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Nigerian university reinstates activists after court action

The Federal University of Technology, Owerri, FUTO, has reinstated nine student activists expelled over a year ago for their involvement in a protest against tuition fees hike.

The recall followed legal action taken by the students.

The protest took place on 17 February 2017, after which the school expelled the students identified as spearheads.

However, in a recall letter issued to each of the affected students on Friday and sighted by our correspondent the university said it had reversed its decision during a meeting of the Senate in July.

Some of those affected are Collins Ogbonna, Fishery and Aquaculture Technology; Elvis Onuoha, Animal Science Technology; Ebuka Odunze, Computer Science Department; Kenneth Megwa, Prosthetics and Orthotics Department; and Nnamdi Madu and Collins Ugwu of the Optometry Department.

“The Senate at its 437th meeting held on Tuesday, July 3, 2018, ratified the amnesty granted by the Vice-Chancellor to the students who were expelled for their involvement in the planning and execution of the violent demonstration of Friday, February 17,” read the letter signed by school’s registrar, John Nnabuihe.

“Your recall is however subject to the paying of the surcharges and signing an undertaking, along with your parents to be of good behaviour for the rest of your studentship in the university,” added the letter.

Meanwhile, this newspaper gathered that the students had approached a court to press for their reinstatement before the school pardoned them.

In fact, the recall followed the out-of-court settlement deal between the school and the students before Lewis Allagoa of the Federal High Court, Owerri, on 19 October 2017.

One of the reinstated students, Mr Collins, in an appreciation message posted on Facebook, said: “The judiciary is the last hope for the Common Man. We believed in the Aluta Spirit and Victory was Assured.”

Also, in a public release to appreciate those who participated in the struggle, the Alliance of Nigerian Students Against Neoliberal Attacks (ANSA) urged the mass of students, civil society groups, and labour unions to join in the ‘historical struggle of ridding campuses of tyrannical maladministration.”

Despite the protest, the fees regime that triggered the demonstration of February 2017 was not reviewed.

First-year students fee was increased from N48,000 to N54,300 per session while second and third-year fees rose from N32,000 to N49,000.

Also, the fee for the fourth-year and final-year students went up from N28,000 to 39,000, while the acceptance fee was raised to N45,000 from the initial N25,000.

However, despite the spike, students complained in interviews with our correspondent of no changes in the services available to them.

“We pay for a lab coat every session,” said Sunny Olufemi, a student. “Up till now, I’m yet to get one. They have always been collecting money and nothing has been done after several complaints.”

Mr Sunny added that the free Wifi connection being paid for was not really functional and is no longer available as the ICT centre of the school was razed by fire in July.

“We still pay for it even it’s no longer available,” he said.

Another student, Okafor Ifunaya of Optometry Department, lamented poor electricity supply. “We hardly have light. If they give us light in a day, don’t expect it in two days.”

She added that N5,000 for shuttle bus was added in the breakdown of the new fees regime, whereas students still pay N50 as transport fare on each trip within the campus.

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