Students of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra state on Monday protested alleged hike in school fees by the university authority.
The students who marched round the school environment with placards, also blocked a portion of the Enugu-Onitsha expressway to register their displeasure.
The institution, through its Acting Head, Information and Public Relations, Chika Ene, had on Saturday, refuted alleged increase in school fees of returning students of the institution for the 2020/2021 academic session.
It urged students, staff and the public to dismiss the report as fake, targeted at causing unrest and destabilizing the peace being enjoyed in the University.
But the students, during the protest, insisted that the increment was true, alleging the university Management’s connivance with the Student Union Government (SUG) over the purported increment.
One of them, a third-year student who preferred anonymity, said they decided to embark on the protest as they could not bear the increment any longer.
“When they increased the fees to over N50, 000 last year, we were asked through the SUG executive to bear with the school, promising they will 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.”
Another protester, a 200 level student of Mass Communication said: “we celebrated when they gave us a born again VC, but all those thing are not true. My sister who is asking for her transcript to enable her travel for studies, they are treating her as if she has no right to go out an study again.
“She is even tired of the entire process. It is me and our elder sister who lives outside the country that have been encouraging her. This VC has made life very difficult for us. I don’t know why we can not even sack this VC. I saw the press release they made and said they did not increase school fees, so how can they be inflicting pain on us and still be lying, so that our parents will not even believe us when we go back home to collect the increment they have made. It is so annoying.”
But addressing the students in front of administrative block, the Chairman, Anambra State Axis, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Comrade Peter Onyenweife, said his executive would never be party to any form of increment of school fees.
He appealed to the students to ensure the protest was peaceful and within the confines of the campus environment.
He said, “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 the aim of the protests is defeated.
“I’m 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 these 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.
“I want to put my integrity on the line, in all honesty, the VC is currently in Abuja. But the DVC, academics who’s the second in command will brief us on his behalf.”
The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academics, Prof. Fedrick Odibo, who addressed the students on behalf of the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, said institution’s fees structure had been pulled down, while discussion with the students union government was ongoing.
He said, “We’ve heard your agitations, and they’re okay. You have freedom of protest and that’s why we’re handling you as our children.
“The VC is not around, but I’m in touch with him. He suggested he addresses you via zoom, that’s the essence of technology.
“We’ve pulled down the fees structure of the university, and we’re discussing with the students union government.”
“On his part, the Dean, Students Affairs, Prof. Nonso Achebe called on the students to suspend the protests, assuring them of a town hall meeting with the VC on return.
“You’ve 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. Tommorow by 11am,” he stated.