3 YEARS AFTER, LASU FEE HIKE PROVOKES PROTESTS
3 YEARS AFTER, LASU FEE HIKE PROVOKES PROTESTS
“The APC’s megacity agenda is a mega fraud to create a Lagos for the rich only. Megacity means Mega fees in LASU, it means Mega profit for the rich and Mega suffering for the rest of us. We in the ERC and the #SaveLASU movement have also decided to give them mega protest and mega resistance until our demands are met!” – H.T. Soweto (ERC National Coordinator).
(By DSM Reporters)
Over the past three weeks, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), which is a platform formed by the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) to campaign for proper funding of education and democratic management, has been playing role in a campaign called #SaveLASU. This campaign was initiated by ERC alongside the Lagos State University Students Union (LASUSU), National Union of Lagos State Students (NULASS) and radical students group at the Lagos State University (LASU).
The campaign culminated in a small but combative demo on Tuesday 18th February 2014 as scores of Lagos State University students turned out to demand reopening of their University and reversal of hiked fees. This protest, which was a culmination of three weeks of meetings, sustained propaganda and other activities of the movement, took off from the Textile Labour House – the Secretariat of the Textile Workers Union. An online petition opened for about 14 days gathered 120 signatures. This is significant given the political situation and level of mass consciousness. The purpose of the demo was to submit this petition listing students’ demands on reopening, the January 23 crisis and fees to the Lagos State House of Assembly.
The #SaveLASU Campaign was formed on February 1st 2014 at a public meeting called by the ERC in reaction to the January 23 2014 students’ protest at the closure of registration portal against 1,292 students of the University. The protest soon turned violent after campus security and riot police shot indiscriminately at students, something that led to alleged vandalisation of properties, brutalisation of students and closure of the University.
The #SaveLASU Movement identifies fee hike as the root cause of this crisis and is mounting a determined campaign to compel the State Government to reverse the outrageous fee hike which ranges between N195,750 and N348,750 depending on the course of study. This is the highest fee of any Federal or State University and is almost at par with the fees of some private Universities.
The University’s Vice chancellor Prof. Obafunwa is so blind to the reality of daily struggle for survival by the average Lagosian and difficulty of raising such huge amount of money as he was reported to have accused the students who could not pay of choosing to be negligent and, according to him, “that was why they failed to pay and register” (Vanguard, January 25, 2014). Many parents have to borrow or sell properties in order to pay these obnoxious school fees. But for Obafunwa, “the question is ‘do we really want a new LASU?” (Vanguard, January 25, 2014). In other words, the new LASU is one that does not have place for children of the poor and working class parents. This explains why the government is charging as high as N350, 000 for University education in a state where the minimum wage is N18,000!
JAF SOLIDARISES WITH STUDENT PROTEST
Abiodun Aremu (JAF Secretary) and other members of the Joint Action Front (JAF) attended the protest to solidarise with students. Indeed JAF has publicly endorsed the #SaveLASU campaign both on social media as well as physically as demonstrated by the turnout of JAF members and civil society activists for the demo. This is a big boost to the campaign and the effect was not lost on students that participated in the protest. In Abiodun Aremu’s words “JAF has endorsed this protest because we believe that the right to education is non-negotiable”.
Speaking at the protest, H.T Soweto (ERC National Coordinator) berated the state government for increasing fees in LASU. According to him, the fee hike is anti-poor and shows that the All Progressive Congress (APC) is not different from the PDP. He also mentioned the hypocrisy of the APC Lagos government which claims to be progressive but implements anti-poor policies.
Indeed the hypocrisy of the APC was the uppermost in the hearts and mind of protesters as well as members of the public who witnessed the demo. The party has been the ruling party, under different names, in Lagos State since 1999 yet vast majority of Lagosians wallow in untold poverty, many are still homeless and education has been priced out of the reach of the mass majority. Truly the Lagos State government invests on road and infrastructure projects but the reality has dawned on many that these projects are done for the purpose of farming public resources to cronies and are not necessarily meant to address people’s real needs, something that is seen in the poor quality of these works. This is also seen in the fact that most of these road infrastructures are restricted to the main roads and areas where the rich go as thousands of inner community roads are still untarred, pot-hole dotted and generally in a state of utter neglect over 14 years since the APC has been in power in Lagos State.
As the next general election draws nearer, there is growing yearning for a political alternative to the APC in Lagos State. This is because there is almost no section of the working population of Lagos, except the rich and connected of course, that has not been attacked by the government under the guise of building a Mega City.
