Hassan Taiwo (NATIONAL COORDINATOR), Chinedu Bosah (NATIONAL SECRETARY)
5 October 2007
We Say No to N150, 000 – N350, 000 UNIOSUN Fees and N25, 000 Fee Increment in Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria
We of the ERC reject the proposal made by the National Association of Pro-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities last weekend at a meeting attended by the Minister of Education Dr. Igwe Aja Nwachukwu for fees payable in Nigerian Universities to be increased. Also, we reject the outrageous regime of fees being proposed to be paid by prospective students of Osun State University and the increment of fees at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria to about N25,000 which is the reason for the current closure of the campus after protest by students.
We wish to state clearly that if the proposal for the fee increment being proposed by the Pro-Chancellors is not immediately halted, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) shall not hesitate to kick-start political actions including press campaign, rallies and protests nationwide.
It is disheartening that a proposal for free increment is being considered at all when the regimes of fees Nigerian students are paying in Federal and State Universities are already unbearable. This is aside what students are paying in Colleges of Education, Monotechnics and Polytechnics. For instance, there is no University in Nigeria today where students pay less than N5,000 while in some, students pay as high as N30,000. The example of Osun State University where prospective students are being charged between N130,000 to N250,000 is instructive here. Yet over 80% of Nigerian students are from poor working class homes with parents existing on a paltry minimum wage of N7, 500. As a result of inability to pay, thousands of students are dropping out year-in-year out. Faced with an already unbearable reality, to therefore increase fees again is simply callous and anti-poor.
Unfortunately, despite the astronomical charges which students and their poor parents are already contending with, the prevailing condition in higher institutions is that of poor quality of education, non-availability of facilities for teaching, inadequate lecture theatres, over crowding in hostels, sub-standard library and non-availability of materials in laboratories thus impairing researches and practical work. This is a result of two phenomena. One, most University Vice Chancellors, Pro-Chancellors and other members of University management see student fees as an avenue to maintain a life of affluence. Thus a culture of looting and misappropriation is let loose the result of which is the unimproved and worsening conditions of students and staff welfare on campuses despite. The second reason is that fees cannot be a sufficient means of mobilising the huge resources needed to fund education.
We in the ERC insist that the responsibility to fund education is that of government and not that of students and their poor parents. Government is supposed to be an elected body of representatives given the mandate to use the collective resources of the society for the good and progress of that society. The massive oil wealth of Nigeria is a collective wealth of all citizens of Nigeria. It has been officially confirmed that from 1999 till now, Nigeria made more in oil sales than what it made from 1960 up till now. Looking at the enormous corruption of successive Nigerian government from the billions stolen by the military regimes of Babangida and Abacha combined, those looted by the Obasanjo anti-poor government for 8 years and the embarrassing N628 million which the current Speaker of House of Representatives wanted to spend on renovation of official residence, it is clear that Nigeria is not only fabulously rich but it has the financial muscle to provide free and qualitative education, health and other basic social amenities without stress. What is however absent is the will to do so because of the prevailing neo-liberal capitalist philosophy, which the Nigerian ruling class have accepted, that the “market” or “the forces of demand and supply” should be the determinant of the standard of living of millions of Nigerians, provision of basic social amenities like education and health and the distribution of wealth. This is what has created the immense class polarisation in our society between a tiny wealthy class looting the treasury with impudence and sitting on a huge oil wealth and an army of poor and destitute working masses who struggle daily for survival against hunger.
We of the ERC are convinced that until this kind of unjust situation is changed, education under funding as well as other anti-poor policies of education like commercialization and hostel privatization will remain the night mare of every generation of Nigerian students, workers and parents. We express our solidarity with Nigerian students who are protesting against and resisting one form of government anti-poor policies or the other. Specifically, we solidarize with students of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria who protested against the N25,000 increment of fees. While not supporting violence and arson as a method of agitation, we in the ERC recognise the genuiness of the struggle which is the demand for reversal in the increment. We promise to do everything to resist possible victimizations which the University management will use the current crisis to unleash on students all in a bid to hide the real reason for the protest which is the extortionate increment of fees over what students and their poor parents can afford.