Nigeria - OAU students vow to militantly resist increase in fees

The process of privatisation and increase in school fees is common the world over. In Nigeria there are plans to impose huge increases in university fees on students who are already finding it difficult to cover their costs. At the same time, university staff has not been receiving wages. At the OAU University in Ife Nigeria the workers and the students are fighting back. The workers have been out on strike and the students are supporting them. We are publishing a press statement we have received from the Ife students.

The process of privatisation and increase in school fees is common the world over. In Nigeria there are plans to impose huge increases in university fees on students who are already finding it difficult to cover their costs. At the same time, university staff has not been receiving wages. At the OAU University in Ife Nigeria the workers and the students are fighting back. The workers have been out on strike and the students are supporting them. Below we publish a press statement we have received from the Ife students. Messages of support to the workers and students of Ife OAU university would help to boost their morale and show them that they are not alone

Press statement of the OAU-Ife Student Union

We are highly perturbed by the University authorities' military-like stance on the currently increased school fees payable by students when the school resumes despite pleas from all the stakeholders in the University that the decision be rescinded.

The workers' Unions, both academic and non-academic (ASUU, NASU and SSANU) together with the Students' Union have repeatedly maintained that the increment will not only result in the withdrawal of a significant number of students but it can also put an end to the peace at the University.

We believe that our parents who are currently facing harsh economic conditions should not be further pauperised by this satanic agenda to increase fees. The fresh student will now be made to pay 9,500 Naira as against 1,050, while the stale students will have to pay 4590 as against 590.

We believe that an average student currently (without the increment) spends nothing less than N100,000 a session which covers feeding, transportation, cost of textbooks, handouts and clothing. The most pathetic aspect of it is that about 60% of the students in Ife are self-sponsored and consequently will have no other option than to withdraw from the system due to their inability to pay the extortionate charges.

Education, we believe, is a social service which must be free - funded from the resources of society which the government holds in trust for the people. Our parents pay direct and indirect taxes, we pay indirectly by purchasing some items, the government realises a lot from oil and other investments which should in turn be used to provide essential services of which education is but a part.

We, the students of OAU-Ife have always canvassed for proper funding of the educational sector, even up to 26% of budgetary allocation as recommended by UNESCO (to which Nigeria is a signatory) as the minimum..

It is very regrettable that this present government spends a meagre 5.6% of the 2002 budget on the educational sector. This has resulted in crises generated by non-payment of workers' salaries (Lagos State University, OAU Ile-Ife), unjust retrenchment of staff (University of Ilorin, UI), and increment in payable charges in our institutions. All these among others, have made our institution very restive and engulfed with genuine workers' strikes and student agitation. Our institutions are today better described as citadels of crisis. More students have disengaged from their studies thereby contributing to an increase in destitution and crime in society in general.

It is in the view of this that we vow that all attempts towards sending us on an academic journey of no return through the imposition of extortionate fees will be militantly resisted by us to the last drop of blood in our veins.

At OAU-Ife, there abounds a serious misappropriation of the available resources by the University authorities, who now want to make students pay for their financial recklessness. The University accounts remain the personal property of the Vice-Chancellor who has refused to publish them despite calls for such by the students‚ and workers' unions on the campus.

Today in Ife, due to the administrative ineptitude of the authorities, all the workers' Unions are on strike and this has paralysed academic activities on our campus. The University should by now be marching gloriously to an important date in our academic history (i.e. its 40th Anniversary) and we believe that a conducive atmosphere should be created where every member (student or worker) can have a sense of belonging. Instead of this, the University authorities have decided to celebrate the anniversary (contrary to tradition, e.g. UI's 50th and UNILORIN's 25th anniversaries) away from the University campus thus wasting our acclaimed University's "lean resources" on transporting University officials and materials to far-away Port-Harcourt, Kaduna, Enugu etc. We condemn this untraditional act and deliberate wasting of University resources on unnecessary and avoidable transport costs.

An endowment fund of about N5bn has been set up as part of the anniversary which we believe is achievable if a conducive atmosphere were created on our campus. This would mean putting a stop to the anti-student/worker policies of the Prof. Roger Makanjuola-led administration.

We appeal to the teeming Nigerian masses to mount pressure on the University authorities to stop the agenda of increase in school fees. These increases can engender an unprecedented crisis and we are ready to resist vehemently this satanic agenda with all means possible.

All attempts made by the Union to resolve the matter amicably have proved abortive due to the uncooperative attitude of the University authorities. We initiated a meeting between the Union and the authorities which took place on Friday, August 16, 2002, but unfortunately this ended in deadlock. Peace-loving Nigerians and bodies, including the Alumni Association, students' and workers' unions, including NANS, have appealed to the authorities to rescind their decision but they choose to remain adamant.

Conclusively, we make bold to say that at no time are we going to bear the brunt of the irresponsibility of the government and the mismanagement, misappropriation and embezzlement of funds by the University administration.

We Demand:
1. That the University authorities rescind their decision on the increase in fees.
2. Proper funding of education by the government up to 26% of our annual budget (UNESCO's minimum).
3. That an independent panel be set up to include all stakeholders on the campus to look into the financial accounts of the University.
4. Payment of workers' (SSANU, NASU and ASUU) entitlements being unjustly withheld by the Authorities.

Ife, Nigeria,
September 30, 2002