Adibe Emenyonu writes on the closure of Auchi Polytechnic following the violent protest by students over the no school fee, no exams policy
Wednesday, June 2, 2016 began like an ordinary day filled with hopes and aspirations because there was no incline that trouble is in the air at Federal Polytechnic, Auchi in Estako West Local Government Area of Edo State.
The reason is that regular students have vacated, leaving the part-time students to embark on their semester examinations.
But just as the students were getting seated, pandemonium broke out. First, it started like an argument between some students and security personnel over the propriety of the students to seat for examinations without paying their tuition fees.
According to an insider who pleaded anonymity, what escalated the argument was the enforcement the school’s management policy of no tuition fee, no examination by the security men on campus who apparently are working on instruction.
Trouble began when some of the students tried to force their way into the examination hall and met stiff resistance from security men who prevented them from sitting for their exams in accordance with the directives of management.
Consequently, some of the students who were said to have forced their way into the examination hall had their examination booklets tore by the security.
This provoked the violent protest that greeted the school campus and its environ as scores of students both those involved and the innocent ones sustained serious injuries over the alleged refusal of the management of the institution to allow students who had not paid their school fees to sit for examination.
Apart from that, the violence was also visited on infrastructure by the rampaging students as they had to vent their anger on any property of the school they could lay hands on, coupled with the alleged sporadic shooting by some of the armed security personnel of the school which caused most of the monumental destructions recorded.
At the end of the rampage according to a source close to the scene, over 50 vehicles belonging to some staff and management were said to have been destroyed while some offices had their louvers smashed in the confusion that lasted for over four hours.
Corroborating the earlier information on the cause of the riot, one of part-time students who refused to give her name, said “the insistence by some students to be allowed to take the examination, and the resistance by the security agent on ground to implement management’s new policy of no tuition fee, no exams led to the violent protest.”
The student blamed the school management for the crisis, saying majority of the part-time students are workers who are married and have families to take care of.
Besides, she said many of them may not have received their salaries for the past two month plus, and therefore, find it extremely difficult to make ends meet.
“For the acting Rector to come up with this harsh policy without considering the present econonic reality on ground is most unfortunate. We never had this kind of problem with the last Rector because students were given the oppotunity to even stagger payment of their schools fees to make it convenient for them. But the acting Rector just came in and slammed us with this policy of no school fees, no exams,” she lamented.
Some other students who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was unfair to deny them the chance to take their exams.
“We are protesting because the school management prevented us from writing our first semester examination on the account that we are yet to pay our fees. The school management is not fair to us and we want the policy reversed,” one of them said.
Reacting to the development, the Dean, School of Evening Studies, Mr. Mahmmud Garuba, faulted the protest by the students.
Garuba said that the management had announced the” no school fees, no exam” policy prior to the commencement of the examinations.
“Those that were denied access into the examination hall were not students; as they have not registered since they claimed to have gained admission into the polytechnic.
“Enough sensitisation was done on the “no school fees, no examination” policy by the management and for them to go on riot and destroy properties of the institution, it is unacceptable,” he said.
Also reacting to the ugly incident, Public Relations Officer of the polytechnic, Mr. Mustapha Oshiobugie, said that those prevented from writing the examination were not registered students of the institution.
“Some students who have not paid their school fees are the ones fomenting trouble on campus. Properties have also been destroyed by these same students. The situation however has been brought under control but the school has been closed down indefinitely,” he said.
Although the tension may have died as claimed by the polytechnic image maker, it is however, the beginning of more trouble for 95 students of the school who have been remanded in prison custody following their alleged involvement in the violent protest.
According Edo State police command, the students were arrested after protesting and destroying the school properties including vehicles.
State Commissioner of Police, Chris Ezike, who visited the institution the following day to ascertain the level of damage, described the incident as unfortunate and the highest order of impunity.
The Edo police boss who vowed to arrest other students that joined in the destruction, said “the school library and computer laboratory were destroyed and vandalised.”
While disclosing that the police had to fire tear-gas canisters to disperse the students who he claimed had set bonfire on the high way, Ezike pointed out that those charged to court were remanded in prison custody till the 29th of June.