FEDERAL University, Otuoke (FUOTUOKE), Bayelsa State, has been shut down following students’ protest over what they described as a hike in school fees, harsh learning environment and high-handedness of the institution’s authorities.

The students claimed their school fees had been increased to N85,000 for students in the humanities, and N90, 000 for science students. They, therefore, questioned the school management’s deviation from the objective of increasing access to university education.

They stated that no other Federal University, including those established at the same time as institution, charged such fees.

While describing the management’s insistence of no ‘Students Union’ activities in the institution as ‘draconian and unacceptable’ in a democratic dispensation, they also cited other problems in the institution such as poor hostel accommodation and lack of electricity as well as potable water, and constantly being harassed and intimidated by soldiers drafted to guard the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan’s private hotel in the community.

The students also criticised the six-month compulsory break, which the management asked them to embark on as an elongation of their stay in the university. “We want the school fees to be reduced to tally with other Federal universities,” a female student, who pleaded anonymity, said.

She stressed that second year students of other universities pay N35,000, while their counterparts in FUO pay N85,000. “We want the educational system to continue the way it is to enable us proceed to our third year. We have been in year one since 2012. Despite the fact that we didn’t join the ASUU strike, they refused to allow us to make progress.”

“They refuse to allow us to have Student Union Government (SUG) so that we won’t be able to speak out. We have been in year one since 2012 we gained admission into this university. Now they are asking us to go for six months’ vacation,” she lamented.

The students, whose action paralysed all activities in the institution, took to the streets of Otuoke, chanting songs and condemning the leadership style of the university management. With placards, they marched from the main campus to the administrative blocks of the university and barricaded the gates of the administrative blocks as they called on the management to rethink its policies.

Liveschoolnews.com.ng gathered that they had previously embarked on a similar protest when a student had refused to fetch water for a soldier and was beaten up. Normalcy returned as four truckloads of anti-riot and conventional policemen were drafted to the area to restore peace.

The Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Mobolaji Aluko, in a statement, denied any increase in fees, and noted the schedule of fees currently being paid by all students was published on the university website — http://www.fuotuoke .edu.ng— and communicated to the students over 10 months ago.

Aluko said in the statement said, “after operational experience with pioneer (first set of) students, whose total fees including accommodation was N45,000, the university has separated accommodation fees from other fees, and made a distinction in fees between Science/Engineering students and non-Science students.

He added, “this is standard practice in all universities worldwide. First-time-in-College (Freshman) fees include N18,000 of Acceptance Fee (N15,000), ID card (N1,000) and certificate verification charges (N2,000), which are paid only once in a student’s university life-time, and not paid by returning students. Consequently, after the first year, the differential fee between pioneer and non-pioneer students in the same course is N4,000.”

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