It is expected that a whole is typically larger than its parts and many heads are better than one. This was not so on the morning of Saturday the 16th as a group gang of University students decided to wreck their school in the middle of their end of session exam for nothing short of a rumour.
The whole thing was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration against the rumoured increase in school fees by the Vice-chancellor Prof. Barth Okolo. That was the plan at least when the students in the male hostel (Franco) area were rallied as early as 5:00AM (to whom the would be demonstrating against on a Saturday morning is still unanswered). This peaceful demonstration turned into an orgy of looting and vandalization on a scale not seen, much less expected by the so-called post-UME generation. The major targets were, apart from the VC’s quarters (the plan was to burn it down UNILAG style but the ended up only wrecking the cars the street lights), CEC restaurant, and the VC’s office extending into the town and up to Opi junction.
Things cooled down a bit after the police and the Army were called in the restore order. The soldiers acted as expected descending on the franco hostels (where the innocent ones who decided to stay in their rooms were) shooting, brutalizing and even taking phones from the students, a number of whom were left with gunshot wounds.The army and mobile police were called in again on Sunday to enforce the directive asking all students to vacate the campus till further notice culminating in another round of brutality on students who had just about no where to go.
As it stands the school is shut, students are roaming around seeking to enter the hostels to at least get out their property, and many are on their way to Lagos and Abuja. Second semester exams have been cut short and no one now knows when the 2008/2009 session, now in its 15th month, will end. There were plans for a major showdown (‘Bartho’s burial’) today but enthusiasm has somewhat fizzled and security is tighter.
The justification behind the madness is the rumoured increase in school fees. Now there have been sinister antecedents: the acceptance fee(for new students) was increased to N25000 from N5000 and the increase of the school fees at the University secondary school (which also led to a bout of madness by the students). As the SUG explains, Bartho was planning to increase fees to N80000 from N30000, convocation fees to N40000 from N5000 and hostel accommodation from N9000 to N30000 and all their attempts to meet with him and dialogue were rejected hence the resort to destroying their school demonstrations. But they were rumors pure and simple. Bartho himself came out and denied planning to increase fees adding that the whole thing was an attempt to discredit his administration by some who are not happy with his election.
There’s the opinion that there was a bit of premeditation in the violence coming after that in the secondary school (‘if secondary school students can protest increase in fees why should we allow Bartho to ride us?!’). It may also not be wild to suggest the presence of some students in the crowd who were not ready for their exams and saw the whole thing as an opportunity to disrupt the timetable. At the staff club and CEC it seems that the boys were after the food and drink kept (well what would you expect from demonstrators with an empty stomach?). Then there’s also the ‘indigene’ factor as Bartho has been demolishing and relocating shops and stall around the campus
What have the students gained after all the madness? Probably they may- as yet- not be asked to pay increased fees (though someday, if UNN is to become more self-sufficient, the fees will have to rise), but they will have to pay for all the damages as has happened before, having to swear affidavits to be of good behaviour, that after having spent some time, no one knows how long, at home.