18 February, 2014.
Lagos State House of Assembly
The Honourable Speaker
Lagos State House of Assembly
PETITION TO DEMAND REOPENING OF LASU ON THE 24, FEBRUARY 2014 FOR ALL STUDENTS, REVERSAL OF HIKED FEES AND REVIEW OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY RESOLUTIONS ON THE JANUARY 23, 2014 CRISIS THAT OCCURED IN THE INSTITUTION
On behalf of the #SaveLASU Campaign Movement, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) write your good offices as representatives of the people of Lagos State to intervene in the crisis at the Lagos State University (LASU) with a view to ensuring justice for students of the University who are being oppressed by the Management of the Institution.
The #SaveLASU Campaign Movement is a coalition of the Lagos State University Students Union (LASUSU), Education Rights Campaign (ERC), National Union of Lagos State Students (NULASS) and radical student groups in LASU. It is a coalition born out of the mutually felt need for a movement to right the wrongs and injustice done to LASUITES by the management of the Institution.
First and foremost, we wish to tender a complaint against the recent decision of the University Senate to reopen the University on the 24th February 2014 for final year students alone while other categories of students would only resume on April 1st 2014.
NEW CALENDAR IS UNFAIR TO MAJORITY OF STUDENTS
Indeed the new academic calendar again shows how deceitful, vengeful and insensitive the Prof Obafunwa-led University Management is. This calendar announced by the University management on Monday 17 February 2014 is unfair to a majority of students of the Institution especially those in 100, 200 and 200 levels.
This is because instead of opening the University for all students to come in, register and write their examinations, the new academic calendar is contrived in such a way that only final year students will resume by February 24 to start examinations by Monday 3rd of March 2014. Curiously by 10th to 13th March 2014, screening exercise for fresh students will commence with Matriculation of Fresh students expected to take place on 28th March 2014. It is only after Fresh Students have matriculated and commenced lectures in a new Academic Session that other categories of students in 100, 200 and 300 levels will now resume on April 1st to start their own second semester examinations on 7th April.
What this practically means is that students in 100, 200 and 300 levels will lose additional 3 months of their life after already spending about 16 months in the same Academic Session due to the 6-months ASUU strike last year and other disturbances. While we welcome the fact that final year students will, all things being equal, be able to graduate and go for their National Youth Service, we nevertheless believe it is unjust and unfair to delay other categories of students for another two months. We therefore demand that all students from 100 level to final year be allowed to resume on 24 February 2014 to register on the portal and commence the second semester examinations.
We do not see any theoretical or practical reason why all categories of students from final year to 100 level cannot resume on 24 February 2014, register on the portal and write their examinations in order to conclude the current academic session which ordinarily all things being equal should not take more than 8 months to conclude but has now been stretched into nearly two years to the detriment of students.
The immediate cause of the January 23 crisis was the obstinate refusal of the University Vice Chancellor to open the University portal for just 1,292 students to register and write examinations. According to the new calendar, this same portal is to be opened for final year students only from 24 February to midnight of 25 February 2014. Why exactly is it not possible for all students including the 1,292 students who have not registered to take advantage of the opening of the portal on the 24 and 25 February 2014 to complete their registration and commence their examinations?
We believe these resumption dates are dubious, mischievous, divisive and vengeful. The new calendar shows to any discerning mind that the University Management has an evil agenda it is plotting against students taking advantage of its powers to unilaterally define the academic calendar.
Firstly, this calendar is meant to cause division among students. It is no more hidden that the University Management and the State Government want to undermine the resolve of LASUITES to fight for the reversal of the outrageous fee hike of the Lagos State University which is the root cause of the crisis of January 23 2014 and the rapid decline in student enrollment and decay of facilities that the University has been experiencing since 2011. This they want to achieve by dividing final year students against other category of students which is what has informed the curiously mischievous resumption dates agreed by the Senate.
Secondly, the Calendar is vengeful because it seeks to punish by wasting three months of their lives students in 100, 200 and 300 levels who are seen by the University Management to be the instigators of the January 22 and 23 protests. This the University Management wants to achieve by delaying their resumption till April 1, 2014 through a dubious academic calendar.
It appears what the management is planning to do is to single out these categories of students for payment of reparation charges for the alleged damage to the University's properties during the January 23 protest. This is in spite of the continous opposition of students to reparation as it was the insensitivity and highhandness of the University management particularly the Vice Chancellor that was responsible for the degeneration of the crisis.
THE JANUARY 23, 2014 CRISIS AND THE IMPERATIVE OF REVERSING THE HIKED FEES
Thirdly the new academic calendar is dubious and thoroughly mischievous because it seeks to continue to impose the outrageous fee hike of N193,750 and N348,750 in the face of widespread agitation for its reversal from LASUITES, parents, civil society organisations and Lagosians. This is what explains the fact that the University Management wants to admit fresh students and matriculate them before allowing 100, 200 and 300 levels students back on campus. The fear of the University management is that if 100, 200 and 300 levels students are on campus while Fresh students are undergoing their screening exercises, there could be renewed protests and demonstrations against the outrageous fee hike.
