[From CHINEDU NWAFOR, Abakaliki]
There was a pandemonium on Monday as students of Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UniZik), Awka, in Anambra State took to the streets to protest alleged hike in tuition fees by the university authority.
The angry students in their hundreds marched round the school premises carrying placards, and proceeded to the Enugu-Onitsha expressway where they blocked a section of the ever-busy road.
The protest is coming on the heels of a press statement issued by the university through its acting head, Information and Public Relations, Chika Gladys, on Saturday, in which the university management refuted the alleged hike in school fees for returning students of the institution in the 2020/2021 academic session.
However, the students during the protest insisted that the increment was true.
They alleged that the school authority colluded with the Student Union Government (SUG) to hike the fees.
One of the protesting students who preferred to be anonymous explained that they were rejecting the increment and urged the management to reverse it immediately.
“When they increased the fees to over N50, 000 last year, we were asked through the SUG executive to bear with the school, with a promise they would revert to the initial fee of about N26,000.
“But to our greatest surprise, instead of asking us to pay the old fees as promised, we saw additional amount to what we paid last year.”
Chairman, Anambra State axis, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Comrade Peter Onyenweife, while addressing the students, assured them that the leadership of NANS would never be party to any form of increment.
“Any student protesting outside the gate is on your own. Anybody can release gunshots from anywhere, and once that’s done, we’re all gone, and the aim of the protests is defeated.
“I am standing here as your representative. We can never be a party to any form of increment. That’s why we’re here to plead with you…our voices must be heard.
“If this same group of students were the same students that gave me support in 2019, I want to assure you that I won’t for any reason support anything that will hurt you,” he said.
Addressing the students on behalf of the Vice Chancellor, the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University, Academics, Prof. Fedrick Odibo, explained that the institution’s fees structure had been pulled down, while discussion with the students union government was ongoing.
Odibo said, “We have heard your agitations, and they are okay. You have freedom of protest and that’s why we are handling you as our children. The VC is not around, but I’m in touch with him.
“We’ve pulled down the fees structure of the university, and we’re discussing with the students union government.”
Dean, Students Affairs, Prof. Nonso Achebe, on his part, called on the students to suspend the protests, assuring them of a town hall meeting with the Vice Chancellor as soon as he was back from his trip
“You have registered your displeasure, please let’s meet at the round table for negotiations. The DVC has addressed you and I’m lending my voice as the number one student.
“Let every fray nerves be calmed so we don’t spoil the good work we’ve started. Let’s broker an agreement tomorrow by 11am,” he concluded.