Expulsion of student leaders stirs hornets’ nest at NOUN

By ENO-ABASI SUNDAY.   |   25 November 2015   |   11:35 pm  

noun-logoTENEBEThe establishment of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) by the Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration opened a new vista for tertiary education seekers to actualise their dreams, using the distance-learning platform. With a burgeoning youth population in the country, news of the school recording its highest enrolment figures not long ago sounded like music to the ears. Suddenly, the school is mired in controversy as students are calling for the sack of their vice-chancellor, Prof. Vincent Tenebe, and some principal officers for alleged extortion and endemic corruption. The expulsion of two student leaders has added a new dimension to the brewing fracas, writes ENO-ABASI SUNDAY.

UNEASY calm reigns at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), over the recent expulsion of two student leaders of the institution, following their role in the call for the removal of the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Vincent Ado Tenebe, and some principal officers of the school for alleged corrupt practices.

Already, the duo, Messrs Abdulrazaq O. Hamzat, a master’s student of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, who was also president of the Congress of NOUN Students (CONS), (the unofficial students’ union of NOUN students across the country), and Elias Ozikpu, a Mass Communication student, who also served as the group’s public relations officer (PRO).

The expelled student, apart from heading to the court to challenge their expulsion, which they consider illegal, have also petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the National Human Rights Commission, National Universities Commission (NUC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Nigerian Police to look into the allegations, which they have raised.

In their petition tagged, “Unlawful Expulsion Over Call for the Sack of Vice Chancellor of National Open University Of Nigeria,” the twosome, who said they were among leaders of CONS, which has been articulating the interest of NOUN students because the management of the institution has, on several occasions, withheld approbation on the existence of any students’ association in the university, maintained that CONS, at its Tuesday, November 10, 2015 congress called for the “immediate sack of the vice chancellor and other top principals of our institution over extortion and endemic corruption taking place at the institution. And as a result of our call, the university announced ourexpulsion four days later over what it described as ‘being found wanting in character.’

The students said they were also writing to bring to the knowledge of the aforementioned agencies of government and the general public, the gross injustice inflicted upon them by the institution’s management.

The expulsion letter to Hamzat dated November 11, 2015 and endorsed by the school’s registrar, Mrs. Josephine O. Akinyemi, titled, “Expulsion From The University, read inter alia, “Please recall that the management of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) set up a Students’ Disciplinary Committee to investigate your alleged involvement in acts of publishing and/or circulating reports, which contained various false and misleading information about the operations of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).

“The committee during its overall sittings, invited you to appear before it in person and clear yourself of the said allegations, but you failed or neglected to honour the various invitations by the committee.

“The committee was therefore left with no option but to believe that your refusal failure and/or neglect to appear before it was a clear confirmation of the disregard you have for constituted authority, and an affirmation that you have no defence to the allegations.

“The management, upon the receipt of the report of the committee noted that you breached the rules and regulations governing the conduct of students of the university and engaged in acts calculated to disrupt activities of the university, a conduct likely to bring the university into disrepute.

“The committee also found you wanting in character, which apart from learning, is an essential ingredient for the conferment of a degree of this university on you.

“The management of the university, after considering the report of the students’ disciplinary committee, has therefore directed that you be expelled from this university with immediate effect.

“You have however requested to handover any university property in your possession including your student identity card to the director of your centre,” it concluded.

Ozikpu’s expulsion letter referenced NOUN/REG/SDC/013/Vol.1, and dated November 11, 2015, which was also titled, “Expulsion From the University,” read in part, “Please recall that on Tuesday, 3rd November, 2015, you appeared before a Students’ Disciplinary Committee set up by the management of the university to investigate your alleged involvement in acts of publishing and/or circulating reports, which contained various false and misleading information about the operations of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).

“The committee was left no doubt from its interaction with you that you have breached the rules and regulations governing the conduct of students and also engaged in acts calculated to disrupt the activities of the university and ultimately likely to bring the university into disrepute.

“The committee also found you wanting in character, which apart from learning, is an essential ingredient for the conferment of a degree of this university on you.

“The Management of the University, after considering the report of the Students’ Disciplinary Committee, has therefore directed that you be expelled from this university with immediate effect.

“You are however requested to handover any university property in your possession, including your student identity card to the director of your centre,” it stated.

However, in the petition to the different government and security agencies, the two students claim that the university unlawfully expelled them for the following reasons:

Firstly, “For exposing a series of ongoing official corruption sanctioned by the management of the institution against students. Upon raising this alarm, the management reacted by denying the existence of corruption at the university before writing a petition against us to the Lagos State Police Command, alleging that we had threatened the life of the vice chancellor and incited fellow students against the management of the institution. The Nigerian Police, upon careful examination of the case on September 10, 2015, when we honoured a second invitation, cleared us and pointed out that the allegations by the university’s management were non-existent.

