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University of Lagos: an inevitable shutdown

The protesting students

The protesting students

Hardship over absence of light, water halts learning indefinitely

Welcome to the University of Lagos (UNILAG), one of the few great public universities in the country, which is today marking the 10th day since authorities shut it down after students took to the streets to protest against the absence of municipal services.

For the tertiary institution and its stakeholders, it has been a case of one semester, one trouble. Nothing seems to change in the cycle of unrest – an incident triggers a reaction of remonstration, student leaders cash in on the opportunity for relevance, forcing the rattled authorities to make hasty assurances. Sleeping dogs are allowed to lie until the next event ignites another round of protests.

In the last eight months, which nearly makes up an academic session, the only news void of nuisance that have emanated from the Akoka campus is that of the record breaker, Mr. Ayodele Dada, who achieved the exceptional academic feat of graduating from the department of Psychology with a 5.0 Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA).

Beyond that, it has been the rampaging cries by students for a better welfare. Last September, students protested against the sudden death of one of their colleague who was electrocuted, Oluchi Anekwe, for management’s negligence in maintenance of the electricity cables.

A few weeks after, the bizarre happened when students again trooped out to protest against the invasion of bedbugs in their halls of residence.

The placard-carrying protesters displayed their tattered mattresses at the main gate and on the billboards located in the institution.

The displayed mattresses were an eyesore and created a disgusting scene. The fuming students blamed university management for not replacing the old mattresses as at when due. They also decried the unsanitary conditions of the hostel, which according to a 300-level student of Chemical Engineering, who preferred anonymity, should be regularly fumigated for students’ safety and overall wellbeing.

After some few months of respite, there were fresh reasons to ruffle the waters. The twin problem of petrol scarcity and abysmal power outage experienced across the country forced the students to the streets again. Leading the charge, president of the university’s Students’ Union, Mr. Muhammed Olaniyan, stuck up their plight to the noses of the authorities, when they embarked on a three-day protest.

The students protested against the absence of light and water, forcing students to buy sachet water, which sold for between N150 and N200 per bag, to bath. According to them, there was always regular supply of both water and light to the administrators’ quarters. Out of frustration, they even unplugged the generating set of the Senate building, where the administration block is located.

According to Olaniyan, the issues are beyond just lack of light and water. “Some of the other issues are our ambulance and generating set. The issue of power goes beyond light. When we talk about power, what we are trying to say is that we are supposed to have four generating sets and the spaces are available. But the management has just two there.

“We are asking, ‘Where are the other two generating sets?’ There are supposed to be two ambulances and we just have one that is available. We are asking questions: Where are these things? Why are they not available to us? On the hike in prices of commodities on campus, the issue of our sports centre, and several others, we have written several letters and I can say categorically that they have not responded to them.

Furthermore, on the water situation on campus, there is a monopoly of water by the management. UNILAG produces its own drinking water. It is only the water provided by the school that is sold on campus, which is not always available, and is relatively expensive. These are the ugly situations we have been battling with for close to three years now,” he said.

The Dean of Students Affairs, Prof. Tunde Babawale, in his reaction, said the allegations leveled against the school authorities by the students are untrue. “The issue raised about the school’s generators is not true. The Governing Council determines the school’s needs based on experience. Unilag is one of Federal Government-owned universities with relatively steady supply of electricity. To a large extent, we have done our best to ensure adequate electricity for the school.

The reality is that there are challenges Unilag is facing just like the whole country. Unilag before now had enjoyed a measure of regular supply of electricity before it began what is called load shedding, rationing of power. That is, when there is no supply of electricity by Eko Electricity Distribution Company, the school puts on its 2,000KVA generators (two units). The two generating sets can only meet 30 per cent of Unilag’s demand.

“Whenever there is power outage, the school puts on the generators; in the morning, the two sets power the library and the classrooms and vice versa. All this has been explained to the students. Until they went on strike on April 6, this issue never came up. The school had ordered for two additional generating sets – it is not what we can buy off the shelf. It requires the Federal Government procurement procedure. More so, the equipment has to be imported and the shipment is being awaited.”

However, the Chairman, Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Education, Mr. Lanre Ogunyemi, has urged authorities of the university to be more proactive in resolving issues affecting students. He further advised the leadership of tertiary institutions in the country to always employ constructive engagement in dealing with students’ problems.



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