Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM


Education Rights Campaign

Press Statement


We call for a democratic and independent committee to investigate Elvis Paul’s death and bring all culpable university officials to trial

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns the untimely death, on February 5 2012, of Mr. Elvis Abu Paul, a 300 level computer science student of Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo – a university owned by the Anglican Communion.

Elvis was reported to have died as a result of the poor services offered at the school health centre. Elvis was just one of many victims of poor infrastructural and health facilities provided in private tertiary institutions. The tragedy however is that public Universities are not better off and are in some cases even worse.

Indeed Elvis’ death has confirmed that both private and public universities in Nigeria suffer from inadequate infrastructure and poor service delivery. It is appalling to note that a private university that charges close to N400, 000 as school fees cannot provide basic health services to cater for the health needs of its students.

The ERC believes this unfortunate incident again makes stronger the case for adequate funding of public education by the government. Few years ago the government and its backers in the private sector, in an attempt to sell the pro-market idea of private-driven education, claimed that private universities would offer world-class teaching and infrastructures.

But the different occurrences in many private universities however show the opposite. While of course public Universities are no better in the areas of service delivery and education standard, the fact that they are publicly-owned provide the basis for them to provide quality services if they are properly funded and democratically managed. This is so much unlike private Universities which are essentially business outfits out to make profit even if they have to cut corners. This is because with private schools, education becomes business instead of service to society.

At a time public universities were the epicenters of knowledge due to the quality of teaching, standard of facilities and the quality of teaching staff. These were possible because public education was better funded compared to today. However it was government acceptance of neo-liberal pro-market policies mantra handed down by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank which led the underfunding of public education and the consequential gradual destruction of the hitherto high academic standard, quality teaching and infrastructures of public universities.

Yet given the quality of staff still existing in many first and second generation public universities across the country and the facilities which still remain despite poor maintenance and years of abandon, they still have potential to become the centre of knowledge and economic development. But this is if government is prepared and willing to commit resources to funding them and place them under democratic management of elected representatives of staff and students to ensure judicious use of such resources.

We hold the management of Ajayi Crowder University responsible for Elvis’ death. It was not just negligence at the health centre that caused Elvis’ death. Also responsible was official highhandedness and the unconventional and draconian rules which self-righteous owners of private institutions impose to run universities without respect for democratic rights and human dignity.

According to media reports, Elvis had gone to the institution’s health centre to complain of health problems, but his situation grew worse that his breathing had to be supported with artificial oxygen. Rather than put on the electricity generating set to attend to him, the health centre management preferred to preserve the generating set for the vice chancellor. Worse still, attempt by the deceased colleagues to facilitate his transfer to a better hospital in town was frustrated by the institution’s security personnel at the main gate on the contention that the university’s ambulance that was taking him out had no exit pass! This was not a private vehicle but the University’s own ambulance and yet it must produce an exit pass during an emergency! Only a maximum security prison could operate on this set of rules as that of Ajayi Crowder University which has now unfortunately cost the life of a student.

We equally find the National Universities Commission (NUC) culpable in this case of manslaughter as the whole scenario raises questions about the credibility of NUC’s approval of private institutions for take-off and its oversight on the integrity of their facilities and programs. Before now the ERC had, on different occasion, questioned the swiftness with which NUC approves new private institutions for take-off and accredits their programs even when the physical infrastructures on ground does not correspond to the requirements of higher education. We have equally noticed that this same kid-glove approach is not applied to public universities most of whom always have their programs dis-accredited at the least infraction not in order to promote standard as the NUC often claim but to discredit public education and cut further the funding.

It is our contention that the inappropriate practices of reserving generator for Vice Chancellor and the jail-rules which prevent free movement of students in and outside the University all which conspired to cause the death of Elvis Paul occurred under the watch of the NUC which has oversight over all public and private Universities in Nigeria.

We have very good reason to believe that the NUC’s open-handedness towards private Universities, at the risk of ethical standards guiding the operation of Universities, is part of a dangerous agenda motivated by the neo-liberal and pro-market philosophy of the government to promote private education over and above public education. However the brutal death of Paul Elvis in a private school in which he paid hundreds of thousands of naira every academic session with the expectation of the best quality education and health facilities has tragically exposed the cost of this pro-market philosophy in terms of human life aside other contingent costs.

For us in the ERC, the protest of students was entirely justified. The violent turn the protest took was not just as a result of raw anger but equally because students of Ajayi Crowder University, just like their counterparts in other private institutions, have had their democratic rights to form a Students’ Union violated by the university management. This is another case of gross illegality which management of Ajayi Crowder University and other private institutions routinely commit with the knowledge of the NUC and in contravention of students constitutional rights to freedom of association.

Against this background, the management of Ajayi Crowder and the NUC must take the blame not just for the death of Elvis Paul but also for the violent protest that erupted afterwards. We believe that had a Students’ Union existed, it would have been possible for the legitimate anger of students over the death of their colleague to be directed towards the safe channels of peaceful protest and dialogue with appropriate authorities. But having violated this fundamental human right, the University management and the NUC unconsciously prepared the fertile ground for the violence that occurred as angry students visited their justified anger on anything on sight that represented the hated university authorities and its officials.

In the light of the above, the ERC make the following demands as immediate and long-term measures to ensure justice is served and normalcy returns to the institution:

(1) The ERC call for the immediate reopening of the University
(2) The ERC warn against arrest and/or victimization of any student of the University in connection with the protest.
(3) The ERC holds that the death of Elvis Abu Paul was not a simple case of dereliction of duties by the management of Ajayi Crowder University. We therefore call for the setting up of an investigative committee to probe the circumstances surrounding the death of Elvis Paul and all University officials found culpable should be brought to book. The committee should comprise of representatives of Ajayi Crowther University’s staff and students as well as representatives of civil society, labour unions and security agencies in the state.
(4) Adequate compensation to the family of the deceased and similar compensation to all members of staff and members of the public who lost their personal properties and effects during to the violence.
(5) For the immediate repeal of all the draconian rules and regulations of the Ajayi Crowder University which contravene the constitutional rights of students and staff.
(6) For the respect of students and staff democratic rights to form and operate unions to defend their rights.
(7) We demand improved teaching and welfare infrastructures in Ajayi Crowder University and all other private Universities in the country.
(8) Public education is the only alternative available for working class and poor middle class youths. Therefore the government must fund public tertiary institutions adequately starting from immediately allocating 26% of annual budget to public education and up to providing free education at all levels.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto
ERC National Coordinator
[email protected]