- Education Rights Group Demands Reversal of Students’ Suspension
By Amos Aar
THE SUSPENDED medical students of the College of Health Sciences, Benue State University (BSU), Makurdi, have denied claims by the university’s authority explanation that the students were suspended because they were planning to destroy properties of the institution.
BSU’s management had on October 30, 2023 suspended 200-600-level medical students following their peaceful protest to Government House, Makurdi earlier on October 25 over alleged poor attention to their welfare by the university’s authority.
News Agency of Nigeria, in a news report published by Newsdiaryonline, quoted BSU’s authority to have explained in a statement last Thursday that the medical students were suspended because they were planning another protest with an intention to destroy property of the institution.
“Security reports indicated that the students had made contact with external associates to prosecute the next phase of the protest.
“Consequent upon this and the reports emanating from the Security Unit, Students Affairs and Academic Staff of the College of Health Sciences, the Management was left with no option than to suspend the 200- to 600-level students of the College for one month,” the Abuja-based online newspaper quoted BSU’s management to have claimed in a statement, which was not available to National Record.
But the Secretary General, Benue State University Medical Students Association (BESUMSA), Comrade Okochikwu Ekoja, told National Record in a WhatsApp chat on Sunday that, “no student planned on destroying school property as we are peaceful.”
He added: “There was no plan on a protest after the initial one.
“The reason why we didn’t go to school was so we could stand in solidarity with our mates who lost their things at the peaceful demonstration and got injured after we were attacked by thugs”.
Asked whether they were obeying the suspension order, Ekoja simply said: “The hostels were locked and lectures stopped”.
Group demands reversal of suspension
Meanwhile, a civic organisation, the Save Public Education Campaign (SPEC) has condemned the management of the Benue State University for the suspension of the students over their peaceful protest, describing it as a repression of their fundamental human rights.
Saharareporter, reported that SPEC, an educational rights group, regretted that instead of encouraging the students to express their concerns peacefully, the management decided on the suspension of the students who were asking questions on the poor living and welfare conditions on the campus.
Calling for reversal of the suspension and meeting of all the demands of the students, SPEC, in a statement signed by its Organising Secretary, Damilola Owot, said it was out of place and never the solution to the unsatisfactory state of the campus.
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“The freedom and right to protest are inalienable rights,” the group stated, maintaining that the suspension is a mockery of “our collective intelligence that the freedom of expression and peaceful protest – a constitutional right of every citizen – is being trampled upon by the academicians who are supposed to uphold it.”
The educational rights group, further stated: “We totally condemn this barbaric act as it contravenes the rights of students to associate and protest peacefully for their collective welfare condition. We therefore call on the management of BSU to immediately disembark on this futile journey, rescind the suspension notice and immediately meet the demands of the students.
“We can gather that the Medical Students of the Benue State University embarked on a peaceful protest on the 25th of October, 2023, to the Government House over the unjust withdrawal of students, incessant shortage of water, congested facilities and general poor welfare conditions. Instead of the university management to immediately commence the process of meeting the demands of the students, this group of intellectual dons decided that the suspension of these patriotic students was the panacea to the question of poor living and welfare conditions on the campus.
“We believe that an institution like BSU should encourage students to express their concerns peacefully – as the students have done – to promote social consciousness, transparency and self-expression. The university officials who are products of political appointments are merely trying to protect the incompetence of their bosses in power who selected them for the position against the collective interest and benefit of the masses which they were supposed to protect.
“We believe the management should have initiated a dialogue, acknowledging the tenacity of the students, and finding a way to meet all of the demands of the students.
“Given all of this background, we of SPEC demand the immediate withdrawal of such circular and the unconditional recall of the students back into the campus. We also demand a public apology from the management of BSU for trying to mask the civil and legal rights of the students.
“Similarly, we call on the BSU management to immediately look into the demands of the students and ensure that clean water is returned, facilities are decongested and the mode of withdrawing students is reviewed. These would show the commitment of the management to defending the interest of the masses of the working people and not that of the ruling oppressors.
“We call for genuine autonomy for universities and internal democracies of students and workers, no to tyranny and totalitarianism by management and government. The staff unions must extend solidarity with students and we call for unity of students and staff unions to push the struggle to a logical conclusion. This struggle must be linked to proper funding of education and collective monitoring of available resources to campuses to end authoritarianism of the management.
“While we extend our solidarity to the medical students, we hold that the war is not yet over and this little challenge should be seen as a basis of planning and organising even a more encompassing protest that will further expose the atrocities of the university management. Freedom can only come by struggle,” the statement partly read.