UNIVERSITY OF UYO STUDENTS’ UNION AND THE CRISIS OF JUNE 12, 2013
A REPORT BY COMR. LUCKYIMOH INYANG, SUG PRESIDENT UNIVERSITY OF UYO
The University of Uyo like any other Nigerian university, has suffered numerous crises since its inception in 1991. It is well known that crises in Nigerian higher institutions arise as a result of the marginalization of the students, their views and opinions by the management, introduction of policies without adequate consultation with the students or the implementation of policies that are not in the best interest of students’ welfare.
In recent years, management has wielded virtually unchecked authority, successfully intimidating students and student leaders with the threat of terminating their studentship whenever they dare to express their dissent with the views of the university management.
The management has since become highly unreasonable and dictatorial, consistently ignoring the reports and recommendations of Student Union leaders as mere feeble whining and the cries of the Nigerian students as songs that make no meaning. This insensitivity to the yearnings of the students as expressed through their leaders, is what has characterised the University of Uyo’s management for the last 3 years. This has created a monster the students have had to put up with all this while.
It is on record that a few years ago, this administration came up with a policy that closed student registration one month after resumption combined with a penalty of between N2000 to N5000 every semester imposed two weeks after resumption. With the present economic realities in the country and the fact that a significant number of students are self-sponsored, this policy has made students who cannot afford to pay their fees within the one month limit to lose an entire academic session, thereby unnecessarily extending their stay in the institution. It must be noted that the registration process is fraught with difficulty as slow servers, inadequate staff at the receiving banks and unreliable internet connections will combine to frustrate students who ordinarily should be able to pay their fees with minimal discomfort. It is not uncommon for students to sacrifice their lectures for the whole day and still be unable to complete their registration. The attention of the university management has been drawn severally to the inefficiencies of this process, but they have always chosen to pay deaf ear to all the complaints.
This semester, the management in their usual manner, ignored the plea by the Student Union President contained a memo addressed to the Registrar, to extend normal registration by three working days since Wednesday 29 May, 2013 was a public holiday and students could not register on Thursday and Friday due to internet service outage at the receiving banks . This had given rise to a proposed massive student demonstration scheduled for Wednesday June 5, 2013. The union president received a call from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor(Administration) around the hours of 10pm on Tuesday 4 June, 2013 appealing that the president should do everything within his powers to abort the planned protest as the university would reopen the portal for normal registration. The President and his team took the pains to go round the hostels that night to dissuade students from embarking on the planned protest the following day and were at this till about 1am. However, in their conforming to its nature, the management went back on its word and refused to reopen the portal for normal registration as promised thereby tactically stirring the students against the leadership of the union and putting the lives of the union leaders in danger as students almost mobbed them. This singular act succeeded in not only undermining the credibility of the union leaders, but also in making the student lose confidence in their leaders oblivious as they were of the fact that the management had staged the plot. Little wonder why the students refused to listen to the union leadership during the June 12 demonstration.
Last academic session, new set of GSTs were rashly introduced by the school management without adequate sensitization of and interaction with the student community. Today, students are required to pay extra N2000 outside the normal GST registration of N500/course; again, without due consultation with the leadership of the students. The GST registration in itself is a victory for inefficiency with unending queues of students trying to register at the expense of their lectures. These registrations and lectures run simultaneously with the university still expecting students to meet the 75% minimum class attendance mark.
THE UNION’S SECRETARIAT BUILDING
The University of Uyo Student Union Government does not have a befitting secretariat to call her own. The current building occupied SUG is insufficient for officers of the union. However, there is an ambiguous proposed SUG building plan to cost One Billion naira (N1,000,000,000,000.00) with the management demanding that the Union should raise 60% of the cost, which amounts to six hundred million, before the management would contribute 40% of the amount, which is four hundred million naira. The Luckyimoh Inyang led SUG rejected their proposition which the management alleges was agreed to by the union in 2010. We requested that the union should be allowed to draw up a more realistic plan which will meet the current needs of the union, but our request was mysteriously refused.
STUDENTS’ HEALTH INSURANCE SCHEME
Some HMOs under the NHIS had approached the union last year to help reduce the exorbitant fee the management is charging the students on health related activities. The SUG after wide consultation had agreed that Zenith Medicare should provide such services at N2000 only per session to the students as against over N5000 per session charged by the management for similar services and had communicated same to the management, but they refused to permit Zenith Medicare to commence operation and till date have not given the union reasons as to why they have not granted approval for the HMO we adopted to commence operations. This is just an example of a case where management have denied the student union and the entire Nigerian student community their rights to negotiate for and engage services that would benefit the student population.
THE STUDENTS’ BUS SHUTTLE
Management, who had been providing regular shuttle for Engineering students, decided to stop doing so after moving Faculty of Science students to the main campus at Use Offot and to bring in private hands to continue the scheme, but with charges. Instead of allowing the transport company to negotiate directly with the student union, a committee was set up by the management on the 16th of April, 2013 comprising of four management staff and two representatives from the Student Union Government. The committee was inaugurated on the 24th of April, 2013 with the mandate of putting in place a functional shuttle system by 20th May, 2013, when school would be resuming for the second semester of 2012/2013 academic session.
The representatives of the Union had categorically stated that N50 would be realistic one-way fare for students, but this opinion met stiff opposition by the management members of the committee who pegged the price at N100 for a one-way fare. It also important to note that the particular transport company that eventually got the contract to run the bus shuttle in the school had written to the university management prior to the inauguration of the committee, proposing a paid shuttle service. We are therefore insinuating that they had already reached a price agreement with that particular transport company outside the setup of the committee thereby rendering the supposed consultation process through the committee meaningless.
