September 14, (THEWILL) – Students of the University of Benin, UNIBEN, on Tuesday, blocked the ever busy Benin-Lagos Expressway by Ugbowo, in protest against a N20,000 late registration fee imposed by the school authority.
For hours, vehicular and human movements at Ugbowo and Ekenwan Road campuses were paralysed.
The protesting students who carried placards bearing inscriptions as: ‘Federal Uni don turn BOWEN’; ‘UNIBEN no be BOWEN”, “Urgent 20k no be our budget”; “Oppression comes in different forms”; “We didn’t sign for this injustice”, played solidarity songs with public address sound system.
One of the students said they were protesting an additional N20,000 to their school fee within two weeks, when the portal was opened, adding that the same portal had been frequently down thereby denying those who wanted to pay the access to do so.
According to her, when the portal was opened, they were given till September 3 to pay up their fees with the warning that any payment after the date would attract an additional N10,000.
She added that immediately after the date, additional N10,000 was added without any prior information to that effect, making the increment N20,000.
“They added N20,000 to our fees within two weeks. And now the PRO is saying anyone that fails to pay before next Saturday would be denied admission, that is, the admission of such students would be withdrawn”, she said.
Berating the PRO for her comments on payment of school fees, the students remarked: “The PRO saying it is a privilege for us to be given admission to study at UNIBEN is wrong! It is not a privilege, it is our right to study at any school in Nigeria as Nigerians.”
Another student who did not want his name in print said the University had been turned into a personal business since the present Vice Chancellor assumed office.
“UNIBEN is no longer University of Benin, it is now University of Salami. Lilian Salami is our VC. She runs the school like her personal business”, the student submitted.
President of the Student Union Government (SUG), Benjamin Egwu, decried the hike.
“Earlier this semester, the management of the University of Benin announced that it would put extra charges if the school fee was not paid on time and we are saying they should not charge for late payment because the time is not okay.
“The school resumed on Aug. 15, and one month after they began to charge N20,000.
“Our school fees as at the time I was admitted into the university in 2016 was N13,000 for Arts students and N15,000 for Science students. In 2018, it was increased to N41,000 for arts and N45,000 for science.
“The N20,000 additional charge is unbearable for the students; though a lot of students have paid school fees, those ones that are unable to pay, truly don’t have the money now. So, adding extra N20,000 when they have not been able to pay 41,000 is another burden”, he said.
Egwu alleged that the management had threatened to withdraw any student who failed to pay.
“The excess of N20,000 is uncalled for. Before now, what we used to do is `no school fees, no examination`; there’s no problem about that. What the students are doing is right, protest is not a bad thing, it is a way of appealing particularly when they feel cheated”, he added.
Egwu said that the union had reached out to the institution’s management on the matter, even before the protest.
“Well, I have done my bit. I have spoken with the management and posted my idea on what I feel. I believe they heard me and the message is clear. I am expecting the management to act and I believe they will act in no distant time; there is no need to rush” the SUG president said.
Egwu said the students and the school management should embrace dialogue.
He said, “The management should call the students’ Union Executive Council for a round table meeting. I believe so much in diplomacy and the student body also believes in dialogue.
“We love our Vice-Chancellor very much and we believe she will hear our cry as well as reverse the extra charges.”
Efforts to reach the Public Relations Officer of the institution, Dr Bennedicta Ehanire, were to no avail as she neither responded to messages nor picked her calls