Secondly, “For asking the management to officially allow the existence of a students’ association at the university in line with Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Article 20 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We had done this by attaching a document, which we titled ‘Ten Points Demands by Students of National Open University of Nigeria’. In this document, we detailed ten issues facing students and suggestions on how to get these issues resolved. The management did not reply our correspondence, including a reminder that was sent on the matter after a few weeks. Instead, a memo dated October 28th, 2015 was circulated to all study centre directors, instructing them to not allow meetings by members of CONS, or any gathering at their respective study centres. The said memo also criminalised our personalities on the same charges that the police had cleared us since September 10, 2015.

They two students also wrote that the third reason for rusticating them was, “For contesting and writing severally to the university to correct the deliberate manipulation of academic grades. The university had manipulated 11 subjects belonging to Mr. Elias Ozikpu, and subsequently requested that the sum of N110, 000 be paid as a condition to review these manipulated results. Payment of this fee, considered illegal by the victim, could not be paid.”
They further pointed out that, “We have made several internal efforts since 2012 demanding explanations from the management on why students pay exorbitant fees on course materials without having them in return,” adding that “… fees for these materials are payable every semester and this depends on the number of courses a student offers.”

According to the petition, which stated that, “both unlawfully expelled students are final year students who had rounded up their programmes and are expected to graduate in January 2016, the duo expressed “shock that the management proceeded to increase several other fees without compunction. Consequently, we came to the conclusion that students needed an association for the protection of our interests, in which we even indicated that we might be open to management’s view on how to go about the association if it was granted. But, the university, realising an association of students would question these illegal fees, strongly opposed it by criminalising us and tagged it ‘a self-destructive mission’ in the said memo of October 28th, 2015.

The expelled students, who maintained that they were expelled for daring to blow the whistle against injustice and exposing the alleged sleaze in NOUN to make room for public scrutiny, added that, “We do know that it is our civic duty to ensure that our education sector and indeed the entire Nigeria is free of corruption and all ills. We kindly beseech you to launch a proper investigation into this matter upon receipt of this letter.”

When The Guardian contacted NOUN’s Director of Media and Information, Dr. Ronke Ogunmakin, she declined to comment on the issue saying, “I am not in Nigeria presently. I will be back next week.”

However, in an apparent reaction to some of the issues raised by the embattled student leaders, especially the rampant charging of illegal administrative fees by study centre directors, which has overburdened the students, the school issued a statement promising to apply serious sanctions on erring directors, who engage in such illegal collections.

It further warned against any practice in study centres that would work against the goals and values of the university as well as its determination to provide the best learning environment, physically and intellectually, which it maintained was already being achieved through its expansion of operational facilities and student population, which now stands at over 200, 000.

The statement also warned students against paying any other charges, except those stipulated by the university authorities, which must also be paid into authorised accounts of the institution.

In the statement, Prof. Tenebe emphasised that, “No study centre has the authority to charge and collect fees from students,” just as he advised the students to regularly visit the school’s website- www.noun.edu.ng, to keep abreast of current developments in the institution, including the approved fees.

He emphasised that the current educational revolution at NOUN was unprecedented in the annals of tertiary education in the country, adding that the goal of the university was to radically restructure the contents and methods of the nation’s tertiary educational system in a revolutionary paradigm (Open and Distance Learning), that would systematically equip Nigerian students, theoretically and practically, make them resourceful and entrepreneurially conscious; and enhance their creativity and capacity to develop a firm grasp of the world.

“NOUN is conceived and designed to be a foundry for the production of expert thinkers – graduates who are intellectually trained to make a positive impact on their society,” he declared.

He also disclosed that because of the global demand for qualitative Open Distance Learning, NOUN has evolved a highly functional system, now regarded as a model for other nations of world, especially in Africa.

Meanwhile, the Africa Centre for Education Rights and Advocacy is calling on the Federal Government to discountenance the call for the sack of Tenebe and his principal officers.

A statement issued by the centre’s regional president, Dr Abayomi Ogundele condemned such calls, adding that the students were ignorant of the towering image of the university both at home and abroad in providing quantitative and qualitative education to all seekers of education with ease and flexibility.

“The centre frowns at the recent behaviour of the students acting under the auspices of NOUN students congress as jobless persons who were expelled from other universities in Nigeria and hiding under the non-existing platform to cause confusion,” the statement read.

The statement added that the centre got involved in the matter because as an advocacy and enlightenment unit in the education sector, it is aware that the university has maintained the highest level of accountability and transparency both to students and the Federal Government in handling public funds.



  • Patiski Patoski

    Infact, what the students are agitating for is so true. A Federal University that is suppose to be cheap but now too expensive…

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