The authorities of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, have denied two students access to their electronic portal page while two others have been queried following a congress held to discuss the welfare of the students.
CAMPUS REPORTER has several times published reports on how students, who have opposed certain policies of the school, have been placed on ‘tactical suspension’ whereby they can not access their student’s portal page.
Also, this newspaper reported how some student activists were reinstated and their portal pages were opened after a closed-door meeting with the Vice-chancellor in July.
While Olowolafe Dunsin and Owoeye Olaoluwa, students of the faculties of technology and law respectively, could not access their portal pages, Gbenga Oloniniran, a final year student of the department of geography and another student Alawode Afolabi were queried.
According to a letter dated October 25 and signed by the university’s registrar, Margaret Omosule, which we sighted, the students were alleged to have held an ‘illegal’ meeting with some of the hall executives and forty students.
“On 19 October 2018 at about 5.00p.m you Gbenga Oloninirana (a.k.a Von) Ied an illegal group of students under the act of Action Committee of the suspended Student Union to hold a meeting with some students and Executive Members of Angola Hall of Residence with about forty (40) students in attendance,” read the letter.
“At the meeting, you made misleading statements on the Security in the Hostels, Prices exploitation, and an attempt of the university management to increase students school fees at the College of Health Sciences and reinstatement of the Students’ union.
“(You and others) were blackmailing the university management as oppressing the students by suspending their union.
“Inciting the students and calling them out for a Congress of the students which would be presided over by you without the approval from the university authorities,” it further read.
Responding to the query, Mr Oloniniran, in a letter sent through the Division of Students’ Affairs (DSA), denied the allegations.
He said: “May I quickly place on record that on the day in question, students gathered in Angola Hall of Residence to discuss issues affecting them as pertaining to buttery exploitation and other welfare challenges, and as a student who has witnessed such exploitation in that hall, I was obliged to join the discussion which throughout the proceedings, there was no form of violence or vandalization of university property.
“In other climes or other universities, students would have taken laws into their hands, but by the intellectual nature of our university and the studentry, our tradition has always been that students usually discuss all of those issues collectively and that students are being gaged and threatened from having peaceful gatherings to discuss their problems make mockery of civility.
“I am even more surprised that I’m being sent a query letter for being in a gathering of such.”
On the other hand, Mr Afolabi, in his response to the query, which was obtained by this newspaper, explained that he was not on campus when the meeting was held.
“I was not anywhere near Ife, in actual fact I was far away in Ogun State. It baffled me when I received a query letter that I led a group of students in an “illegal” congress, I then wonder how a person can be in Ogun state and be leading students in Ife at the same time.”
Reasons for the suspension unknown
While Messrs. Oloniniran and Afolabi were lucky to have received query letters with their allegations stated in them, Messrs. Olowofela and Owoeye were not told the reason for the blocking of their portal pages.
According to Mr Olowolafe, who is also the acting coordinator for the OAU chapter of Education Rights Campaign (ERC), the portal pages were blocked two days after their colleagues got the letters.
He said: “Although we were present at the meeting to represent the interests of the university and to clamour for the better welfare of the Great Ife students at large, I was surprised that the management had to block my portal.
“The management is trying all it could to silence the students and anyone demanding for the union or against their anti-student policies.”
The ERC acting coordinator made it known that he and Mr Owoeye have written to the division stating that their portals were locked without a prior information of their offences.
“The Dean, when we met him, told us to go and ask ourselves what we’ve done to warrant the disciplinary action.”
Meanwhile, Mr Owoeye added that the university, through the Vice-dean of DSA, Dr Oluwatosin, attempted putting a ‘threatening’ phone call across to his parents but he was fortunate that the phone was with him when the number was dialled.
Mr Owoeye, who provided the recorded conversation and made screenshots available to our correspondent, stated that the university officer, in a phone conversation, said; “Omo yin da school ru (Your child is disrupting activities in the university)”
Speaking on the reason for the access denied, Mr Owoeye said that he’s yet to get any reason from the university authorities.
“They should be the one to state the reasons for locking the portal. According to what we’ve learnt in Law, the burden of proof lies on the person who asserts.”
However, when our correspondent contacted the Dean of DSA, Isiaka Aransi, he said the students should be in the best position to tell their offences.
“We have many students and if anyone has a problem or the other, he/she should report to the appropriate quarters,” he said.
Also, the Vice-dean of DSA, identified as Mr Oluwatosin, denied any telephone conversation with any student’s parent when asked by our reporter.
“That means that when I called, I was speaking with the student and not the parents? I think that’s far from the truth. If you’ll like to hear more come to my office,” he said.
In an interview with CAMPUS REPORTER, some of the students condemned the actions of the management
Some termed the tactical suspension and the blocking of portal an attempt to silence the mass of students while some said it’s a move to douse the consciousness of students.
According to a student, who preferred to be identified as Tolu for the fear of victimisation, said; “The management is not ready to reinstate the union any time soon. Even if they will, it will be after some of these student activists have graduated and it will be a docile one.”
However, in a statement signed by the National Coordinator and Spokesperson of the Alliance of Nigerian Students Against Neo-Liberal Attacks (ANSA), Adeyeye Olorunfemi and Sodunola Obafemi respectively, the students’ group condemned the actions of the university authorities.
“The National leadership of ANSA seizes this medium to outrightly condemn the desperate moves of the administration of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife to gag the voice of students in the bid to exhibit the administration’s ulterior and anti-student deeds in the institution.
“We maintain that the freedom of students to peacefully assemble and to also express themselves cannot be suppressed by the Prof. Ogunbodede-led administration in such a supposedly reputable academic and civilized citadel.
“The illegal blocking of two students’ accounts on the e-portal remains unacceptable. Also, the attempt to increase fees at the University’s College of Health Sciences remains unjustifiable and thus, unacceptable,” the group said.
They “call for an end to threatening queries and victimization of Gbenga Oloniniran and Alawode Afolabi, immediate reactivation of e-portal accounts of Olowolafe Dunsin and Owoeye Olaoluwa, reversal of the proposed 85, 000 naira ‘professional training’ fee at the OAU College of Health Sciences.”
The group as well threatened to unleash all the national political and legal resources at her disposal to challenge the “high-handedness of the Prof. Ogunbodede-led administration and the Governing Council of the University.”
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