By Dayo Johnson
UNEASY calm presently pervades the 17 year old Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, owned by the Ondo State Government. In the last one month, all has not been well with the institution following a disagreement among the university management, students and the Akungba community, which hosts the institution. Named after the former governor of the state, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, the institution has been enmeshed in avoidable crisis in the last one month.
Within the space of one month the institution had witnessed an upheaval that led to its closure. As if that was enough, the university authority has released names of students in various levels that were expelled and suspended indefinitely for alleged cult activities, exam malpractices and alleged destruction of the institution’s properties during a violent protest.
In all, 23 students who are in their third year, were suspended indefinitely for their involvement in cult activities and destruction of the university properties while six others were expelled for examination misconduct and impersonation.
The students on April 9, went on rampage when a 200 level student of the department of Economic Education in the institution, Ojo Afolabi Daniel died during an accident involving two commercial motorcycle operators popularly called Okada.
But the student union leaders have dissociated the students from the rampage which destroyed the institution’s properties and that of individuals in their host community. They fingered miscreants, who hijacked the students’ peaceful protest to wreck havoc in the community. Over 40 persons including students were arrested and detained by police after the bloody protest.
Vanguard gathered that what infuriated the students, leading to the eventual violent protest was the cause of death of their colleague, who was conveyed in the university ambulance to the Federal Medical Centre, Owo for medical attention.
The aggrieved students protest was however reportedly hijacked by some miscreants and this led to the destruction of the university health centre, the restaurant and shops. Properties belonging to some individuals within the community, were either looted or destroyed by the protesters.
It took the intervention of the regent of Akungba Akoko, Princess Oluwatoyin Omosowon, who assured the school authorities that the community would not launch reprisal attacks on the students upon resumption at campus before the authorities of the University announced that the student should resume next week Monday. Reports had it that fear had gripped the University authorities and the students that their host community may transfer their aggression following the mayhem unleashed on the people during the protest.
Dispelling the speculations of a reprisal attack, Princess Omosowon told the University Management led by the Vice Chancellor, Prof Igbekele Ajibefun who visited her that “I want to state unequivocally that there is no truth in such a report. Though some members of the community are aggrieved over the unwarranted attack on them and the disruption of their lawful trading and economic activities, no one is planning any attack whatsoever. I want to assure the university community that my people are not planning any attack on the students. They are our children.”
Omosowon was quick to add that “I have appealed to my people that what happened was one of the prices we have to pay for hosting the university that has brought a lot of economic and social changes to the town.” In his response, Prof Ajibefun commended the people of Akungba community for showing restraint in dealing with the protest which he said was hijacked by miscreants.
Another showdown seems to be brewing as the students are poised to reject the imposition of N25,000 damages levy/ reparation fees on each of the over 15,000 students of the institution. They have vowed to resist the extortion by the institution arguing that the amount they are asked to pay as reparation levy, was not commensurate with the properties destroyed during the protest.
Speaking with Vanguard, the Student Union President in the institution, Adegbola Oluyemi said the money was on the high side and pleaded with the school management to review it downwards. He said: “We are appealing to the school to look into the money, it is too much, cutting the head is not the solution to headache, we are also calling on the governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko to wade into this matter, we don’t want to protest again but the school should reduce the money.”
APC feast on crisis
But the opposition All Progressive Congress, APC in the state railed against the development in the institution. It’s Director of Publicity and media Affair Steve Otaloro alleged that the reparation fees by government was meant to “divert the attention of the public from its negligence to provide adequate healthcare facilities at the University and Akungba Communities that could have saved the life of the student that was hit in the unfortunate fatal accident that led to the closure of the institution after students went on rampage. This levy is uncalled for at this time when government is owing most of the parents of these students five months salaries. Where does the government expect them to get such money from at this tough time in the state where workers are moaning and groaning in poverty?”
VC talks tough
The Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof Ajibefun has vowed that criminal elements masquerading as students would not be awarded the University’s certificate so that the name of the university is not tarnished. According to him, “the Management of the institution is committed to positioning the University among the best globally.” Meanwhile, a statement issued by the institution acting registrar, Sunday Ayeerun said that the reparation fees has been slashed from N25,000 to N15,000.
Ayeerun said this was done by the Management after “due consideration of passionate pleas by well-meaning Nigerians and, most especially, the leadership of the Students’ Union of the university, who demonstrated a high level of maturity and responsibility. Management has decided to reduce the N25, 000 reparation fee earlier charged in respect of the April 9 students’ violent protest to N15, 000.”
He asked the students present evidence of payment and a copy of sworn Affidavit to be of good behaviour at the Faculty Office to obtain Clearance Certificate from Monday, May 16 to Friday, May 20, 2016. However some students spoken with insisted that the N15,000 was still on the high side and appealed that it should be reviewed downward to between N5,000 and N10, 000 per student.