21 November 2012

Nigeria: Uniabuja Shut After Student Riots

Photo: Leadership
University of Abuja protest

Protests at the University of Abuja intensified yesterday with more students joining in to kick against "poor learning conditions" which they said they have had to endure for a long time.

The management responded by shutting down the university and ordering students to vacate their hostels by 4pm.

Demonstrations began at the main campus Monday morning by Engineering students who were displeased with the non-accreditation of their course, but by evening the protests spread to the mini campus in Gwagwalada with more students joining in.

Yesterday morning, students at the mini campus blocked roads leading into Abuja, forcing commuters to spend hours in the traffic gridlock before security men were called in to open the roads.

Many students gave different reasons for joining the protests, among them an alleged attack by herdsmen Monday night at the main campus during demonstrations.

In a circular yesterday, registrar Mohammed Moddibo announced the closure of the university saying it was meant to protect security of lives and properties. He directed students to vacate the campuses by 4pm.

But many students said the deadline was not feasible and that they would continue protesting until their demands were met.

Apart from Engineering, two other courses--Medicine and Veterinary Medicine--are also yet to be accredited.

"Management of the university has been playing politics with this accreditation problem," said Engineering student Tony. "Does it mean Federal Government has no money to provide facilities for accreditation? We are tired."

Another student, Daniel said students have been unhappy for a long time but were just "managing."

He said: "We do not have a Student Union Government, many programmes are not accredited, we need campus shuttles, our hostels are in a very bad state and our lecture halls are nothing to write home about."

Reacting, the university's information officer Waziri Garba said the university had made progress towards getting the suspended programmes accredited. He said the process of inviting the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) for resource verification had been concluded and the commission was being awaited for the exercise.

In a statement last night, Vice Chancellor of the university Professor James Adelabu said the students had no "cogent" reason to protest.

"The university decided to suspend the scheduled second semester examination due to the fact that the students took to the streets for no cogent reasons, blocking both the airport road and the Lokoja highway and by so doing causing untold hardship to the general public and consequently leading to break down of law and order," he said.

"It is true that there was a protest over the status of engineering programmes on Monday 19th November 2012. Note that, the National Universities Commission (NUC) had already scheduled to arrive for resource verification by Monday, 26th November 2012.

"Instead of waiting for the verification exercise, the affected Engineering Students on 20th Nov 2012 co-opted other students and outsiders to team up with them. This led to the blocking of the Lokoja/Kaduna and Airport Highways harassing passersby and extorting money among other things."

But the NUC yesterday said it was awaiting an official report from the vice chancellor on the accreditation issues.

Executive Secretary of the commission, Prof. Julius Okojie, who said this, explained that the accreditation issues included physical infrastructure, lecture halls/theatres, learning resources, staff and consultation with relevant professional bodies.

Okojie told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the vice chancellor is supposed to "write officially to us to say this is what is going on, what the general public can see, this is what is going on and these are the steps that I have taken.

"That is, he will have to report officially to the NUC on what has happened and not just what we are seeing in the media. It is only after that the NUC can take action based on the report."

Meanwhile President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Mohammed Dauda said the union was in support of the students since the university and the Federal Ministry of Education have refused to resolve the issues paralyzing academic activities on campus.

Dauda warned that the union would relocate its secretariat to University of Abuja if the Federal Government does not intervene in the crisis.

The Zone C arm of the union which covers University of Abuja also called for the resignation of the vice chancellor within 24 hours for failing to have a Students Union Government that could have intervened in the crisis.

Zonal coordinator Odoma Arome said the union wanted to intervene but could not find any student official to relate with.

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