Up until this moment, the Student Union is not aware of the committee’s report from which the management is basing its claims that the union totally accepted the N200 fare. Also, the Student Union is neither privy to nor party to any Memoranda of Understanding(MoU) or agreement entered between the University and the transport company (AA Rescue Ltd); as opposed to the lies peddled by the University’s management that we signed an MoU and entered into an agreement with the transport company.
The Student Union had convened a meeting of student representatives comprising of SUG Excos, Parliamentarians, Faculty Presidents and Departmental Presidents from Faculties of Science and Engineering on Friday 7th June, 2013 to intimate them of the unjust nature of the management’s plan. The student representatives further disagreed with the N200 fare and the outcome of the meeting was immediately communicated to the University management through the Dean of Student Affairs. However, the management went ahead to approve commencement of operations by the private transport company despite the strong disagreement expressed by the student body. This outright disregard for the opinions of the student community even in matters of student welfare is what has characterised the current University of Uyo management.
THE INCIDENT OF JUNE 12, 2013
What began as a peaceful agitation by students who were already late for their morning classes was not anticipated by the union’s leadership and indeed every other level of student union leadership in Uniuyo who relied on the fact that since the scheme was not compulsory, the students exploring alternative means of shuttling to their lectures would send a clear message to the management and the transport company on the unreasonable nature of the N100/trip fare. It is however sad, that all efforts by the SUG President in particular, and other student leaders (including the Peace on Campus Initiative (PCI) and Man O’ War) to calm the students down proved abortive. The agitated students demanded audience with the university management and stated clearly that they wanted to inform the management of their strong disagreement with the draconian transport policy. However, no member of the university management team was ready to address the aggrieved students. The management, rather invited the police to quell the peaceful protest.
The police in their intervention, fired live ammunition in an attempt to disperse the protesting students. They also fired teargas into the annex and town campuses. As a result Comr. Kingsley Udoette a 200 level Zoology Student was shot dead with other students sustaining various levels of injury. At this point (after the killing of the student), the demonstration was hijacked leading to the burning down of the university’s property.
As it happens after any incident, the Nigerian Police Force went round arresting students randomly and indiscriminately. The students, numbering 44 in all, have subsequently been held in horrible conditions in prison custody for over four weeks now. They have been refused bail and have been slapped with ridiculous charges of arson and murder.
With a view to define our position as student union leaders, we all know that conflict is inevitable in every human society and as such what has befallen our university is devastating and was unanticipated. Therefore, we use this medium to express our shock and sympathy over the present state of affairs. We also condole with the family of our student, Late Comr. Kingsley Udoette and the families of the NANS officials who lost their lives while traveling to Uyo in a bid to mediate in the crisis.
1. That the crisis was a result of negligence on the part of management, their nonchalant attitude towards students’ matters/welfare and their disrespect for the advice, opinion and recommendations of the student union leadership.
2. That the University management invited the Police to quell peaceful demonstration.
3. That the University management bluntly refused to address the students throughout the hours of peaceful demonstration.
4. That when the leadership of the Students Union tried to assure the students that a renegotiation would be done with the transport operators, so as to calm down the situation, the management gave a stern warning against such, threatening that we are on our own if we do such.
5. That the police shot and killed Late Comr. Kingsley Udoette, a 200 level Zoology student of University of Uyo.
6. That the peaceful demonstration which the management refused to address lasted for more than eight hours.
7. That the peaceful demonstration was eventually hijacked by miscreants and hoodlums.
8. That the burning of the university’s buildings was not done by students of University of Uyo as no right thinking student would want to burn his or her own records.
9. That the police indiscriminately arrested innocent students, detained them for more than three days and eventually charged these innocent students with murder, arson, etc.
We call on NANS, ASUU, NUJ, NBA, CLO, human right groups and activists, the University’s Governing Council, the Pro Chancellor, the Visitor to the University (His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan), the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State (Chief (Dr.) Godswill Obot Akpabio (CON) ), the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State to help us ensure the following:
1. That the killing of Comr. Kingsley Udoette be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators(s) brought to book.
2. That the Police should release all the innocent Nigerian students arrested.
3. That government at all levels should intervene in the matter in order to quickly resolve the crisis so that full academic activity can resume in the university.
4. That members of the Student Union who have made up their minds to defend the truth be protected from any planned victimization by the University management.
5. That since it is on record that the University of Uyo from inception has not received its take-off grant, the Federal Government should release the said take–off grant for the development of the institution.
1. We commend the setting up of a panel of enquiry by the University of Uyo Council and plead that they carry out their functions without bias.
2. We commend the timely visit of His Excellency, The amiable Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Chief (Dr.) Godswill Obot Akpabio (CON) and his promise to help with the situation. We kindly request that he support the union and the institution with vehicles to alleviate the challenges of transportation within the campuses after all has been put together again.
The Student Union is in no way happy about the mayhem and wanton destruction of the University’s properties and would therefore recommend the following to avoid a reoccurrence of this ugly situation in the future:
1. The University Management should show concern towards the innocent students, most of whom were arrested in the hostels while trying to get their belongings, and should facilitate their release.
2. The Student Union should be adequately involved in student related policy making and should be given enough time and mobilization to sensitize the students and obtain adequate approval before such policies are implemented.
3. Service providers should be allowed to negotiate directly with the Student Union, provided students are the direct and major beneficiaries of such services, and decisions reached communicated to management before such services are rolled out.
4. Adequate time for registration should be given to students each semester and the inefficiencies of the registration process should be straightened out.
Comr. Luckyimoh Inyang, Students’ Union President – University of Uyo.