Lagos University Students Storm State Assembly, Vandalise Properties Over Hike In Fees
Students of the Lagos State University (LASU), Thursday afternoon stormed the state House of Assembly and left only after vandalising properties of the Assembly and journalists who had come to cover the day's sitting.
The students had since last week abandoned classes and taken to the streets over a hike in their tuition fees which residents of the state believe is too astronomical for any parent or guardian. Huhuonline.com learnt that the institution which is just waking up from the several crises facing the institution resulting in de-accreditation of some courses by the National Universities Commission (NUC) recently increased the university's tuition by 1, 272 per cent.
The government claimed it was acting on a white paper by the visitation panel to the institution during the crises period. From the recommendation of the visitation panel, the least amount to be paid as tuition fees by the students is N193, 750 while the students of the Faculty of Medicine would be made highest which was put at N348, 750 from the usual N25, 000 which they paid across board.
The protest had resulted in the students distorting normal activities both within the institution and its immediate environment. A lawmaker, Lanre Ogunyemi, who had recounted to his colleagues an experience by an unnamed political office holder in the state, said that the students beat the senior appointee of the state and tore his clothes, making him escape in nudity.
The House had as a result, invited the state Commissioner of Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye, the Special Adviser to Governor Babatunde Fashola on Education, Fatai Olukoga, officials of the university management and the executive members of the Student Union Government of the institution.
However, as early as 8am on Thursday, the students had thronged the Assembly complex in some vehicles belonging to the Lagbus services which were seized from the drivers. They also came in commercial vehicles and blocked all the entrances to the complex.
But they became enraged when the private security operatives within the Assembly premises deprived them from entering the compound or even the chamber. They immediately became violent and after beating some of the security personnel they could lay their hands on, they began to vandalise vehicles and the Assembly property. They went into the canteen located within the complex and ate all the food they could find without payment.
While they chanted anti-government songs, they also pasted posters around the Assembly premises calling the attention of the lawmakers to their plights.
Meanwhile, within the chamber, the SUG President, Durojaiye Akeem Olalekan, told the lawmakers that though the fees would not affect them as they have been told that the new fees regime would begin with the students of the 2011/2012 session, the students feel quite unsatisfied with the high increase as many parents in the state could barely afford three square meals daily.
According to him, while many of the parents are only toiling to see their children in school, the government has refused to see that these parents are affected by the country's economic woes and as such, many of them could die of health-related challenges coming from the news of the increase.
He also argued that the institution is not privately owned and should not be priced as such or compared with them. He further said students in private institutions within the country get value for the money they pay as school fees, but that in LASU, nothing works even with the huge government subvention it gets yearly.
He said there were no infrastructure in place, the Faculty of Agriculture is always a no-go area when it rains, and that students are afraid of visiting the institution's clinic as they are scared of having the illnesses compounded by lack of drugs or wrong prescriptions.
The Speaker of the SUG, Azeez Olawale, who broke down the new fees regime questioned the reason behind the collection of some fees which do not have direct bearing on their activities in the institution.
The Acting Vice Chancellor, Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello, while explaining to the lawmakers, said the school's management was implementing the instruction given it by the state government on the hike. She gave the impression that she had no choice.
When called upon to give his side of the issue, the SA to Governor Fashola on Education, Fatai Olukoga, said the hike was aimed at making the institution comparable to private tertiary institutions in the country. He said he had constantly explained and pleaded with the students for calm since it did not directly affect them, but the next set. He added that he had a child in a private school that enjoys what he pays for as school fees.
His argument was however opposed by the SUG President who said there was nothing on ground to show by the government that the students would enjoy any facility. Rather they would only continue to pay without any satisfaction. Some of the lawmakers also bought the student's argument in this regard.
On her part, the state Commissioner explained that the government resorted to the increment since it has become obvious that it has no enough resources to tackle the issues bedevilling the institution any longer. She added that the amount approved as budget to education in the state is not adequate.
The lawmakers who were obviously not happy with the way the government handled the issue, said it was a wrong decision as the government did not actually put into consideration, the challenges parents face.
A lawmaker, Abdulbaq Balogun, explained that before now, he sponsored four indigent students of the university. "But when I heard of the increment, I decided I to drop some since I can't afford to pay such huge amount," he said.
His colleague, Ipoola Omisore also said with the increment, many mothers would be turned to widows and the responsibility of taking care of their children would fall back on the government.
Sanai Agunbiade, another lawmaker, who was an SUG President of the institution, cautioned his colleagues on taking sides with the government as according to him, there was no way the students could be made to pay such an amount.
He said if the students are forced, it would lead to the shutting down of the institution and the male students who had become members of secret cults, would find a way to survive through crime while the female students would resort to prostitution and further increase the rate of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS.
The House has set up a committee comprising three lawmakers, two management members of the institution, representatives of the students, two people from the state government and some parents who have children in the institution.
They are to report back in two weeks with a position for the House to take over the issue.