The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) and the umbrella body of Ijaw youths, the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) have faulted as wrong and acts of intimidation the attack on the president of the Student Union Government and closure of the Bayelsa state owned university, Niger Delta University (NDU) over protest staged by students recent increase in school fees.
While the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide called on Governor Seriake Dickson to address the grievances of students of the university which led to a massive protest and eventual closure of the university on Wednesday, the 25th of April, 2018, the CLO led by Chief Nengi James Eriworio condemned the alleged assault on the President of the Student Union Government of the NDU by some suspected thugs from the IYC.
The CLO called on the state Governor, Seriake Dickson, to intervene and stop the planned expulsion of the students’ union leaders over their role in the anti-increase school fees protest at the institution.
The CLO in a statement issued in Yenagoa at the weekend signed by the Bayelsa State Chairman, Chief Nengi James Eriworio, stated that investigations by the field officers of the CLO showed concern over the alleged human rights abuses against the students and the SUG leadership of the Institution following the anti-increase in school fees.
According to the CLO: “We discovered that the institution management increased the school fees without due consultation with the stakeholders. And after the protest by students, some hired miscreants attacked the students in order to silence their rights to freedom of expression and speech.
“We have also discovered that the institution management is planning to expel the student union leaders and others over their alleged involvement in the anti-increase in school fees protest.
“The CLO condemn in totality the plot by the NDU to silence the students by assaulting the student union leadership and planned expulsion. The CLO is ready to use available legal means to support the students over the need for the protection of rights protected by law. ”
The CLO also stated that a legal team of lawyers and members of the alumni of the institution are being mobilised to save the students from planned cases of victimisation by the school management, saying: “The CLO is of the firm belief that the students have rights and would not support acts that will violate the rights of the students. The ban on student unionism is wrong and illegal.
“We also discovered that in the build up to the protest by students, the school management erred by their involvement in illegal collection of fees on student identification cards from N1,000 to N5,000. Student development fees from N10,000 to N20000 and many others. ”
In its statement, the IYC led by President Eric Omare, described the closure of the Niger Delta University over the series of protests by students and workers of the institution over increase school fees and sack as unfortunate.
The IYC expressed serious concerns over the situation at the state owned university, insisting that “The NDU is to the Ijaw nation what the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria is to northern Nigeria. The NDU is also to the Ijaw nation what the University of Nigeria (UNN), Nsukka is to the Igbo nation.
“It is also to the Ijaw nation what the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ife is to the Yoruba nation. And just like the NDU was founded by the late Ijaw leader, Chief D. S. P. Alamieyeseigha, all these universities in the east, west and north were founded by the leaders of the Yoruba nation, Igbo nation and the north at the time of their establishment to give their people access to university education”.
“Hence, all efforts must be made to protect the founding philosophy of the Niger Delta University by our late leader, Chief D. S. P. Alamieyeseigha which was to give Ijaw people access to university education in a school they can call their own. The Bayelsa State Government must note that a vast majority of students of the NDU are children of environmental induced poor Ijaw people who cannot afford high charges.”
“The parents of these students are fishermen and fisherwomen whose main source of income has been destroyed by decades of environmental degradation of Ijaw land and the Niger Delta region. Consequently, the IYC call on Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Seriake Dickson and visitor to the Niger Delta University, Amassoma to holistically address the problems confronting the institution especially the increment of charges by the university authority.”
“To the IYC, it does not matter whether it is called charges or tuition fee. What is important is that what the students of the institution are meant to pay should be affordable. The Bayelsa State government has a responsibility to ensure that children of poor Bayelsa fishermen and women have access to university education.”