Students of the National Open University of Nigeria, under the aegis of Congress of Noun Students (CONS), have called on the Federal Government, President Muhammadu Buhari and the new Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, to remove the institution’s top hierarchy over alleged extortion.
Claiming that the Vice Chancellor, Professor Vincent Ado Tenebe; the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Patrick Eke Eya; the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), Prof Victor O. Adedipe; the Registrar, Mrs Josephine O.Akinyemi; and the bursar, Mr.John M. Onyeme, have conspired to turn the institution a money draining organization, the students, in an open letter signed by some officers of the Congress, alleged that NOUN has become a “den for endemic corruption”.
According to the press statement, signed on behave of the Congress by all its officers, including the President, Abdulrazaq Hamzat and Gen. Secretary, Iyinkaye Alameen, CONS said, the school, which was “established to provide flexible, accessible and affordable education to Nigerians has now been turned to, where certain cliques of academia extort helpless students, whose only crime is their quest for University education”.
The group also went down memory lane, cataloging some of the happenstances that transpired between the students’ union and the school management, while noting that the University has prevented students from having a formal student association, because of the fears that such association will “challenge corrupt practices taking place at the institution”.
The statement further reads: “Congress of Noun Students (CONS), an unofficial group for Noun students across the federation had severally, but unsuccessfully sort to understand why those irregularities continue to happen, but the more we look, the greater corrupt intent we perceived in affairs of the institution.
“However, rather than respond to legitimate questions being asked by the students in our numerous correspondence, our management said it owe no student any explanation, neither is it ready to stop violating students rights. As a result of students’ insistence over the numerous issues, the management felt threatened and sort to silence us by all means.
“On 9th of September 2015, leaders of the Congress of Noun Students honoured an invitation by the Nigerian Police at Ikeja police command, over a petition submitted by the management of our institution.
“In the said petition, the management had falsely claimed that, we threatened the life of the Vice Chancellor, planned to vandalize government properties and incite violence against the institution. The aim of the baseless petition was to criminalize leaders of the student Congress, simply because we asked the University authorities to respect the Nigerian constitution, by granting students rights of freedom of association as contained in section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria and to desist from what we adjudged to be extortion without justification.
“The police, upon seeing such a petition swing into action with all seriousness. They invited us for a chat at the police command, and after which they also invited us together with the representative of the University to meet face to face. At the second meeting which took place on 10th September 2015, it was agreed that, there was no threat to the life of our Vice Chancellor. It was also agreed that, there was no plan to vandalize government properties or incite students into violence. The resolution at the police command was that, all claims in the petition were spurious, unfounded and baseless.
“Right before the representative of the University, the police asserted that, the Congress is only fighting for student’s rights and all we wanted is to resolve issues affecting students. In an effort to demonstrate our readiness to internal resolution, the Congress went ahead the following week to present the management with a list of 10 points demand, which are valid issues that should be looked into. Prominent on the list was the issue of student association.
“Some other issues mentioned in the demand include the fact that, students pay for course materials without receiving the course materials. The total amount received for these course materials annually is over 14,000,000,000.00 (Fourteen Billion Naira). We asked why students should continue to pay since they don’t get the materials paid for.
“It is not clear, why the University charges a COMPULSORY registration fee for research project for final-year students. Last semester (2014/15 academic session), this fee was charged at N10,000. Now, the University has, for unknown reasons, and without any official notice to its students, decided to increase this fee to the sum of N15,000. For its post graduate students, the University increased the research project fee from N15,000 to N40,0000.
“Also, the University charges a COMPULSORY registration fee of N11,000 for Industrial Training which is usually deducted directly from the student portal. The University also charges the sum of Ten Thousand Naira (N10,000) from each student in the department of Education before they under-go teaching practices.
“As at today, National Open University of Nigerian currently has three sets of law graduates of which, none has been mobilized to the Nigerian Law School. Also, each students of NOUN had been paying N6, 000 as NYSC regularization fee, yet no students had ever been mobilized. Again, after paying for a session fee, the University receive separate fee in second semester. They call it, semester fee. We engaged in the management internally in a civilized manner, hoping to understand the rationale for all these fees.
“However, while we have been exploring this internal means since 2012, no positive result was derived, instead, management continue to increase these fees without any communication or justification. As a result of our insistence on transparency and accountability, the management believes we ought to be cut to size, through intimidation and threat. This warranted their false petition to the police. When their malicious intention failed to fly at the police command, they resorted to other forms of discrediting us by tarnishing our image, hoping that we would be deterred from standing for truth and Justice.
“It should be noted that, the management of our institution has made every effort to make us half baked graduates, but we refuse to be half baked. Only half baked graduates conform to negativities and accept injustice to strive without questioning, we can’t be half-baked, we refuse to conform to the violation of our rights.
“It is also pertinent to state that, while the University should be proud of its students for standing for truth and justice, it is busy trying to criminalize us. On the 28th October, 2015, management of our institution circulated a memo to all study centers, informing the directors to ban students from having any gathering. In this memo, they repeated the false claim of threat to life of the Vice Chancellor after it had been properly cleared to be false at the police headquarters.
“It became very clear to all that, the management knows that the existence of Student Association will paralyze myriad of irregularities from which the management presently benefits, hence, the efforts to deny students, their rights. While they had consistently failed to get our law graduates to be mobilized for law school since 2013, failed to get our graduates mobilized for NYSC despite receiving fees in this regard, they are vehemently making efforts to cripple justice in their favor.
“This unresponsive attitude, extortion and flagrant violation of student rights had provoked the entire students of the institution across the federation so much that the call for a nationwide protest had reached its ultimate high. In view of this, it is necessary to state that, this is an era of change, and this change will not leave without paying a visit to NOUN.
“We also call for the immediate overhaul of the senate of the institution, as members of the senate are active accomplice and beneficiaries of the numerous irregularities taking place at the institution. Furthermore, the sack of the above individuals is not all we are demanding, we also demand for their immediate prosecution over the endemic corruption that it currently taking place at the institution. We shall immediately proceed, after this release, to submit a comprehensive petition, detailing all allegations against these individuals to the EFCC, ICPC and other relevant agencies for onward prosecution. We shall make the petition available to the public immediately after submission.
“Let it be known that, should the appropriate authorities not act swiftly on this call, students may be left with no option, than hit the street in a peaceful protest to press home our demands. What are we demanding? Tenebe Must Go. What are we asking for? Our school flexible, accessible and affordable. What do we want? Our freedom to association, Admission to law school and mobilization for NYSC must be sacrosanct”, the statement reads.