* ERC Condemns Clampdown on the Heroes of the Struggle to Reverse
LASU's Outrageous Fees
* Demands Payment of Refund of Excess Fees to Students
It has come to the notice of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) a series of undemocratic actions, including victimization, recently taken by the administration of the Lagos State University (LASU) against members of staff and students of the University.
We also want the general public to note that contrary to the public announcement made by the Lagos State government over five months ago, no single student in LASU has received any refund of the excess fees they were compelled to pay before the reversal of the fees in August 2014. Instead, the University administration has now instructed students as they resume into the new academic session to pay the new fees of N25, 000 and expect to receive the refund of the excess fees at an unspecified future date. This is unfair and unjust. We in the ERC hereby call on LASU students not to pay any tuition in this new academic session and until such a time the University and the State government refund the fees students were compelled to pay a year ago.
These victimisations are targeted particularly at individuals and unions that came together in fraternal solidarity last year to prosecute a struggle that ultimately compelled the Lagos State government to reverse the highly outrageous and anti-poor tuition regime of between N193,750 and N348,750. Some of these undemocratic actions include:
(1) The indefinite postponement of elections into the Students Union which should have held in December 2014.
(2) Dragging a student activist, Adeyemi Onikoro before a disciplinary panel for partaking in struggle for reversal of the University's outrageous tuition fee. Adeyemi Onikoro has been a longstanding activist and opponent of LASU fee hike. He was the chairman of the #SaveLASU campaign movement - the joint platform that led the struggle against LASU fees from February 1st 2014 to around May 2014. He is currently a presidential candidate in the postponed elections into the Students Union and generally regarded as the most popular candidate among students. Indeed it was after efforts by University administration to disqualify him from contesting failed that it unilaterally postponed the Students Union elections indefinitely and also sought to rusticate him for one academic session
(3) Placement of Prof. Tunde Fatunde, a 62 year -old academic on half salary for the past four months for allegedly being rude to the Registrar. Whereas, his offence actually is the "effrontery" to write an article published in some National dailies last year calling on Governor Fashola to reverse LASU fees.
(4) Withdrawal of the PhD Certificate of Dr. Idris Adekunle, the Chairman of the University's branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), in suspicious circumstances that convey the impression that this is a massive and deliberate witch-hunt against all those who played notable roles in the successful struggle against high fees last year.
While taking these undemocratic actions, the University administration has carefully prepared arguments to give the impression that these are normal administrative procedures devoid of any political agenda. For instance, the withdrawal of Dr. Idris PhD certificate is orchestrated in such a way that the University gives the impression that it is merely trying to correct a mistake made by the Senate years ago in issuing PhD certificates wrongly to not only Dr. Idris Adekunle but at least 18 other academics. Meanwhile whilst the University in its instruction to the other 18 affected academics stated when a new certificate would be issued once they submit the one with them, no such assurance was given to Dr. Idris Adekunle raising the suspicion that once he submits his certificate, the grand plan is not to issue him a new one which in all practical terms would translate to a demotion and loss of pay and conditions.
Likewise the authorities' illegal interference into the conduct of the Students Union election is presented as simply a reaction to "reports of agitation from a section of the University on the candidacy of one of the presidential aspirants". As a result, the University administration issued on 11 December 2014 an official bulletin (LASU/CIPPR/1525) directing "that the on-going 2014 Lagos State University Students' Union (LASUSU) elections be put on hold".
The truth however is that if there was any agitation from a section of the University against the candidacy of any of the presidential aspirants, this was effectively put to rest when on 10 December 2014 when the Students' Union Judicial council (the judicial arm of the Students Union) in Suit No: LASUSU/HC/10/2014 declared the candidate, Adeyemi Onikoro eligible to contest the elections. The respondent in the suit was the LASUSU Independent Electoral Committee. In accordance with the Students Union constitution, only the Judicial Council can adjudicate on this matter and once its judgement is given, the electoral commission must comply. However instead of allowing the electoral commission to comply with the court order, the University administration announced on 11 December 2014 that it had put the election on hold. The ERC condemns this interference in the affairs of an independent union. The University administration has no such powers to put Students' Union elections on hold. What the learned Professors in the administration of the Lagos State University have done is illegal, despotic and an assault on the basic tenets of democracy.
