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03.07.2024 Featured Why UNIBEN Students Protested

Published 3rd Jul, 2024

By Abimbola Abatta

Students of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) have protested a prolonged power outage.

According to a source, the school has been without power since May, a situation that has made life difficult for students on campus and at the school hostels.

Frustrated by the setbacks experienced due to the power outage, ranging from being unable to go for night tutorials to difficulties in charging gadgets and a shortage of water, students staged a protest on Wednesday morning.

The students also protested the high costs of food and transportation.

READ ALSO: Harassment in First Year, Rape in Final Year: How Philosophy Lecturer Anthony Asekhauno Drove Ex-UNIBEN Student Into Depression

One of the students, whose name is withheld for safety reasons, told FIJ that the management had failed to promptly rectify the power issue because there was no student government to do advocacy.

Findings show that the UNIBEN management suspended the student government on April 29 in connection with an attack on Olumide Akpata, the Edo State Labour Party (LP) governorship candidate, by students suspected to be SUG members.

“It’s been over a month now since the power supply company disconnected the light, and UNIBEN has not been doing anything to restore the light. Students are suffering from the power issue, especially when on campus,” said FIJ’s source.

“I also think the issue has dragged on this long partially due to the suspension of the SUG about two months ago.”

“Students are protesting to negotiate their plights because they know that if there was an SUG, it would have advocated for them and the light would have been restored. Because there is no SUG, the management is not facing pressure. And the students do not have any constituted leaders to fight for them. The management is just treating the students badly. The welfare of students in the hostel is poor.”

The blocked school gate

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Over 3,000 UNIBEN Students Protest Tuition Hike

Another student told FIJ that the power outage had stretched for close to two months because the school said it could not afford the exorbitant electricity bills.

He also revealed that students feel they are not getting meaningful updates from the school management on actions being taken to resolve the matter.

“The school is saying the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, (BEDC) did not give them notice but just increased the bill from like N8 million to over N260 million. They said it’s too much and they could pay that much,” said the student.”

“They can’t keep saying they are working on it every time without details of what they are working on. The light issue has made life difficult for students. I have not seen students going to night classes for a while now. For students living on campus, it’s been very difficult, and it’s even affecting academics. They don’t even know what to do again. I believe that by the end of this semester, many people’s CPGAs will drop. People are no longer reading as they ought to. To charge phones is an issue. You will find students going to places with solar inverters to charge.”

The student expressed doubts about the likelihood that the SUG would have been able to push the management to take definite steps in restoring power. He noted that the past three sessions of the SUG were not promising, primarily because many members seem self-serving.

READ ALSO: How Soldiers’ Attempt to Stop Protesting Students Caused Violence at Plateau State University

WE’LL SHUT DOWN THE SCHOOL IF PROTEST PERSISTS — MANAGEMENT

In response to the protest, the UNIBEN senate convened an emergency meeting, where it disclosed that the school would be shut down if dialogue with the students failed and the protest persisted.

The school’s senate also disclosed, via a statement by Benedicta Ehanire, the school’s public relations officer, that the students’ demand for twenty-four hours of electricity supply, which they previously enjoyed, was unrealistic.

The statement reads partly: In the meantime, some members of the decision-making body have been mandated to continue with dialogue with the students on their unrealistic demand for twenty-four hours of electricity supply which they enjoyed before the university was disconnected by BEDC as a result of the disputed monthly bill of over 250 million Naira slammed on the institution by the electricity company.

“Senate also described the two other complaints by the students about high costs of food and transportation as out of the University’s control. Moreover, the Senate of the University resolved that if dialogue with the students fails and the protest persists, it will have no other option than to shut down the institution.”

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Published 3rd Jul, 2024

By Abimbola Abatta

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