The Tasks Before Unilorin Students

An article from the Nigerian Marxist paper Workers' Alternative which looks at the problems facing the student movement in Nigeria, and the events leading up to the arrests of our comrades there!

As the students of the University of Ilorin resumed for the 1998/99 academic session on the 26 April, they were confronted with many contending issues, hitherto unthinkable.

Chief among the ugly issues is the imposition of satanic fees linked with the registration for the new session. The expulsion of the out-going president of the Students' Union and the suspension of two other student activists who faced the 'disciplinary panel with him. Meanwhile the case of the Students' Union activists who went to Court to stop the victimization process remains unresolved. There is still a hanging-expulsion order of some student activists including those who were recently reinstated. The University Authorities are still hell bent on denying students the right to independent Students' unionism. They are desperate at preventing the students from having an independent election to elect a new leadership. They declared a ban on the Students' Union last year.

Worst of all is the arrest and detention of notable student activists from UNILORIN and from the NANS zone d who were leading the agitation against the draconian fees and for independent Students' unionism. As at press time, these activists have spent over fifteen days in detention; they were charged with inciting unrest at a local Magistrate Court. The Judge refused them bail and adjourned hearing until June 29 1999.

Since resumption, the University Management has stepped up its repressive arm; the fact that student activists are now arrested at will on campus for opposing the fees confirms these. The NANS activists in the LAUTECH Students' Union bus were setup by the University because they came to UNILORIN to support the campaign against fees. Akinrogunde Tosin and two others were arrested right on campus and were brutally assaulted.

However, despite the stepping up of repression on that campus it is only a matter of time before the mass of the students take on the University Authorities on the various mispolicies imposed on them.

Catalogue of fees

The catalogue of fees range from over 1000% increment in examination fees, 1000% increment in accommodation, 200% in registration fee, among others. Similarly shocking, is the various newly invented fees, concerning the different faculties and these include the newly introduced N1,000.00 COBES fees (for Medical students), teaching practice fee, supervision fee, Laboratories fees, etc.

On the average, by the time a newly admitted student finishes the first phase of his registration he would have spent not less than N10, 000.00 (this may include the payment for the usually illegal fees for course registration).

The plight of the returning students is no less.

Perspective behind fees

To say the least, the newly announced fees is certainly off the mark, considering the present downturn in the economy, and is most condemnable and should be rejected as such. For one, it reflects the fact that the burden of maintaining the scarce social services is continually being passed to the poor ranks in the society-many of who still strive to send their children to school at relatively great cost.

The main agenda and philosophy being passed across is that Education is not a right, but a privilege of the children of the rich in the society. This philosophy must be wholly rejected. The resources that are at present available in the society, if well utilized, can provide adequately, education and other social services free of charge for the society.

No Moral Authority

With the massive corruption going on among the various public officers, which include officials of the University, the ruling class lacks moral Authority to impose the various fees and levies on the poor, for the provision of social services.

The recently revealed N65 billion stolen by Abacha is just a tip of the iceberg. Similarly, worth mentioning is the N100 million fraud that took place at UNILORIN some years ago. In the same vein was the N2 million bonanza declared as furniture grant for five officials of the UNILORIN administration (the V.C., Deputy V.C., Registrar, and the Bursar) last December.

What is probably most appalling with regards to the announced increment in fees is the fact that just last year an unjust restitution fee of N1000.00 was imposed on each student; the payment of which was at great pain to the studentry.

The struggle against the fees

It is quite predictable that the lot of the studentry will find it very difficult to pay these fees. Many will go through a lot of hardship to get the money. Many will not be able to continue their studies, as the money is just not there. Most students, who had paid the fees, paid because they feel there is no choice, as the Authorities employed the crudest methods in collecting the fees.

However, the major factor that made it possible for the Authorities to get away to an extent with the imposed fees is the fact that there is no Students' Union. A situation that arose as a result of the fact that the Students' Union leadership under Dr. Far refused to stand up to the Authorities when the Union came under attack last year.

This is the determining factor in OAU Ife where students won the battle against imposition of fees because there was a fighting Union leadership that was forced to lead the struggle. In UI, there was a Union and the leadership despite its limitations was forced to lead the struggle against fees on that campus.

In Ilorin, there was no coordinating body that could lead the struggle, as there was no Students' Union leadership and the NANS national leadership did not have a programme to resist fees on a national scale.

The major attempt to resist the fees was led by student activist from Ilorin who over the years have stood against all forms of attacks by the Authorities, in alliance with the NANS Zone D secretariat. This is why the LAUTECH Students' Union was part of this progressive move. However, the Authorities used the crudest means to undermine this struggle by getting the activists arrested. Many of the activists from Ilorin, although some had been victimized by the University (some are still facing a witch-hunting panel) still heroically stood up against this injustice.

All what the situation at Ilorin points to is that the major task before the UNILORIN students is to fight for an independent Students' Union with a militant and virile leadership. As it is, only with such an organ under a militant leadership that can defend the collective interest of the students. It is clear that the main reason why the University Management does not want a Students' Union, any form, is because of the attacks they planned to carry out against the students. This is why over the years they have constantly been attacking the Union and activists.

The ban that was placed on the S.U.G. since last June 1998 must be rejected. It is a direct affront on the democratic rights of the students to associate. It is rather ironical that while the Military regime (led by Abubakar) was compelled to lift the ban on the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and previously banned Trade Unions including the campus based ones like ASUU and NASU, the agents of the regime at the helm of affairs on the campus were simultaneously demolishing the students' democratic structures.

The struggle to revive the S.U.G. must be fought with all determination and the required zeal.

No to Victimization

With the arrests and the hunting of student activists by the police, one can say that the Authorities are preparing for another round of victimization; how far they can go is another thing. Already the names of Rasheedat Adeshina (S.U.G. ASG 1997/98), Lanre Akinsola and Lekan Odewo have been penciled down. They were to face the Students' 'Disciplinary' panel for their roles in the Anti-Abacha rally and students protest against inhuman conditions on the campus last year. Already the Authorities have withdrawn their files and are withholding their result for the session. This is inspite of the fact that a Federal High Court has granted them a Court injunction.

The Prof. Akanji panel setup last June by the University has already recommended that eight student activists be expelled from the university. Unlike the president of the Students' Union and some other activists who went to face the panel based on assurances from the friends of the University management, the three activists went to court to challenge this process legally. Facing this kangaroo panel would lead to their official expulsion! The expulsion of the president of the Union and suspension of others confirms this fact.

The Akanji panel also recommended that the ban on the Students' Union should stay and the sanctioning of some lecturers who supported the Anti-Abacha rally.

In addition, the recently reinstated student activists (who were reinstated because of the cumulative effect of a mass campaign amongst students) are still facing the threat of victimization.

The tasks ahead

The major task before the UNILORIN students now is that of building an independent and virile Students' Union, towards this end all hands must be geared towards having an independent Students' Union elections. This struggle must be linked with the struggle against the victimization of student activists and for the reinstatement of the expelled former Students' Union president. In addition, students must demand for the immediate release of all arrested and detained students and an end to the militarization of the campus.

It is important to state that students must link their struggle with that of the working class. In the immediate coming period there are going to be more turbulent struggles as the working masses are bound to move against the various unjust mispolicies of the last and immediate past period. The unity of the working class and youth is an essential ingredient for victory.

However, it must be noted that no solution to the current crisis lies under this unjust system of capitalism; only a socialist alternative under a workers' government can bring about the desired change.