Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



Press statement

By Lawal Rafiu

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) branch, condemns the recent increment of fees by the Authorities of the University. The latest increment affects acceptance fee payable by fresh students which has been increased from N2000 to N20,000, aside another additional N3,400 on other fees. Also, the University authorities have also introduced a N1600 health insurance fee for all students including returning students.

To say the least, this increment is anti-poor and anti-student. Those that would be affected are in the region of at least 65% of the students’ populace who come from low-income working class families eking out a living on a N7500 national minimum wage.

This latest fee hike has however again confirmed our earlier position that the management-sponsored violent attacks on us in which many members of our organization were brutally assaulted by the management agents amongst students (and later detained and politically victimized by management) is an attempt to weaken the forces of resistance and prepare the ground for astronomical hike in fees. We have been vindicated!

This fee increment is outrageous. This is because the so-called acceptance fee is weird. How can you ask someone who undertook examination and chose a particular university to come and accept (or pay to accept) the admission? It is a known fact that when somebody does not show up for registration within a stipulated time, the admission is deemed lapsed. What then is acceptance fee again? Is the OAU management trying to commercialize admission? This act of commercializing admission was formerly known with admission racketeers; is the university substituting itself for these fraudsters? To now add insult to injury, the acceptance fee was hike by 1000 percent to N20,000 in a country where the minimum wage is still less than N7500 while over 70 percent are living in absolute penury. This act of the university management clearly betrays the decay that has eaten deep into administration of our ivory towers in the recent past.

Furthermore, the university made compulsory, an illegal health insurance fee of N1600 for all categories of students. It is a known fact that insurance anywhere in the world is voluntary; how then can the university management, supposedly composed of ‘egg heads’ made insurance compulsory for students. Assuming without conceding that students even want to pay for insurance, there is no detail of the insurance policy in terms of the insurance firm to be used or the modalities for the claims. It is a known fact that different insurance firm has different policy and arrangement; how then did the management arrive at N1600 for students. Worse still, the students have been paying a sum of N1000 yearly for health services in the university’s poorly staffed and equipped Health Centre (which students, as a result of its poor performance, aptly call Death Centre). Where then has the health fees paid by students gone? What then is the health insurance again? As far as we are concerned in DSM, it is the responsibility of the government and by extension the university authorities to insure the lives of its citizens, either for health or accident, from public resources and not by double-taxing the poor people who are already choked up in poverty and misery.

The traditional argument of the management that it needs money to run the university cannot hold water because the students and their parents too need money to run their lives, and therefore they cannot be taxed. The university management knows where to run to if it needs resources: the federal government, and not to start arm-twisting poor students under false claims – health insurance, acceptance fee, etc. We suspect that the university management only need this money for pecuniary advantage or to be modest unofficial uses. This is more probable when one recalls that some months ago the ICPC asked the management to refund over N600 million it deducted from the university staff’s salaries. Surely, this is an opportunity for the authorities to fill the hole.

We therefore call on all OAU students to resist the imposition of these increments through protest and demonstrations. We also call on the leadership of the OAU Students’ Union to see this struggle as battle worth fighting with all commitment and sincerity of purpose. This is because this increment, if allowed without any opposition by the Students’ Union, will open up the floodgate of wholesale commercialization of education and the imposition of fees beyond what students of ordinary working class parents can afford.

The point must however be made that the increment is a product of the neo-liberal and anti-poor policies of the capitalist government who see education not as a social responsibility but as a profit-making venture. As a result, governments at all levels in Nigeria are reducing funding to education in order to weaken the efficiency of public institutions to a level wherein their privatization would seem the best way to rescue them from decay.

This tactics is similar to what is being used to sell the idea of privatization of public enterprises like the PHCN and others. Public enterprises like the PHCN were first destroyed by the government through lack of funding and endemic corruption by bureaucrats appointed by the government. Meanwhile privatization means that these public enterprises would be worse than when they were owned by the government because the main interest of the private investors is not to provide efficient services but to make profit at the expense of the good of the public.

The society in which we live is an undemocratic and unjust capitalist arrangement wherein the capitalist ruling class constituting just 1% of the total population of the country corner to themselves over 80% of our collective oil wealth while leaving just 20% of the wealth to the rest of us (99%). This is the source of the excruciating poverty of millions of Nigerians amidst the inexhaustible wealth Nigeria is blessed with. It is also from this background that one can begin to understand why Nigeria’s vast resources are not being used to fund education and other key social services.

Therefore to fight successfully against this fee increment, students must be prepared to challenge the unjust capitalist system which make it possible. Students must link the demand for reversal of fees to a call for provision of free and functional education at all levels. Most importantly, students and youths must also become active in the revolutionary struggle to overthrow the capitalist ruling class and put in place a workers’ and poor peoples’ government with socialist programme of public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under workers’ democratic management and control.

Without overthrowing this unjust capitalist system and enthroning a democratic socialist society, the current crisis of poverty amidst plenty and such anti-poor policies of increment in fees will continue unabated.