By Olasunkanmi Akoni & Monsur Olowoopejo
LAGOS — Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, yesterday reverted the school fees being paid by students of the Lagos State University, LASU, to the old rate of N25, 000.
This came as armed security operatives shot teargas canisters at the members of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU-LASU, who gathered few metres away from the entrance gate to protest their unpaid salaries.
The administration of Fashola had in 2011 hiked the fees to between N193,000 to N350,000, which led to massive protests by students, leading to the reduction in the fees from between 34 and 60 percent few months ago.
But during the 19th convocation ceremony of the school at its campus in Ojo area of Lagos, Fashola succumbed and announced total reversal of the school fees to the old rate of N25, 000.
The total 100 percent reversal of the fees elicited wild jubilation among students and parents, who commended the governor for doing the right thing.
According to the governor, “Our students have also shown that they can choose this path of conflict resolution. They have reached out to me for a revision of their fee, which I have acceded to, in consultation with the State Executive Council for reduction between 34 per cent and 60 per cent across board. In spite of this reduction, the students have again demanded for further reduction. And they have done so in the most civilised way. And because of this, we had to consult extensively and we have come to the conclusion that the current economic situation of the country compels a reduction to the old tuition fees for the institution.
“And this was a response to the yearning of parents, guardian, senior citizens of the country. I believe that with this, it will lead to the end of the activities of the busy bodies who have sorted to use a genuine issue of how to fund tertiary education in our country to gain public recognition. While other well meaning citizens of the state were busy making efforts on how the issue could be better resolved, they were busy instigating students and making mischief.
“Our students have shown that they value their education and will not fall prey to fear weather and self-seeking people who masquerade as their friends, but whose objective is to use the students’ genuine demands for their own selfish agenda. For me, we must now move on to the developmental work students’ arcade, which was ongoing in this great institution. This administration is determined to ensure that no child who seeks education is left behind.”
The governor commended the academic and non-teaching staff for their effort in ensuring that despite the nine months strike, they rallied round the Vice chancellor, Professor John Obafunwa to ensure that the students graduated yesterday, saying they ensured that academic activities went on in the hit of the strike.
But Vanguard gathered that the students, two months ago, sent another letter to the governor demanding total reversal to the old tuition fees paid before the increment in 2011.
In his address, Obafunwa said the convocation offered the institution the opportunity to confer first degree, diplomas, postgraduates and higher degrees to 11,791 graduands.
Obafunwa noted that since the current administration of the school assumed office, it had worked tirelessly to ensure that the backlogs of over 20,000 certificates were signed and graduands received their certificate on their convocation day.
Earlier, Vanguard gathered that policemen arrested 10 executive members of SSANU-LASU at about 8:00 am and detained them for several minutes at the Ojo police command, Ojo Local Government before they were released.
Sources said the workers had on Wednesday embarked on a protest within the institution to remind the Governing council and the Vice Chancellor of the agreement signed by both parties.
Vanguard gathered that policemen shot over five teargas canisters into the air in front of the institution’s gate to disperse the crowd.
The action of the security operatives forced the protesters to scamper in different direction for safety while some of them sustained injuries.
Vanguard learnt that the act of the policemen halted activities within the institution for hours, as more workers joined the protest to demand for their entitlement.
The injured protesters were rushed to the institution’s medical centre.
Angered by the action of the policemen, the workers reconvened at the entrance of the institution hall, venue of the convocation and chanted several anti-Fashola and anti-Obafunwa songs for several minutes, to express their displeasure on how the school was being managed.
Speaking, chairman of SSANU-LASU, Mr. Oseni Saheed, said they called off their strike based on the Memorandum of understanding, MoU signed between the union and management.
According to Oseni, “We have been on strike before the convocation and because of the 19th convocation; we decided to call off the strike which we embarked upon following the decision of the school management to withhold some of our staff’s benefits. Two weeks ago, the chairman of the governing council appealed to us to call off the strike and we yielded after signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the management. Before we called off the strike, they have stopped the payment of the staff’s salary. It is unjustified to withhold the staffs’ salary. We gave them the ultimatum that the salary must be paid before August 5, 2014, rather than do that, they went on with their convocation.”
Also, the SSANU general secretary, Amoyemi Oluseyi, argued that the vice chancellor called for the protest, saying “Since the inception of his administration, the vice chancellor had lied to us and we cannot accept his lies anymore.”
Oluseyi, who was also arrested, said the senior staff members simply wanted their salaries pay, noting that the money “is with Obafunwa and he does not want to pay us. We want to have our salaries for the month of June and July. Our promotion must also be done.”