No tuition hike in Benue State University
By Semaka Solomon.
On Monday may 14 2018, while I was at the Federal High Court Abuja with my team of lawyers for the case between myself and President Muhammadu Buhari and service defense chiefs and the Attorney General of the Federation, I got a phone call. Of course because I was in court I asked them to send a text. Indeed, it was complied with.
The caller invited me for a meeting which intent and purpose was to use the civil society to assist in organizing a protest to destabilize the management of Benue State University and possibly disrupt the academic Calendar.
They offered me Two million Naira (N2,000,000:00) for logistics support to enable the protest against the Benue state government and the university management successful.
Of course, my organization and the civil society would have been interested as far as the interest of the people was advanced.
So I sought to know the reason for the protest, they told me it was the review of school fees for fresh students..!
I asked them if they have confirmed school fees for students of other neighboring state Universities, of course they said no. There and then I suggested that we call Kogi state University, Nassarawa State University and Lagos state University. We also called Plateau State University and Cross River University of Science and Technology. Behold in all the institutions, Benue state University was the lowest in terms of school fees.
At that point, I sought to know if the old students tuition was also reviewed, they said no. I was at this juncture disoriented. It became clear that the agenda was different from the reasons advanced before the civil society. I told them I would be unable to get approval from the commissioner of police for protection if this are the only reasons advanced for the protest.
Later that night at about 10pm, they called to say they had N3M to offer. I told them that was not the issue. But that we needed more than the reasons adduced above to mobilize for protest. At this moment, he came out clear and told me that the agenda was merely to embarrass the University management and the Benue state government.
I told him that though, I have personally led the crusade against bad governance against this government, it has always been on clearly defined issues not on sentiments and I advised him to counsel their sponsor who was bent on embarrassing the government to have a rethink. Otherwise the protest would have no credibility.
Obviously, I was not ready to submit the Civil society organizations under my leadership for use to settle personal and political scores.
Everyone is aware of my disposition to issues of financial accountability with the leadership at all levels, but it is in principle and not personal, therefore I could only support what is right. Certainly this protest is not one of such.
On the issue of tuition review for fresh students
1. Tuition has not been reviewed for old students who were already comfortable, it is only for freshmen on campus ( this is very clearly justified the fact that the University has been running an underpayment system compared to other state Universities)
2. No new students who is yet to register for his first semester can go on to organize protests! Clearly, these are bandits who accepted the offer of N3m that I rejected to destabilize the University management.
3. This protest was done after series of attempts to reach the University management for under the table deals failed. Clearly it is not in the interest of the masses.
4. Old students have never complained about school fees, they only recently complained about the mode of payment and the manner the University implemented it, this was sorted out to the disadvantage of the University after all. Resulting to a situation were students could pay school fees with promissory notes and other flexible packages. Clearly there can be no more benevolence such as this.
5. Non payment of salaries is not an issue to be discussed with the University at all. That is completely outside the purview. It is therefore unethical for students or anybody to drag that into the unfortunate circumstances. Clearly, it is a case of looking for a bad name to give a dog in order to hang it.
6. Will payment of salaries justify the current school fees regime? If yes then we have no reason to distract the public because the payment of salaries is not within the confines of the University management.
7. The Benue state University is regulated by national bodies, NUC and JAMB, policies that emanate from this bodies are not subject to review by the state government, therefore if for instance, the academic calendar of the University is at the risk of being cancelled, due to lack of finance for meeting statutory requirements, should the University fold her arms and allow such happen in the midst of reasonable palliatives? Such as this review?
I think people need to separate individuals from leadership issues in order to get things right. We cannot get headway trying to mix up issues or personalize same. It is fundamentally wrong to assume or try to create a nexus between partial tuition review for (new students only ) and non payment of salaries by the state government . This is absolutely unfair in all honesty.
Because the variables of administration and the demands of the University do not change whether or not salaries are paid or school fees is reviewed. It means therefore, that the University has to move on no matter what, and this is what the management is doing with minimum effects on the public but maximum results for the entire state.
Conclusively, the Civil society organizations in Benue state today, is convinced that there is no form of restlessness or instability in the Benue state University except as sponsored by interested parties for personal and political scores of which I am privy.
Clearly, the new students who are offered admission are seeing registering albeit anxiously and happily .The story, therefore of Same protesting does not add up in the circumstances
Clearly, the government and people of Benue state appreciate the effort of the vice chancellor and the management of the University to ensure the the University is kept afloat no matter what .
Clearly, Benue state University remains the cheapest and most cost effective among the comity of state Universities in the north Central and Southeast as well as Southwest States. This is verifiable.
Clearly, today’s protest of may 21 2018 is sponsored and misguided.
Citizens are advised to go about their normal businesses and encourage their wards to prepare for the academic tasks ahead as academic activities has commenced in earnest for 2017 /2018 academic sessions.
Finally, the commissioner of police is well guided to suppress any group or groups that would be tempted to further destabilize the public in the guise of tuition hike in Benue state University. After all, there is NO tuition hike.
Congress further calls on the vice chancellor and management of the institution to be focused in delivering her mandate. Of course the visitor of the University is positively inclined to cooperate with the management, therefore, it is expected that no distraction should be allowed to take effect.
Semaka Solomon. S.
Convener : Conference of Harmonised Civil Society Organisation In Nigeria/ Member Civil Society and Mass Media Committee for JAMB Abuja.