a view to providing a lasting solution to their numerous demands.

In fact, despite all these repeated assurances, however, the vice-chancellor had at a press conference on Tuesday told journalists how the students’ union through its president read a riot acts to the management that there would be no examinations without identity cards; that the students would disrupt a university function in which Governor Ajimobi was to attend on Monday; and that the students should continue to use hot plates in their halls of residence.

Specifically, the union president demanded that the vicechancellor should apologise to the students for the non-production of the ID cards they already paid for.

The students, according to Olayinka, were at a point told that they have every right to peaceful protest, but that such should be confined to the campus only and not outside the university.

Now that the examinations had been postponed till July 17, the vice-chancellor recalled that the management had earlier warned that the institution would be shut down if the protest was taken outside the campus.

But the union insisted: “The ban on students’ union activities is laughable. What the students did was a peaceful protest to draw attention of the management to the deplorable state of infrastructure and facilities in the school hostels, lack of internet facilities, non-issuance of ID cards from 2015/2016 academic session till date and review of the management stance on use of hot plates in kitchenettes.

“The extreme economic situation in the country had made it practically impossible for us to afford the use of kerosene stoves, which is not only embarrassingly expensive, but also dangerous to the well-being of students on campus.

We have duly obeyed the rules and regulations made by the university as stipulated in Chapter 6 of the Student’s Information Handbook written and circulated by the university itself, and also the Ethics governing the halls of residence on campus.”

Adeyemi, therefore, justified the peaceful protest, saying: “The union merely advised the students to be law abiding and thus assist the management to adhere to the law it had magnanimously drafted.”

Worried by the closure of the institution, concerned stakeholders on campus, especially the commercial bus and cab operators, as well as food vendors and other ancillary business operators are already counting their loses.

Meanwhile, the 2016/2017 academic calendar which hitherto would have ended by September this year, was earlier forced to be extended till December, no thanks to the almost threeweek strike by the university’s workers’ unions including the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Non- Academic Staff Union (NASU) over sundry issues bordering on their welfare and condition of service.

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