Some students of the University of Lagos have called on security operatives from the Sabo Police station to release some of their colleagues arrested during a peaceful protest without delay.
The students who thronged the main gate of the institution at about 8 a.m. were agitating the hike in obligatory fees as stipulated by management of the university.
Recall that the institution’s management, through a statement, issued on Aug. 21, had announced an adjustment in obligatory fees in the university.
It noted that the adjustment which would take effect from the first semester of 2023/2024 academic session, was in view of the prevailing economic realities and the need for the university to be able to meet its obligation to its students, staff and municipal service providers among others.
It further noted that the mandatory charges for one academic session for new undergraduate students include N126, 325, for courses without laboratory/studio.
The statement also indicated N176,325 as mandatory charges for one academic session for courses with laboratory and studio.
A further breakdown of the approved mandatory charges for one academic year or session for returning students showed that they would pay N100,750 for courses without laboratory and studio, among others.
Mr Balogun Ibrahim, a student leader of the institution, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in an interview that there was no going back on their struggle to get the fees reviewed downward.
“The reason we are here is to register our displeasure over the about 500 per cent increase in the obligatory fees, by management of the university. Before now, we went into dialogue with management, which I personally attended.
“Another student in person of Oyeolumade Oluwakemi was also there. Now, management has refused to honour the resolution of that meeting that happened on Aug. 2.
“We were told that we will be engaged again over the matter but up on till as we speak, we are yet to hear from management.
“Now as concerned student leaders, we have received a lot of bashing from our fellow students, that we are keeping quiet and nothing is being done to defend their interest.
“These students, especially the new and even returning ones, are unable to pay these current fees; as we speak, the statistics of persons that have been able to pay these fees is not up to 10 per cent,” he said.
According to him, with the current hike in the obligatory fees, the students have resorted to crowd funding for themselves, while wondering, how many of such students will benefit from such initiative.
He called on the university management to see reason with the students as their purpose for protesting was not an attack on the institution and their persons.
Ibrahim, who is also the Faculty of Education President elect, added that there was the need for a round table discussion that would include students representatives, so as to get their voices heard.
He noted that the such dialogue would ensure that they were carried along effectively in matters that concerned them, as well as collectively find lasting solutions to challenges.
The student leader further expressed disatisfaction over the way security operatives came after them, even when the protest was peaceful and without arms, or any show of disrespect to constituted authorities.
“This morning, when we converged at the UNILAG junction, some security operatives from the Sabo division, swooped on us, teargased us shot at our banners and took some of our colleagues away with them.
“As we speak, a number of our students, I don’t know the exact figure, have been arrested and taken to Panti. So, we also demand for the immediate release of these our colleagues, else, we will not leave the street,” he stated.
Mr Miracle Yemo, who also identified himself as a student leader, said management should as a matter of urgency, reconsider its stand, considering the current economic reality in the country.
According to him, management of the university has made efforts in addressing the protesting students but had yet to address the purpose for the protest.
Reacting to the development, Prof. Musa Obalola, Dean, Student Affairs Division of the university, told NAN that the university was not unmindful of the presence of some indigent students.
According to him, the hike in obligatory charges is not peculiar to the university alone, and has nothing to do with tuition, but rather, basic needs that would ensure quality teaching and learning outcomes.
He noted that the university’s current obligatory fees was one of the least, when compared with that of other federal universities across the country.
“Before now, what the university was charging as fees was between N18,000 to N20,000 a session. This has been on for about 20 years now, these charges remained the same.
“But we have come to a state where these charges can no longer cater for our present needs, if we must compete favourably with our counterparts globally.
“Government has actually been doing a lot but if we must be sincere, we will realize that we can no longer fund free education as a country, considering the current economic reality on ground.
“We can no longer continue this way. So, what we did was to review the obligatory fees which has to do with the use of laboratory, medicals, library, sports ad studio among others, in a bid to give our students the much desired quality teaching,” the dean stated.
He said that management had put some measures in place, especially for indigent students, who might be struggling with payment of fees, to help cushion the effect of the increase.
Obalola listed some of the measures as ‘Adopt a Student Project’, whereby management had been approaching some notable personalities in the society to assist in taking up responsibility of some students.
He also mentioned the ‘Work and Study Project’ coordinated by the Student Affairs Division, among others.
“As we speak, it may interest you to know that the Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, has proposed to adopt a medical student and this is coming from her meagre salary,” the don stated.
He claimed that most of the alleged students that participated in the protest were not students of the university.
According to him, the university has been engaging the students from time to time on issues concerning the workings of the institution.
“These ones that are protesting here today could have been recruited from other places and this could also have a political undertone, going by the current atmosphere in the country.
“It is not about University of Lagos. Some persons could want to masquerade behind protest to perpetrate evil. And that is why I say substantially, most of those parading themselves as students that are protesting are not our students.
“Our students are currently on vacation and I will admonish them to remain the law abiding students that they have always been.
“The security operatives may have responded based on intelligence report on plans to hijack the protest by some criminal elements. ” he said.