Students of University of Abuja on Monday took to the street on the main campus of the university, in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja to protest the increase in their school fees imposed by the school management.
They were demanding a reduction in the fees which were increased between 50 and 100 per cent. The students insisted that they would not resume until the university authorities hearken to their demands.
The university was scheduled to re-open on Monday, Feb. 1 for academic activities in preparation for students’ first-semester examination two weeks later but the students chose to stage a protest on the resumption day.
The protest started at 8 am with students blocking the entrance to the main campus of the university along the Airport road.
They later moved to block the Airport road as the protest grew bigger. Witnesses told HumAngle that some personnel of the Nigerian Army shot teargas canisters at the students and flogged some of the protesters.
According to Caleb Okoro, a final year student of Veterinary Medicine, the students regrouped and returned to the school gate.
The Students’ Union Government (SUG) listed four demands, which it said have to be met before the protest is called off. They include reopening and extending the school fee portal till the end of the session, the removal of sanctions for late payment of registration fees, reviewing of school fees and charges ahead of the following session, as well as the postponement of first-semester examinations to March 8, 2021.
Oladoja Habeeb Olawale, the SUG President, called on the Federal Government to intervene because many of the students applied to the university due to affordable fees.
“So the 50 and 100 per cent increase in fees of all departments is hard on people especially with the economic situation of the country,” Olawale said.
Bostock Okafor Chinecherem, a final-year student of the Health Science Department, said before the assumption of office by the Vice-Chancellor of the university, the school fees for Medicine and Surgery was N33,800, but under the present administration, it has risen to N125,500. He described this as unjustifiable.
He added that, before the protest, meetings between the SUG and the university management were unsuccessful in reaching a favourable agreement.
Chinecherem said the management imposed sanctions on students who did not pay before the deadline for the 2019/2020 academic session, but the school has denied this.
“Whoever has not paid after the deadline will have an extra year and those who paid but have not completed the registration will have to pay additional charges of N5000,” he said.
He added that, throughout the lockdown, the portal was not accessible for students to register.
“The problem has not been fixed but just collecting money from students, that is extortion and sheer oppression,” he said.
He confirmed that the school fees portal was blocked and that a lot of students have yet to pay the fees, which places them at risk of having their studentship extended.
He said students had been asking for a reduction of fees before the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) went on strike.
Meanwhile, the university authorities released a press statement on Monday countering the students’ request. The authorities claimed that meetings were held in the past week with the Students’ Union Government about the same demands.
The management stated that the request was granted and the portal reopened on Sunday, Jan. 31. It said the late registration fee for those who had not paid and those who paid but could not register were waived and the N5000 fine was to be refunded to students who already paid.
The management added that it was surprised “that while so many of our students were excited to be resuming to campus today after ten months at home, they were held back by some elements among students who are protesting the same issue that had already been addressed by the University.”
It appealed to students not to partake in disrupting the 2019/2020 Academic Calendar, considering the amount of time lost to the ASUU strike and COVID-19 pandemic. It noted that it was putting all necessary measures in place to address “this unfortunate development”.