Hundreds of aggrieved students of the Lagos State University, LASU, as well as a coalition of civil society groups led by Joint Action Front, JAF, Tuesday morning besieged the Lagos State House of Assembly in protest against the hike in school fees of the institution and other issues that have hindered smooth academic activities in the school.
•Obafunwa, LASU VC
The protesters, who stormed the House from the Textile Labour House on Acme Road, Agidingbi area of the state in southern Nigeria, where they had mobilised, were armed with placards with various anti-government inscriptions and chanted anti-government songs to press home their grievances.
According to secretary of JAF, Com. Abiodun Aremu, the group is supporting the students protest to save the country from future decay.
“On behalf of the Joint Action Front, we endorse the protest for one reason, and the reason is that the right to education is non-negotiable.
“The crisis in LASU is basically about the hike in school fees, which makes it impossible for parents that are already undermined by the decadence in the economy to afford education for their children.
“No parent should vote for the present administration that is denying their children a right to be liberated,” Aremu said.
In another petition written on behalf of the #SaveLASU Campaign Movement by the Education Rights Campaign, ERC, and submitted to Lagos State House of Assembly, the group demanded the reopening of LASU on 24 February, for all students, reversal of hiked fees and review of the Assembly’s resolutions on the 23 January crisis that occurred in the institution.
In the petition made available to P.M.NEWS, the group stated that the new calendar as approved by the university’s Senate showed how deceitful, vengeful and insensitive the Prof. Obafunwa-led management was.
“This calendar announced by the university management on 17 February, 2014 is unfair to a majority of students of the institution especially those in 100, 200 and 300 levels,” the petition said.
The deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly was about to address the students and activists at the time of this report.
The institution’s management had shut down the school on 23 January after students rioted and destroyed school property and vehicles belonging to top officials of the school.
The protesters, who had disrupted the second semester examination over the institution’s closure of its registration portal, also almost lynched their Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Obafunwa, as they pelted him with stones and vandalised his car as he tried to evade the riot by escaping through an alternative route beside Conoil Filling station close to the school.
But the VC and other management team, who were summoned to the state House of Assembly over the crisis, told the lawmakers that less than 2,000 of the about 12,000 students of the institution were yet to register fully for their courses before the portal was shut.
Prof. Obafunwa had told the lawmakers, who pleaded for the re-opening of the registration portal, that he almost lost his life as some of the students, who were masked and carrying dangerous weapons, went in search of some targeted officials of the institution.
He said the management decided to shut the portal so as to adequately prepare the registered students for the second semester examination, and since only 1,292 students were yet to register.
But the representatives of the Students’ Union Government, SUG, told the lawmakers that the entire riot stemmed from the hike in the institution’s fees from N25,000 to between N193,750 and N348,750 depending on the course.
They said they had warned the management team of the impending riot if the portal was not opened as the students were really angry but that the VC boasted that he was prepared for the students.
The House which condemned the students’ action, also set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the causes of the riot and recommend solutions.
The Leader of the House, Dr. Ajibayo Adeyeye, who chairs the committee, had told P.M.NEWS days ago that the House would not rest until those considered to have perpetrated the ‘criminal protest’ are punished.
He justified the high school fees, maintaining that the state government was spending too much per student in the school.
According to him, “when this school fees brouhaha broke out, I remember the Lagos Assembly took it up seriously because of the sentiments of the people. They elected us and thus prevailed on us.
“Fortunately, I ended up as the chairman of the committee set up by the House to look into it. We went into the books in trying to convince the governor and his team on why the school fees should be reduced. And you would be astonished what we found.
“Well over N700,000 was spent on every student in LASU every year. How did we find that? We added the salaries in the institution together, the running cost and all the money the institution collects from our budget and we divided by the number of students there and this came to N700,000 per child.
“If you give N700,000 to one of my constituents that has learnt welding in Ajegunle to go and establish himself, he would end up employing five people. That amount meant that the state government would spend N2.8 million on a student of LASU in four years only for him to come and stay at home looking for job. You would say can’t the government employ them? But how many can the government employ?”