Five students of the School of Health Technology, Etinan, Akwa Ibom State have just been arrested by the Police on the directive of the State Commissioner for Health, Mr. Dominic Ukpong. They were invited by the Commissioner for discussion over the lingering crisis in the school owing to high increment in tuition fees.
Instead of having dialogue with the students, the Commissioner handed them over to the Police and announced their expulsion from the school.
The leader of the students, Mr Joe Friday, told NAN that the commissioner invited them to his office for ‘dialogue.’
He said that they were surprised that instead of dialoguing with them, Ukpong asked them to sign an undertaking not to further participate in protest over the hike in tuition fees.
Friday added that when they refused to sign the undertaking, Ukpong said that it was an insult on his person and the ministry and told them they had been expelled from the school.
He said: “The issue is that we wanted the school fees to be reduced.
“The commissioner asked us to come for dialogue; but when we got to his office, we discovered that we were invited for another thing, not for dialogue on increase in school fees.
“We were asked to sign an undertaking that we were not going to cause trouble in the school if we should be allowed to remain in the institution. When we refused to sign the undertaking, the commissioner said we were insolent and stood expelled from the school.
“The news of our expulsion was even broadcast in the state-owned radio station, Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation (AKBC), on Wednesday.”
Friday listed the other students affected by the action to include Ekanem Ezekiel, Ekanem Okon, Ekpo Inyang and Paul Emmanuel.
He explained that the under the new fees, fresh students (indigenes) would pay N74,000 as against N36,850 while non-indigenes were charged N81,300 as against N36,850.
He said that returning students are to pay N41,500 as against N13,350 before the increase.
When contacted, the commissioner said that NAN correspondent had no right to call him directly to talk on the issue.
He said: “Did you get this from my information officer? Talk to my information officer. You can’t call me directly and begin to talk to me.”
Speaking to our correspondent, Inibehe Effiong said; “The students were asked to sign an “undertaking” which I told them not to sign. The leader of the students and some of his colleagues refused to sign it while others signed it ostensibly out of fear. As it stands, the demands of the students have not been addressed. I’m told that the purported expulsion of the students was announced by 3pm today on the state owned television. I take that as a mere rumour. I do not believe that the mental state of those oppressing these students is that bad.”
We will follow this matter to the end, He said.