No student or activists must be victimized for participating in the protest
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls for the immediate re-opening of the University of Lagos which was shut on Friday, 8 April 2016, following a students’ protest. We fully back the Students Union for organizing the protest which in our opinion was long overdue. We call on the authorities of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) to immediately meet all demands and re-open the university so that the students can prepare for the first Semester examination.
The protest occurred over legitimate grievances on such issues as high cost of food and other items on campus, poor electricity and water supply, poor welfare conditions especially in the hostels, issues of academic injustice and arbitrariness of the Prof-Rahamon Bello-led administration of the University of Lagos.
There is no doubt that the University of Lagos has the most expensive cost of living among all federal universities in Nigeria. Mind you, this situation is not occasioned by the recent general increase in prices of goods and services as a result of forex crises and fuel scarcity, although worsened by them. This is a situation which goes back many years. And it is a culmination of the “cash and carry” policy of the University administration which essentially takes education as business and students as customers. This practically means students are made fair game to all kinds of exploitation first by the University authorities through high fees and sundry charges and then by the vendors on campus who are charged by the University obscene amounts for the rent of their shops and are given the free hand to pass the costs onto poor students.
A UNILAG student needs at least double of the pocket money of an average student in other federal universities to survive a semester. For instance, while a bag of sachet water costs N120 outside the University gate, it costs around N200 on the campus. The same goes for prices of food items at the canteens as well as costs of printing and photocopy. To make matters worse, the University of Lagos, in order to increase its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) at the expense of students, created a water producing company which has monopoly over the sale of sachet water on campus. Now the water company supply often falls short of demand. Several weeks before the protest, there was so much shortage of sachet water that many students had to resort to buying table water which is far more expensive. Together with this is the acute shortage of water to the hostels thus making daily life hellish for the students. For the past few weeks before the closure, many UNILAG students had to go to lectures without taking their bath.
On top of all these is the epileptic power supply on campus. But it is not all a “national problem” as the University would have us believe. The University has provision for 4 diesel-powered generators which could ensure supply of electricity even while there is outage from the distribution company. This would have at least created condition fit for students to prepare for the coming examinations. Unfortunately, only 2 of these generators are available. Question as to the whereabouts of the other two has so far not been answered by the University administration.
There are other issues concerning the arbitrary introduction of a new policy which prevents students that fails pre-requisite courses from registering them in the following academic session thereby leading to automatic extra year. Efforts by the students union to discuss a negotiated solution to this issue were equally rebuffed.
Recall that recently the same University authorities arbitrarily prevented over 100 pre-medical students who met the requirements to cross over to the University College of Medicine, Idi Araba, from doing so. Even though the affected students have since approached the court and obtained an injunction restraining the university, they have not been allowed to register in flagrant violation of the court order.
The Prof. Rahamon Bello-led management of the University of Lagos is one of arbitrariness and impunity. However the message passed by the students’ protests is that it would no longer be business as usual in UNILAG. We urge the students union to boldly continue the agitation and struggle until the demands are met.
The ERC hereby places before the university authorities the following 10-point demand:
(1) Immediate reopening of UNILAG.
(2) No student and union leaders must be victimized for participating in the peaceful protest.
(3) Provision of more generators on campus to ensure electricity supply during outages from the distribution company.
(4) An end to cash and carry education. We demand that all those who need to register pre-requisite courses they failed be allowed to do so without necessarily having to wait an extra year.
(5) An end to all academic injustice. The Unilag pre-medical students must be allowed to cross over to the University College of Medicine.
(6) No to high cost of living. For drastic reduction in the prices of all items on campus. Rents on shops must be drastically reduced as well. For a democratic committee to be set up made up of representatives of students and staff unions, vendors, transport union/associations and management officials to regularly review prices of all items sold on campus and enforce compliance.
(7) For the monopoly of UNILAG water company to be broken. All other producers of pure (sachet) water to have same right and access as Unilag pure water company to supply Unilag market
(8) A democratic probe committee made up of representatives of students, staff unions and alumni to investigate the where-about of the 2 remaining diesel-powered generators and why despite hundreds of millions that accrue to the University of Lagos, the Prof. Rahamon Bello-led management of the University of Lagos is unable to address the poor living and studying conditions on campus.
(9) Immediate renovation of hostels, improvement in the conditions of toilets, bathrooms and water supply to the hostels. We demand more public hostels to be built to eradicate squatting and overcrowding.
(10) Proper funding of UNILAG by the federal government and democratic management of the University.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael OgundeleNational Coordinator (07033697259) National Secretary