It came as a great surprise to some when on April 7, 2016, the Senate of the University of Lagos rose from an emergency meeting to announce the closure of the institution. The news, which spread like wild fire as it was released through the popular campus Information Flash, declared that every student must vacate the campus before 10am the following day, April 8, 2016.
The announcement came as a dreaded piece of rotten rag unexpectedly thrown to the face of a helpless folk. This was even as the students were dialoguing with the authorities to find the solution the endermic challenge that resulted into a protest from students. Few days before the closure, the students of the University established in 1962 through an Act of Parliament, had embarked on a peaceful protest to register their displeasure as a result of incessant disruption of power as well as poor water supply in the campus. The protest which the management saw as a threat to administration and a breakdown of law and order prompted the release of the circular mandating everyone to hurriedly vacate the campus within 24 hours. The protests embarked upon by scores of students barricaded the major roads leading into the university thereby preventing vehicles movement to and fro the institution. The students also allegedly disrupted an event in the Assembly hall which had the Vice Chancellor, Rahman Bello,
It is believed that the school arrived at the conclusion as a result of difficulties faced by the ‘large number of students’ living off campus to attend classes following the lingering fuel crises. This was revealed in the Information Flash. The protest was said to have come to sudden end with the intervention of the security agents. According to the circular issued by the university management, all academic activities on campus were suspended to forestall further breakdown of law and order, adding that students were strictly ordered to vacate their halls of residence by 10am on Friday, April 8. The circular added that “A decision to re-open for normal academic activities will be made as soon as municipal services improve”. It is still left to wonder how matters are left to degenerate before actions are taken, and most times actions are not taken until there are commotions of some sort. The question on the lips of many is why the school waited till there is a demonstration before they could come out with a pronouncement. And again, closing down an institution of higher learning because of a demonstration sure amounts to being too decisive; killing an ant with a sledge hammer.
The University Senate observed that the problem of poor municipal services is a national issue which governments at both the state and Federal levels are addressing, simply point to the fact that the school appears helpless in taking care of its students. An assessment that many feel is unacceptable. The school’s argument’s that the fuel scarcity, currently affecting all facets of the Nigerian economy is the key reason for the protest is stemmed from the fact that fuel is used to power basic things in the environment. Consequently, the education sector is affected. It also argued that as the cost of transportation continues to rise, there will be no need for a right thinking administration to continue to keep its students back in school, seeing that they could hardly afford it.
But stakeholders have said that the reasons given by the school authority cannot hold water as they have to wait for a major disgraceful demonstration that borders on rotten mattresses which had near-human size bed bugs for they could react. It was reported sometime last year that the entire student population of the University of Lagos went on rampage to protest the kind of mattresses on which they sleep. The mattresses, which were displayed at the school gate and everywhere within the school premises, were stinking and oozing out pests of many kinds, chiefly among them, bed bugs. “The only way people at the top listen is by demonstrations and protests, and that is why we embark on it as a last resort,” a student who was seen going home told The Boss. Now that the students have been sent home, it is left to imagine how long they will stay at home and be deprived of their education even as they are lagging behind considering the porous nature of the country’s education system.
A parent of one of the students forced home, asked our correspondent why such a grave punishment should be meted out for such a small offence, which for all intent and purpose is justified. “The authority got it all wrong. It is like killing a man for taking away rotten tomatoes from the pack, why kill an ant with a sledge hammer,” the woman said.
However, most of the students have vowed not to leave the campus, daring the worse, because according to some them, “We came from afar”, saying the school should not always be coming up with laws that they themselves cannot meet. If government officials keep overlooking things of basic necessity, further protests, even the highest form of protest will be witnessed in this country. Nigeria has outgrown the stage where we have to suffer before we see changes. It is hoped the students will be called back soon to resume studies in an effective and conducive atmosphere.