By Daniel Kelechi, Chijioke Victor, Ithiel Afolayan and Blessing Famose
The University of Lagos (UNILAG) faculty Presidents-elect has debunked the rumours making the rounds that they were offered a bribe of free bed space to forsake students in their struggle against the recent hike in obligatory fees.
The recent increase in the obligatory fee paid by the students of the University of Lagos has caused a misunderstanding between faculty Presidents-elect and the Solidarity Against Fee Hike Group.
Recall that on July 20, 2023, the university authorities announced a hike in fees for undergraduate students. The authorities raised the fees from #19,000 to #190,250 for students studying medicine, while for courses that require laboratory and studio, students are to pay #140,250.
This outrageous increment met the students like an unannounced thunderstorm as they were all shocked and unhappy with the development.
Being unhappy with the development, some students came together under the aegis of Solidarity Against Fee Hike Group to champion a course aimed at getting the school to reconsider her earlier announcement.
While the Solidarity Against Fee Hike Group was mobilising and strategizing, student union Presidents-elect did not rest on their oars as they had to also reach out to the authority to ensure that a middle ground was reached and a possible reduction in the fee made.
The Solidarity Against Fee Hike Group in association with NANS was said to have met with the school authority over their demand and another meeting was scheduled to be held on a yet to be announced date.
It was later alleged by some students, most of whom are members of the Solidarity Against Fee Hike Group that faculty Presidents-elect were trying go through the backdoor to meet with the Director of Students Affairs, DSA, Prof. Musa Obalola and reach a compromise because they were promised a free bed space.
Reacting to the allegations, Joshua Adeyeye, the President-elect of Law Students’ Association who spoke on behalf of his colleagues to one of our reporters, described the allegations as baseless.
“I actually don’t think there is a feud between the faculty Presidents-elect and the Solidarity Against Fee Hike Group. I don’t think so because they are working externally while we are working internally. I remember there was a time they had an enlightenment session on Twitter space which I attended and a couple of other Presidents-elect also attended it as well, so there is no feud.”
When asked what he and other Presidents-elect are doing to push the course of the students, he reiterated his commitment and that of his colleagues to ensure that the issues are addressed. He said, “Like a toothless bulldog, I can only bark but I can’t bite in the sense that until I am inaugurated and formally recognized as the President of the Faculty of Law, there is a limit to what I can do.
Regards to the steps that have been taken to ensure that this particular demand sails through, we actually solicited meetings with the DSA, however, that particular meeting was cancelled and we called unto the out-going executives to do whatever they can in their capacity because they were the ones who sat with the management (that was last session) when they were talking about how they want to increase the school fees. So they had some sort of agreement with the management so we thought that they’ll be the ones at the forefront of this particular fight. For us, we’ve not been inaugurated.”
He maintained that the DSA made it explicitly clear to him and his colleagues that they have not been inuagurated and doesn’t have the full authority to function in whatever capacity they think they want to function.
Speaking further on additional steps which he will take to ensure that the indigent students from his faculty do not drop out, he said, “per adventure, this particular fee isn’t reduced, in my own capacity as the president elect, I’m trying to collaborate with organizations to raise a substantial amount of money that we can use to subsidise the rate of school fees for indigent students in the Faculty of Law. Also, we intend to write to Law firms and alumni of the Faculty to render any financial assistance they could for the purpose of ameliorating the plight of the indigent students but like I told you, we’re not yet formally recognized as people in the position of authority in the University of Lagos”.
He also told our reporter that they (the presidents elect of the 9 faculties in Unilag) have had an in-house meeting where they discussed the issues at hand extensively with a view to getting the DSA to listen to them but that has been constrained because they have not been formally inaugurated. This meeting, according to him, gave rise to the meeting which was scheduled to hold on August 7 between Faculty Presidents-elect and the Director of Students’ Affairs but the meeting was called off by the DSA.
A representative of the Solidarity Against Fee Hike Group, Philip Olatinwo who spoke with us told us that indeed there was no feud between his group and the Faculty Presidents-elect.
“On the cancelled meeting between the DSA and faculty Presidents, I will like to state that the meeting was cancelled because the university management did not regard student leaders after the plan of the DSA to intimidate the faculty presidents to agree to the increment failed.”
Speaking further, he said, “I will like to clarify that at no point did we ask students to send threat messages to their faculty Presidents. We only asked students to reach out to their faculty Presidents to inform them that they must not compromise the interest of students. But you know that in university Lagos where student leaders are completely disconnected from the students they represent, any harmless demand placed by students before their leaders will be seen as a threat.”
Speaking on what their demands are, he said they are asking for a total reversal in the increment and that the University authorities must meet with students’ union representatives to negotiate a better fee if at all there will be an increment.
He however maintained that his group will never back down until their demands are met.
It should be noted that at the time of filing this report, the Director of Students’ Affairs, Prof Musa Obalola has not responded to our WhatsApp texts where we sought to also get his views on the issues.