Tuesday 23 February 2016

ERC Seeks Justice at Michael Okpara University

Demands Release of Fact-Finding Committee Report
Press Statement

A rights group, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that justice is done at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike (MOUAU) in relation to the litany of allegations of abuse of office, corruption, nepotism and mismanagement leveled by four staff unions against the out-going Vice Chancellor, Prof. Hilary Edeoga.

Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike is an institution established by the Federal Government to produce highly-rated graduates in Agriculture, Science and technology and to be a vehicle for the attainment of the primary goals of the National Agricultural Policy of self sufficiency in food and fibre production.

In a statement signed by the group’s National Coordinator and Secretary respectively, Comrades Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Michael Ogundele, the ERC also demanded the “immediate release and public disclosure of the report of a fact-finding committee constituted by the Federal Government at the instance of petitions filed by the Academic Staff Unions of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Universities and Associated Institutions (SSANU), Non Academic Staff Unions of Universities (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) who have consistently opposed the anti-worker and undemocratic policies of the VC”.

“Since the Fact-Finding Committee finished its work after it visited the University, nothing has been heard about the report. The immediate release and public disclosure of the report is important now especially considering the fact that Prof. Hilary Edeoga, being the dramatic personae of the entire crisis, will conclude his tenure on February 29, 2016. Before he leaves, the Federal Government holds the University community  a duty of revealing whether or not Prof. Edeoga is guilty as charged and what punishment would be meted to him and any other officials that may have connived with him to perpetrate all the atrocities” The group said.

The group claimed the allegations against Prof. Hilary Edeoga are weighty and must therefore not be swept under the carpet.

“Some of the allegations include serious breaches that have ramifications for the entire University system. There are for example, instances of cases of academic fraud, extortion of money from students, lack of effective academic leadership and nepotism in appointment. Most recently, forty-four (44) faculty members who did not satisfy the conditions precedent for appointment into the professorial cadre were appointed professors and associate professors. If our Universities are ever going to be able to effectively discharge their core functions which includes arming a new generation with ideas, knowledge and skill to take up leadership of the country in different fields, they must be democratic and free from corruption, autocracy and nepotism. These means such serious allegations of corruption and nepotism that have been leveled against Prof. Hilary Edeoga must be taken seriously”

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                            Michael Ogundele                          
National Coordinator (07033697259)                 National Secretary

Friday 19 February 2016


 For a Public Probe into the Activities of ABUAD 
Press statement

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls for the unconditional release of 31 students arrested on account of the February 7, 2016 protest that occurred at the Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD). ABUAD is a private university established by the legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN).

We call for a public probe into the activities of the institution especially going by various allegations of highhandedness and victimization on the part of the administration. This call becomes important because ABUAD is a seriously autocratic institution lacking any respect for democratic rights and having an administration that routinely employs rogue methods characteristic of corporate mafia to cover up the truth, whip students and workers into line and silence critics.

The ERC feels strongly that the February 7 protest is not merely a demonstration of a few disgruntled students “with poor academic performance” as the University would have us believe. Rather it is a product of students’ pent-up rage and frustration as a result of the various anti-student policies of the institution’s management.

While we do not condone violence, the ERC feels that the allegation that students destroyed university properties raises the need for ABUAD to allow for independent Students Unionism through which students can convey their opinion and displeasure to the administration without resulting to violence.

However in spite of the fact that the ABUAD’s founder, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) is a respected legal luminary, his private University does not allow Students Unionism to operate in clear violation of the provisions of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended).

The crisis in ABUAD proves the failure of private Universities as a solution to the crisis of tertiary education. Not only are these private institutions established solely for profit, they are run in such a shady and undemocratic manner that they are unable to truly serve the interest of the public neither are they accountable to anyone except the founder. If the truth must be told, the way ABUAD is being managed is not in any way different from a farm estate where the founder, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), is the lord of the manor and students are the farm hands who must be diligent, loyal and obey all rules even if those rules are nonsensical. Dissent opinions, when expressed, are routinely clamped upon so viciously like a wild lion charging a stray goat.

We recall for instance last year that the University suddenly hiked the fees of its Clinical students (400 Level medical students) from the already whopping sum of N1.7 million to a stupefying sum of N2.6 million. When the students attempted to protest through social media and also contacted radical groups like the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), the University immediately swung into action by clamping down on them with reports, though unverified, that some were victimized in the process. The result was that the agitation for reversal of the hiked fee stopped while the online campaign disappeared.

Only public-funded and democratically-managed academic institutions can guarantee quality education that can be of benefit to the people and not a rich few while also respecting democratic rights and dissenting views.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                            Michael Ogundele                          
National Coordinator (07033697259)                 National Secretary                                  

Thursday 18 February 2016



The Education Rights Campaign (ERC), University of Lagos (UNILAG) branch, condemns the undemocratic decision of the University administration to prevent 100 Level medical students from proceeding to the University College of Medicine, Idi-Araba to continue their programme.
Two weeks to their final examination, the University administration, citing a fresh index system, changed the rule which now require first year medical students to obtain a minimum cumulative CGPA of 4.1 before they can proceed to the University College of Medicine. The University management claimed the number of students that passed exceeds the required number, hence their decision to coerce students to go and study courses they did not sign for.

