Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) yesterday expressed worries over the recent surge in tuition fees at public tertiary institutions including the alarming increase at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and the University of Lagos (UniLag).
The civil society group described the rising school fees as harsh, intolerable, wicked and abominable development not only as anti-poor and anti-people but also as an oppressive measure that threatens the fundamental right to quality education.
In the same manner, the civil society group condemned the police brutality especially in Lagos State for using water cannons and forceful means to muzzle students’ rights to peaceful protests in a manner that suggest that Nigeria has snowballed and cascaded into the abyss of dictatorship and tyranny even as it said that Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recognise the right to freedom of speech and association.
In a statement by the National Coordinator of HURIWA, Emmanuel Onwuniko, explained that in a shocking move, authorities at OAU announced an exorbitant 300 per cent increase in school fees, placing an immense financial burden on students and their families.
For instance, the group said, “For the Faculties of Arts, Law, and Humanities, new students are now required to pay N151,200, while returning students face a staggering hike from N23,000 to N89,200. Similarly, students in the Faculties of Technology and Science are burdened with fees of N163,200 (new students) and N101,200 (returning students).
“Even more distressing are the fees for the College of Health Sciences and the Faculty of Pharmacy, which now stand at N190,200 for new students and N128,200 for returning students.”
Onwubiko said that the decision to raise school fees has sparked widespread outrage among students and the general public, explaining that “These moves have raised serious concerns about access to quality education, social justice, and government accountability. Students have engaged in peaceful protests to voice their grievances, exercising their democratic right to express dissent.”
Accordingly, “HURIWA vehemently condemns these fee hikes, which directly target students from already disadvantaged backgrounds.
“These increases threaten to perpetuate the cycle of poverty, denying countless deserving students the opportunity to access higher education. It is evident that such policies serve the interests of a select elite while marginalising the aspirations of millions of Nigerian youth,” the statement stated.
The civil society group said that it stands firmly in support of the student protests against these unjust increases.
“The Great Ife Students Union and their counterparts at UniLag have our full solidarity. Peaceful protests are a constitutionally protected form of expression, and we condemn any undue force or intimidation by the Police against these students exercising their rights,” HURIWA said.
Furthermore, the group said “we warn that if these exorbitant fees are not promptly reversed, they may spark nationwide unrest and upheaval. Education is a cornerstone of national development, and denying it to the majority of our population is a grave injustice that cannot be tolerated.”
The group called on the relevant authorities at OAU, UniLag, and all other institutions contemplating similar actions to revisit their decisions and prioritise accessible, quality education for all Nigerians.
“The right to education is sacrosanct and must not be undermined by policies that exacerbate the multidimensional poverty affecting over 133 million households in Nigeria,” HURIWA said.
It further asserted that the hike in school fees is a deliberate attempt by the elite to maintain their stranglehold on education and perpetuate poverty as a generational curse.
“We demand the immediate reversal of these fees and an earnest commitment to ensuring that education remains a beacon of hope for all Nigerians, regardless of their socioeconomic background. Failure to do so may lead to nationwide unrest, which can only be averted by putting the welfare and future of our youth first,” it stated.