James Sowole in Akure
For several hours on Monday, students of the Ondo State-owned Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA) shut down Akure, the state capital, protesting the increase in the tuition to be paid by both fresh and returning students of the institution.
The protest came just as the state House of Assembly (ODHA) dissociated itself from the new fees announced by the Governing Council of the institution.
The assembly at a news conference said the action of the AAUA Governing Council negated the agreement reached that all critical stakeholders particularly the assembly should be carried along before any increment is announced.
Addressing journalists, the Chairman of the House Committee of Information, Hon Fatai Olotu, said the announcement would be revisited.
â€œAs representatives of the people, we dissociate the House from the proposed fee announced by the governing council because what was done was contrary to the agreement we reached.
â€œWe are urging all parents and students to remain calm as steps are being taken to ensure that fees to be paid are agreed upon by relevant stakeholders,â€ Olotu stated.
The students, who were joined by the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and National Association of Ondo State Students (NAOS), trooped out in their hundreds and locked down the major Oyemekun/ Adesida and A Division/ Hospital Roads.
The action of the protesters caused traffic jam at all adjoining streets where traffic were diverted.
Also, sequel to the protest by the placard carrying students, commuters were stranded and were forced to trek long distances while creating opportunities for commercial motorcycle operators to make brisk business due to their ability to maneuver in the situation.
Some of the placards carried by the visibly angry students read: No to Increase in school fees; Akeredolu, This Is Wickedness; We No Go Agree to Fee Hike; among others.
The protesters were joined by some market women, who said many unprinted words against the government and Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.
One of the students who spoke passionately about the situation, said there was no way her mother who is the only one catering for her and her siblings could cope with the situation.
â€œThis hike in fees, will force many of us to drop out of the school. I am a 300 Level Law student. My sister just gained admission into AAUA, my mother is the only one that had been responsible for our upkeep on N80,000 salary per month. How can we cope if we add the cost of accommodation an .other things. This is unfair. I am finished,â€ she lamented.
The AAUA had last week in a statement signed by its Head of Public Relations, Mr Sola Imoru, disclosed that fresh students in the Faculties of Arts and Education are to pay N150,000 while the returning students are to pay N120,000.
For the Faculties of Science, Agriculture, Social and Management Sciences, fresh students are to pay N180,000 just as returning students are to pay N150,000.
The statement also revealed that fresh students in the Faculty of Law are to pay N200,000 while returning students: are to pay N180,000.
Before the current increase, students of the institution were paying between N25,000 and N35,000 per session.
The president of the AAUA Studentsâ€™ Union, Olawale Ijatuyi, said he had directed that no students must pay any money or register until a directive is given by the students body.
On the contrary, students of the Ondo State owned University of Science and Technology (OSUTECH), Okitipupa rose stoutly against the action of their colleagues at AAUA, that protested the hike in fees.
The OSUTECH students at a press conference in Akure, said they and others at the University Medical Sciences (UNIMED), Ondo had all these years been paying high fees without anybody raising highbrow and even leadership of NANS.
â€œWith the present economic situation, how is it feasible for students in a state-owned institution that want to compete with their peers in world class institutions think they can continue to pay between N23,000 and N37,000 per session.â€
The students led by Phillip Ifeoluwa, said if the government should revert to the old tuition at AAUA, their tuition at OSUTECH would have to be reduced to between N23,000 and N37,000 per session.
Meanwhile, while defending the hike in fees, the Governing Council of the AAUA and the school management yesterday insisted that there was no going back on the implementation of the new fees.
Briefing journalists over the development after a meeting with the leadership of the Students Union, the Pro-Chancellor of the institution, Mr. Tunji Abayomi, said the implementation of the new fees became imperative to save the school from collapsing.
Abayomi stated that the increase in the fee became inevitable to save the institution and education in the state, saying lack of adequate funding from state government as a result of prevailing economic situations in the country was equally responsible for the hike.
Speaking on the finances of the school, Abayomi said the income accrued to the school was lesser than the expenditure, saying the institution was being run at a loss.
He added that the state government was spending about N5 billion yearly to finance the school.
He said the time has come to save the university from total collapse but said the state Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, still has the power to reduce the fees.