FOR INDEPENDENT STUDENTS’ UNIONISM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ABUJA AND THE NASARAWA STATE UNIVERSITY, KEFFI
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja Chapter, totally condemns the continued suspension of students’ union activities at the University of Abuja and the Nassarawa State University, Keffi by managements of both institutions. We condemn the practice of imposing on students so-called transition committees that are composed of handpicked students. We call on the managements of both institutions to respect the democratic and fundamental human rights of their students by allowing them to freely operate independent students unionism.
In particular, the ERC rejects the false claims by the both managements that this undemocratic action is meant to maintain peace and put an end to different problems erupting as a result of religious and tribal sentiments on both campuses.
We support in totality, fully independent and democratically-run Students’ Unions that can, at all time, stand for and defend public education in all tertiary institutions in the country.
We believe that only an independent and elected students union leadership can fight for the interest of its members, just as staff unions like the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other education workers unions always do, especially on issues relating to adequate funding of education, provision of infrastructural facilities, reduction and reversal of school fees and every other obnoxious attacks on the right to public education. The ERC believe that the series of unbearable charges and attacks that are being imposed on students across the country without much challenge are possible because of the weakness of the students movement occasioned by the constant attacks on the right to independent unionism through proscription as well as victimization of activists.
It is no doubt that the absence of independent, democratic, virile and mass-based students unions has contributed to the numerous problems students confront on many campuses. For instance, a University like the University of Abuja (UNIABUJA) lack adequate facilities for teaching and learning. So bad is the situation that most 400 Level students of chemical department do not have any practical experience nor have they partaken in any real laboratory experiment. At the moment, the faculty of law of the university of Abuja cannot admit students into 100 and 200 Levels this year because of the problems with accreditation. These are all sort of problems affecting Uniabuja students and for which they need a Students’ Union to protect their interests. Members of the transition council, were hand-picked by the university management. Therefore they are mainly a council of passive elements who cannot challenge authorities anti-student policies.
In its own case, the Nassarawa State University, Keffi, is not much better than a technical or secondary school when you consider its inadequate and antiquated infrastructures. The management of Nassarawa State University, is fond of cajoling students that the students union activities was proscribed due to religious clashes that occurred in the past leading to the death of a student. According to the management, restoring the Students union risk bringing back religious and tribal clashes as students jostle for leadership of the union.
While the ERC condemn religious and tribal clashes, we do not think this is a convincing reason to proscribe union activities. Religious and tribal clashes that now frequently occur as students jostle for union leadership position is a reflection of the ideological decay of the students movement as well as the interference of the State. Once radical ideas stopped reigning in the student movement, it was not long before base ethnic and religious sentiments took over. In most cases, some of these clashes over students union elections occur when managements and politicians interfere by sponsoring one aspirant against the other. We think the Nassarawa state University authorities are merely being clever by half. If truly the incidence of religious and tribal crises can only be resolved through putting an end to unionism then perhaps Nigeria as an entity should immediately cease to exist since it has witnessed ethnic and religious crises of monstrous proportion for much of its existence.
The excuse of tribal and religious clashes are mere smokescreens. The reality is that the Nassarawa state University management understands the power of unionism than the students themselves. As a result, the management is mindful of organized students union that can lead students against the management to demand better welfare condition on campus. This is the real reason why the management does not want students union activities restored. And it is on this premise that the council of the faculty Presidents, being the creation of the university management, has never done anything tangible to address the problems students face on campus.
* Immediate reinstatement of an independent, democratic and mass-based Students’ Union at the University of Abuja and the Nassarawa State University, Keffi that can promote and defend students interest.
* Democratic running of the institutions through the participation of elected representatives of the both academic and non-academic unions of staff and students in decision making structures
Finally, we call on students that are thirsty of genuine change in the society as well as quality education in the country to join the ERC. The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) is an organization committed to a struggle for provision of free and democratically managed public education at all levels and respect for democratic rights in schools.
Akande Daniel Babatunde
Coordinator ERC FCT Abuja Chapter