• They demand Gov. Amosun to end rift with lecturers
By Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
What began as a peaceful protest by students of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Abeokuta, to call the state government attention to their plights, on December 18, 2017, turned violent and almost bloody, as female student, said to be asthmatic, slumped when police fired teargas to disperse the students.
They had converged on the main entrance of the governor’s office, Oke-Imosan, Abeokuta.
The protest was to demand for the end of the impasse between the state government and the institution’s lecturers, over the transmutation of MAPOLY to Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology (MAUSTECH). The standoff, has led to the continued delay to the second semester examination for the 2016/17 academic session.
Similarly, during the protest, tagged ‘Black Week’, a police corporal, Samuel Daniel, sustained injury as he was hit by a stone, allegedly thrown by the students. The injured officer and the student were later taken to the hospital for medical attention.
The protest, which started in the early hours of Monday, however, disrupted activities, particularly at the NNPC Mega Station Junction, along the Presidential Boulevard, leading to the governor’s office.
Equally, shop owners at the Kuto Market and its environs; hurriedly shut their shops for fear of being attacked by the students.
Meanwhile, bloodbath was averted at the early hours of the protest, when the students attempted to prevent a vehicle belonging to the Nigerian Army, from passing. The soldiers shot into the air to clear the barricade, while police officers fired teargas to disperse the protesting students.
The volley of gunshots, however, made the residents and passers-by to scamper for safety. Not deterred by these, the students in their hundreds later regrouped and headed straight for the gate of the governor’s office and demanded to speak with the governor.
Speaking with The Education Report, the chairman, National Association of Nigerian Students, Ogun State, Olawale Balogun, insisted that the protest would continue until the governor addresses and resolves their examination issue.
Balogun said the protest is to appeal to the state government and the MAPOLY chapter of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, (ASUP), to resolve their differences.
But when the state government delegation, led by the Secretary to the State Government, Taiwo Adeoluwa, tried to address the protesting students, he was rebuffed as the students insisted on speaking with the governor. All efforts by the SSG to make the students see reason and listen to him fell through as they shouted him down.
Apparently miffed by the action of the students, Adeoluwa, on behalf of the state government, later issued a statement where it condemned in strong terms, the “unruly behaviour of some students of MAPOLY, who thronged the main gate of the governor’s office, Oke-Mosan to protest the non-commencement of their examinations following the industrial action of the members of ASUP in the institution.”
According to the SSG, he had led a government delegation, including the state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mrs. Modupe Mujota and the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Tolu Odebiyi, but expressed disappointment over the uncivil conduct of the students who had rebuffed every attempt by the delegation to address them.
He added that despite the failed attempts by the delegation to calm the rampaging students, the SSG, however assured the students and their parents that “though government frowned at the confrontational way the students had deployed in driving home their plights, yet it would continue to interface with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that all issues surrounding the purported delay in the conduct of their examinations were addressed.”
“The issue appears to be between them and their lecturers. We tried to speak with them but they were unruly and disorderly. It is difficult for anybody to engage with them in this violent circumstance. They are our children and stakeholders. We appreciate their concerns but as a government, we think the agitation can be addressed peacefully.
“Government is prepared at all times to address the concerns of the students. We will continue, on their behalf to talk to their lecturers to ensure that normalcy returns,” Adeoluwa said.
Also in the statement, the Commissioner for Education, Science & Technology, Mrs. Mujota, who corroborated the SSG’s position, advised the students to embrace dialogue so that normalcy could return to their campus soon.
In his reaction, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Mr. Bola Longe, who led his men to curtail the students, also condemned the attack on one of his men, warning the students not to take laws into their hands.
Longe said: “The students had defied the heavy presence of security men to block the road leading to the Governor’s Office on the Abeokuta-Sagamu expressway and prevented the free flow of traffic on the ever busy road as they threw caution to the wind by throwing stones and pebbles at everybody in sight, injuring a police man in the process”.
On the same day of the commencement of the ‘Black Week’, the Ogun State government announced that the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) had granted full approvals for the take off of academic activities at the Ogun State Polytechnic, Ipokia with immediate effect.
In the statement also signed by the SSG, the state recalled that some students of MAPOLY had earlier that day visited the governor’s office, to express their concerns about the delay in the commencement of their examinations and continued strike of the lecturers, which they noted had greatly undermined the completion of their programmes at the institution.
The statement noted that: “Although a section of the students displayed some unacceptable conduct while the interaction lasted but as a responsible government, we appreciate their anxiety and therefore assured them that government is working to ensure that all issues relating their concerns were resolved.
“Following several inspection visits to the site of the polytechnic, we are delighted to report that the NBTE has granted accreditation to the Ogun State Polytechnic, Ipokia to commence academic activities in18 programmmes
“In a related development, JAMB has also announced the opening of its portals for candidates to enable them register for courses at the Ogun State Polytechnic for the 2017/2018 Academic Session.
“This development further confirms government’s position that the interest and welfare of all students of its institutions as well as their parents is paramount and will always be accorded a pride of place by our government. We are confident that normalcy will return to these institutions very shortly.
“For the benefit of all stakeholders, we like to state that the crisis arose in the first place from the refusal of the lecturers to call off their strike.
“Among their demands is that government must pay them full salaries including the months they did not work on account of an illegal and totally unwarranted work to rule action. For the avoidance of doubt, government restates that no one will be paid for work not done. And no one will be allowed to hold the good people of Ogun State to ransom.
“We call on our students to immediately return to their classes as we continue to work round the clock to resolve other outstanding issues”.
Prior to the protest, however, the Ogun State House of Assembly had invited the State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mrs. Mujota to appear before it, to state ways of proffering possible solutions to end the strike by the lecturers of MAPOLY.
The Chairman, House Committee on Finance and Appropriation, Akanbi Bankole, who spoke shortly after taking on the Commissioner during the budget defence of the Ministry and other related Agencies, said the invitation became imperative in view of the delay and elongation in the academic calendar of the institution and its effects on the innocent students.
According to Bankole, there was need to ensure the immediate suspension of the strike in the interest of the students and the institution so as to allow for smooth transition of the new MAUSTECH and the State Polytechnic at Ipokia.
Speaking at the House, the commissioner, appealed to the striking lecturers to reason with the state government, noting the industrial action was capable of demeaning the lecturers and the institution especially by delaying the examination of the existing students.
Mujota added she had made the passionate appeal on the grounds that the strike could deter prospective students seeking admission into the HND part time and full time programmes, thereby denying the institution its much needed internally generated revenue as well as damaging the institution’s reputation.
She, equally, implored the lecturers to reconsider their stance in the best interest of the school and the future of the innocent students as government had promised that no lecturer would lose his or her job in the course of the on-going transition.
According to her, the education ministry had proposed a budget size of N11.887b, out of which capital projects would gulp N10.487b and recurrent expenditure was put at N1.4b and the expected revenue was put N1.5b.
Determined to continue with their protest, which they vowed would last till the examination is held, the students of MAPOLY, converged again on Tuesday, December, 19, 2017 at the gate of the institution. But the protest, The Education Report gathered, was broken up at the Iyana Oloke area of Onikolobo, by policemen. In the ensuing melee, 20 protesting students were said to have been rounded up by the police.
Confirming the arrest, the Police Public Relations Officer in Ogun State, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said the students were arrested for arson and public disturbance.
While speaking with our correspondent on phone, the PPRO, who noted it was the duty of the command to protect lives, added the arrested MAPOLY students will be charged to court on completion of investigation.