As we have argued severally, outrageous fee hike is the root cause of crisis in LASU and reversal of the fees, adequate funding and democratic management of LASU are the only solutions. Today the mass majority of people in Lagos are opposed to the continuous charging of N193,750 and N348,750 as fees in LASU.
A genuine government elected by the people would have no choice but to reverse the fees. Unfortunately it appears that the Lagos State Government is not prepared to take this honourable course of action which is why we have marched on the House of Assembly today. We assure you that we shall continue to organize protests, demonstrations and other peaceful and legitimate public activities until this demand is met.
TEN (10) REASONS WHY LASU FEES MUST BE REVERSED
We earnestly urge honourable members of the Lagos House of Assembly to consider calling for the reversal of the fees of Lagos State University on the basis of the following:
(1) The fee hike is the root cause of the protest by LASUITES on Wednesday and Thursday 22 and 23 January 2014 as well as the inability of about 1,292 students to register. To prevent similar unpleasant occurrence in future requires that the root cause be addressed. A University can only thrive in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility devoid of disharmony.
(2) The fee hike is anti-poor and unaffordable by the vast majority. Especially in a State where civil servants barely receives the N18,000 National Minimum Wage, this regime of fees in the only public University in the State is unaffordable for vast majority, contradicts the vision of the founding fathers of the Lagos State Unversity and is calculated to price education out of the each of the children of poor working class people in Lagos.
(3) The fee hike is responsible for the sharp decline in student enrollment in LASU over the past three years. LASU used to have over 20, 000 full-time students, today full-time students are only a little above 12, 000. Indeed at this rate especially when the current 300 and 400 level students who are still paying the old fees of N25, 000 graduate, LASU may have less than 6,000 full-time students! The wider implication of this is an increase in the illiteracy rate of the State.
(4) The fee hike is an unconscionable rip-off of students and their poor parents and this is umacceptable from a government that claims to be progressive. For instance while the tuition component of the fee ranges from N50,000 to N80,000, several exploitative miscellaneous charges like registration fee, acceptance fee, matriculation fee, development levy, library, manuals and even examination charges have been added to boost the fee to outrageous levels. To make matters worse, most of the items under the miscellaneous charges that students pay for are rarely provided or the facilities are in such decrepit conditions such that students do not get value for their money. For instance, while students pay between N20,000 to N50,000 for laboratories/practical/workshop/studio, the conditions of each of these facilities are so bad that one begins to wonder what the hefty sums student pay are used for. Also the University collects N50,000 hostel charges from 100 level Medical students while there are no male hostels in LASU. In addition, for three years students have been paying a uniform Development Levy of N15,000 but today LASU is worse for it in terms of teaching facilities and infrastructures. This is also inspite of other sources from which the University receives huge sums for capital projects like the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND). The list of the rip-off is endless.
(5) The fee hike is a death pill which if not reversed will kill LASU. Today there are several departments at the LASU that have less than 10 students at 100 level. Some examples will suffice:
(A) French department = One student in 100 level.
(B) Islamic studies = 6 students in 100 level.
(C) Law =15 students at 100 level, 25 students at 200 level.
(D) Department of Fishery = 60 students obtained admission into 100 level last session. A session after, only 14 out of this are left and out of this 14, only four have registered for the current session.
(6) The fee hike has increased the dropout rate at the Lagos State University. Indeed for many current 100 and 200 level LASU students, the possibility that they would be able to complete their studies is almost zero. Also the development of LASU into a world class University which the State government promised in 2011 while justufying the fee hike has become a mirage. Today LASU is not a world class University but a horrifying story of neglect, decline and decay.
(7) The fee hike threatens the job of academic and non-academic staff as a result of consequential decline in enrollment. Mass retrenchment which will be the fallout of this fee hike will lead to further increase in the unemployment situation in Lagos State and the poverty rate as huge numbers of people who were hitherto dependent on the salaries of the academic and non-academic staff of LASU suddenly find themselves without such assistance as a result of retrenchment of their bread winners.
(8) The fee hike is unacceptable. LASU is the only University owned by the State. The State government has no excuse at all not to be able to fully subsidise the tuition of the University in order to ensure that poor people can also go to school.
(9) The fee hike is not justifiable. Lagos is the richest State in Nigeria. With N80 billion IGR, Lagos State is rich enough to fund education adequately especially if there is more judicious and democratic management of the State resources and less corruption and diversion of our collective resources to fund the profligacy of the rich few.
(10) The fee hike is a breach of social contract and a betrayal of the electorate by the Babatunde Raji Fashola Lagos State Government which campaigned as a "progressive" alternative to the neo-liberal agenda represented by others. We believe that the Lagos State government cannot continue to lay claim to being "progressive" while it simultaneously carries out unconscionable attacks on the right of poor people to public education. For instance just recently on February 15, 2014 at the Njala University in Sierra Leone, Former Lagos State Governor Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu upon receiving an award of Honorary Doctorate Degree of Civil Law, Honoris Causa said the following "We formed the APC so Nigerians from all walks of life and social station might gather under one tent to develop the nation on the basis of equity and shared prosperity. What we seek is a fair social compact so that we may avoid social calamity. A core element of our mission is to make all levels of education, from primary to university level, accessible to all people, regardless of economic circumstance. To survive in the modern economy, education is a must. As such, responsible leadership must view education as a public right and no longer a luxury to be enjoyed only by those with the money to purchase it for themselves. Government must help financially those who can’t help themselves in this essential regard".