Together with the LASU Fee hike are other numerous attacks on the working and poor masses of Lagos. Just last year a withering war was carried out by the Lagos State government against Okada (motorcycle) riders who do this job only because there is nothing else to do. Under the slogan of creating a Mega City, the government seized their motorcycles and drove them out of the roads. Those who resisted were hunted down the Police and a few were killed. Despite widespread condemnation, protests and demonstrations by the Okada riders and the Joint Action Front (JAF), the state government barreled through this anti-poor policy.
Demolitions of the houses and shops of the poor are a daily occurrence as the pro-rich Fashola government tries to reclaim real estate for the rich. Doctors have gone on strike severally with government failing to meet their demands in each occasion. The rest of the workforce have been shortchanged of the N18,000 minimum whilst enduring several other exploitations and their raging temper is only being held from bursting to the surface by a heavily compromised and pro-government leadership of the two union federations : the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). Otherwise the APC government in Lagos should have confronted a bigger and more widespread resistance than they have ever witnessed since 1999 that they have been ruling the State.
However this seething anger that is being held down by bureaucratic labour leaders can find an outlet through the building of an alternative political party that is clearly seen to represent pro-working people policies as against APC’s pro-rich policies.
FOR A SOCIALIST POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE
The #SaveLASU movement has the potential to become bigger if built with the right tactics and commitment of all groups and activists within it. Widespread media reportage of the protest already shows the impact of the movement at this early small stage and is also a confirmation of the correctness of the issues the movement is campaigning over.
It is however crucial right from this early stage for students and other participants in the #SaveLASU Campaign to draw the political conclusion that to fully defeat APC’s anti-poor education policies requires not only protests at this or that of their policies but also the building of a political alternative to boot them out of power such as the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) which the DSM in collaboration with other working class fighters is presently building.
Indeed, what LASU crisis has further underscored is the vacuity and falsehood of the claim of the APC to being a progressive party. The university owned by the Lagos state government, which is showcased as the model of governance by the APC, charges the highest school fees at any public university in Nigeria. This and other anti-poor policies and conducts of the Lagos state government are parts of the reasons that the APC must not be taken by the working masses as a genuine alternative to the equally anti-poor PDP it is desperate to replace in power. Unfortunately, there is no party that represents the interest and aspiration of the working people. The Labour Party formed by NLC is now essentially a surrogate political platform of PDP and a trashcan of anti-poor politicians who could not get the tickets in PDP or APC. The working people must work and strive for formation of their own party while contending and resisting the anti-poor neo-liberal capitalist attacks. This is why the SPN is seeking official registration with INEC in order to represent the interests of the working masses within and outside political offices while campaigning and working for a mass working people party on socialist program.
It is only by proffering a Socialist alternative that the second leg of the #SaveLASU movement’s slogan “Save LASU! Save the Future” can be realised for the benefit of the mass majority of working class youth who can never hope to have neither good education nor a good future for as long as the APC and PDP capitalist bandits continue to rule.
7 REASONS WHY GOVERNOR BABATUNDE RAJI FASHOLA MUST REVERSE LASU FEES
(1) The protest by LASUITES of Wednesday and Thursday 22 and 23 January 2014 as well as the inability of about 1,292 students to register have as their root causes the outrageous fee hike to between N193,750 and N348,750 carried out by the Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola Government in September 2011 against the wish of students, members of the University community and Lagosians.
(2) The fee hike is anti-poor, and it is the reason there is a sharp decline in student enrollment in LASU. LASU used to have over 20, 000 full-time students, today full-time students are only a little above 12, 000. Indeed at this rate especially when the current 300 and 400 level students who are still paying the old fees of N25, 000 graduate, LASU may have less than 6,000 full-time students! The wider implication of this is an increase in the illiteracy rate of the State.
(3) The fee hike is a death pill which if not reversed will kill LASU. Today there are several departments at the LASU that have less than 10 students at 100 level.
EXAMPLES: *French department = One student in 100 level. *Islamic studies = 6 students in 100 level. *Law =15 students at 100 level, 25 students at 200 level. *Department of Fishery = 60 students obtained admission into 100 level last session. A session after, only 14 out of this are left and out of this 14, only four have registered for the current session.
(4) The fee hike has led to high dropout rate. Indeed for many current 100 and 200 level LASU students, the possibility that they would be able to complete their studies is almost zero.
(5) The sharp decline in student enrollment caused by the fee hike threatens the job of academic and non-academic staff.
(6) LASU is the only University owned by the State. The State government has no excuse at all not to adequately fund University in order to ensure that poor people can also go to school.
(7) Lagos is the richest State in Nigeria. With N80 billion monthly IGR, Lagos State is rich enough to fund education adequately especially if there is more judicious and democratic management of the State resources and less corruption and diversion of our collective resources to fund the profligacy of the rich few.