Students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife, on Tuesday took to the street to protest against the alleged proscription of the students’ union by the management of the institution.
The students under the aegis of Action Committee of the Great Ife Students’ Union said they are challenging the power of the university’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede, to proscribe a “democratic union of the institution.”
The protest affected free flow of traffic for about an hour at Olaiya Junction, where the aggrieved students gathered to sensitize members of the public about their plight.
After the protest, the students led by Comrade Dunsin Olowolafe addressed a press conference at the Osun State chapter of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists.
Olowolafe alleged that the university proscribed the students union of the body’s resistance of the “unfavorable accommodation policy which tried to increase the tuition fees at the Faculty of Health Sciences to N85, 000.”
He accused the university management of selecting some new Hall executives to impose the “unfavorable accommodation policy” on the students.
He said: “The accommodation policy was a wicked response to the crisis of congestion on the university campus. The residential hostels which accommodated about 70 percent of the students were decongested by driving majority of the students to town/off campus, a situation which degenerated into a transportation crisis on the campus.”
Olowolafe said the students who are now living in town are facing untold hardship of hike in house rent and exposed to series of crimes and attacks.
Demanding a probe of the Vice Chancellor and recovery of funds meant for the construction of four new affordable halls of residences, he called for “inauguration of a democratically elected students’ union, an end to ban on the freedom of students to associate freely, end to brutality by porters, school security and the police.”
Other demands by the students include “sufficient and quality lecture theaters and residential hostels, proper funding of education sector with at least 26 percent of the country’s budget, public probe of all released to the institution, payment of all owed wages and allowances of education workers and the implementation of new minimum wage.”
In a reaction, the university said the decision to suspend the central students union was taken in the overall interest of the majority of students.
In a telephone chat, the university spokesperson, Mr. Abiodun Olanrewaju, said the protesters were only exhibiting “undue youthful exuberance,” saying the unionism in the university was never proscribed but suspended “because of infighting among the students over union dues and this could result in loss of lives and property if not checked promptly.”
He said the university management was more concerned about peaceful conduct and protection for serious students, who were determined to be focused on their academic pursuit.
According to him: “They are exhibiting undue youthful exuberance. They are always fighting over union dues and if this was not attended promptly to could claim lives and loss of property. The university only suspended the central union not at the departmental, faculty and halls of residence.
“On the accommodation, we have 6,750 freshers in need of where to stay and we have only space for 6,000 against the over 33,000 students’ population. This is the reason the management is calling on well-meaning Nigerians to come and build hostels in support of the school. Also, about their demands for adequate funding of education, they know appropriate quarter to direct their demand.”