Before the final examination, the university administration fraudulently admitted students beyond the school capacity because of the fat gains and profits they expected to make from students especially the Diploma students. If the University administration was fair and just, it would have admitted students it knows it had capacity to handle. Therefore the University administration has no genuine excuse whatsoever to coerce students to study courses they did not sign up for. Not only is the conduct of the University administration outrageous and reprehensible, it also betrays a complete disregard for students’ fundamental human rights as established under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria (As Amended).

The university system is guided by laws, mores and traditions set decades back. Nowhere in the University system in the whole world are students allocated programmes and courses they did not sign up for. We call on staff unions (ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT) to also condemn the action of the administration and demand that this decision be immediately reversed. This is crucial to prevent an embarrassing situation developing that could sully the image of UNILAG and the integrity of the University system. 

Again, the public must be wary of being fooled. Quota for admission into faculties and programmes has long been set by the National University Commission (NUC) and other regulatory agencies. But because of profit-motive, Universities often admit beyond the set quotas hoping to make more money from the extra fees. Therefore if the University has admitted more students beyond its quota, that is no fault of the students. Students should therefore not be made to suffer for a crisis they did not cause. 

It is disheartening that up till this moment, the University administration has not mapped out any feasible solution to the problem. All they did was to coerce the students to go and study other courses they did not apply for. This is a breach of contract.  The attempt to impose on them courses, other than medicine, must be resisted. We call on the Students Union, and staff unions to form a united front and resist this autocratic tendency of the University administration.

Julius Samuel (Prakash)                                                                   Ilesanmi Samson (Samkol)
 Branch Coordinator                                                                        Mobilization Officer

Thursday 11 February 2016

ERC Demands Freedom for Detained Secondary School Students in Osun

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has called for the immediate release of seven (7) secondary school students arrested and detained in prison custody and corrective centres for protesting against Aregbesola’s anti-poor education policies.

The secondary school students, 5 of whom are juveniles, were arrested after they protested last week on February 4, 2016 in Ile-Ife against the decision of the state government to stop the payment of their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) fees. The state government excuse was that they failed mock examinations.

Reacting to this, the ERC argued that it is the poor condition of education in the state that makes it difficult for students to pass examinations. In the group’s opinion therefore, it is wrong for the state government to criminalize the victims of its failure to provide enabling atmosphere for quality education in the state.

The arrested students are: Ayodele Michael (18), Adeleke Sodiq (18), Adisa Sefiu (16), Adebisi Jamiu (16), Olatunji Segun (16), Ayoh Festus (16) and Chioma Anuoluwapo (16). The presiding Magistrate of the Osogbo magistrate court, Olusola Aluko, during the arraignment on Tuesday ordered the accused persons to be remanded in prison pending a formal bail application by their Counsel.

In a statement sent to the media on Thursday 11 February 2016 and signed by the group’s National Coordinator and Secretary, comrades Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Michael Ogundele respectively, the ERC described the arrest and detention of juveniles “as a new low in Governor Aregbesola’s repression of dissent views”.

“Before now, the state government had visited similar repressive attacks on trade unionists, academic staff striking for their rights as well as civil societies and socialist activists in the State. Feeling the dead weight of its own increasing unpopularity as a result of its mismanagement of state resources which has led to the current situation of indebtedness and cash crunch in the state, the Aregbesola government has turned to a despotic government lashing out at everyone who dare question its anti-poor policies. From using state boys and DSS operatives to harass civil society activists, lecturers, medical doctors and workers striking for their rights, Aregbesola government has now attained new lows that even the worst military regime in Nigeria’s history could not attain. Young people, barely 18, and minors are now the latest victims of Aregbesola’s machinery of repression. Instead of keeping them in school, Governor Aregbesola has locked them in prison where they would be educated in all sorts of vices. Every day they spend in prison custody is an indictment on Governor Aregbesola and a sore in our collective conscience as a people”.

The ERC pointed out that while it does not approve of violence which reportedly occurred during the students’ protest in Ile-Ife, it feels strongly that more harm would be done to society when children who should be in school are locked up in jail. No matter the excuses, the overriding consideration should be whether or not these children were right to have protested against a decision that would have negative consequence for their future.
“From putting computer tablets in the hands of school children just a few years ago, Aregbesola’s government has degenerated to such a level that it now put handcuffs around their wrists. If anyone should be in jail, it is the anti-poor politicians and particularly officials of the Osun State government whose mismanagement of the state’s resources is responsible for the situation where welfare programmes like payment of WASSCE fees that children from poor working families used to enjoy are now being withdrawn under different guises.” - The group added.

The group also called on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), civil society organizations and the Nigerian working masses to publicly condemn the state government and demand the immediate and unconditional release of the seven (7) students in detention.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                            Michael Ogundele                          
National Coordinator (07033697259)                 National Secretary