Showdown over fees hike

January 24, 1997

STUDENTS in Nigeria face expulsion if they protest against university fee rises of up to 300 per cent, their government has warned.

Some students have sworn that they will use "all means necessary" to prevent what they claim are tuition fees.

The education ministry has ordered "the rustication or expulsion of any student or group of students for the duration of the transition programme to civil rule over possible agitation against fees".

Officials of the National Association of Nigerian Students claim the government plans to ban their union because it opposes the fees. They said they would resist any measure to intimidate or unjustly deprive them of their rights to education. "Nigerian students' rights cannot be sacrificed on the platter of a transition programme," said a statement.

Several vice chancellors are already anxious at the potentially explosive situation. Universities are still suffering from last year's seven-month strike by the banned Academic Staff Union of Universities. So far 338 lecturers have been sacked for failing to obey government instructions to resume academic duties before the strike ended.

Fees at the federal University of Jos have risen by about 300 per cent. New students are to pay 7,000 naira (Pounds 190), up from 1,500 naira. Old students who formerly paid 1,000 naira are being asked to pay 3,000 naira. They have been told the extra fees are not for tuition. Sam Piwuna, personal assistant to the vice chancellor, said the money was for registration, examination, medical and sports activities.

At the University of Nigeria in Nsukka the authorities announced increases to 8,000-10,000 naira. Olorunfemi Odeyemi, deputy vice chancellor, countered the students' allegation that these are tuition fees. "The federal government has not asked us to introduce any tuition fees, therefore, no vice chancellor can introduce tuition fees on his own," he said.

Student leaders Ewonia Ropo and Charles Okolo attacked Wole Omole, chairman of the committee of vice chancellors and vice chancellor of Obafomi Awolowo university at Ife-Ife, "for canvassing for the support of government on the introduction of school fees".

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