Peace is a lost treasure at the Ekiti State University. Barely one week after the university resumed, the EKSU chapter of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on a sit-at-home strike over the non-payment of their three months salaries (August, September and October).
As the strike paralysed academic activities of the school, aggrieved students of the university quietly began beating their own war drum over the increment in tuition fees, coupled with the unwillingness of the management to conduct the students’ union election.
In a closed door meeting held on November 4, 2014, the EKSU-ASUU declared an indefinite strike, citing concerns on unpaid salaries totaling three months. One of the lecturers who craved anonymity said, “We are not just owed three month salary, we have been owed allowances by the university under the leadership of Prof. Dipo Aina. We have been civil enough to enter into many deliberations with them but they don’t seem to understand that language of dialogue but strike. ASUU is truly sorry that a new session has to start this way but the management left us with no option. The students have just resumed and need to be in class already but how do you expect us to teach on empty stomach?”
Investigation by our reporter revealed that while ASUU commenced an indefinite strike, students have called for the removal of the Vice Chancellor, Prof Aina. They accuse him of incompetence, anti-student policy and unnecessary delay of academic calendar.
One of the students’ union leaders said, “Our demand is sane and tactical, in other schools, the higher up you go in class, the lesser your school fee but here in EKSU, the higher you go, the higher the fee you pay. That’s pure extortion”. Another student who craved for anonymity said: “They said our tuition fee is N50,000 but they add many other levies to the tuition fee like medical bills (N5000), internet (N5000), sports (N7000), field trip (N10000 and it also varies). Students of Geology, Psychology and others pay for field trip even after it had been captured in the tuition fee.
Another student accused the management of anti-students’ policies, saying, “We are supposed to have an election this semester into all elective posts of the Students’ Union but the management said we can’t conduct an election because they don’t have a way to assert legitimate voters until 75% of students pay school fees. Which school in Nigeria does that?”
One of the students, Ojekunle Niyi, said the election was supposed to have been held last semester but it was cancelled because they said we can’t conduct two elections in one academic session.
“Let me take you through the history lane, our union was proscribed for about three years and was only unbanned in the first semester of last session. The Students’ Union constitution states that there shall be a Union election every second semester but because of the numerous hiccups caused by the university management, we had to conduct the election which brought in a management student union President in the first semester of last session”.
In a meeting with the Dean of Student Affairs, Prof Issac Adanlawo, he said 75 per cent of students have to pay their school fees to enable the university to compile a comprehensive list of voters. He added that the constitution of the union said only bonafide students of the university would be allowed to vote and until the students pay up their fees, they cannot claim to be bonafide students. He maintained that the university has the interest of the students at heart, noting that it was in pursuance of students’ welfare that it came up with the idea of Transition Committee, Interim Government or Acting President.
But some of the students told our reporter that the management was playing a fast game. They accused the school of increasing the school fees without any explanation.
“They don’t want a body that would agitate for the reduction of the fees and don’t forget, Ekiti has been at the centre of party politics in Nigeria since January. Ekiti State University is also on the radar. Our parents at home still believe the new governor would reduce the school fee and they are waiting for the fee slash before they send us the school fee. As a matter of fact, most parents still don’t know how much their children and wards are going to pay for this session”, one of the students explained.
Our reporter gathered that there was a secret plan to organize 10,000 students’ protest march to the office of the Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayo Fayose. An insider told our reporter that the students placed the removal of the Vice Chancellor top on their demand list, as well as the reduction of the school fees and better funding of the university.