However this illegal ill-motivated action of the University is what clearly exposes the real interests and intentions of the University administration. The truth of the matter is that only the University administration has any real problems with Adeyemi Onikoro's candidacy. It was the University administration once it realised that Adeyemi Onikoro was a popular candidate in the election with a chance to win that decided to unearth and reactivate a disciplinary action against him for allegedly participating in one of the early protests against LASU fee hike as far back as September 12, 2012 when he was just in 100 level! LASU fee was hiked in September 2011 and Adeyemi Onikoro as a 100 level student played roles in the struggles that broke out against the fees in 2012. For this reason, he was dragged before an investigative panel in 2012 on trumped up charges of participating in an "illegal protest" and of disrupting a GNS examination. The panel sat on the case from late 2012 into 2013 and from then on nothing more was heard about it until now when the University saw an opportunity to use it to stop Adeyemi Onikoro's ambition for the presidency of the Students Union.
When the investigative panel sat on the case in 2012 and 2013, the DSA Prof. Kabir Akinyemi appeared before it to testify against Adeyemi Onikoro. Now in 2014, the case was transferred to the Student Disciplinary Committee. When Adeyemi Onikoro appeared before the committee, he discovered to his chagrin that his chief prosecutor the DSA Prof. Kabir Akinyemi is now the Vice Chairman of the Disciplinary committee. Interestingly all the time the committee sat on the case, the substantive chairman, Prof. Senapone Bakre who is the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academics), was conveniently away allowing the DSA Prof. Kabir Akinyemi to chair the process. Now there is no better example of an undemocratic and unfair trial in which an individual, in this case the DSA, becomes the judge, prosecutor and witness in a case in which he as much as his employers, the University administration, have interest. It was therefore not surprising when on December 2, 2014 this committee recommended Adeyemi Onikoro to be rusticated for one academic session on trumped up charges only the DSA out of all members of the University community could prove he committed. This completely unfair verdict is now awaiting the approval of the University Senate after which Adeyemi Onikoro's studentship would be suspended.
The ERC is convinced that Adeyemi Onikoro is only being witchhunted for his leading role in the struggle for reversal of the fee and for the threat he could be to government and University administraion's anti-poor education policies if he becomes the President of the Students Union. We in the ERC worked with Adeyemi Onikoro for over four months in the leadership of the Save LASU campaign movement which was the platform that led the struggle whilst the Students Union Executive were still awaiting their inauguration. He was steadfast, fearless and resilient. His personal courage and selfless examples were instrumental in mobilising more and more students to join the struggle. The University administration fears for good reason that if he becomes the President of the Students Union, he would carry the same fearless and radical spirit into unionism and that would mean all of the authorities plans to continue its policy of exploitation and education commercialisation would be strongly resisted.
Aside the Students Union and ASUU, members of other staff unions like the Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the Senior Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) are also facing victimisation and undemocratic attacks. For instance, at least five (5) members of SSANU have been interdicted by the University administration. We in the ERC see all these victimisations as preparation of the ground for re-introduction of the tuition fees once elections are over. The University administration wants to destroy all the unions and individuals that united to defeat the fee hike in order to be in a position to re-introduce the fees without resistance at a future date possibly after the 2015 general elections.
The ERC demands:
(1) A halt to all these victimisation and witch-hunt in LASU.
(2) Immediate refund of excess fees paid by students under the old fee regime of N193, 750 and N348, 750.
(3) Immediate reversal of all disciplinary actions against Adeyemi Onikoro (one of the leaders of last year's struggle to reverse LASU fees), Dr. Idris Adekunle (ASUU chairman), Prof. Tunde Fatunde as well as other members of staff.
(4) We specifically call on the University Senate not to approve the recommendation of the Students Disciplinary Committee for Adeyemi Onikoro to be rusticated for one academic session.
(5) Immediate conduct of Students Union elections without interference by the University administration. We wish to put it on record that the University administration does not have the power to "put on hold" the elections of the Lagos State University Students Union. Only the organs of the Union have such powers. Therefore the action of the University authorities is wrong in law and an affront against the constitutional rights of students to independent unionism.
(6) We warn the University administration and the State government to perish whatever agenda they may have to reintroduce high tuition fees after the 2015 general elections as such would be met by mass uprising of students, staff and people of Lagos.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator National Secretary