ERC Calls for Reversal of hiked fee and other exploitative charges
For Unconditional Restoration of Students’ Union and an End to Intimidation of Student Activists
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls for immediate reversal of hiked fees at the University of Jos and proper funding of the institution by the Federal Government. Against the background of the economic hardship in the country, we consider the fee hike insensitive, vexatious, anti-poor and clearly exploitative.
We equally condemn the decision of the University of Jos management to force students to pay a N1, 000 levy for the rebuilding of a burnt library in the institution as an attempt to exploit students and dispossess them of their parents hard earned money.
Recently, the management of University of Jos led by Professor Seddi Sebastian Maimako hiked fees for returning students from N27, 400 to N45, 000. To rubberstamp this anti-poor increment, the UNIJOS management convened a kangaroo parents/guardians meeting at which students union representatives and genuine parents were prevented from speaking. In a cynical and vexatious manner, the Vice Chancellor claimed that by increasing fees to N45, 000, he is merely implementing a Federal government directive to the effect that no fee in any federal tertiary institution should be higher than N45, 000.
But contrary to Prof. Maimako’s fraudulent interpretation, this policy was apparently introduced by the federal government apparently to put a ceiling on fee hike against the background of the reckless manner Vice Chancellors had been increasing fees over the years. Before now, fresh students in UNIJOS paid something between N71, 000 and N100, 000 while returning students paid N27, 400. Now to implement this policy, the UNIJOS management decided to reduce the outrageous fees of fresh students to N45, 000 while jerking up the fee of returning students to N45, 000 thereby effectively recouping whatever shortfall the University may have incurred as a result of the reduction made in fresh students’ fees.
As far as we are concerned, the responsibility to fund public education is that of the government. As the custodian of Nigeria’s resources and wealth, it is the government’s responsibility to make available the funds necessary to ensure that all people of school-going age are able to attend standard and quality public schools so that they can in turn contribute the knowledge and skills acquired towards the country’s development and progress. The actions of the Prof. Maimako-led University of Jos management is an attempt to pass this responsibility to parents.
As we write, the N45, 000 fee hike is being imposed on hapless students in a despotic and violent manner despite the public opposition already expressed by the students union and even some staff unions. A climate of fear and terror now envelopes the campus as Prof. Maimako and his minions are on the prowl to intimidate and victimize anyone that criticizes the hiked fee in any way. Infact for speaking up against the hike, the UNIJOS management dissolved the Students Union and replaced it with a Caretaker committee – an affront on the right to independent unionism. According to a press release by the office of the UNIJOS Vice chancellor, the Students Union was dissolved for the following reasons:
“the decision of its members to convene a meeting of Students without due approval from the Directorate of Students Affairs which resulted in a protest where the Students were carrying placards against the School Administration for implementing a Federal Government directive of new School Charges for all Federal Government Universities. The SUG officials had similarly mobilized Students to attend the Stakeholders meeting with parents uninvited and were shouting down parents during the course of the meeting. The Vice-Chancellor adduced other reasons for the dissolution to include externalizing an internal issue affecting the University without following the acceptable laid down procedures for conflict resolution in the University, intimidating and issuing threats to law abiding Students including fresh Students who are willing to comply with the payment of the new School Charges. The SUG officials were also accused of maligning the Principal Officers of the University including the Vice-Chancellor on various media platforms including the social media while misinforming members of the public on the action taken by the University Authorities in the process of implementing the new School Charges.”
Now by a new circular, the University’s governing council has resolved to reinstate the Students Union so far each of the Union officials is prepared to do the following: (1) Write a letter of apology to the management for tarnishing the image of the University in the public domain (2) Pledge to be of good behavior and maintain good discipline and (3) that they do not introduce any discussion on the approved new charges of N45, 000.
The target of all these is to intimidate the union leaders and severely limit students’ freedom of expression and association so that they will not be able to resist the implementation of the fee hike. We oppose this despotic method and call on the Prof. Maimako-led UNIJOS management to stop violating the students democratic rights to freedom of expression and association. Most importantly, we call on the mass of UNIJOS students not to give up on their rights to speak up and resist injustice. We urge ASUU, NASU, NASU, NAAT chapters of UNIJOS, civil organizations and the labour movement to speak up and condemn this assault on democratic rights and the anti-poor increment of fees in UNIJOS.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto
National Coordinator (07033697259)