Fee hike: UniAbuja fails to reinstate students rusticated for ‘planning meeting’

BARELY 100 days after the University of Abuja (UniAbuja) rusticated Cyprian Igwe and Oladeru Samson Olamilekan for planning a meeting to discuss the school fee hike, the students are still awaiting the final report of the university’s investigation.

The institution has allegedly instructed them to return the rustication letter issued to them, but they refused to do so for fear of what they described as potential destruction of evidence.

According to the students, they got the message via a text message from one of the school security officers.

The students also revealed to The ICIR that the management refused to absolve them of the allegation despite the absence of evidence linking them to the alleged offence.

They said the institution demanded their apology letters over what they claimed it could not substantiate.

“The school management asked us to write a letter of apology and also stating that we are guilty of all allegations against us,” one of the students told The ICIR.

This was despite assurance from the university authority, in the letter addressed to the students, that an investigation had accompanied their rustication.

The ICIR, on May 26, reported that both Igwe and Samson were suspended following an allegation that they could jeopardise the peaceful and smooth conduct of academic activities in the university. The students have since denied the claim. 

Igwe, the Students Union Government’s (SUG) former Director of Socials, and Samson, the SUG former Director of Sports, were “banned from all the university campuses pending the determination of the case” for allegedly calling for a protest. 

The ICIR also sighted the WhatsApp post by Igwe, intending to schedule a meeting to discuss possible solutions to address the school fee hike.

The fee increase was not a welcome development for certain students, but they could not voice their concerns due to the warning by the vice-chancellor, Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah, against protests in the institution.

The ICIR had reported that returning students in the Arts and related faculties in the university would pay N82,000, while their Medical counterparts would pay N225,000.

Some students who spoke with The ICIR said new students would pay between N85,000 and over N100,000 in the Arts Faculty, while Medical students would pay above N225,000.

The vice-chancellor had said any student planning to disrupt the peace in the school because of the fee hike would face severe consequences.

‘We are depressed,’ students seek help, want justice 

Amidst growing concern of despair and uncertainty, Igwe and Samson have again requested that the university management reinstate them and restore their ‘damaged reputation.’

One of the students, Igwe, explained that he had been mentally and physically exhausted due to the incident.

In the same vein, Samson hoped they would be reinstated and allowed to write do their final clearance for mobilisation for National Youth Service.

He also appealed to the Federal Government and the Senate to review the university school fees.”

“We want to be reinstated as UniAbuja students. We also want the Senate and FG to review UniAbuja school fees.”

Students were rusticated for impersonation – School

Meanwhile, the university’s Director of Information, Habib Yakoob, while speaking to The ICIR, reiterated that the students committed fraud by impersonating the SUG executives.

According to him, the university’s position was clear, and the two were not rusticated for sharing a message inviting others to a meeting.

“The last time we checked, the students were rusticated because the letter in circulation was said to have been written by the Students’ Union, and after preliminary investigation, it was discovered that the said officials did not author the letter and it was their (rusticated students’) names that were there. They were not rusticated because they were about to have a meeting.

“So we need to get it clearly because the university is very open about students. They have the right to protest. Yes, They have the right to express contrary opinions to certain things in the university. 

“It was like a case of forgery – your name was there and you wrote it because you were a member of the union, and you claimed it was written by somebody else. Those they claimed to write it came out to say they did not author this; so it’s a different case.”

When asked if he was aware of the claim that the university requested them to bring back the rustication letter, he said, “I am not aware of that.”

The ICIR asked if he was aware of the apology letter, which the students claimed the management had directed them to submit. He said no.

“What I know for sure is that whatever position the university will take about this will be communicated to them but at the moment, I can’t say exactly what the position is.”

In the earlier report by The ICIR, the former SUG leader Emito Emmanuel Ayandayo said the students were wrongfully rusticated as there was no evidence to back up they called for a protest.

He said that the university started an investigation and met with some faculty presidents to ask if a meeting was held in that regard. He said they were consequently exonerated.

He added, “There is no valid evidence that this is who did that press release. The contact number of the persons who sent the post to the group chats, of course, I picked it up and sent it to the DSS the following day. They are still tracking, but we haven’t gotten who sent out that information yet.

“Not until yesterday that I saw the letter, and this morning I called the management, the Dean of Students Affairs to be precise, and he told me he had spoken to the vice-chancellor, and the vice-chancellor said the assistant registrar didn’t write the letter properly, that it was not meant to be rustication but suspension since there’s no proper evidence.” 

Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: umustapha@icirnigeria.com. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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