FUOYE Tragedy: Another tale from a broken Ivory tower
The Federal University Oye-Ekiti, (FUOYE) is one of the 11 universities established by former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 to, among other things, help address the increased demand for university enrolments, and to ensure federal balancing.
Apart from the ubiquitous Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that has been up in arms against the management of the institution led by its Vice Chancellor, Prof. Kayode Soremekun, other unions, including the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) have thrown their own share of issues, which has serially disrupted peace in the young university.
The students union has not been left out of the fracas on campus, as it has had to square up with the university management on several occasions over issues considered flimsy. This has added to challenges that are facing the school in addition perennial issues of underfunding.
The rot in Nigerian universities is not only reflected in the falling standard of education but also the dearth of infrastructure and learning aids.
However, the question begging for answer why FUOYE is always in the news for the wrong reasons?
Expressing his frustration recently, the Vice Chancellor lamented the increasing number of unions in Nigerian universities, saying the development was causing a serious distraction to the management of these institutions in their bid to discharge their responsibilities effectively.
In trying to locate the restlessness in the university system, Soremekun maintained that poor funding of tertiary education has contributed substantially to unrest by unions on campuses, stressing that the country’s inability to meet up with financial demands of different unions in the system is a major distraction to peace of the campus.
“Nigerian universities are over unionised and this is distracting administrations in these institutions. This is because Nigeria is poor and our income is struggling to meet up with huge expenditure. There is a mismatch between income and expenditure. The macro-environment needs to change to favour the system, and only then will militant unionism that results in ‘tigerised’ demands will end,” he said.
It is against this backdrop that last Tuesday’s attack on the convoy of the wife of Ekiti State Governor, Mrs Bisi Fayemi, by students protesting against incessant power outage is viewed.
Mrs. Fayemi was in Oye Local Council in continuation of her advocacy and empowerment programme when protesting students emerged from the Ikole end of the town armed with sticks, stones, iron rods and started smashing vehicles, including the ones attached to Mrs. Fayemi’s convoy.
On her way out of the venue of her empowerment programme, policemen attached to her convoy had to shoot sporadically in the air to rescue her from the scene of the protest.
Journalists, some civil servants and policemen in her convoy were not so lucky as the protesters, vented spleen on them.
However, by the time the dust raised by the mayhem settled, two police AK47 rifles were seized, while a Hilux van belonging to the Police was set ablaze, and one student, Okonofua Joseph was shot dead. The second student died two days after owing to injuries he sustained.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Ekiti Command, DSP Caleb Ikechukwu, who confirmed the attack on Mrs Fayemi’s convoy, explained that the protesting students blocked the Ifaki-Ikole-Omuo highway and prevented free flow of vehicles.
“The students, who did not allow vehicles to move freely, vandalised the property of Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC). When the police arrived the scene to dialogue with the students, they resisted, and the wife of the governor, who went on a local government tour ran into the violent students,” he said.
“We want to warn that the Command won’t tolerate hooliganism under any guise, just as we want to assure the public that the police are on top of the situation and our people must go about their normal businesses.”
Peeved by the unruly conduct of the students, management of the school proscribed the Students Union Government, and closed the university indefinitely.
In a statement, the school said: “We hereby condemn the violence that followed the protest by students of FUOYE, to register their displeasure over the epileptic power supply from BEDC to the communities of Oye and Ikole. Our findings revealed that the students gathered themselves and blocked the Abuja-Ado, and Ijan-Ikole high ways from the early hours of September 10, 2019, till about 2 pm.
“Sensing that her Excellency was under attack, and given the continued aggression of the students, the security personnel attached to her convoy had to repel the attackers and some students were injured in the process.
“Because of the foregoing, management at an emergency meeting discussed and reviewed the unruly behaviour of the students. Such behaviour, which included the destruction of vehicles and burning of a police van, as well as threat to lives has compelled the university management to take the following decisions, “the university is hereby shut down with immediate effect, students are therefore ordered to vacate the university premises … and the Students Union Government is hereby proscribed…”
This latest development has again brought to the fore, the debates about the desirability of unions in universities or otherwise.
Although many still argue in its favour citing the 1999 Constitution, which guarantees freedom of association, there is also the International Labour Organisation laws that allow workers to unionise.
All said the damage done to the university system by unending acrimony by labour unions is giving stakeholders serious concerns.
Some students of the institution, who spoke to The Guardian described the deceased Okonofua of the Department of Biology Education as a peace-loving student.
They alleged that the dead popular campus comedian was shot by policemen, after which they invaded students’ private hostels off-campus and arrested some of them.
They called on the government to call the police to order as well as take steps to address their grievances urgently.