It is nothing but sheer hypocrisy for the leader of the ruling party in Lagos to make such statements in far away Sierra Leone while the Lagos State University is shut as a result of student protest against attempt to make education "a luxury to be enjoyed only by those with the money to purchase it for themselves". We simply urge the government of Lagos State to practise what it preaches by reversing the outrageous fees in LASU.
APPEAL FOR A MORE BALANCED LOOK AT THE JANUARY 23, 2014 CRISIS
In this wise, we urge the House of Assembly to take another look at the January 23, 2014 crisis in the Lagos State University with a view to addressing the root cause of the crisis thereby returning the University onto a path of peace, progress and development.
We make this appeal because we believe the sitting of the house on Friday 24 January 2014 completely departed from well-tested democratic procedures when without a prior investigation but relying on a closeted hearing immediately rolled out a six-point resolution on a matter it had not properly investigated. Declaration of verdicts without proper investigation was the stock-in-trade of military tribunals during the long spell of military dictatorship that held Nigeria by the jugular. Going by the treatment the LASU crisis has received, it would seem that the Lagos State Government has kept this odious and undemocratic practise alive.
Please do not get us wrong. It is not the wisdom of honourable members we fault, rather it is their method which we believe is undemocratic. For instance, after the declaration of verdicts by the Honourable Speaker on a crisis that had not being investigated, the house thereafter reportedly set up a committee to investigate the crisis. This to us is like putting the cart before the horse. The first step the house should have taken is to set up a committee with publicised terms of reference and that would organise open hearings and publicised proceedings to which the identified parties to the crisis as well as members of the public would be invited to make presentations towards finding a permanent solution to the crisis in LASU.
Contrariwise, the public does not know the terms of reference of the committee supposedly set up by the House of Assembly and mandated to investigate the crisis in LASU. Also the committee has been conducting its proceedings in secret while House officials have been making highly prejudicial statements in the media about the findings of a committee which has not concluded its work nor submitted its report. For instance in a newspaper report on Page 18 of Guardian newspaper of Monday 17 February 2014 and titled "LASU CRISIS STILL UNDER INVESTIGATION, Spokesperson for the House, Honourable Segun Olulade reportedly said the following "investigation into the crisis also allegedly fingered some principal actors, like lecturers, academic and non-academic union members and security officers among other officers in the institution".
Such comments by the spokesperson of the house is prejudicial to the work of the committee and gives the impression that the committee is only working towards a predetermined outcome which in this case appears to be victimisation of members of staff unions on the campus for a crisis whose immediate cause was the highhandedness of the Vice Chancellor and remote cause was the increase in payable fees from N25,000 to between N193,750 to N348,750.
As you are already aware, students of the University organised a mild and peaceful gathering on Wednesday 22 January 2014 to plead with the Vice Chancellor Prof Obafunwa to reopen the University Portal which was closed by the management against 1,292 students of the University. As a result of the dictatorial, insensitive and provocative actions of the Vice Chancellor, who rebuffed all students plea and at a point reportedly kicked a female student who was lying prostrate before him, next day Thursday 23 January 2014 witnessed a bigger protest which eventually turned violent after the University's paid security a.k.a CAMPUS MARSHALS shot at students and men of the Rapid Response Squad invaded the University.
We believe that if justice would be done, the Vice Chancellor and officials of the University Management ought to be disciplined for such highhandedness against students. Also we believe that instead of beating about the bush and vainly seeking scapegoats to victimize, the best cause of action opened to the State Government and the University management is to tackle the root cause of the crisis in LASU by reversing the fees and ensuring that Lagos State University receives improved allocation in accordance with a key component (item 4.0.2, G) of the recommendation of the 2009 Visitation Panel.
In line with the above, we humbly present before you a list of demands representing the opinion and aspiration of a broad spectrum of LASUITES who wish to see an end to recurring decimal of crisis in LASU and the opening of a new chapter of peace, progress and development for their noble institution.
(1) Reopening of the Lagos State University on the 24 February 2014 for the benefit of ALL Students of the Institution
(2) Reversal of Fee hike
(3) Improved Funding of the Lagos State University
(4) Democratic Management of Lagos State University
(5) No attempt should be made to victimise any student for the protest of 22 and 23 January 2014
(6) No attempt should be made to ask students to pay reparation charges. We humbly submit that the non-refundable caution fee of N10,000 each which all students pay in their first years be collected together to fix whatever unfortunate damage occurred to University's properties on the 23 January 2014.
We do hope the House of Assembly will give our humble submission and demands a favorable response,
Save LASU! Save the Future!!!
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator National Secretary
The Executive Governor