Campus-journalists condemn expulsion of OKOPOLY student

The expulsion of Emeka Onwudinjo, an ND 11 student of Mass communication at the Federal Polytechnic, Oko Anambra State by the Rector for practising his profession has continued to generate ripples among stakeholders who condemned the action.

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemned his expulsion by the management of Federal Polytechnic Oko, Anambra State and demanded Emeka Onwudinjo’s recall so that he can continue with his studies.

Also reacting to the expulsion, the Proprietor of Royal Academy, Ibadan, Chief Laide Oluwaseun, called on the President, National Association of Nigerian Students, Comrade Yinka Gbadegbo and National President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Comrade Chibuzor Asumogha to wade into Onwudinjo’s case.

The group, in a statement signed by the National Coordinator, Comrade Hassan Taiwo and National Secretary, Comrade Michael Ogundele, said his expulsion which was communicated by a letter dated November 14th, 2013 and signed by Nwagwu D.U, HOD Academic affairs on behalf of the Registrar of the institution was uncalled for.

According to ERC, stating the grounds for the expulsion, the letter stated inter alia that “Management studied your published articles in the national dailies (print and online version) that painted the Polytechnic in bad light. You were called, advised several times to desist from publishing negative stories about the institution which you want to obtain its certificate. You did not heed the advise (sic).”

The ERC pointed out that the management’s arguments quoted above are laughable arguing “there can be no sane justification for the expulsion of Emeka Onwudinjo whose only crime appears to be his exercising of his freedom of expression through journalism’’.

It noted: “Besides Emeka Onwudinjo is a campus reporter with the Campus Square of Daily Sunand Campus Life, published by the Nation news paper. Going by the several recorded cases of verbal threats and intimidations he had been subjected to before now by the Institution’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Obini, there is sufficient reason to suspect that Emeka Onwudinjo is merely being targeted by the management for victimisation as a result of his reportage of the activities of the local branch of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) which has been in a battle with the management over issues of staff welfare, management of the school and other contentious issues.

“We regard the expulsion as an attempt to gag Emeka Onwudinjo. This is not only an assault on his democratic and fundamental human rights, the expulsion equally threatens the freedom of the press without which a free and democratic society is impossible.’’

The ERC called on the Rector and management of the Federal Polytechnic, Oko to immediately recall Onwudinjo, Emeka Godwin and also demanded that the institution stop further attacks on democratic rights of its students especially their freedom of expression and association.

“We call on the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and other staff unions of the institution to rise up to Emeka Onwudinjo’s defence. The management of the Federal Polytechnic Oko must not be allowed to get away with this criminal assault on democratic rights’’, the group stated.

Chief Oluwaseun who spoke to our correspondent on the phone, on the case, after reading the story in Campus Sun made a passionate appeal to the leadership of NANS and ASUP to take necessary steps to ensure that the management of the institution recall Emeka Onwudinjo to complete his study.

“For NANS and ASUP to keep quite in the face of injustice done to Emeka Onwudinjo is dumbfounding, to say the least. The two bodies must champion the recall of the student-journalist by approaching the Rector to rescind the decision to expel him. It is unfair to expel him for practising his profession on campus. The offence listed by the management does not warrant expulsion. NANS should work together with the Polytechnic’s students union to mount pressure on the Rector to recall him’’, the educationist advised.

Meanwhile, the National Secretariat of Nigerian Union of Campus Journalists (NUCJ) has also expressed disappointment with the management of the institution over the purported expulsion of Onwudinjo, describing it as a kangaroo expulsion. The union said the decision was taken without sufficient reasons or recourse to fair trial by the institution.

“The shabby reason is “articles in the national dailies (print and online version) that painted the polytechnic in bad light”. Which article? For the avoidance of doubt, the expulsion letter as has been seen by our crew, never contained any reason for expelling Emeka Onwudinjo, and investigation equally revealed that he was never invited to any panel before handing him over an expulsion letter by his Head of Department (who equally seemed more ignorant of the mystified reason behind the letter).”

In a statement signed by the National President of the union, Ahanonu Emmanuel Eca, a student of the University Of Calabar, the union urged the institution to rescind the decision and not to frustrate the career of a promising reporter.

The union noted further: “The whole scenario showcases the institution as LEVIATHAN that dishes unguarded orders that negates its students’ rights to the detriment of the institution’s reputation, as the purported expulsion letter was never considered by the institution authority as a coup to ethos of citadel of learning as it contravenes his constitutional rights as both a legitimate student of the institution and a citizen of Nigeria whose human rights has been guaranteed by the 1999 constitution (as amended)

“Emeka Onwudinjo, no doubt, has aided in building his institution to an enviable height through his numerous writings (as a campus journalist). So, could his reward for publishing the good image of his institution thru national dailies (to the envy of other institutions) be expulsion by the same institution he has given his maximum time to assist without even being paid? Could this be one of the outstanding ironies of life/situations in the 21st century?

“Our union unequivocally call on the management of Oko Poly to urgently rescind this so-called expulsion and follow due process as being advocated by National Orientation Agency (NOA) in its campaign to do the right thing on campuses, both the students and the management alike, as this may drag the name of the institution to the mud should the said student seek and get a legal redress to his threatened/violated right. While we preach and wait for the right thing to be done as advocated in the maxim offiat justice ruat caelum, we are optimistic that good works (like the ones Emeka has been doing) should be rewarded and not thwarted through obnoxious might and unscrutinized rules.

“Our hope is that the Rector, Prof. Godwin Onu, the school’s P.R.O, Mr. Obini Onuchukwu (one time journalist with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) who pushed for Emeka expulsion, and the management of the institution should look into this issue dispassionately, after all, what is the management hiding that Emeka blew open or is at the verge of blowing open as to fetch him express expulsion without trial?”

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