‘I was forced to sign rustication letter ‘- UniAbuja student expelled over planned ‘meeting’ against fee hike

CYPRIAN Igwe, an undergraduate student of the Sociology department at the University of Abuja has been rusticated from the institution for urging colleagues to dialogue on the school’s hike of its fees.

Igwe, who just finished his final-year examinations, had, in a WhatsApp message, invited his colleagues to a meeting to share ideas on how to convince the school to reduce the fees. 

The student, along with one Oladeru Samson Olamilelkan, the Students’ Union’s director of Sports, were “banned from all the university campuses pending the determination of the case” for allegedly calling for a protest. 

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


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Some students who spoke with The ICIR added that new students would be paying between N85,000 and over N100,000 in the Arts faculties, while medical students would pay above N225,000.

The increase in fees was not a welcome development for certain students, but they could not voice their concerns due to the cautionary message delivered by the vice-chancellor, Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah.

Na’Allah had said that any student planning to disrupt the peace in the school because of the fee hike would face severe consequences of the action.

According to him, any student caught engaging in violent activities on campus would face the penalty, including expulsion.

“The repercussion is swift and merciless. If anyone is caught anywhere destroying anything or simply disturbing the peace of our campus, I promise you I will descend heavily on such a person by showing him or her a way out,” the vice-chancellor had said.

The ICIR sighted the post by Igwe intending to schedule a meeting with the purpose of discussing possible solutions to address the situation at hand.

Post made by Cyprian Igwe
Post made by Cyprian Igwe

The management has, as a fallout from the post, expelled Igwe and issued a ban on his presence on all university campuses. 

This decision was conveyed to Igwe through a letter dated May 26.

Rustication letter
Rustication letter

According to the letter, Igwe’s post was capable of jeopardising the peaceful and smooth conduct of academic activities 

The letter, which was signed by the Deputy Registrar (Academic), Alkasim M Umar read, “You will recall that on Tuesday, May 23, 2023, an inciting press release was made available to the public, purportedly signed by the Student Union Government’s President and Speaker.

“Preliminary investigations revealed that you and Oladeru Samson Olamilekan (18291126) facilitated and circulated the information.

“Your actions are capable of jeopardising the peaceful and smooth conduct of academic activities in the university and a breach of the University Matriculation Oath.

”By the powers conferred on the Vice-Chancellor as contained in the University of Abuja Act, he, on behalf of the Senate, has directed your immediate rustication from the university.

“Accordingly, you are banned from all university campuses pending the determination of the case.”

Igwe, announcing his rustication on Friday, May 26, on twitter, said Nigeria did not have the education that the poor deserved if they could not go to school. 

I was forced to sign the rustication letter – Igwe

The rusticated student, who is also the school’s director of Socials, told The ICIR that he was made to sign the letter without a fair hearing.

He said, “The thing started on Monday when I made a post on my group chat that I’m in pain and that I do not want to see thousands of students suffer.

“The school fees were increased; they doubled the cost of the school fees. For instance, some departments’ fees were increased by over 100 per cent, Like my own department it is from N47,300 to N89,000.”

“The next day, I called for the meeting; in the evening, I called our president. He didn’t make any comments or reasonable information to me, so the meeting didn’t hold. Later that evening, someone posted on my group chat and some other group chats, giving the school a warning to reverse the increment or else there’ll be a protest. The school security now called me and said I’m a suspect and that I have to write a statement and provide the person from before 5pm. I said I don’t know the person that wrote the post.

“They called me yesterday saying that I should come back and bring another statement and told me what to write there. When I finished, they seized my phone and brought a rustication letter saying that I should sign it, that if I didn’t sign it, they won’t give me my phone. They forced me. After I signed it, I stayed there for four hours, and they now gave me my phone.”

A source at the school’s Students’ Union, who preferred not to be mentioned for fear of backlash from the school management, described the expulsion of the two students as “unjust”, adding that the students were not indicted. 

The source told The ICIR, “This whole issue for me is very unjust in the sense that a write-up was purportedly circulated, and to the best of my knowledge, he has not been anyway indicted, like properly indicted for the so-called write up. I can just say the school saw these two young men that were rusticated as threats in the sense that they were vocal enough and were bold to take steps. What I mean by step is working towards the interest of the students in a very lawful and peaceful manner.”

He said that the director of information, Dr Habin Yaqoob, accused the students of calling for a protest that amounts to inciteful action against the school, which of course is not.

The source maintained that the rusticated students never called for any protest.

The content is capable of upsetting peace – Management 

The ICIR’s efforts to get the university’s director of Information, Habib Yakoob, proved abortive. However, Yakoob, speaking to The Punch on Saturday, May 27, alleged that the students committed fraud by impersonating the SUG executives.

He said, “Two students were suspected to have issued and circulated a write-up purportedly in the name of the SUG president and speaker (who has disowned the write-up promptly). This is impersonation/ forgery.

“The content of the said write-up was quite inciteful and capable of upsetting the peace and tranquil environment that the university has been known for. Preliminary investigations implicated the two, hence the decision to suspend them pending the full determination of the matter.

“Please note that they weren’t suspended because they complained about the increment of fees. Thank you.”

The spokesman said an investigation was continuing on the case.

No clear evidence to prove the rustication – SU

The Students’ Union president, Emito Emmanuel Ayandayo, said the students were wrongfully rusticated as there was no evidence to back up they made a write-up calling for a protest on May 29.

According to Ayandayo, the management was acting on a post purportedly signed by the Union president and secretary. 

He said, “First of all, I got to see the content of the letter yesterday evening. On the letter, it was referencing back to the purported press release that was sent out and signed by my office and the office of the speaker of the legislative stating that we were inciting violence, that we had a meeting with some members, alumni of our schools and stakeholders, that we want to protest on May 29 at Eagle Square, which was completely wrong.




     

     

    “Below it was stated that I signed the communique alongside my speaker, which was completely wrong. And immediately I sent a counter release that we didn’t sign such a press release and that no meeting was ever held by myself and my speaker.”

    He said that the university started an investigation and met with some faculties’ presidents to ask if a meeting was held in that regard, noting that he was exonerated.

    He added, “There is no valid evidence that this is who did that press release. The contact number of the persons that sent the post to the group chats, of course, I picked up and sent 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 has 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.” 

    When asked if the university has sent a new communique reinstating the students, Ayandayo said no.

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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